Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Strength For Tomorrow

Last night was the last night of summer. My youngest daughter pulled me close as I tucked her in. She whispered, "I've been waiting until our private time to tell you that I just don't think I can do it tomorrow." As she burst into honest tears, I fought hard to push back my own. Kindergarten was beginning the next morning, and this would be a whole new chapter for her, for me. This would also be the first time in her short life that she has not had her twin brother with her in class. It's a lot of change and a big step. 

I did my best to comfort her and to assure her that she would indeed make it. I tried not to sugar coat the truth, that it indeed might be hard, that she might still miss me, but I also told her that it was something she had to do. Again, I reassured her that she would make it. From my perspective, that's easier to see. As her mom, by God's grace, I have been preparing her for this day all of her sweet little life. I know it's part of the plan to grow her into a mature young woman one day. I know that I have made sure she has everything she needs.

This morning as she faced that fear and unknown with a courageous smile and a step forward into that Kindergarten classroom, the freshness of this lesson resonated within my own heart. How many times have I cried out to God, "I just can't do it tomorrow!", or today or this moment? How many times have change and challenge and unknown reduced me to tears and a "certainty" that I just can't do what God is asking me? 
There have been many. At every one though, there was the voice of my strong, able, faithful Heavenly Father telling me, "Yes you can do it. I have prepared you for this all along. I have given you everything you need to face this." That same faithful God-there for me at every one of my crossroads of belief, of the choice to put faith in action, was there for both me and my daughter last night. He doesn't let me run from hard or change or challenge, because He knows it is for my good. Just as I know that Kindergarten is a necessary step for my daughter to grow.

So the challenge for me is: Will I trust that God's perspective and purpose are bigger than my own? When change and unknown tempt me to hide in dormancy, will I instead choose to take a step forward in faith? Will I trust that I am held and led by the unshakable love of my Father who says, "Yes, you can face tomorrow, and I will be right there with you when you do."

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you." Psalm 32:8

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Mess of Learning

"Not that I have already obtained all of this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)

I'm somewhere I've been dreading for a while. I am potty training one of our now three year old twins. (Don't judge! :) ) Potty training is not something new for me. I have been to this rodeo before with the twins' two older sisters. You'd think I'd jump in with supermom gusto (and would have done so sooner) and show them who's the potty boss. But I haven't. I've procrastinated and delayed. There's one reason why. Learning is messy.

I've been making excuses and putting off the inevitable because I don't want to deal with the mess of learning. I don't want to wash out all of the soiled underpants and wipe down potties. I don't like the embarassment of having my kid pee on the floor when we are away from home. I don't like the inconvenience of the drop-everything-and-run-like-the-wind-for-the-nearest bathroom stage every time I hear those little words "I have to go potty." I've just plain been selfish, because learning is messy.

Pottytraining isn't the only thing I've pushed aside because of the mess, though. I've done it with writing and relationships and other things too. I avoid messy. I don't like it. I often want everything to go right the first time, and all of the time, but it doesn't. I am not perfect. My kids, my relationships, and my writing aren't perfect. For some strange reason, I am always thinking one day they will be. In fact, it is a recurrent newsflash to me that God doesn't ask me to struggle for perfect. Jesus already bought perfect for me. It is my calling to walk forward by grace, instead of sitting sidelined and paralyzed by fear.

Failing isn't the antithesis of learning, if I will let God use what I've learned to help me grow forward. I don't have to live in dread, fear or worry over potential, and sometimes inevitable, messes. The same God who rescued me from the mess of myself for eternity can rescue me from the mess of my learning to walk with Him here (Galatians 3:3). Life will always have some elements of chaos and imperfection, but those obstacles need not keep me from reaching for what lies ahead.

Are you like me? Do you avoid new things or hard things because you're afraid of the mess it may make to get there? Let's commit together to remember that learning is messy and that's ok. Let's get out there and live big, steadied by that perfect grace of Jesus who loved us before we ever got the crazy notion we had to be perfect anyways (Romans 5:8).

Now, off to more laundry and clean up on aisle 3's!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hide or seek?

What about life makes you feel like hiding? Is it consistent pressure, unrelenting demand? Is it fear?

I'm convinced that many of us live perfecting the art of hiding. As John Ortberg termed it, we become satisfied with living out a shadow mission, a second-best-settling for our life's purpose. I cannot tell you how many things fear has robbed me of in life. The fear of what could happen or what someone else might think or what I might be incapable of, have all kept me paralyzed at different times.

We may think that we can insulate our lives from pain and failure, and all of the other things we hide from (even success). The truth is God knows where we are all along. There is no hiding from His loving presence.

I was struck by this afresh as I read in 1 Samuel 10, where Saul was to be publicly anointed as Israel's first king. Saul had previously met with Samuel and knew that he was to be God's chosen man for this task. Yet, when it came time for the public anointing, verse 21 said he was not to be found. When they couldn't find him, they asked God where His man was at. God said, "He has hidden himself among the baggage."

I both chuckled and cringed when I read that. I laughed because it seems ridiculous to hide from a sovereign God in a pile of suitcases. I cringed because I have tried to hide among the baggage too. More times than I would like to admit. I have hidden behind my past, or my inability, or my fear of failure, or any other number of excuses - ducking out on callings I know God has issued to me.

No matter how you or I seek to insulate our lives from pain, difficulty, rejection, or uncertainty, there is no good to come of hiding. Hiding robs us of seeing God at work in us and through us. It robs us of learning to walk in deeper faith and abiding trust, because hiding demonstrates that we really don't trust God's sovereignty at all. We would rather hide out among our baggage - our past, our inadequacy, our present circumstances, than to step out and take a risk by faith. We would rather put all of our effort (and it takes effort and planning and expense) into hiding than we would to put it into the action of living faith.

Jesus came to set us free from every entaglement this world can offer. Sin, our past, our future, our present, our cirucmstances - anything we face cannot separate us from God's love. We may think we are hiding, but God knows right where we are. Because He sent Jesus, we are no longer slaves to fear. It is not about what we are able to do. It is about His ability to do in and through us the works He prepared in advance for us to do.

So instead of hiding, we can step out to meet God at the point of His call. Is He calling you to forgive? Is He calling you to lead? Is He calling you to love? Is He calling you to something you've been hiding from? Then, step out! As Scripture encourages, Do not throw away your confidence in God (Hebrews 10:35). Instead, move forward in faith.

What baggage are you hiding out in today? Stop hiding and start seeking!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Paths of Deliverance

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. Exodus 14:21-22 (NIV)

What do you think of when you think of deliverance? Do you think of relief? A way out of the pain, confusion or sorrow? In my life, I've found that paths to deliverance aren't always like what you'd expect. I've thought about this many times as it relates to the Israelites as they were crossing the Red Sea. How frightening it must have been to see the Egyptian armies coming in the desert. Just when the Israelites thought they had made a break for freedom and a new start in life, the enemy comes charging on their heels. Not only do they have the threat of their past captors enslaving them once again, but as they start to run, night sets in.

Sometimes it can feel like we've gotten free of one situation only to turn around and find trouble on our heels again. As we muster the strength to try to run again, night falls and we feel surrounded. Like the Israelites, we are tempted to doubt God's faithfulness. We begin to recount our past struggles as possibly better than our current ones and we face the temptation to retreat to old habits or simply to hide. We just don't see a way out of our own inevitable defeat.

But as God's Word so faithfully points out, God's ways are not our own. Paths to deliverance are not always marked with parades and singing and neon runways. Sometimes pathways for our deliverance seem dark, chaotic and out of control. However, despite our limited vision and perspective on the situation, God in His sovereignty sees those situations as a beautiful backdrop for displaying His glorious ability to save and to deliver.

Think for a moment what the Israelites must have felt. Sheer terror, discouragement, a sense of being simply overwhelmed at the thought of imminent defeat. They had their enemy at their heels, the sea in front of them, and the mirror of their own inability to do anything about it in between. But God had plans to deliver them, and in that night - amidst the darkness, with the enemy encroaching, He began to push back that sea. He made a way out of no way. This was a miracle! No one had even thought about this option, but God had it in mind all along.

That's where most of us stop in this story, but there is so much more to consider. Can you imagine being an Israelite walking through on dry land looking at walls of water beside you on either side, unsure of when they might come crashing down? I speculate that too must have been pretty scary. Not only did they not know when the water might envelope them, but they also still must have thought the enemy could simply continue following them on past the sea.

God had different plans. His path to deliverance was miraculous and frightening, yes, but it was also sufficient. The same God who parted the sea in the first place was the same God who threw the enemy army into confusion and ultimately swallowed them up in victory. Read it here:

The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, "Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt."

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen." Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

I don't know where your dark nights right now in life are. I don't know what struggles or past temptations or imminent fears are nipping at your heels, with handcuffs in tow. What I do know is that if you belong to Jesus, then you serve a God who is mighty to save and to deliver. In America, we often believe that means we will always find our way out of trouble and fear and hardship. The Bible tells us differently.

Sometimes the paths to deliverance are long and hard. Sometimes they are a battle. Sometimes they are filled with fear and chaos, and even on the path to our deliverance, we are unsure how it will all come together for victory. What we do know is this: our God is able to make a way out of no way. Heaven, earth, wind and wave obey His command and He can do whatever He pleases to bring our deliverance. His Son, Jesus, walked a lonely road to a hill and a cross, proving that deliverance does not always come the way we expected.

As we face our deserts and those things that chase us this week, jeering that our defeat is near, may we remember once again that our God is faithful, sovereign, and able. He can move in ways we'd never expect and He always has the final say. What you see as a frightening enemy at your feet, or a wall of water at your side may simply be a marker on your path of deliverance. May that bring us peace as we trust in our Deliverer and watch His majestic plans unfold.

Psalm 144:2 He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Those Aren't Your Shoes

2 Samuel 22:33-34 It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.

We were heading excitedly down the path at the park. My two two-year olds were running with excitement. Well, I should say, one of them was. My son kept tripping a little every few feet. He has taken a liking lately to his older sister's Crocs. I'm not sure if it's the bright yellow and orange that fascinate him, or the feeling of wearing big kid shoes. Whatever the case, he loves to wear these out. We let him do so around home or if we're headed somewhere he won't be doing a lot of walking, since they are about 3 sizes too big.

On this particular day, however, I had forgotten he had those shoes on. He had done ok for a while, taking time to stop and put them back on when they fell off, or picking himself up again from another minor trip. Finally, there was one bigger fall that caused some scraping, though he still caught himself. He looked at me with tears in his little eyes that said, "I'm frustrated and hurt." It was then I had one of those mom moments. You know. The ones when you hear yourself saying something to your children and suddenly realize you're talking to yourself too. Ever had one of those?

I said, "Son, those aren't your shoes. That's what happens when we wear shoes that aren't ours." Wham. The conviction train ran me over. How many times have I tried to (figuratively of course) wear shoes that weren't mine? How much pain have I self-inflicted by trying to run in shoes that are too big, too tight or just plain old not for me?

When I chase after someone else's success, someone else's path, trying to force my life into their same shoes, I'm disappointed. When someone else tries to force their plans, ideas and dreams for me on my life, I struggle, fall and cry. I cannot run well in life wearing the dreams and desires and ambitions of others. Instead, I always find myself stopping to try to force the shoes back on again. These stops, starts, and struggles remind me that someone else's shoes weren't made for me to fill.

God made each of us unique. Our calling, our gifting, our talents and our opportunities are all different. When we put on someone else's shoes, no amount of envy, cajoling or faking will move us forward the way we were meant to move forward. (Not to mention that if we've got our feet jammed in there, the person who is meant to wear those shoes can't wear them. )

I don't know if you can relate to my son's struggle, but I can. I've been there and done that, figuratively speaking. I have tried on callings and opportunities and paths and talents that were definitely not my own. I have worn shoes others have placed on me and found myself frustrated. I have looked longingly and with awe at the sparkle and success of someone else's life, someone else's road and stood so sure that those shoes would be just right. But they're not. They weren't made for me.

My son has shoes of his own. His shoes fit the contours of his own little feet. They're just right for the stage of growth and for the season he's in right now. He doesn't need to flail around struggling to wear his sister's shoes. In the same way, You and I have our own shoes to wear. God has given us each opportunities and gifts and places and relationships that are ours to walk in. We may think that others' look better or feel better, but the truth is that our shoes are tailor made by a Heavenly Father who loves us. He knows what shoes we need for the specific roads we face ahead, shoes for running and not growing weary, for walking and not growing faint.

Isaiah 40:31 "but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Hold My Hand

Isaiah 55:9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (NIV)

We were leaving church the other day. As usual, it was quite a gymnastics workout to get our twin two-year olds reined in before we opened the door to the parking lot.

As we made our way towards the street, I reached for my daughter's hand. She did not want my hand. She twisted and turned. She protested and resisted. She even tried that famous kid move. You know. The one where they collapse while you're holding their arm, so that they drop in that spot and you have to stop. As I tried, unsuccessfully, to convince her to willingly hold my hand, it hit me that this is the way I often treat my Heavenly Father.

There are times in life when God is leading me on to new chapters. He opens the door to things, sometimes scary and sometimes delightful. At times, I'm tempted to lose focus, to try to wiggle free from His grip or to run ahead of Him, thinking I know the way. Like my daughter in that parking lot, sometimes I think I've made it so far. At times, I'm so eager to go running out ahead of God to explore all of the new things in the various chapters of my life. I get overcome with emotion and the glitter of all of the excitement and newness ahead of me. I think, "I've got this. I'll meet you over there."

What I fail to remember in these moments, is that I need to keep holding God's hand. I need to keep in step with the Spirit. There are things coming toward me that, without God's perspective, I may never see coming until I'm demolished by them. While I can now walk in some areas where I used to crawl, the truth is that I still need the wisdom, insight and perspective that my Father God has on my life and my situations. I need His protection and His guidance. Most of all, I need every step of my life to be under the leadership of His unfailing love.

Just as my daughter failed to understand the very real dangers around her in that parking lot, I often fail to remember that God's perspective is so much higher and broader than my own. He sees things I have yet to see. He understands things I am far from understanding. When He guides my hand lovingly into His, I can trust that it is out of love and leadership. It is not a power play to kill my joy. God wants to lead me in love. He wants to walk with me in every area of life and to teach me His perspective, with His wisdom. What a gift that God extends to each of us the opportunity to take His hand and walk the roads of life together.

What about you? Are there areas in your life where you are attempting to run ahead of God - whether in sheer excitement, or in outright rebellion? Are there ways you are finding His pace too slow for your taste? Take these things to your loving Father and ask Him to give you the courage and the discipline to hold His hand through these roads of life. Remember afresh Who it is that extends His hand of love and protection to you.

Trust God to lead you to places and adventures you'd never dream. Rely on His sovereign and sufficient perspective. Hold His hand. Keep in step with His Spirit.

Galatians 5:25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Just for Fun - Stuff Christians Like

Just for fun, we're taking part with several other bloggers in posting a piece of today's post for the site

The “Is that contestant on American Idol a Christian? Scorecard”

51. During one of those "get to know the contestant interviews," they mention that the Bible is their favorite book = + 3 points

To add up your score with over a 130 other ideas on this scorecard, visit

Stuff Christians Like is a great blog/community I have been following for almost two years. The site is a satire on some of the quirky things Christians do. Its content has been a catalyst in my life for laughter, for healing and for remembering. Among the funnies, the site also contains many comforting and convicting posts that urge us to change for the better. The site is written by Jon Acuff, a man who shares with humor, vulnerability and an authentic compassion that makes reading each day's post an interesting part of the journey.

Use the search engine to read some of my favorite funnies: VBS, the unspoken prayer request, prayer score cards...ahhh too many to name

Or some of my favorite serious ones: Asking is it true, comebacks, 9 words that changed my life