Always There

Pouncing, playing and protecting. That’s a very accurate description of our favorite furry family member.

Minna, a one-year-old Rottweiler puppy, loves each member of our family with her whole heart. It’s evident in the way she lives: she sleeps lightly, springing to her feet at the slightest sound. She often detects things we never would have noticed. But nothing escapes her monitoring.

When someone is upset, she runs to him, nuzzling her big black head directly into his face with her warm, comforting tongue depositing kisses all over until  laughter abounds. Often, she detects emotions even the most perceptive humans miss.

And if anyone new approaches, she is watching the interactions like a hawk, ready to jump to our defense at an instant!

Minna demonstrates a lot about God’s character.

God never loses sight of what is happening to us, and He is always there to carry us through. Whether it’s a physical challenge or an emotional hardship, He is constantly there. He promises He will never leave nor forsake us. He means it – NEVER.  He will always be there, even if we don’t see Him immediately. He is present, watching carefully what is occurring, and seeing far more than we can see with our human eyes.

Dog people will attest to why dogs are called ‘Man’s best friend.’ People who know God say they could never do life without God.

I am so thankful I have both.

God uses Minna to comfort me in addition to His presence and peace. He will never forsake you or me.

 

Perfection Not Needed

Tears filled my eyes as I read my eight-year-old’s handmade card.

ALL ABOUT MY MOM

My Mom’s Name: Stefany (She tried to sound it out!)

My Mom is happiest when I: spend time with her.

My Mom looks prettiest when she: dies her hair. (Yes, she spelled it that way!)

The best way to describe my mom: Awwsome

As I read the gift of words she joyfully delivered, my heart melted.

The author in me ignored the grammar.

The teacher in me ignored the spelling.

The mom in me laughed and cried over the depth of love my sweet daughter displayed.

It was simple, heartfelt, unabashed love for her mom.

I thought my heart might burst.

Our heavenly Father feels the same when we approach Him in like manner. He doesn’t expect us to come to Him presenting perfection with all the ‘right’ words or flowing phrases. He doesn’t expect pristine lives proffered to Him.

He simply gazes adoringly at His imperfect children who bare their hearts in love and praise.

His heart melts too at the sight of our obvious efforts to please and honor Him.

We weren’t perfect when He authored His plan for us to be reunited with Him.

We weren’t perfect when He implemented that plan and His son suffered on the cross for our salvation.

We aren’t perfect today when we come to Him with our fears, joys, sorrows and praise.

Yet, just like a teary-eyed Mom reading a third grade Mother’s Day letter, He could not love us any more.

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ dies for us.” Romans 5:8 NIV

 

His Creation Calls

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

The pebbles crunched under the weight of my hiking boots on the trail.

The sky was beautifully blue. The leaves were gloriously green. The vivid colors captured my attention away from inside my head. The birds called to one another; a woodpecker fed nearby. Even a bunny hopped into the lavender flowers as I quietly crept by.

A sigh escaped.

The woods were wondrous. Oh, to stay here all day!

The babbling brook gurgled as I neared the curve of the trail. Something dashed through the brush.

I slowed and allowed the peace to wash over me.

Why can’t I stay here? What I would give to have these moments  ALL day.

Simply put, I was needed elsewhere.

Psalm 1:3 reminded me that I could baste myself in God’s word and in His presence and I could experience that peace.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:3 (NSV)

While the walk through the woods reminded me that spring had sprung indeed, His words reminded me that wherever I was, I could experience that peace. That rooted in God, I was sure to succeed in whatever the day held.

The sun streamed through the canopy, illuminating the leaves and highlighting just how much beauty God’s creation held. It also filled me with hope that promised I had not an inkling of His plans for me.

My part of that successful equation? Simply remain faithful to Him. Trust Him. Read His word. Trust His word. Rely on Him.

Simple to state.

Difficult to do.

Yet, with Him, all things are possible.

I could trust Him to help me do what he was calling me to do. And I could trust Him to quiet my mind when it raced away, willingly embracing the stress of the moments. I could trust His still, small voice when the loud roar of traffic tried to blot it out.

But most importantly, I could trust Him to help my mind, help my heart, and help my thoughts stay faithful to Him.

And in doing that, some semblance of peace would come.

As I turn around and returned home, the trail  turned the opposite way and I viewed the slight waterfall. How beautiful it appeared. How tranquil. And, how strong.

Just like a tree planted by the stream…

 

 

 

 

In Need of Sonshine?

A quick trip outside in the afternoon sunshine is all I need to lift my spirits. I work all day in a wonderful classroom. It has plenty of cabinets, four sinks, smartboard and two TV’s! What more could I want?

A window to the outside.

In the cinderblock rectangle of technology, I miss the simple satisfaction of the sun.

I found it particularly painful in the winter. I’d arrive before daybreak and never glimpse those golden rays until lunch.

Now, as the earth awakens and the grass greens up proclaiming spring has sprung, my heart longs to gaze into a bright world of color!

Life just seems better, feels more content, when I can see the sun.

I feel better physically and mentally when I can spy the golden ball in the sky.

Spiritually I am better when I abide in the Son – in Jesus. When I am honest with Him about my daily challenges and life-long struggles.

When I can actually close my lips and halt my tongue and stop to contemplate: what would Jesus do?

Those times when I construct my own son-less days; whether it’s perceived too little time to stay in His presence or too many to-do items to construct a conversation, I grow weary. Those days are dreary.

Just like a few sun-filled days can perk up my happy-go-lucky outlook; a few son-filled moments can lift my soul.

Jesus promises in John 15:4 “Remain in me as I also remain in you.” (NIV)

How comforting to claim that promise! He will remain in me – and I only need to look at Him to see past the gray clouds of this life to see the glory of the Son!

Water Horse Revelation

Sometimes, our present pain can squelch our faith and unabashedly blind us to who God is.

Recently, I watched a compelling movie, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep.

The main character, Agnes, a boy of about ten, finds an egg which eventually hatches to grow into a water horse, or Loch Ness Monster.

He manages to hide the phenomenon from his mother and the soldiers who are staying with them during WWII.

Eventually, the water horse’s life is endangered and Agnes rushes to the rescue. His mother frantically searches for him when he’s not at home and the attacks appear to begin.

Upon finding him far from their safe haven, she is worried and fearful and frustrated beyond belief. She can’t fathom his claim of having a water horse and yells at her son, “You’ve gone mad! There is no sea monster! There’s only this horrible war!”

How many people do we know that could easily say, “You’ve gone mad! There is no God. There’s only this horrible world!”

They, like Agnes mom, have never seen evidence, proof of existence.

The only experience, only history, is pain and suffering. The longing for more meaning but never finding it. There is absolutely nothing to indicate a remote possibility of anything else.

The movie ends in great revelation for Agnes and his mother.

But for many people, that revelation has yet to come.

Our job as believers of Christ is to speak the truth, reflect God in our words and actions, and admit when we fail. We also must fervently pray. Pray for God to unveil who He is, and how He loves.  The great revelation is His, and His alone.

We can’t break barriers others have erected around their hearts. But we can pray to the One who can permanently put pain in its rightful place.

And trust Him to reveal everything in His time.

(Ephesians 1:9 “God made known to us the mystery of his good will according to his pleasure, which he purposed in Christ.” NIV)

Fret No More

One glance at the week and I felt my blood pressure climbing.

Two evaluations.

Three deadlines.

A conference.

A trip.

How did this all fall into one week?

When would I sleep?

When would I care for the kids, the puppy, the home?

When would I make time for God?

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently on Him.” Psalm 37:7a NIV

God, what do you have for me this week? Is there anything I should delete from the list?

Be still before the Lord…

If only the list would vanish from my mind.

Be still before the Lord…

With an overflowing planner, I believed the lie that I just can’t stop…

Be still before the Lord…

I suddenly remember myself as a little girl, learning to pray.

Close my eyes,

Bow my head,

Clasp my hands together to quell distractions.

I knew what needed to happen: close that planner and halt my mind’s minute-by-minute calculations.

Don’t assign blame over how that crazy schedule happened.

Close that planner and stop that feeling of dread.

Do not fret it only leads to evil…” Psalm 37:8b NIV

What evil?

Anxiety, fear, faithlessness.

These negative, blood pressure spiking emotions would not lead me closer to God but might well distract me from Him.

Oh Lord, please teach me to be still. How to be still in my mind, body, and heart. Please train my thoughts to be positive not negative. Please allow me to remain faithfully Yours, not fretfully fearful.

Thank You, Lord, that through You all things are possible.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

Humbly Saved

Have you ever been condemned for telling the truth?

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15

In Mark 14:62 and Mark 15:31-32, we see Jesus telling the truth. He admitted who He is. The problem? No one believed Him.

He was honest. He also understood that no sinful human would understand His actions, that day, or, today.

Recall, Jesus was not really fighting against His human captors. The human voices shouted Satan’s accusations. They would hurl insult and heap mental and physical injury upon an innocent Jesus.

While even today, centuries after the fact, it’s amazing, even miraculous, that Jesus didn’t defend Himself.

He knew He was in the right.

Even if no one else knew or understood.

Even when the people questioned His authority and authenticity.

He also knew after Satan had done his absolute worst to beat down Jesus in every way, the fulfillment of the most important miracle to mankind would materialize. The barrier between God and humanity would be burned; our Jesus bridge built.

And Jesus Himself saved, raised from the dead and reunited with His father.

Sometimes, doing the right “God-ordained” action might cause others to see us as weak or simple. I do not pen that lightly, knowing the agony and pain sometimes perpetuated by such choices.

Yet, I want to follow Jesus’ example. I want to joyfully greet God one day in heaven, knowing I was willing to do whatever He requested.

Oh Lord, on this Good Friday, as we recall Your intense, personal sacrifice, we humbly Thank You.

We thank You for constructing a concrete way to reach our heavenly Father.

We thank You for showing us how to live this life on earth and how to learn to fix our gaze on God.

Please help us to recall it, to live it, and to treasure it. In Your Son’s precious name, Amen.

What’s on YOUR Lips?

When the sun is shining, the birds are singing and spring has definitely sprung, what are you saying?

When it’s cold and dark, and horror of horrors, a snowstorm appears in April, what words are on your tongue?

When the routine is predictable and everything is just, well, just normal, what are you uttering?

Psalm 34:1 reads, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.”

King David wrote that Psalm. A King. If you don’t know a lot about him it might seem easy for a King to pen such thoughts.

But King David knew a lot about hardships. He knew what it was like to be anointed King, and then have to wait years for his time on the throne.

He knew what it was like to have a madman after him, constantly chasing him, trying to literally kill him.

In fact, this Psalm was written when David was acting crazy so Abimelech would drive him away, outside the city, where David could hide himself from a crazed King Saul.

Can you imagine being sweaty, dirty, hunkered down in a cave, heart pounding so loud you think you hear it’s echoes off the walls, hoping you would not be found, be caught and killed?

David probably penned these words under such circumstances.

“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.”

To think of someone writing those words, holding those ideas close to his heart while under such stress, wow! Maybe you are like me, and ponder my little pile of problems and are deeply humbled.

If David could praise God under such circumstances, if he could disregard the stress and worry of his days to focus on the Lord, praising him with such vigor, why can’t I?

Come

Are you weary?

Are you tired of always being tired?

Do you days last forever and the nights never seem long enough?

When, when will this ever end?

Noah was called to quite the task: build an ark, wait out a flood, and perpetuate a new, kinder humanity. God clearly called him, but God never revealed a definite timeline.

Maybe you are stuck without an end date. Maybe the thought of this never-ending saga is just too much. I bet Noah had a few days like that. When the stench of those animals confined in the boat brought tears to his eyes and aching to his heart.

When, when will this ever end?

But Jesus gave us a promise to make the wait more palatable.

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

Jesus calls us to come to Him when we are quite certain we can not move any more.

He invites us when we are weary.

He soothes us when we are simply done.

He promises us rest when we fear we might never fully rest again.

His words could well have been: “Come to me all who are:

tired,

burned-out,

frustrated,

frazzled,

depleted,

depressed,

despaired,

bothered,

heavy-hearted,

and giving-up.

(because) I will give your rest.”

Rest from what troubles and tortures you.

Rest from what weighs on your hear and consumes your mind.

Rest from problems never resolved.

Rest from the terribly long days and the way-too-short nights.

Rest when no end is in sight.

He invites us to take His yoke – to tie ourselves to Him and carry and share our burdens with Him. He promises, with Him, it will go easier.

He wants to teach us.

He reminds us He is good and has our best intentions in mind.

He promises we will find rest for our souls. Not only eternal rest but a sweet, soul-satisfying rest for today: the knowledge that whatever I am called to do, it is well with my soul.

Whenever I consider His words, I realize, because of the weariness, I absolutely must go to Him.

 

A Crack in Armor

The three-year-old giggled as she descended the stairs and twirled before her Daddy. From a young age, it was in her heart to find her own knight-in-shining-armor.

David was such a man.

He was chosen. He walked with the Lord. He waited on the Lord. He would be recorded as a man after God’s own heart.

He made lots of rights choices. He made many, many decisions which pleased the Lord.

Until one day, he began a journey down a road making not-so-good choices.

When kings went off to war, he sent his troops without him.

He saw a woman and upon learning she was married, disrespected her in the worst way.

He then tried to conceal his wrongs by finagling and manipulation.

When his plot failed, he then tried to cover his mistakes by sending her husband to certain death.

David, our white knight, had a crack in his armor.

What had happened to this man of God?

Had David let his reputation go to his head?

Had he tired and disengaged from God?

How can people of faith fall so fast?

They are not where they should be.

David should have been out fighting with his troops, instead, he stayed behind.

They are not doing what they are called to do.  Obedience is key to a close relationship with God. (David as king had a task to lead these men – instead he shirked his responsibilities.)

When faced with temptation, he lingered. (David allowed his gaze and thoughts to stay on Bathsheba. He did not leave the scene and even authored his own interaction with her.)

When he realized his mistake, he did not own up to it. In fact, he desperately tried to conceal it. God wants us to obey Him. When we make a mistake, He wants us to have our hearts break with what breaks the heart of God. He wants us to openly repent and mend our relationship with Him.

He relied on himself, not God. He determined to dig himself out and not turn back to God, at least in the beginning.

David did eventually repent and would come close to God once more.

But sometimes that crack in armor is not so easily mended by the choices we make.

What if we never return to God? How different might our legacy be? How different might our children’s and grandchildren’s lives be because we never owned up to our mistakes?

We must not allow a crack in armor to become an infectious rust, tarnishing everything in our lives.

David, in his wisdom, after his moment of weakness, did return to God.

God responded to David with consequences for his actions and with love and forgiveness.

Just as He will with us as we sincerely repent before Him.

For the full story, read 2 Samuel 11-13.