March 25, 2014

Life's DETOURS and God's Patience


talk about a TEMPER tantrum.  
This story is FULL of life applications.  
When faced with an opportunity to fulfill his calling, to be God's VOICE to the people of Ninevah....He runs away.  
It was UNDESIRABLE for Jonah to be the bearer of bad news and presented with the incredible opportunity to be God's voice?  He refused to do it.  Jonah 1:3 in the NLT says, "He got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord."  

Now WE know.....(because we've read the book).....that GOD can FIND us.  
There is no escaping it....He will CHASE us down if He has to.
Psalm 139 "I can never escape from your spirit.  I could ask the darkness to HIDE me and the LIGHT around me to beome night.  But even in DARKNESS I cannot hide from YOU."  

There are so many times I've tried to run from what I KNEW I was supposed to do.  
I REFUSED to do it.  I threw an old-fashioned-honest-to-goodness-grown-up HISSY FIT.  
I hesitated.  Danced around the issue.  And not only did I go the OPPOSITE direction?  I gave REASON for it!  

We know the story.  God found Jonah alright and swallowed him up.  He held him captive until he had to confront his stubborness.  Some may consider that a bit MUCH.  A bit HARSH.  I consider that GRACE.  
Jonah was a man who was CHASED DOWN BY GRACE.

This is the beauty of God's GRACE:He will rescue us from OURSELVES.  
Even in our stubbornness and unwillingness to submit.  He will bring us to a place of humility and force us to confront our own hearts.  HUMBLE yourSELF before the Lord and He will lift you up.  James 4:10.  How much GREATER is it to go ahead and humble yourself before the Lord BRINGS you to humility.
It is a FAR less painful experience. 

I remember one of mine wrote me a love letter.  I still have it as a reminder that God can speak directly to ME through my children without them ever being aware that is what He is doing.  

Here it is in a nutshell- STRAIGHT to the point:
"Dear Mom, 
I love you.  You are the most beautiful woman in the world.  You bless me and give me good things.
Obey God or He will make you."
My heart stopped beating a moment.
I KNEW what the Lord was speaking of.  I KNEW it.
out of the mouths of babes......
Did I YIELD to those prophetic words of wisdom?  Unfortunately NOT.  I ended up instead being swallowed by a whale and FORCED to confront my heart and do things the HARD way.  
But HERE is where we see that while Jonah went ahead and did what the Lord required of him---his HEART remained unchanged!!!....
Get this!..true to the character of GOD....(In. HIS. INCREDIBLE. UNEXPLAINABLE. PATIENCE.)  After Jonah's time-out, He "RE-ROUTED" Jonah and gave him another opportunity.
God is SO gracious.  PATIENT and SLOW---------------to anger.
Towards Jonah ....... *AND* the people of Ninevah.
Now wait a minute.  NINEVAH too??????
Jonah appreciated the GRACE.  "I CRIED to God in my distress and HE HEARD ME!  HE RESCUED ME! I sank beneath the WATERS.  They closed over me.  But YOU rescued me.  and NOW I will obey."  
But God extending that same GRACE to Ninevah?
THAT'S another matter.
We're not sure why Jonah pitched such a fit.
Was it his PRIDE that was injured?  Now Jonah looks like a LIAR.
Was it that he FINALLY, with GREAT humility, OBEYED?  and God didn't even FOLLOW THROUGH? 
Jonah had expectations and it didn't pan out the way he thought it would.  After all he OBEYED.  

But we see God's PATIENCE towards Jonah yet again when Jonah sat over the city WAITING for God to change his mind and with one fell swoop wipe them out.  He gave Jonah some shade as he sat there under the sun.
He was grateful for the moment because it eased *HIS* discomfort. (while he waited to see an entire city destroyed for its disobedience and faithlessness)
Do you not see the contradiction here?  Jonah was GRATEFUL for Grace.  After all....he did what was asked of him.  (eventually)
But when the worm ate the plant giving him shade he flies off the handle and whines and complains.  

Here is where we see his heart was unchanged...even in his obedience.  
The lord said to him in Jonah 4:10 ....
 "NINEVAH has more than 120,000 people living in DARKNESS and YOU'RE worried about a PLANT."  
Jonah missed it.  
That SAME grace God extended to Jonah he was extending to an entire people.  He is LONG-suffering.  He is PATIENT.  and while Jonah appreciated that patience on his OWN behalf his heart was self-consumed.  Maybe God was simply showing him GRACE.  PATIENCE and that God will do EVERYTHING in His power to bring us to a place of repentance.  For Jonah AND the people of Ninevah. 
Even if it means WAITING a little longer for us to GET it.  

It's interesting to me that God was using a stubborn, rebellious, childish, selfish man to bring a city of people to repentance.  It's an EXTRAORDINARY grace.  LONG-SUFFERING grace.  
How much easier it is to "get it" before we are humbled by God Himself.  We can avoid the detour.  We can avoid the "life-lessons" and misery of finding ourselves in the belly of a whale or sitting under the scorching sun if we would just DO what He's asked us to do and get our HEART RIGHT.  Regardless of WHAT it is and what He DOES with our obedience.  It is not for us to question His sovereignty.  It is simply for us to obey.
And even if we run....
GRACE will chase us DOWN and in His loving-kindness force us to confront our own hearts and re-route us back into the CENTER of His PERFECT will.  
  AMAZING GRACE how SWEET the sound!

You Reap What You Sow

I admit. I lost my cool this morning. It was ridiculous really. What was it over? My children losing THEIRS. Flying off the handle. With one another. And with their mom. Some days are a breeze. After a GOOD day where my children "get it" and are walking in love and kindness, peace reigns within these walls and everyone is hugging and laughing I think to myself, "I got this! I can do this!" This morning was one of those mornings where they forgot everything they knew and were running their mouth and acting impulsively. response was no better.
and truthfully? My anger just fueled their fire. And theirs fueled mine.
SOMEONE'S got to be grown up here...and this morning? NO ONE WAS! haha:)

Self control:
"The ability to remain calm and level headed when your child is behaving contrary to EVERYTHING you've worked so hard to TEACH them! .... and use it as a teachable moment and work through it TOGETHER rather than flying off the handle and losing your cool." 
(Not Webster defined. My spin on the word as it applies to my life today!)
What's driving the conversation if your temper has run away with your ability to have a teachable moment? Anger? .... Or an opportunity to extend grace while applying truth.
The more time you spend investing in disciplining your children --- (over the "seemingly" insignificant as well as the significant things) --- the more time you will spend ENJOYING them as they WALK in that TRUTH you've planted in their impressionable souls. It may seem inconvenient to go back and right a wrong. It may SEEM a trivial matter to you at the time when LIFE demands so much of you. But those seeds --- though they may be small -- (planted early on) reap a harvest of righteousness one day as they become the men and women of God they were created to BE.
Discipline is an INVESTMENT that pays back GREAT dividends.

You reap what you SOW. (sow the RIGHT things and you will reap a harvest of RIGHTEOUSNESS)

March 23, 2014

He Gave Me a New Song

I've always been one to find joy in EVERY thing.
I've always had a SONG to sing and a REASON to sing it.
And very few things could keep this chick down.....and if I WAS down it wasn't for long.
I've been saved all my life and the word is IN me. Buried deep.

A few years ago I heard a song by kutless.
"I'm Still Yours"

"If I lost it all....would my broken heart still sing? Would my hands stay lifted?
If you washed away my vanity....if all my world was swept away would YOU be enough for me?"

It's easy to sing those words when you haven't known REAL grief. It's easy to say that you would lift your hands even in brokenness when you've never truly been broken. At the time I was sure I would.
Of course I would sing. When have I ever had a reason NOT to sing?
...."Bring it ON!!!!
This girl can handle it.".....
In the last 15 years my faith has been put to the test and tried over and over again. It was easy for me. It was never hard for me to find courage to believe in every season of doubt and uncertainty as my husband and I found ourselves wondering HOW God was going to provide. When I personally struggled with God through my own personal seasons. My faith increased during those seasons.....
And so did the word in my life.
Line upon line. Precept upon precept.
He was building in me - through His word - and through every day life an unshakable faith. We had our share of grief. I thought I knew grief.
Until now....
I've been in the darkest of places. I've known what it is to be broken. Stripped of everything I thought I knew. I've come face to face with grief. I thought I was strong. But there are some things that are stronger. I've made costly mistakes and found myself in my own humanity question my abilities and worthiness.
There are some sorrows that you just cannot bare. And I've met my match.
That WORD (which is ALIVE in me) speaks LOUDER than the grief. I begin to rehearse what I DO know surrounded by so much grief and uncertainty. The TRUTH trumps every experience. Every circumstance. When I have NO EARTHLY REASON to sing............HIS WORD rises up on the inside of me and I STAND TO MY FEET KNOWING......the TRUTH is my anchor. I will NOT be shaken. I refuse to allow the enemy to rob me of my testimony. (My song.)
GOD DOES.....make all things new.
And He gave me a NEW song to sing.
He exchanged my despairing heart for one of praise. He restored my soul. He traded my mourning for dancing. And my weeping for laughter. HE took those burdens so I wouldn't have to bare them. He carries them for me. And in these things faith and the word has INCREASED.
I refuse to sit down.
I refuse to quit.
And HANDS ARE STILL LIFTED. and my heart is still singing.

A year ago.....I posted here on FB the lyrics to 10,000 reasons. 2 DAYS before my husband died....
I had no idea what my faith would have to survive.
And today......I sing the song still.... with greater conviction. More determined. Stronger.

"The sun comes up. It's a new day dawning. Its time to sing your songs again.
Whatever may pass.....and whatever lies before me.

Let me be singing when the evening comes.
Bless the LORD oh my soul. Sing like never before oh my soul. Worship His Holy Name."

May my life's song sing to the FAITHFULNESS of my GOD!!!!!!!!!!

March 21, 2014

What Will you do with YOUR Testimony?

Paul had quite a testimony. 
God reached down from Heaven.....looking at a man who had a WRETCHED reputation.....and saw a sinner saved by GRACE. Snatched him from the hand of the enemy and gave him PURPOSE.
He didn't just SAVE him for Heaven.....He saved him for KINGDOM purpose. 
Why would anyone listen to Paul? 
What credit would anyone give HIM when his testimony was to persecute the very ones who FOLLOWED the GOD who saved him?
NO ONE would EVER question such a transformation. 
ONLY God could do such a thing.
The Lord took up his case and redeemed his life. (Lamentations 3:58)
And gave him purpose and a message....

He said this: My life is worth NOTHING to me unless I use it for *FINISHING* the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus. The work of telling others the Good news about the wonderful Grace of God. Acts 20:24 
He KNEW that EVERY last bit of GOODNESS in His life came from the hand of God's MERCY. He said "I will not speak of ANYthing except what Christ has accomplished THROUGH me." Romans 15:18

He had such appreciation and GRATITUDE for the GRACE of God that He just couldn't keep it to himself. The grace and compassion of Christ COMPELLED him. 

***Does what Christ has done in YOU, FOR you and THROUGH you MOVE you to SHARE? MOVE you to TELL the world of THIS saving Grace? Does your gratitude for His GRACE on your life show in your TESTIMONY?***

Psalms 118:17 I didn't die ---- I LIVED! And now I'm telling the world what GOD did!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 


Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16

March 16, 2014

A Cracked and Fragile Vessel

It's hard to grow when everyone is watching.

....and *everyone* includes 4 littles who are watching from sun up to sun down. 

When most people are so inclined to put their BEST face's not always easy to take that mask off. You know the one. The mask of perfection. The one that shows no flaws. No weaknesses.
But then does anyone ever get to know the REAL me?
The broken, insecure, fragile girl who often makes mistakes and finds herself at the feet of Jesus FREQUENTLY asking for HELP.
I was reading Timothy this morning and HUMBLY reminded of something....GROWING is a process. Growing in GRACE. In wisdom.
I know that until I come face to face with Jesus I will never have FULLY arrived. But for someone who struggles with wanting to be perfect it's hard to grow and be transparent. Vulnerable.
I've learned that the REAL Jesus can only help the REAL me.
That's hard for someone who would prefer to appear perfect and have it all together. The reality of it is though? I never did. If I did. I wouldn't need a savior. But I come to Timothy this morning and after being exhorted to live life by EXAMPLE.....Paul throws THIS in his letter....."So that everyone sees your progress." I suppose that means they've been watching from the beginning.
To go from ‪#‎aworkinprogress‬ to ‪#‎finallyfigureditout‬
The brutal reality is.....I don't get to the latter until I'm face to face with Jesus.
Somewhere we've come to believe the lie that the smallest mistake or flaw RENDERS US USELESS to the kingdom of God and those around us.
The BIBLE is FULL of stories of men and women who were just that.....IMPERFECT. Those were the people Jesus reached out to. Those were the people He singled out. Where KINDNESS met imperfection. Where GRACE collides with HUMANITY. And in that same story we see MIRACLES, REDEMPTION and RESTORATION take place that otherwise couldn't happen unless they first were honest with GOD and with each other.
When we are transparent before God and allow Him to see us in all of our vulnerability it is only THEN He has something to work with.
Yes. People are watching. Especially my 4 little proteges. I pray that they see the REAL me. EVERY step of the way. That way they can see Jesus is the ONLY one who can use someone like me for His KINGDOM PURPOSES. Then they will know it is HIM working through me.

I have this treasure in a cracked and fragile vessel so that the world will know it is the GREATNESS of His power working through me and not coming from ME.

So I too encourage you with these words.
..... Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use. Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. ****The people will all see you mature right before their eyes!**** Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation. (another translation reads: Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks ***so that everyone will see your progress.*** Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.) Timothy 4:15-16

March 14, 2014

Leave the Suitcase Behind

Jesus said, "come. Follow me."
What we don't recognize is to "come".......we have to "leave"
Leave the past in the past.
Let go of insecurities.
Drop your mistakes and your failures at the foot of the cross. 
He said, "behold. I make ALL things new!!!"
That includes a new YOU. A new heart. A new life.
Filled with promise and HOPE. JOY and peace.
Even if it's all you've ever can't STAY and COME at the same time. To jump in with both feet you've got to abandon all those things which He's calling you from.
No need to make the best of it.
He's got a better offer in mind. Trading up.
Your sorrows for joy.
Your despair for praise.
Your brokenness for healing and life.
Your sins for redemption.
Your striving and restlessness for peace.
No need for suitcases. You won't have need of any of it.
It's a brand new day. And you're headed brand new places!!!

March 10, 2014

"The New Normal" looks like GRACE

Of all the things said to me after my husband passed away one of the things repeated more than once was:
"Now you need to find a new normal."

What does NORMAL look like? How do you function as a family of 5 with only a mommy?  How will we manage all the things with such a significant part of our lives severed from the equation?
Next month it will be a year.
I don't know that I've been able to answer that question.  I'm still catching my breath and finding new ways to adapt.  Every new day brings with it a new challenge I didn't have before. But in it all----there is one constant.
I felt it the day after he died. 
By the GRACE of God I stand because the LORD stood with me and gave me STRENGTH.
Every moment was FILLED with grace.  I was FLOODED with GRACE.
Grace came with PEACE and HOPE and it settled ---HERE.
I saw grace behind me.  In front of me.  WITH me.  and it was IN me.  
Grace to keep moving.  Grace to find JOY in the grief.  Grace to be a mom.  Grace to see to all the things that needed to be seen to with the WISDOM to back it up.  Grace for my mistakes. Grace to live each day with HOPE and anticipation. Grace to appreciate the time we had with him and Grace to appreciate tomorrow withOUT him.  Grace to leave the past behind so we can look forward.
Grace to understand and grace to accept what I could not understand.  
When Justin went home and stepped out of this world---GRACE stepped in.  GOD became everything to us that He promised He would be. 
If that sounds unfeeling and insincere then you've never experienced this kind of grace.  
that's a supernatural grace.....and grace is HERE.  In our home...operating in our lives every moment of every day.  
So what does NORMAL look like in MY home?

March 8, 2014

Spring. ALWAYS. Comes.

I don't remember if I ever found myself looking forward to "spring forward".
I looked at it as the time of year that robbed me of an extra hour of sleep which THEN in turn had me looking forward to falling BACK! HA! 
But this morning daybreak came earlier than it has in months. The birds woke me from deep sleep and before I could feel annoyed I smiled.....because I saw the sunshine. 
I have always been giddy about spring's arrival. But for ME? SPRING is bringing a newness of LIFE for me in more ways than ONE. What a winter this has been. 
Spring is not just closing the door on winter for me. It's bringing something NEW. It's bringing LIFE. HOPE. A brand new year. 
To have the sunshine wake me this morning was a refreshing feeling. 
I WELCOME the extra hours of sunshine. Time with my kids. The extra time for LIVING.

 I'm reminded this morning that SPRING. ALWAYS. COMES. If you think things will NEVER change you will never experience the HOPE of spring. But it will change. 
Because seasons are just that. Seasonal. Temporary. Not a permanent resting place. 
So even in the dead of winter. Snuggled beneath the blankets, sitting by the fire wondering if it will ever change!?!?? we have HOPE that the sun will shine again and its warmth will bring new life. Flowers will bloom and birds will sing. Trees will grow new leaves and bring fruit. 
We have this HOPE and it's an anchor for our soul....
His name is Jesus. Even if you're in the cold & dark winter season in your life....spring always comes. Joy ALWAYS comes in the mourning.

Those who sow in tears WILL reap a harvest of joy. Psalms 123

March 7, 2014

The Voice of God Speaks to Preserve us

The boys had to memorize a passage of scripture for school:
And the Lord, the God of their fathers, sent to them persistently by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God and despising His words and scoffing at His prophets till the wrath of the Lord rose against His people, till there was no remedy or healing. 2 Chronicles 36:15-16

Heavy words for a stubborn people.
Each one took turns quoting it to me to the point that I stopped and really let the words sink in.
The One in Whom all of their people believed in through all the generations. They KNEW of Him. Knew His voice. Knew His laws. *REPEATEDLY* warned them. Through compassion. Grace. Patience. Love. Through covenant and promises made to their ancestors.....
Wanting to give them every chance possible. 


They ignored and pushed away the voice of God until there was no remedy.

How patient God is. How loving. How persistent. To come alongside us in our stubbornness and say:
"honey......what are you thinking?"
"You need to DEAL with this!!!!!"
He will warn us through leadership. Sermons. His word. Our friends and those closest to us. He will SEND people to us!!!!
Eventually.......if we don't surrender to the voice of God

.... (and you WILL hear a voice behind you saying "THIS IS THE WAY WALK IN IT!! Isaiah 30:21) you will end up down a road you were never meant to be on and find yourself in a mess with no way out. With no remedy or way to fix it.

It's a HEART issue!!!!!
A stubborn heart will take you where you never meant to be down a road you can't escape left with no possible remedy save the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.
It would serve you well to keep your heart softened to the will of God....hear the voice of God and listen when He speaks. Quickly and Humbly. When He speaks it is to save you from yourself. He's so gracious and compassionate to warn us. Refusing to listen only gets you in a mess you could have avoided from the beginning.

March 6, 2014

Can these Bones Live?

A valley of dry bones.
That's where we sometimes find ourselves in various seasons of our lives. At one point we look across a vast expanse and all we see is death. Loss of hope. Devastation. Disappointments. A wasteland of empty promises and unfulfilled dreams. I've been in those places. I've never felt more helpless. I felt I've been stripped of everything I thought I knew and everything I clung to.
But it is also in those places that I came to the end of ME and looked out over the mess and saw not a place of hopelessness but a place where my life ends and His life begins.
only GOD can breathe life into a pile of bones and resurrect what's dead. Void of hope. Void of life. Empty. And bring it back to life again. We find ourselves in these places where

                                                         ------ONLY GOD------
And this is the hope we have: to surrender and let resurrection LIFE work on our behalf.

He must become GREATER

You know why John the Baptist was a key player in advancing the Kingdom? He knew his purpose!
It wasn't for fame. It was to make JESUS famous.

John had followers......He pointed them to Jesus. Jesus had followers. He wasn't gathering them like a trophy. It was simply because people were attracted to the Truth and LIFE that He came to bring. John's followers were feeling the competition as if they were players in a game or race to fame.
In John 3 it says:
They came to John and said, “Rabbi, you know the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan? The one you authorized with your witness? Well, he’s now competing with us. He’s baptizing, too, and everyone’s going to him instead of us.”
This is where we see John's purpose and why He was able to accomplish much for the kingdom of Heaven.
John answered, “It’s not possible for a person to succeed—(I’m talking about eternal success)—without heaven’s help. You yourselves were there when I made it public that I was not the Messiah but simply the one sent ahead of him to get things ready. The one who gets the bride is, by definition, the bridegroom. And the bridegroom’s friend, his ‘best man’—that’s me—in place at his side where he can hear every word, is genuinely happy. How could he be jealous when he knows that the wedding is finished and the marriage is off to a good start?"

........ “That’s why my cup is running over!!!! This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center.....while I slip off to the sidelines."
John 3:30 He must increase....but I must decrease.
John the Baptist cooperated with Heaven to do what He came to do.
But *HE* got out of the way to do it so that the One who came could step in and all of HEAVEN could get the GLORY and in his humility and purpose and servanthood---THE KINGDOM COULD ADVANCE.