When Jesus wants us to act like a three year old.

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What a tender picture of these preschoolers laying a hand on their Operation Christmas Child box and praying for the child who will receive it.

One little girl chose to give her very first baby doll. An adorable doll with a yellow gingham dress with lace trim. Like cutey patootey put-in-the-cedar-box-and-save-for-your-great-Granddaughter cuteness. Mama was struggling about this one because it’s a bit of a keepsake (you know how we Mama’s are about the firsts). It would be easier and less heavy on the heart to just go buy a brand new one like all the other items being boxed up. But the three year old wanted another little girl to have her favorite baby doll.

I love that this Mama’s heart was trumped by her heart for God. She wanted her little girl to walk in that love and give selflessly. Who are we to mess with what God is doing in our kids hearts?

Have you been there before? We talk to our kids about loving God and others and how we should pray for the homeless man we see out our window and then our kids come back with, “Oh, I know what we should do Mama. We should invite him to come home with us!”

Errrr, well……and a slight laugh of “bless him he doesn’t know any better.”

My good friend had that conversation with her son last week. The three year old wanted the homeless man to come over to their house. The Mama’s heart has been burdened for this man for a long time. They see him on the streets all the time.

What do you even do with that?

I’m the first to say that fear would keep me from having a complete stranger in my home. I’m more street wise than that.

I regret not letting Sophie give ALL her money one time as a gift to someone. She was so little and didn’t understand the value of money but her heart is so very generous and I snuffed out her desired act of radical generosity because it didn’t make sense to me.  You don’t give ALL of it. Be generous but with limits. Be a wise steward which means it needs to make sense on paper and always leaving money left over.

You give a baby doll but not the one that means a lot to you. That’s too special to give to someone you don’t even know.

Sadly this is my thinking at times and when I say it out loud it makes me cringe and sick to my stomach because I know it’s not the perspective our God has on things. I don’t want this to be my earthly vision of things.  I want to have a three year old’s perspective when it comes to loving others. Perhaps this is what  Jesus was talking about when he tells his followers to become like a child.

I don’t know what it always looks like and I don’t always do it well but I’m learning and watching the radical generosity and love of our God through the Bible. And I love it. I want to extend this kind of love to others.

So the next time someone accuses you of acting childish – don’t necessarily take offense to it. Unless you like stuck your tongue out at someone or fell down on the ground and threw a temper tantrum in the church aisle because they didn’t use the hymnal or something. Yeah that’s not cool childish behavior.

Well, I’m off to go play in the sandbox.

Ya’ll have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

We trust the God we know – God is our Guide

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Are you lacking direction in big decisions ahead? Are you concerned with elected leadership as our guide? May we remember today that we have a God who will guide us forever. His guidance is sufficient. It’s exactly what we need and it’s enough. We can find his guidance in His word and we can hear his guidance through the Holy Spirit as we still our busy lives and listen to Him.

In what ways is our God guiding you in this season of life?

We trust the God we know – God is Love

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Do you know that God’s love for us is intense and never changing? God did not spare his only son in death, when he could have out, of love for you and for me.  God loved his son with an intense love but he was still willing to give him up so that all of us could have a relationship with God. That’s true love.

If you’re feeling unloved or overlooked today rest in knowing this: God is love. He is for you.

Parenting Fail

I’m the worst Tooth Fairy ever.

That’s why my husband is usually the Tooth Fairy in our house.

Go ahead.

Picture it.

Except he doesn’t wear a tutu or carry around a sparkly wand. Not that I ever did either because that  would just make the rest of the worlds teeth fall out.

The reason I’m a lame Tooth Fairy is because I forget to get the money. Who carries cash around with them anymore unless you’re enrolled in a Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace class (which is awesome by the way). So this poses a problem when teeth fall out in our house.

When I do finally get around to getting cash in the house I then forget to put it under the pillow. Randy stays up the latest in the household so I guess this is how he landed the job of putting the money under the pillows when needed. He has always done a superb job. He even writes “toothfairy notes” back to the kids because they always leave a note asking the toothfairy to leave the tooth. So he leaves money and a note. Stellar Dad!

Well last week I was reinstated as the Tooth Fairy because Randy had a horrible headache and went to bed early. This was my chance to redeem myself in the Tooth Fairy department.

But failure was right around the corner. Ugh!! I forgot to leave the money again. Sad little girl woke up to her tooth still tucked under her pillow in right where she left it.

The next night I remembered right as I got all snuggled up in bed. I ran downstairs and grabbed the money. Went upstairs and realized I had to write a note. Went downstairs and went on a wild goose chase looking for a small, unfamiliar to her piece of paper to write on. Finally I resorted to a Multiplication Flashcard. Who needs to know what 6×11 is anyways.

I scribbled out a “You can keep the tooth. Enjoy the money. Love you bye.” and ran upstairs to put it under her pillow. But she was still awake. And I was sooooo tired. So I decided to fake a toothfairy move and I ran in there and said, “Did you call me?” as I slipped the note/money under her pillow ever so stealth like. I was feeling more confident and apparently I had Tooth Fairy skills afterall! They were just hidden.

Right as I was getting all puffed up at my fairy dust skilzzzz the girly girl sits up in bed and grabs my arm and says, “REALLY?!! Are you kidding me?” and busts out laughing. I was so caught red-handed.

And this is why I got fired as the Tooth Fairy. The end.

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We trust the God we know.

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One way we get to know God is through his word. His word is alive and active. And the more we know him the more we love and trust him.

Today’s Attribute and focus is God is our Shield.

Remember today that no matter what you face you have a God you can take refuge in. He is safe. He is strong. He can protect you. Run to him. Praise him for being your shield. Find comfort in knowing he is your shield.

Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:30 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

Psalm 33:20 Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

Psalm 115:9 O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.

Lord, today we praise you for being our shield as your word tells us you are. We believe you are our shield and we are asking you as our shield to protect us from what you know we need to be protected from. Sometimes we don’t even know what you shield us from. Thank you for those times, Father.

Jen Hatmaker and LifeWay Breakup

You’ve probably heard by now that LifeWay pulled all of Jen Hatmaker’s books from their shelves and will not be selling any more of her books.

I’m sharing this post because I feel like there are probably some confused Christians right now on this topic perhaps. I’ve had several people ask me about it in the last 4 days. I want to challenge us all to be careful to the voices we listen to. In googling and reading articles by pastors and Christian leaders about this or anything else for that matter – just always remember the grid in which we must filter information. It must always start and end with God’s Truth. Always. So with that said let me share some things I’ve run across the “internet webs” about this recent controversy.

In an interview published last week, Jen Hatmaker told Religion News Service columnist Jonathan Merritt that she supports same-sex marriage and believes that LGBT relationships can be holy.

Jen states the following:

“From a civil rights and civil liberties side and from just a human being side, any two adults have the right to choose who they want to love. And they should be afforded the same legal protections as any of us. I would never wish anything less for my gay friends.

From a spiritual perspective, since gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, our communities have plenty of gay couples who, just like the rest of us, need marriage support and parenting help and Christian community. They are either going to find those resources in the church or they are not.

Not only are these our neighbors and friends, but they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are adopted into the same family as the rest of us, and the church hasn’t treated the LGBT community like family. We have to do better.”

And Lifeway said this:

“In the past, LifeWay Christian Resources published several resources with Jen Hatmaker. In a recent interview, she voiced significant changes in her theology of human sexuality and the meaning and definition of marriage—changes which contradict LifeWay’s doctrinal guidelines.”

A pastor of a very large church in a nearby town said this in support of Jen’s views and in dismay at LifeWay:

“The damage the Church has done and continues to do to the LGBTQ community by trying to claim the writers of the Bible understood things they simply couldn’t have understood about sexuality, is one of our greatest shared sins.”

He goes on to say, “If we don’t see and consider the Bible’s limitations regarding the complexities of gender identity and sexual orientation, we will continue to try to use God to reinforce our fear and sanction our prejudices, and we will continue to engage in behavior toward the LGBTQ community that makes our violence and mistreatment feel righteous, while not at all reflecting the love of Jesus.”

I hope you see the danger in this pastor’s statements. Does your discerning spirit pick up immediately that he doesn’t believe in the inerrancy of scripture? So yeah, when reading up on Jen Hatmaker and what Christian leaders are saying about this subject let’s put this one in the “stinkin’ thinkin'” file. And then move on.

How about this Christian leader, Jennie Allen. Jennie Allen is founder of IF Gathering which is an awesome women’s Christian conference/movement.  I like what she says about this. And the spirit in which she says it.

“This is so much more than a statement for me. This is not about some “Christian celebrity” out there, this is my friend whom I have logged a lot of life with—including hours over the past many months about this very topic. While we disagree on this important issue, Jen and I love each other and agree on so many things. Jen speaking at IF:Gathering isn’t even on the table, because she took herself out of IF many months ago for reasons that are her own.

Concerning where IF and I land here: Nothing has changed. I lean on 2,000 years of Church history and we continue to hold an orthodox view of marriage. Our commitment to Scripture is a guiding value: We believe the God of the Universe reveals and defines Himself through His Word. We believe the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, are verbally inspired by God, fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in what they say. (Including in regards to sexual ethics.)”

Here’s what I want to say about this personally.

I don’t agree that gay marriage can be holy. God is too clear about this in scripture. I do not support or condone gay marriage based on scripture.

I do agree that men and women in homosexual relationships need to receive the love of Christ and from Christ followers just like all of us do. We cannot withhold extending love to our gay neighbors and fulfill the law of Christ in loving our neighbors as ourselves. We can’t let fear or akwardness keep us from talking to, caring for and being around gay people.

What this looks like in the context of church, attending weddings, etc. I’m still grappling with personally.

Here’s what I think about a lot…. what if one of my children chooses a gay lifestyle. As a Christian parent I would be crushed. But you better believe I would be praying for my child to feel the love of Jesus in their life and a conviction that comes from hearing truth spoken in love. I would be praying for my child to find a community of Christ followers that would love them enough to welcome them into their church and love them enough to speak truth to them. I would hope they would be welcomed at that church but also hear a pastor speaking truth. That fellow small group attendees would not be “afraid” of them but would talk to them like a normal person and when sexuality comes up to not be “afraid” to say what God says about marriage and sexuality. And the point of speaking truth is out of  love for that person. God’s truth sets us free.

By God’s grace may I never experience this as a parent but do you know what? I have very good Christian friends that are. I have pastors that are friends who have family that are in this situation right now. They have kids that are gay. And more than anything they would love for their kids to be in a Bible believing church where the Word of God is central and God’s grace flows freely.

I applaud LifeWay for sticking to their commitment of upholding their fundamentals of faith. You don’t have to agree with them. You can still purchase Jen’s books at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I don’t agree with Jen and while it does impact my reading of her books and choosing her curriculum to teach and train within our church (girls sunday school, etc), I will extend grace to her and recognize that she really does aim to love people well. But I think she’s shifting too far and it’s dangerous because she has a very powerful voice.

Friends, be careful who you listen to. Keep seeking God on all these matters. We will come to different conclusions and sometimes those conclusions cause us to just smile and settle to disagree. Other times we pull books from shelves. And then sometimes we have to flat out call people out in their misguided ways for the sake of the Body of Christ. Some would consider that judgmental but we see this is a spiritual practice God sets up in the local church. It’s not designed to condemn rather it’s designed to help each other stay the course according to God’s ways.

 

Umbrella Prayers

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For something to sink into my brain I have to visualize it in pretty simplistic terms. Just how I roll. So when I am talking about Umbrella Prayers I have this visual in my head of holding up an umbrella. The umbrella represents God and who he is. An attribute of God.

I focus my thoughts and praise on God and who He is. Our God is vast according to scripture. There are so many facets to him and we can’t even comprehend it all but he does give us many references to who he is in the Bible. Knowing who God is and recounting who he is will make a difference in our lives.

After praising God for who he is and meditating on God himself I will then move into a time of confession. Asking God to reveal and show me hidden and blatant sin in my life. Sometimes I write and sometimes I don’t care to put pen to paper about these grievances. Either way – there is sweet relief in the immediate forgiveness of our God.

My next step falling under Praise and Confession is a time of Thanksgiving. It’s pretty self explanatory. Thanking God for answered prayer, for unanswered prayer, for surprised blessings and every day beauties that come from his hand.

Finally, I get to the part I long to start with if the truth be known. My requests. Petitions. Intercession. However you want to put it. It’s simply where we ask God for help. For intervention. Here’s the thing with the order of these prayers….when I start with who God is it reveals who I am in light of Him and the confession comes quite naturally. Which then leads to an overflow of thanksgiving. And then when I finally get to the asking part it feels different in a way. The circumstances are the same, yes. But my perspective has changed some. I’m now viewing this request as under the protection and covering of my amazing God who is capable of all things. Who loves me faithfully. Who extends mercy. Who is a shield and refuge. This is who I choose to align my very real life troubles under.

So friends, whether it’s a torrential downpour or crystal clear sunshine in your world today, pick up your umbrella and imagine putting yourself under the covering of an amazing God who is full of grace and mercy and so much more.

 

 

Church Planting – we lived to tell about it.

One of the most defining seasons of life for me was when Randy and I were in our first year of ministry 19 years ago. We planted a church with 7 families in a little north Georgia town. There was no “sending church or mother church”.

Well everything was awesome until 5 of the 7 families left at once over a church membership issue. Like wanting to add some things like “you can’t……” and “you must……” and Randy was 100% unwilling to make those terms. Yeah, like it’s not really a good thing to add to Jesus’s requirement of becoming a part of his family. He wants us to put our trust and believe in Him. Period. And that’s when we become a part of His family – the universal/global church. Of course there are incredible guidelines all through scripture that help us live life in a way that reflects we are Christ followers. Sometimes those things get fleshed out quickly after salvation as the Spirit works in us and sometimes it takes longer. So to say someone can’t drink, smoke, look a certain way, go to movies, etc. and be a member of a church is putting higher expectations on someone than Jesus does for membership in his family. (I know, I know…..where do you even find “church membership” in the Bible. A blog post for my husband to address on a rainy day.)

At the time it was devastating when those families left. Randy had to go to work for six months at a builder supply store in town in order to make ends meet. We were forced to rethink everything we thought we ever knew about church. Everything. Like why do we meet on Sunday or Wednesday? Can church happen outside a building? Is there room for liturgical elements in a Baptist’ish community church – is that even allowed? Won’t the church police give you a ticket for that?

I will always remember this time like it was yesterday. I remember the one last standing elder & his wife in our church bringing over Moose Tracks Ice Cream and sitting at our kitchen table saying, “I know it’s hard but God will get us through this.” And God did get us through.

I’m still so proud of Randy for standing up for what he knew and felt in his heart was the right thing to do according to scripture. It brought on hard circumstances at the time but it was the right thing. Having to think through so many things was worth it all. Within six months God brought new families our way and financial provision and Randy was able to go back to full time pastoring and has ever since that time period. I thank God for that.

Looking back on 25 years of ministry I see God’s hand of shaping, molding and making us into the ministry team he has designed. And I love Him for it.

My fave Fall decorating piece that cost $6!

Fall is my favorite time of year and decorating for it is so much fun. I’m the kind of decorator that uses the same pieces for years at a time. I get a good piece and hang on to it for decades. And it doesn’t bother me but I do pick up little accessories here and there to add to the theme.

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This year my all time favorite find is this eye ball in the glass container……

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Isn’t that creepy awesome??!! My desk sits opposite of the mantle so I totally feel like I’m being watched whenever I sit down.

And where did we score this awesome treasure? CRACKER BARREL. My man is actually the one who spotted it and had the vision for this little treasure. Bahaaha – get it “vision”?  I’m sorry that was corny-ea. Oh my word okay I’ll quit.  So back to Cracker Barrel – they have different kinds – green, blue and brown eyes.

I think having one in a bookshelf would be pretty awesome as you interview a prospective employee. You could psychoanalyze the whole situation. You know they notice it, if placed in a prominent place, and so if they don’t say anything about it then you might conclude they are not as assertive as you’d like or perhaps you interpret it as them having good manners. Yeah, so see I never get very far with psychoanalyzing because of my overanalyzing. Trips me up all the time.

Anyways – whether you want to subtly creep someone out in your office or just use around the house or stick in your purse to pull out every now and then to remind your kids you have eyes everywhere – then you know where to go! Cracker Barrel.

You’re welcome. I care too much not to tell ya’ll about these ever so fun things.

The Calm after the Storm

That’s where I feel things are now – a bit of a settling. It’s been a crazy whirlwind of scary health issues in our household lately. But I praise God we are getting through it. His word and His presence has sustained and upheld us in the most powerful of ways.

I saw God stretch my Mom and take her down a very difficult path. For a day or two we thought He was going to lead her on home but God……wasn’t ready for that to happen yet. I’m so glad. I love my Mama and we’re very close. I know it will happen some day but until now I’ve not allowed my mind to even go there. I have been stuck in the days of still believing her unchanging response of, “I’m 64 years old thank you for asking” for the past 25 years. We always chuckled but somehow “64” has been lodged in my head and almost a feeling of, “My Mom will never die because well she’s my Mom and she just can’t.” Reality set in for me as I watched her body go through so much and major issues like her COPD were suddenly peripheral issues.

Once again I was reminded that my only true hope and lasting treasure is Jesus Christ. It sounds so cliche-ish but it’s the very raw truth. Jesus matters. At the end of the day – whether top of the mountain kind of a day or way down in the depths of the valley kind of a day – Jesus is the only thing that doesn’t fade away. That doesn’t crumble. Who doesn’t let us down. Who won’t die. Jesus is the only one that truly gets us. That loves us deeply. He’s the only one who offers something incredible on this earth and after this lifetime on earth. Nothing and No one can compare to him.

So while I’m so glad I made it through my surgery and my Mom made it out of the hospital I have to know that my greatest hope is not in these things but in God alone. May I remember these things and live them out as truth in my life.