Rescue

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Lord, search my heart, show me who I am without you.

I imagine picking up a pen…

Today, I lost it with my kids.
Yesterday, I wished I had a bigger house.
Sunday, I blamed my husband for my big mess up.

I quickly realize, there aren’t enough hours to visit all my failings. My mental scribbles expand:

                                                   Wanting More.
                                                   Ignoring God. 
                                                  Nasty Words.

My mind runs out of paper. But just as well; paper can’t hold the weight of the words. I imagine writing on massive stones:
                                                   Envy.
                                                  Disobedience.
                                                 Complacency.
                                                 Arrogance.
                                                Selfishness.

I see my desk covered with papers. They’re tumbling off, pressing against the walls and pouring out the windows like an avalanche. The stones have shattered my mirrors and cracked the tile floors.

My heart is sinking from the pull of my words; from the burden of my sin. But God shouts through the condemnation:

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”(Colossians 2:13-14)

A man is coming. He’s collecting my papers…one by one.

A man is coming. He lifts the heavy stones, balancing them on his back.

There’s something else on his back too.

A cross.

He leaves my house and painstakingly searches for my neighbors. They have a collection of papers and stones… just like me.

Not everyone lets him in. They sit atop their stones clutching their mass of papers and weep.

It breaks my heart. I know it breaks His more.

Now the man begins his climb. I know the story. You know the story. He carries his cross. I imagine him bearing the stones and crumpled papers scribbled with black sin.

He doesn’t drop anything. Not a single thing.

He grips my written sin; the soldiers hammer nails through his hands.

Flesh pierced. Paper torn.

My selfishness: Nailed to the cross.
My arrogance: Nailed to the cross.
My apathy: Nailed to the cross.

Blood flows, drenching the papers in his hand, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against me.

I watch every sin of my life nailed to the cross.
He took it all away, having nailed it to the cross.
He took it all away.
He took it all away.
He took it all away.
Amen.

The only stone remaining was rolled away.

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I

 

Someone’s Going to Get Hurt.

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Once, I swung open the front door of my mini-van, jumped inside, heard a growl, peeked over my shoulder and found myself face to face with two black dogs.

Seriously, who the heck put their stinkin’ dogs in my mini-van?!

Um. Yeah. Not my mini-van.

It’s a bit terrifying how long it took to realize my mistake.

No one in the van was happy…and somebody definitely peed a little.

Here’s the deal: Don’t climb into someone else’s mini-van uninvited. It doesn’t matter how much it looks like yours. Same goes for our lives. Someone may appear to have a similar life, outlook, circumstance, parenting triumph or woe – but until you’ve entered in, you’ve no clue what’s really going on inside.

Never assume. It’s a waste of time. And don’t barge in. It’s too risky.

Wait to be invited.

This can be so tricky. Especially if the door of their life appears wide open.  Dusty goldfish are pouring out, the leaking juice box under the backpack has puddled next to a runaway credit card. You just want to offering a suggestion…right?! Stop. There could be some snarling teeth in there. Someone’s going to get hurt.

I can’t tell you how many friendships in my life have been strained because we’ve felt judged by one another.  It makes all of us shut down and pull away. Ask yourself two questions:

  1. Have I established mutual trust with this person?

If you haven’t known this person long, and you get all up in their business, it can feel like judgement. It may not be your heart! But remember, they don’t trust you yet. It’s not fair to expect them to know your intentions. Be wise and hold your tongue. But love them like crazy. Be a constant in their life.

  1. Has this person indicated they want your opinion?

I have friends who I know don’t want my opinion- even though they love and trust me. Bummer is, I’m still prone to give it. We’ve got to know our audience y’all.  It’s hard for this Italian/Irish girl to shut it down! I’m learning at the speed of molasses – I need to discipline myself in this area.

Does your friend let her kids watch rated R movies at the age of nine…guess what?!

That’s not your mini-van!

Or maybe a friend doesn’t believe in vaccinations, or home-school, or private school, or public school, or any school!!

Yeah. That’s not your mini-van either. Get out girl!

It’s hard to be a mom these days. Everyone and every book out there hisses, “You’re doing it wrong” or, “You can do it better.” Our generation has trouble trusting God can equip us properly.

We turn to the next, “How to…” book, before we turn to God’s book.

We ask Siri before we ask the Spirit.

I believe the enemy’s in this; undermining our God-given instincts to parent our children well. He uses social media, articles and most aggressively- he baits us to tear each other down. We don’t need to be another blasting horn of judgement towards our sisters! God’s heart is for us to, “Encourage one another and build each other up.”(1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Don’t know how to do this? I think it starts with less worrying about getting into someone else’s life, and inviting them authentically into your own. Living out grace is a powerful witness and gift; loving people regardless of their parenting choices. If a friend does ask your opinion, it’s a safe place to practice honesty. Any fiery pups in her mini-van should know you well enough not to snap.

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P.S. If you feel convicted that God truly wants you to speak into a certain area of someone’s life, be obedient! But pray over it. Then pray again…and then three more times. Be sure it’s from the Lord and not your inner-conscious.  When this happens, frame the conversation cautiously and with grace, “I’ve had you on my heart lately.”  That’s it. Then pray God leads the conversation.

How to Live Out Sisterhood When You Live in the Mommyhood.

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I have one big brother; and he is all brother. When we were kiddos, his love language was messing with me. I believed his Every. Single. Word. Stuff, like-

At the age of 12, I’d be sent to live on an Indian Reservation to make bead necklaces for the rest of my life–because I was a girl.

And…

Dr. Pepper was called “Dr. Pepper” because you were supposed to pour red crushed peppers in before you drank up.

I’m relieved my parents forgot to send me away, and eventually, I traded sucking red crushed peppers through stubborn straws for my beloved non-fat, with-whip, mochas.

My whole life I’ve had the ‘fun’ of knowing what it means to have a brother…but not a sister.  Last week my daughter received a letter with the precious words crayoned,

“Ciana, you can call me Sister”.

I read it over and over, and all the feel-goods sprinkled over my spirit. My cousin’s daughter had written them. She’s adopted from Uganda and understands more than most, love makes a family. And God is that love. We enter a loving relationship with God; strike down genetic laws; and become sisters with other believers. But it doesn’t always feel that way.

If someone at church referred to me as ‘sister’…I figured they’d forgotten my name. Honestly, there are times when hearing it from random ladies makes me roll all my eyes. Why can it feel so patronizing? When it’s stripped down: we may be sisters in God’s family, but we often struggle to treat one another that way.  It’s not on purpose! We’re busy. We’re tired. We’re overwhelmed keeping precious little humans alive and forget to really pray when we say we will.

When someone in a family struggles, it affects the whole household. If something is lost, all grubby fingers dig under the couch cushions to find it. If one kiddo hurls their body into the mini-van late, all the kiddos run like hyenas to get to class on time. If you’re in a healthy family, your lives are intertwined. But if you don’t live under the same roof, this gets tough. I think of the letters between Ciana and Milla.  At such a young age, they’re making an effort to keep their lives intertwined. And that’s the key…they’re intentional.

True sisterhood speaks these words:

When you struggle, my spirit will wrestle in prayer for you.

When you’re lost in an area of life, I’ll search God’s word for answers with you.

When you feel you’ll never make it to the finish line, I’ll carry your heavy diaper bag.

But how can we authenticate our spoken words of sisterhood when life is so….much?

Here are three things I’ve found to be practical, powerful & completely do-able:

1. Fast together.

When a friend lays out a deep concern over coffee, I offer to fast with them for a week over the issue. Fasting doesn’t have to be dramatic. It can simply mean going without something you enjoy and replacing it with specific prayer.  I typically choose to stop eating sugar. The struggle is so for real. Every time I’m all cravy, I stop right there and pray for whatever unique trial my friend is dealing with.

2. Pray at the same time everyday together.

Most likely, you don’t see your friend every day. So set an alarm on your phone to remind you both to stop what you’re doing and pray. I had a friend who was struggling with her husband when he came home from work. We set our phones to alert us to pray thirty minutes before he got home. When we were done praying, we would simply text, “Amen,” to each other.

3. Dedicate a prayer journal to your friend.

 I love to do this! I buy thin journal packs at TJ Maxx or HomeGoods, sharpie a friend’s name on the cover, and fill it up with prayers over their life. Some fill up faster than others and I don’t do it every day. Sometimes I’ll take a quick picture of the cover and text it to my friend saying, ‘You were just covered in prayer.” I imagine when I go home to Jesus; my children will find them and deliver them to my living friends.

I’m praying these practical tips spur your relationships to a deeper level. It’s not easy when you’re in the jungle of ‘Adulting’. But that’s why it’s so important, isn’t it? We all need to know someone is genuinely in the thick with us. We all want someone to take the time to say, “Friend, you can call me Sister.”

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)



Breathing in the Unknown

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I kept banging around the bowl trying to corner him, “Seriously fish! Trust me!”

Talking to my blue fish has become the norm these days. He’s the kind of guy who’d never leave dirty socks on the floor. And, he never asks things like, Mommy, why do you laugh like a seal? He’s such a gentleman.

Each week he graciously swims into my net to be transferred to clean water.

But, yesterday! He gave the biggest attitude. He wouldn’t get into the net and it wasn’t funny! If he didn’t want this water, he was welcome to the toilet I’d scrubbed earlier.

I crashed my net against the glass again, “I don’t want you to get sick!”.

My heart winced. I was on the verge of being sick too…spiritually sick. I knew it, and God was getting my attention. I was all bent out of shape over this fish not letting me save it from poop water, as I defiantly swam in my own.

I recently expected God to move in a certain way in my life…and he didn’t. I was heartbroken.

I’d rather be submerged in disappointment, then be transferred into God’s perspective of my circumstances. I was over it. Over praying. Over crying. Over…whelmed.

Still, here was God, trying to rescue me, “Seriously child! Trust me. I don’t want you to get sick!”

God’s love has never failed me. He’s carried me like, a Father carries a son, out of every Egypt and wilderness I’ve faced. Why was I banging my head against the bowl trying to escape rescue?

If I enter into God’s saving net, He’ll raise me up into a pocket of air called the unknown.

Let’s be honest, breathing in the unknown, can hurt.

I got that stubborn fish in the net, he wriggled in desperation, gasping, until I plopped him safely in clean water. When we’re scooped up into God’s purposes, we don’t have to mimic a suffocating fish. If it feels like we can’t breathe, it’s because we’re choking on lies.

Here is the truth: God isn’t going to flush us down the toilet.

We can enter into the unknown, clinging confidently to the known.

We know our God is good!

Abandoning the mire and surrendering to hope, elevates us to a new atmosphere. Like those who train to climb Mt. Everest, it will stretch and challenge the lungs of our faith. The air is thin and burns our chest.

Yet, our Father teaches us a new way to breathe. Instead of gasping on lies, we deeply inhale his promises.

One by one-

He loves us. He lifts us higher.

He fights for us. We grow stronger.

He’s with us. We have peace.

Our mighty God will always deliver us to a place of hope and beauty.

“There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” -Deuteronomy 1:30-31

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Fish Faith

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I ended up with a pet fish last month. I say “ended up,” because I did not want, ask for, or like this fish. I actually don’t like fish unless they have been grilled, fried or baked. I certainly don’t like them looking bored in a bowl on the kitchen counter. But my sweet eight year old daughter has her daddy wrapped around his caring finger. So when the two of them ran into the pet store to grab dog food, she came back to the car proudly carrying a fish in a cup.

“Mommy! Me and Daddy bought you a pet fish!”

“Oh? Why?”

“Because! Isn’t he so pretty? And, he was on sale!”

Well then, if he was on sale…I’d love to have another dirty animal to care for -on top of the dog, the bunny, and two leopard geckos.

“Oh, thank you, Sweet Girl. He is super pretty.”

Ugh!

I have a horrible history with pet fish. Seriously. Once I cooked my goldfish. I didn’t realize my mom had just washed the dishes with burning hot water. I filled a cup unknowingly with scalding water and carefully transfered my goldfish into it so I could clean his bowl. Within seconds, this doomed fish turned upside down, his scales white.

Poor fish. I don’t even remember his name.

So here I was, once again with the task of caring for a gilled creature. His name is London. My daughter is right. He’s really pretty. London is a Betta fish with long, flowing fins circling all around him.

Two weeks in, London stopped eating. He sulked at the bottom of his bowl. His fins looked burdened and heavy. He had weird white spots. I actually felt sad! I needed to find out if I could help London. I had a responsibility to keep this fish alive.

For one thing, it was a gift from my daughter. Second, I wanted to somehow redeem myself for murdering what’s-his-name all those years ago.

I Googled, “What to do if Betta fish gets sick.” I went to the pet store, bought special water drops. Our family prayed for him before dinner.

While washing dishes a few days later, something caught my attention. A bright blue, poetic-like thrashing called me to London’s bowl. He was at the water’s surface, fins fanned and dancing around his body. He was hungry! I dropped one small fish food pellet in at a time. He literally jumped up out of the water to catch the first one. He was ravenous. He shimmied and waited intently for more. He was healthy again.

Believe it or not, God’s Spirit spoke to me as I fed this silly little fish. He has been chasing me down with a verse from the Psalms for months. It’s been in worship songs and every podcast I’ve decided to turn on. My daughter even wrote her own devotional using the same verse. When I cleaned out the garage last week, I opened a devotional and on the top of the page was this same verse…again.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” Psalm 34:8

My response to to this verse had been, “Yes, Lord, I know You are good. You are so good.”  But, as I watched how breathtaking this fish was when he was hungry, deeper truth whispered to me.

Just as London had become gorgeous in his hunger…we are gorgeous in our Father’s eyes when we hunger for Him. He is longing for us to hover at the top of every moment, intently waiting to receive from Him.

If I want to taste the full goodness of God, I must first be hungry for Him. Not just hungry, but ravenous. Ravenous for His Word, His presence, His direction, His love. I must be swimming to the top of my prayer life, jumping out in faith to taste His goodness.

If God looks upon me and I’m sulking at the bottom of my day – with no desire to taste His goodness, no desire to be nourished by His Word – it’s an indication that I’m spiritually sick.

How can we taste of God’s goodness if we are not coming to His table to eat? And, why would we come to His table if we weren’t hungry? We’re  not called to come to His table as an afterthought. We wouldn’t insult a host by filling up on a meal we cooked ourselves before we went to their home for dinner. In the same way, we owe God our full appetite.

What had I been filling my soul with BEFORE coming to the Lord’s table? Was I leaving only enough space in my spiritual stomach for a small sampling of the Lord’s goodness?

Our mighty God is not an appetizer.  

He is not a dessert to finish our day with.

His very Word, His presence, His love is to be the bread that sustains me all day, every day. Nothing else. The Lord will only fill us with what we’ve made room for. The more we come to be filled by Him, the greater and fuller the filling will become.

When we’re ravenous for the Lord, people notice. Just like London’s movement at the top of his bowl made me put down my sponge and watch.  London is healthy, full of color and life. This is how God intended him to be.

God has designed His children to make the world stop and stare. The world should look at God’s children and ask, “What are they so hungry for? What makes them so passionate that they would jump up out of the mire of life to reach for more?”  Then we can pull up a chair and invite them to taste and see that the Lord is good.

My husband teases me, “God wanted to teach you to have blue fish faith”.

Cute. But if he buys me another fish, it’s going in the frying pan. Just sayin’.

 

New…or just glued?

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My New Year’s Resolution is allow myself to be new…not glued.  Sometimes, I imagine picking up the broken pieces of my life, and clumsily offering them up to God. I then imagine that he will piece them back together, making something beautiful. Well, almost beautiful. If it weren’t for all those cracks showing through the ‘glued me’…I would be stunning. Although I imagine God has put me back into some sort of functioning vase, you can still see the jagged pottery bits trying to cling gracefully together. I imagine, one little wisp of wind will send the ‘glued me’ crashing to the ground. I will shatter all over again.

But this is how I view myself. This is not how God sees me. I am not the product of a clumsy repair job. This is the nasty lie of the enemy.

We must remember what the word of God says. If we have Jesus, we are a new creation:

” Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come’. -2 Corinthians 5:17

The new has come. It does not say, “If anyone is in Christ, he will put them back together’. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus wants all of our broken pieces. He wants us to recognize the mess on the floor and lay our shards at his feet. But this is not so he can piece them back together. He takes the bits and pieces and exchanges them for something entirely new.,

He wants to exchange our brokenness with His fullness.

Truth is, I do not want broken pieces to be a part of my life’s fabric anymore. If they are, then I am not fully a vessel of Christ. I want my heart to echo John the Baptist,
He must become greater; I must become less”( John 3:30 ).

Sometimes we like to romanticize our past hurts and mistakes. We like to think they contribute to ‘who’ we think we are. In reality, our focus should not be on WHO we are, but on WHOSE we are.

Our past decisions and experiences do not define us anymore if we are children of God. Our Father defines us. Our salvation defines us.

In Isaiah 43:18-19, God encourages his people, ““Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”

God wants to do a new thing in us. Are we too focused on the things of the past to perceive it? Are we so focused on the repaired vase on the shelf, that we miss the brilliant new one being offered to us?

A repaired life is not a bad thing. Satan would have us happily sit in this complacent truth. He assures us, ‘Repaired is enough, it is more than you deserve‘. It is true. A repaired life is more than what we deserve. But who are we to be so bold, to dash and diminish the work of the cross?! And even more so, belittle the power of the resurrection?!

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” –Romans 6:4

We will never understand the self sacrificing, all consuming love of our Savior. We can at least understand, the foolishness of clinging to a repaired life, instead of passionately grasping a hold of a new life. A new life that our Jesus died and rose from the dead in order to pour over us. My prayer this year, is that I accept his beautifully gracious gift of a new life everyday. Everyday I want to wake up and pray, ‘Jesus,p today, make me new’.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

 

Show Me.

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The prophet Isaiah was called by God in one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring ways in the Bible. Read his account and imagine yourself in Isaiah’s place:

‘In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:1-7

Breathtaking. Frightening. Awesome. Humbling.

Even more mind blowing: Isaiah’s God is my God.  With the same power and holiness He is high and exalted in my life.  He is seated on the throne now; just as he was in Isaiah’s time.

I realize I don’t ask to experience God in his most powerful holiness in my everyday life.  He is my friend.  My comforter.  My Father. My Solid Rock. My salvation.  He is all these wonderful, holy things.  But how often do I walk hand in hand with the ‘Lord Almighty’? How often to I see him seated on a throne, high and exalted?

How often do I pray: ‘Show me your glory, God’.  The answer: Not enough.

All these emotions of unworthiness came to the surface of my heart as I read a Muslim women’s testimony this week. Latifa was praying to God : Show me! Show me the way! Show me.  If Jesus Christ is the true way, show me.

I was so blessed by her bold prayer. I cried as I read on how she was at the beach with some Christian friends and they asked her to partake in communion with her. They asked her to read from 1 Corinthians 11.  This is what happened:

“As I was reading,” Latifa recalls, “I was in the Spirit. I was transferred to the upper room. I could see Christ. I could hear Christ. I could sense him saying, ‘This is my body, broken for you.’ ” I didn’t know how I looked. Everybody disappeared. Time stopped.  I was there with Christ, with the awesome presence of his holiness. I started looking at my life with his eyes.  Suddenly  my life, with which I’d been content, looked terribly dirty.  I wanted to run away. then I heard him say, ‘Eat. I came not for you to run away, but, on the contrary, for you to come close to me.’(Daughters of Islam, Miriam Adeney).

Tears welled up in me from a deep place as I thought of Isaiah and Latifa. They both reacted the same way in the presence of God’s holiness. Isaiah cried, ‘Woe to me! ‘ He immediately saw his uncleanliness.  Latifa immediately saw how ‘terribly dirty’ her life was. Isaiah thought he was ruined! Latifa felt she had to run away. But God is the same today as he was in 740 BC. God reacted in the same spirit to his children…thousands of years apart from each other!  Isaiah was cleansed and his sins were forgiven. Latifa was told to ‘Eat’ at the communion table. She was told to come close to him.

Such grace. Such holy, holy grace.

We must see how worthy God is, to understand how unworthy we are.  We must understand his mighty power, to understand his grace.  Our God, with his robe filling the temple, being worshiped by seraphim, their voices shaking the thresholds as they cry,  ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty’– this true God: He could wipe us out.

He has every right to leave us dirty and unclean. We are sinners. He is sinless.  How dare the unholy enter the presence of the holy? Only by the blood of the Lamb. While Jesus was hanging on the cross, Matthew 27:50-51 reads:

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom”.

The veil was torn the moment Jesus gave up his spirit as a ransom for us. We can enter into the temple with confidence.

Only because our holy, powerful God, is good. 

He is always good. Forever holy and always good.

So this week, I am praying for the boldness to pray like Latifa and Moses. Moses declares to the Lord in Exodus 33:18  “Now show me your glory.”  I pray that I have a passionate heart to see God seated high and exalted everyday. Isaiah’s God is my God too.  He is sitting on his throne, waiting for me to enter into his temple.

At his feet, I will be cleansed.

At his feet, I will be loved.

Dear Lord Almighty,

     Show me. Show me your glory. Teach me to want your presence above all else in my prayer life.  I only want you. I want to see my life through your eyes. I want to have a deeper understanding of your holy grace.  Give me a deeper understanding of your holiness. Set me apart for you. Amen.

My Life. My Gift.

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I have no gift to bring fit for King.  I never will.  So why even offer him anything?

This question has been playing on repeat in my mind lately.

I have been listening the song Little Drummer Boy on repeat too.( And if you must know, my Christmas tree is still up. Merry Valentine’s Day!)

We all have a drum. Question is: Are we playing it for our King? Are we playing our best for him? Or are we not even interested in dusting it off?

Lately I’ve felt that my ‘drum’ is sitting under a pile of dirty dishes, mountains of laundry, sick kiddos, an avalanche of adoption paperwork and pets I forget to feed. To be honest, trying to dig out that drum would take too much effort.  And even if I did, I guarantee, it may sound more like a War Drum then one of honor and praise.

I have no gift to bring fit for a King.

The fact that I can’t even make the effort to play a simple song of praise to him, is proof of that. But what is my ‘drum’?

My spiritual gifts? My talents? Maybe.

When we focus on the gifts God has given us, and consider using them for his Kingdom, it is easy to scrutinize the ‘gift’.  It is easy to point the finger back at God when we feel we have nothing of worth to give him. After all, HE made us. He could have given me a more beautiful voice, he could’ve given me the mind of Einstein or perhaps the leadership of Lincoln.

But no, he just gave me this drum.  This old, out of tune, imperfect drum, swallowed up by the mundane details of everyday life. It is easy to look at the ‘wise men’ around us who are bringing him their finest gifts, and feel defeated:

 I am just a Mom. I am sort of a writer. I am simply just not as ‘gifted’ as THAT person. So I’ll kind of play my drum…if it’s all God has given me.

But when we judge the drum, whatever it may look like in our life…we are judging God.

‘Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his…’ Psalm 100:3

When we think of our ability to bring a gift worthy of a King in terms of our talents, we will only half heartedly be able to play a song for him. And when we half heartedly play our drum for him, we miss Jesus.

‘As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4

God will ask us to give out of our ‘poverty’ at some point in our lives. Maybe it will be sickness, a broken heart, exhaustion or literal financial strain. We will have moments where we could say to God, I’ve got nothing to offer you right now. Even if I did, it would be two small coins because that is all you have given me!.

We blame our King because we forget who our King is.

When we come to him among the rich and say, This is all I have…, our King says, That is all I want.

Are we like the widow who gives all we have?

Sometimes all we feel we have is bitterness and anger. We look at our drum of a life and think, You expect me to do wonders for your kingdom with this mess?!

No. But Jesus can do wonders for his kingdom with that mess.

We must start lifting that entire drum up to Him if we want the beat to change…’she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’

When I was in college, I saved up to buy a set of Conga Drums. I had to save up because they were not cheap! There was a season that I played them every day…then every week…then….well, never. Sometimes I wonder if those drums were worth the cost?

The drum is not only our talents. The drum is our lives. We must recognize, they were bought at a great cost. They were bought with the blood of Christ.

‘But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’

Was it really worth the sacrifice? Did God make a poor judgment call when he ransomed our lives?

The value of the drum is set by the price paid. We best not miss the crazy love that has been poured out for us.

When we sit on our drum, complain about it’s usefulness, and question it’s ability to make a beautiful sound, we are spitting on the cross.

God Almighty sacrificed His son because he saw enormous value in saving us for His orchestra.

If the creator of the universe sees value in the condition of our lives, we better start to change our perspective.

Will we remain silent and miss our purpose?

The drum is my life: The only gift worthy of a King. If that consists of fatigue, my marriage, my kid’s snotty noses and piles of paper work…then let me learn to put in my ‘two very small copper coins’ with a thankful heart. A THANKFUL heart…because I know my King.  My King saved me for a reason.

Let me have the courage to bring my little drum among the wise men and ask with a humble heart, Shall I play for you?

I guarantee the song I play to my King will not always be lovely.

But my King is lovely. My King is full of grace. He gave me this life.

He fashioned my drum. He is listening.

As long as I am playing my drum only for Him…

He is smiling…

Smiling at me and my drum.

 

 

 

Who is Watching You?

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My arm was starting to fall asleep, just like my 6 year old daughter in my arms.  My hubby and I were at the Christmas Concert at church with all three of our kiddos.  We knew it would stretch them well beyond their normal bed time, but there is truly something holy about worshiping as a family.  It would be worth it!

For the first hour all three kids were clapping and doing their best to read the words on the screen to sing along.  They even feigned laughter at the first musician’s jokes…jokes they were too young to really understand.  An hour and fifteen minutes in…BAM!…two kiddos passed out.

I held my daughter’s collapsed body and stood in worship for a good 30 minutes.  (Too bad God used this to show me I’m getting old!)  My lower back was starting to seize up…one arm was completely tingly and my neck was tight.  Seriously, why did I wear these Uggs?  They were crazy hot!

I found myself praying, “LORD, give me the energy to still focus on You and not on my aching body.”  So I stood, holding my sleeping daughter.  My 7 year old son was still rocking out.

Then the music slowed…”Come let us adore Him, O Come Let us adore Him….”  My body wanted so badly to sit down, but  my spirit and my heart refused to let me sit.  Then we reached the last chorus, “For You alone are worthy…for You alone are worthy….”  My soul wanted to lift up hands in praise, but if I lifted my hand, I might collapse from holding my daughter with just one arm.  But…how could I NOT lift my hands in praise?  FOR HE ALONE IS WORTHY…”  My body was so tired, my arms literally felt so heavy …but…HE ALONE IS WORTHY!”

I heard these words in my heart:  Your burden may feel heavy, it may be hard to lift your hands in worship right now, Daughter, but HE IS WORTHY!  No burden you carry outweighs the weight of my holiness; no pain in your body or heart negates My worthiness to be praised. YOU LIFT YOUR HANDS AND WORSHIP JESUS!

I untangled my left arm from under my daughter’s legs and flexed my right arm to prepare for the extra weight.  I lifted up my shaking arm and reached out to my Jesus.  I am not going to lie, I was sweating and my legs felt like they would buckle beneath me.  I felt God’s eyes on me.  He saw this tired Momma holding her child while reaching up to Him.

I opened my eyes to find my son looking up at me. He was watching me struggle to worship.  He had seen me clumsily thrust my arm up into the air and reach out to God. We locked eyes and together we sang, “For He alone is worthy, For He alone is worthy…!”

Maybe this sweet little lesson about worshiping through the pain and numbness of life wasn’t for me alone.  How was God going to use this little glimpse in my son’s heart?  Only God knows.  How many times have you had a real life struggle and come to find someone was watching you as you struggled to worship?

What a huge witness you are to the broken when you “push through” the ache and lift your arms to the sky and sing, “For HE ALONE IS WORTHY!”. I am so thankful Jesus gives us the strength to do this in our every day lives.

God met me in my little place on this Earth that night.  He poured into me a lesson through something as simple as holding my sleeping daughter.

People are watching us this Christmas season.  Most likely, they are people we don’t expect or see.  Pray for strength and endurance to give Him the worship and praise that He is due!

Dear Jesus, help us not to grow numb to You this season.  Allow us to feel our burdens and aches so that we may give them over to You. Use our lives as a living hymn to those around us, lives which sing loudly, ‘FOR HE ALONE IS WORTHY!’

The Big Switch: Ethiopia to Ghana

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‘We are asking 5 families to join a pilot program that just opened up to adopt from Ghana. You are one of the families we would like to consider this…’

We had already been to Ethiopian restaurants, watched Ethiopian documentaries; we loved Ethiopia! We were going to wait 4 years to be matched with an Ethiopian orphan. So…

Where is Ghana again?!??

I Googled the map of Africa. There it was- somewhere between Nigeria and the Ivory Coast.

East Africa.  Ebola Africa.  Violent Africa?

I am going to die if I go there. I am going to get lost, or kidnapped, or murdered….AND DIE!

Please do not be offended by ignorance. I am trying to be honest.  Honestly–sometimes honesty isn’t pretty.

The fear was crippling.  The answer was no. That was that.

For full disclosure, I sent my husband the email.  He wasn’t ‘feeling’ Ghana either…at first.

Why are you so afraid, Jenna?

I knew God was asking me this. It was good question; God doesn’t ask stupid ones.  I had to dig deep and pray: Is this a check in the spirit from the Lord? Or is the enemy trying to get in the way of God’s plan?’

‘For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.’ 2 Timothy 1:7

 The truth was: I knew nothing about Ghana. ZERO. Heck, I had to Google map it! My fears were totally based on, well…nothing.  I didn’t know if it was violent. Turns out it has no case of Ebola.  It currently has legit democratic elections.

God does not give us fear. God gives us faith!

If God is asking us to enter into something that seems dangerous from an earthy perspective, he will give us a ‘sound mind’ about it: warning, discernment, caution. He will not cause us to panic and throw our hands about in fury.  He will not scare us in to submission. He calls us into submission because he has plans to prosper us.

But we have a choice; Satan knows this.

The enemy is SO very present at these pivotal moments in our faith. He brings on the fear factor.

We end up running from our fears, instead of running towards God’s will. 

We are attacked big time when God is calling us to do something awesome for His name’s sake. We can not be lazy in this spiritual battle.  We must commit to prayer; we must be in God’s word, we must cling to other believers.

All the while, lean in to God…then lean in some more. Lean in so close that you can hear his voice above the clashing of lies and the howling fears.

Do this and you will hear him. The crippling panic and unanswerable questions fall away. Then it is just you, standing in the shadow of the cross: loved, forgiven, bravely poured out.  If we believe he did this for us, we must believe that that we can trust Him with all things: sickness, parenting, jobs…even unknown  parts of Africa.

Only God can replace our fear with faith. 

The kind of faith that confirms God loves us to death.  The faith that gives confidence to go where we may die, because we know deep down: to die is to gain.

My husband and I wrestled in prayer together until 1 a.m. over the decision to switch our adoption to Ghana. I felt peace sweep over my body, like a tingly heat.  I heard the country’s name over and over in my head: Ghana, Ghana, Ghana.

No fear. No questions. Only faith remained. It was warm and peaceful. So peaceful I could hear his voice.

Yes, Ghana.

Dear Lord,

Please take away my fear and give me faith.

Amen