Thursday, October 15, 2015

book review | staying is the new going

Having just moved from "going" to "staying", this book seemed like it would be relevant to our stage of life. And it was... not only relevant, but also very convicting and motivating. As I read through, I often found myself spaced out, dreaming up ways to minister in our neighborhood, to break down walls with people that I see every day, and just to be very engaged where I've been placed. That is the essence of this book.

Author Alan Briggs is a very conversational writer, so that made this an easy read. The material that he's discussing is challenging. In our very mobile society, choosing to stay in one place in order to be a consistent, invested example of Christ is a somewhat radical idea. Of course, there are plenty of people who have never moved from their hometown simply because they didn't want to. But this is about staying because you want people to see what a lifetime of living for Christ looks like - not just six months of living for Christ. Anyone can fake it for six months. Obviously it's only by the grace of God that any of us can serve Him longer than that.

Living on Main Street one block from the church in a very average house makes me the perfect candidate to put some of Briggs' ideas into practice. And he offers a lot of ideas! They do Free Coffee Friday, host neighborhood cook-outs, and regularly choose to invite neighbors rather than family or church friends when they want to have someone over. I was convicted to step out of my box and be willing to get close to people outside of my "group" - co-workers, acquaintances, neighbors - as I have opportunity. And in the small ways that I have done that, I have realized that indeed - people are hungry for connection. We need other people. And many people don't have as many people in their lives as I do.

There's a lot more I could say... both in agreement with Briggs and offering a few alternative perspectives of my own... but I think I'll stop there. Overall this is a very worthwhile read for Christians in any stage of life... it is very thought-provoking and, like I said, motivating. Staying (no matter where it is that you're staying - your hometown, a new town, or a foreign country) and being willing to put down roots is probably one of the best things we can do to push the Gospel forward in a world that never settles down.

I received this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my review. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015


A new song for Ivory lately is "Fill up my cup... let it overfloat." It's cute (and in our current stage of toddler-hood, not everything is), but more than that, it always brings to mind an image of a cup just absolutely brimming, filled to capacity, spilling over and out - unbelievably full. Life right now is that cup, and our blessings are what's inside of it. In Christ we are so rich.

Being rich is living in central Illinois in the fall. It's working together to make a house, a home. It's being close to family and even closer to friends. It's having a job where I can talk to my co-workers about how God brought me to where at am and how He redeems brokenness for beauty, even in D50... and they know what I mean because they have experienced it too. It's having not just one but two babysitters who I can trust completely because of tight bonds of faith and fellowship. It's having a husband who knows the Lord. It's being able to forgive hurts and move on from the past. It's being able to release both the past and the future to the One who actually knows.

"And he built fenced cities in Judah: for the land had rest and he had no war in those years, because the Lord had given him rest. Therefore he said unto Judah, Let us build these cities, and make about them walls and towers, gates, and bars, while the land is yet before us; because we have sought the Lord our God, we have sought him, and he hath given us rest on every side. So they built and prospered." II Chronicles 14:6-7.

Sometimes I seek God like that... I question the motives behind His goodness. I ask Him, "really? really? you would give me this?!" I seek Him, I seek Him, and He has given me rest on every side.

In my weakest moments I worry that if I sink into the comforts of His blessings too much, I won't be prepared to face adversity when it comes. But when unrest did come...

"Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many or with them that have no power, help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude, O Lord, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee. So the Lord smote the Ethiopains before Asa."

... and they still carried away "abundance" anyway.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

beautiful truth

It's a simple equation: God blesses and takes care of those who rely on Him and trust in Him and serve Him. Just as simple is the fact that Satan and sin destroy and demolish anything that they can get ahold of.

Viewing life in that perspective makes it easy to understand why the world is hurting... why so many of my students go to a house but not a home at night... and why every time I sit down with the Peoria Journal Star I wonder if there's any hope for anybody anywhere.

At first glance, though, those equations don't explain the trials of believers. It's the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people? It's something I've been thinking about lately a lot. Walking down rocky roads makes me so tempted to question, "What am I doing wrong?" As I was thinking about it on Saturday morning, I ran across these verses in Luke 1 about Zacharias and Elizabeth: "And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless. And they had no child, because that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years."

Elizabeth's trial of barrenness was not a result of sin or wrong. It was simply that... a trial. It was good to be reminded on Wednesday night of II Corinthians 12, and God's use of trials to remind us of who we really are in relation to Himself. I fear trials - I really do. When life is going well, I wonder when the bubble is going to pop. I'm so scared of being tested. But challenges and trials are not necessarily ominous... or a result of sin. They are to help us re-focus on God and keep an eternal perspective, and honestly, to help us live holier lives and to keep us from sinning. Trials are meant to draw us closer to the Lord - not separate us from Him, like sin does. That's why Paul could say that He rejoiced in tribulation.

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Monday, September 28, 2015

hard truth

A note came through my inbox the other day to let me know that a student was moving. When I asked him about it today, he said... "yeah. I'm moving to Chicago. My mom has a boyfriend." Later I was talking to a co-worker and her only comment was "they'll be back." She explained that regularly when students move, they return later in the year.

It's heartbreaking, honestly, that I cannot think of a single student out of the nearly 250 that I see every week who come from homes where their father and mother live and function together, where home is complete, happy, safe, and whole. I'm sure there are a few, but every single student who I know anything about comes from a broken family.

It's also heartbreaking to know that I can do so little. The hard truth is that redemption from this cycle can come only in the form of salvation through Jesus Christ... but in order for that to happen... Jesus Christ has to be visible in me. And that is just scary.

We were challenged on Sunday morning in Princeville: Could you tell someone, like Paul did in Philippians 4:9 - "those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you"? If people were watching me, would they find Christ?

It's a thought provoking and convicting question in wake of a rough Monday at school... a place where, more than anything, my students need to see Christ in me.

I was reading in John 4:34 today Jesus' words: "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." I don't understand people's lives. I don't understand how to help. It's all so overwhelming that its tempting to do nothing at all. But 'finishing His work' ultimately means proclaiming His name with every step that I take, and to realize that in my weakness, His witness is strong.

Friday, September 25, 2015

book review | through a man's eyes

I'm really glad I read "Through a Man's Eyes". The phrase "men are visual" is overused and under-explained and this helped me understand how to be a better and more supportive wife, mother, and sister-in-Christ to the men in my life.

Around the time I started reading this I was seeing and hearing a lot of thoughts and heated feelings about dress codes - specifically in schools. A lot of women feel it's not their responsibility to help the guys around them stay pure in their thoughts. I guess for those who aren't Christians I can see why people would feel that way. But if you are a Christian woman, there is no getting around God's commandments not to be a stumbling block to others - nor can we deny that God doesn't want us defining ourselves or flaunting ourselves through our clothing choices. This book not only helped me think through my own stance on modesty but also caused me to more fully appreciate the efforts my husband is making to keep himself pure.

"Through a Man's Eyes" addresses a lot of issues that I haven't seen brought up a lot of other places and offers good perspectives and insights. Overall I felt the book could have been a little bit better researched or biblically-based - as it's a little bit just like a collection of stories, thoughts, and experiences - like someone went to a computer and wrote down everything they knew about the subject. That could be good - and this is decent - but I felt like the quality could have been a little higher. That said, it was a valuable read that has really honestly changed my views on men, modesty, and the world around me in general.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Friday, September 11, 2015

fitly framed together

She says she'll have cereal for a snack. Then I realize that she actually only meant the "charms", not the luckies".

He says he remembered his Spanish notebook! Then I realize he forgot his pencil, planner, Spanish workbook AND his chromebook. Oh and wait, that's actually his science notebook. Can he go get his Spanish one? (Don't you miss middle school?)

I say it'll only take me three hours in Peoria. Then I realize that if you spend an hour driving in circles, and have two toddlers with me, AND decide to go to the Health Department, it will take me longer - like, six hours. And I will leave with my previously formed opinion of the Health Department unchanged.

So honestly, the week has been pretty average. Two steps forward, one step back.

It was comforting to read in Ephesians 2 today: "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." (Ephesians 2:19-22)

I'm at home. This is life. All the pieces of it are scattered all over the place, just like I found Ivory and Titus's blocks yesterday on the front porch, but at the same time - I am fitly framed together by God. And growing. Not complete, and definitely not the cornerstone. But by grace - through the Spirit - I am a fellowcitizen with the saints and a habitation of God.

Glory to Him alone!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

no fear

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." (I John 4:18)

The song has been running through my head... "There's no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear..." And come to think of it, I need that message in my life right now so badly.

There's currently a certain amount of stress in my life that is reasonable, expected, and even healthy. I'm starting a new job, yet still deeply feeling the responsibilities of being a wife and mother and learning to balance it all. However, there also exists plenty of stress that I shouldn't be hanging on to... but that I'm still feeling solely because I'm refusing to entrust it to my Heavenly Father.

I had/have been trying to really focus on my prayer life lately, learning what it looks like to have intimate conversation with the Lord in the way that He has designed. But it's almost like I was too focused on it - such that I felt a burden to make sure that everything got covered (or maybe more accurately stated, controlled) by me. God is bigger than that. He knows me, and He knows the future. And I can trust Him with all things. The point of me praying is not to take control. It's to release. When I give it to Him, the fear and anxiety fade away.

My reading in Springs in the Valley this morning was so fitting to go along with this:
"No man ever makes Him supreme and suffers loss, for Jehovah will not be left in any man's debt. When a man holds on, God takes away, when a man lets go, He gives, and that liberally. [...] Make me a captive, Lord, and I shall be free. [...]. Oh master, show me this morning how to yield myself up to Thee completely, and then how to ask of Thee things great enough to be worthy of a King's giving. Make me equal in my requests to Thy infinite eagerness to give." (p. 264-265).

Monday, August 31, 2015

book review | anne of green gables, my daughter, and me

While I'm definitely not as into Anne of Green Gables as Lorilee Craker, it is a neat story with a lot more insights than I ever realized before reading this book. It also serves as a really unique way to tell her story of being adopted as well as that of her daughter. The interweaving of her life, her daughter's life, and Anne's life work together to build a book different than any other I've ever read.

I really enjoyed reading Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me as a diversion from my typical literature fare, and especially appreciated the times when she really got serious - asking thought-provoking questions about my life - my relationships, my attitudes, my identity. For example, one of my favorite quotes is found on page 125. While I'm not sure L.M. Montgomery ever intended for this much meaning to be extracted from Anne's relationship with Rachel Lynde, it was a really relevant thought for my life right now. Lorilee Craker writes, "In Scripture, the apostle Paul talks about winning people over - the neighbor, the husband who doesn't believe, the weak, the lawless. When we are insulted and defensive, how can we turn things upside down as Anne did?How can we, swayed by love, win our foes over? Mrs. Rachel acted abominably, but Anne also behaved badly. Yet in this messy situation, grace, love, and creative apology were the victors. See how everyone was changed by the encounter?" I wish there was more of those types of quotes in this book, but the few that there are are well-written and well-placed. Adopted or not, this is a book that everyone can relate to.

However, some of the more entertaining parts were a little bit overdone, I felt like. Like I said, I'm not quite as obsessed with Anne as she is, and there were sections where I started to feel like it would be better if I would just pick up L.M. Montgomery's writings for myself - lots of paraphrasing and maybe somewhat unnecessary commentary.

Overall, this is a very creatively written memoir and it did make me want to read the Anne of Green Gables books again - perusing them for special wisdom and advice about life and people. There is so much to learn from the different characters.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

book review | apartment therapy: complete and happy home

It's not how a house looks that makes it truly complete and happy, but remodeling and redecorating is a hobby that Grant and I share and this book was so fun to look through together! It actually contains a lot of really helpful basic house information that I would have loved to have read through before starting to buy houses (now that we have bought and sold several...) Those were probably the sections of the book that I found the most beneficial.

The actual pictures were not super inspirational for me, except to remind me that it is, indeed, ok for our house to look like "us" - there aren't a lot of limiting guidelines out there governing what is and isn't appropriate house decorating anymore. It's pretty much - if it works for you, go for it! It was fun to get that extra reassurance that it is ok to go ahead and paint my kitchen/dining/living room blue, green, and red...

This is a really fun "coffee table" book and also a great resource for anyone starting into a home buying or remodeling project. Other than the fact that the average person doesn't have quite the funding to make their houses look like these, it is decently practical and relevant.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

book review | 9 thoughts that can change your marrriage

This book was really refreshing. Organized into nine different "thoughts", as the title implies, it combats common misconceptions about marriage and husbands, pointing out mistaken thinking patterns we've all fallen into at times. But it doesn't stop there - throughout the book there are plenty of "action steps" and practical suggestions for how to implement change in areas where the marriage needs work. It was a great mix of personal experiences, life lessons, and spiritual teachings (many of which apply not just to marriage but also to other relationships in our lives). Many of the things discussed by author Sheila Wray Gregoire are things that were not brand new to me, but to have them all in one book - and to have her thoughts and spiritual insight on them - was very valuable.

The last "thought" in the book focuses on being careful not to drift apart, and I think that was the most relevant and eye-opening to my life right now. If Grant and I do not take time to make our marriage a priority, our natural tendency is to drift apart. As in the rest of the book, this chapter was equal parts "warning" and "encouragement" and I felt like it was very timely for me to read it as I launch into a part-time job.

One of my favorite quotes in the whole book actually really didn't have anything to do with marriage at all, but about building community. Found on page 199, it's actually quoting someone else who is an inner-city church planter, but it says, "true community comes only when you can waste time together". For me, it was good affirmation to realize that the time Grant and I spend at the end of the day catching up, when it seems like responsibly we should be sleeping, is actually one of the best ways we can use that time. But it was also a helpful perspective on other areas of life and relationships.

Overall the book is insightful and yet easy to read. I read it in short quick segments here and there and never felt like I had a hard time getting back into it. Perfect for a young wife and mom. :)

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Two verses I've read recently talk about the Israelites' unbelief:

"they could not enter in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:19)

"I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord having saved the people out of the land of Egypt afterward destroyed them that believed not." (Jude, verse 5)

It wasn't until I read in Jude today that I realized their unbelief wasn't really reflective of their thoughts on the existence of God but rather of their trust in His ability to provide. There have been many times I've pretty much just jumped over verses like that thinking - I believe in God! I've given my life to Him. No destruction for me!

But lately I've felt my trust and my thankfulness and my contentment falter (because those do all go together) and I realized that actually - those verses are just as much for me as they are for the unbeliever. If I cannot trust God to provide everything I need, and realize that He has already provided manna and has never failed me - I will not reap the blessings either. I will not enter into the Promised Land if I do not believe.

"And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (Mark 9:24)

Well I was doubling over the load on my shoulders
Was a weight I carried with me everyday
Crossing miles of frustrations and rivers a raging
Picking up stones I found along the way
I staggered and I stumbled down
Pathways of trouble
I was hauling those souvenirs of misery
And with each step taken my back was breaking
'Til I found the One who took it all from me

Down by the riverside
(Down by the riverside)
I laid my burdens down,
Now I'm traveling light
My spirit lifted high
(I found my freedom now)
I found my freedom now
And I'm traveling light

Through the darkest alleys and loneliest valleys
I was dragging those heavy chains of doubt and fear
Then with the one word spoken the locks were broken
Now He's leading me to places
Where there are no tears

Down by the riverside
(Down by the riverside)
I laid my burdens down,
Now I'm traveling light
My spirit lifted high
(I found my freedom now)
I found my freedom now
And I'm traveling light

Down by the riverside
I laid my burdens down,
Now I'm traveling light
My spirit lifted high
I found my freedom now
And I'm traveling light

Down by the riverside
(Down by the riverside)
I laid my burdens down,
Now I'm traveling light
My spirit lifted high
(I found my freedom now)
I found my freedom now
And I'm traveling light

- Traveling Light, Sarah Groves and Joel Hanson

Sunday, August 9, 2015

on being broken

Throughout the past few weeks as I've been working through the past, bitterness, and forgiveness, I've been reading Joanna Weaver's "Having a Mary Spirit". And I've found some of her thoughts very profound and helpful.

"Meekness: strength under control" (pg. 173)

"Confound me for as long as it takes to make me entirely yours." (p. 174)

"Most of us fear being broken [...] because of our natural instinct for self-preservation, we fight hard to stay intact. Brokenness usually involves pain, and we will do almost anything to avoid that. But the very thing we resist most is the place where humility must begin: with receiving rebuke. With being willing to admit to God, "I am a sinner. I made a mistake." And to others. "You were right. I was wrong. Please forgive me." (p. 177)

"Though it hurts, I'm glad the Lord deals with my pride. And I've learned it's a lot easier when I actually choose to be broken. Jesus alluded to that reality when He warned, "He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed" (Matthew 21:44). When I willingly fall on the Rock and stay there, the Holy Spirit begins adjusting my hidden life so that my outer life lines up with God's Word. The process is uncomfortable and requires patience. But as each area of my life pops into its rightful place, I find relief... and victory. Victory over the need to be perfect. Victory over the need to always be right. For there is a thrill of victory that only comes when we're willing to face the agony of defeat." (p. 176)

"Because while change is costly, the price of not changing is even higher. It is the difference between lying helplessly hogtied to our cherished sins and walking victoriously free from hindering habits. Once again, holiness is all about choices. One choice after another. Saying yes to God and saying no to Satan." (p. 187)

The author described an amazing accomplishment by her developmentally delayed son. And then went on to say, "He belongs to me. That's why God rejoices over our every little step. That's why He tirelessly spends time exercising our faith and stretching us in order to expand our limits. That's why, when we fall, He helps us, picks us up, and encourages us to try again. [...] "Did you see that?" He asks, turning to the angels and pointing to earth. Pointing to you and me. "That's my girl". (p. 198)

Saturday, August 8, 2015

walking after the Spirit

God promised me Psalm 72:6 ("He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth") this morning... but to be honest I had a hard time believing Him. I've been struggling spiritually lately to move beyond past hurts and people, and I've been praying for that rain but it hasn't come.

The Conference was a turning point for me, for sure. God knew that every topic, every speaker, every word would be for my heart alone... that all of what was said was surely Spirit-inspired and so timely for my life. faith. trust. chastisement. reconciliation. peace.

But it's possible to be filled to overflowing with spiritual teaching and still refuse to apply it to my own life. And as I sat in the sanctuary yesterday, I still had to admit that I, too, have been in the wrong. Justifying myself by comparing myself to others is so much easier than just repenting for where I've failed. I've spent a long time letting bitterness settle in because I was just too prideful to stop talking about what others have done and start thinking about how I have failed my Father so many times.

It isn't a natural thing to do. But "to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Romans 8:6). So if there is going to be peace in my life, it's going to have to be un-natural... brought about only by trusting my heart and life completely to the Lord. It isn't going to make sense. But we were reminded yesterday that God loves faith more than he loves clarity. Hebrews 11 tell us that without faith, it is impossible to please my Father. I can't sit here and wait things to fall into something more orderly. It's never going to happen.

Sitting isn't very productive anyway. All day yesterday we talked about walking with Christ. And walking is an action - it's taking steps forward. It requires energy. It requires a sacrifice. It requires a cost. It's less exhausting, though, if I can find the grace to lay aside the weights (Hebrews 12). I need to lay aside the hurt, anger, self-justification, feelings of unfairness, frustration, and fighting.

And when I do...
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Romans 8:1)

Monday, July 20, 2015

standing at the door

My prayers lately have been for wisdom... in raising children, in decision making, in relationships, in finances... in nearly everything. And God has been faithful to show me what wisdom looks like - an example of the third captain in I Kings 1, practical advice in Hebrews 10, and a reminder that in Christ "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2)

Yet this morning on my run I continued to wrestle with God, trying to understand His perspective and will for our lives right now. As I thought about how He's always provided in the past - has always given us everything we need, I started to realize that maybe, He was actually asking me to make less decisions... to do less... to give up a little bit... and to trust more.

I had just read in John 20 about Mary and the disciples at the empty tomb of Jesus. It struck me how it said that she "stood without" and needed a lot of reassurance... even after she had heard the voice of the Lord once already. But Revelation 20 reminds us that we need not stand on that side of the door - that if we hear His voice, hear Him saying our name, and open up to Him... He will come in. We can trust Him with all of the desires of our hearts and the needs of our bodies and the thoughts in our minds. It is only there, in Him, that I will find the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that I seek.

Revelation 3:18-20: "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear, and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."

Thursday, July 2, 2015

book review | lazarus awakening

"There's more to come." The last four words of Joanna Weaver's "Lazarus Awakening" provide a better overall summary of the book than I could in several paragraphs. I had my doubts as I started into this book, because I didn't find the first couple chapters immediately applicable to my life, and because books that are based around such a short passage as this one tend to be pretty repetitive. I was pleasantly surprised, though, to find that while those first chapters were a little slow, the rest of the book did not follow suit. "Lazarus Awakening" is actually a relatively easy read that encourages the reader to "unwind graveclothes" - to find release from past hurts, pain, and lies by looking to Christ and truly trusting Him to make us new. Sometimes, we are all too tempted to stay in the grave. The author describes how Satan, the enemy of our soul, wants to hedge us in and close us off, handicapping us from realizing our full potential and from exercising the gifts that God has given us. God really does love us, and he wants us to be resurrected just as Lazarus was in the passage in John, but we also have to be willing to put forth some effort. She writes, "Perhaps that is why Lazarus had to come out of the tomb of his own volition - why Jesus called him out instead of sending Martha and Mary inside to get him. Resurrection often seems to require a willing response, even a struggle, on the part of the one being resurrected. Tombs can be comfortable, remember. And choosing to live can be hard." (p. 130) But throughout the whole book, Weaver tells us that choosing to live is what we are called to - and even more, we are to live in light of eternity. Our purpose, in this life and the next, is to be as Lazarus was - a friend of Christ. What is painful and confusing in the moment will not always be so, because "there's more to come".

I'm not sure if this was intentional or not, but in some ways the author seems to provide some answers to the age-old question: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Although I would have liked the book to be a little more organized with longer, comprehensive paragraphs instead of a lot of short, quick thoughts, I found her perspective very biblically grounded and helpful, and I would recommend this book especially to those who are struggling to feel truly loved, accepted, and cared-for by the Lord.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Friday, June 26, 2015


I have sinned and come short of His glory;
So have you - you have your own story.

My sin is legal; now yours is too
But neither of us will make it through.

Not without sacrifice, not without blood
not without accepting the only true love.

Every knee will bow to Him, every tongue confess
In the end the Creator is the one who knows the best.

The darkness is overwhelming, but I pray my light can shine
So on that day we both can say: "I see! No longer blind!"

I think about the lights around that have always shone for me.
Leading me to a redeemed life, one step closer to free.

I want to be that light for you - but how? I'm at a loss.
The only answer for both of us lies within the Cross.

Laying down our lives for others, loving deeper than before
Admitting His Almighty hand and reaching out for more.

Examining ourselves to see - are we in the faith?
Acknowledging daily that what we are is only by His grace.

Sin and wrong have consequences - now and on judgment day.
Correction hurts, but I reach for the prize - I'll walk the narrow way.

Come along and join me - life is too short to waste.
But if you just don't want to, I promise I won't hate.

I'll go before my Father in prayer and petition on your behalf.
I'll pray He saves us both from ourselves - from walking the wrong path.

My prayers will still go heavenward, and I know that He will listen.
My hope is in something beyond this life - not a movement, not a position.

Because when I stand before His throne I know that I'll be speechless.
To share God's goodness and my desperate need - I could never fully preach it.

Let my life be a light then, to declare His name
His glory and honor - not my earthly fame.

I'm not enough, I haven't arrived.
But because of His mercy I will claim the prize.

To be faithful to Him above all I desire.
I'm nothing - I'm nothing - I'm nothing, my Savior.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

but I have prayed for thee

"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:31-32)

When I read here this morning, I had just finished praying specifically for Grant and Titus. We're all living on a spiritual battlefield, but I feel like men and boys especially are under so much attack by Satan. In reading these verses today, I felt a powerful reminder of the opportunity and necessity we have to pray against those attacks. "Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee..." The "but" implies that if it were not for those prayers, Satan would indeed have him - and being sifted as wheat sounds awful.

Satan does not have good things in mind for us. But he is strong, and in order to be stronger, we need the Lord. It was interesting to me to read on, in the verses following, the conversation between Jesus and Peter. Jesus had just told Peter that any triumph or victory over the Devil was only because of His intercession on Peter's behalf. After that, Peter says, "Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death." To which Christ in his response essentially says, "Peter. In the next 24 hours alone, you are going to deny that you even know me. You are not ready, and you are not strong."

The threads of trust and temptation run deep throughout this chapter. Right after this conversation with Peter, Christ reminds the disciples: "And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing." In verse 40, when Christ prays for his cup to be removed, an angel is sent to strengthen him. The burden is lightened, the prayer answered.

We don't know the end of our prayers - the impact they have, the difference they will make in the life of someone else. But Christ called Peter to "strengthen thy brethren", almost as if to say - "pray for them as I have prayed for you... "that thy faith fail not."

Saturday, June 13, 2015

wheat & weights

"And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea. And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship." (Acts 27:38-39)

I can just picture this: they're throwing things into the sea to lighten the ship, and they get to the wheat. And they say to each other - "ok, really? It's just wheat. It hardly weighs anything. And besides, we have to have something to eat. It's staying." And they move on to the next thing. But it wasn't until after even the wheat - their sustenance - was cast into the sea that they found "a certain creek with a shore" - the place of refuge for which they had been searching.

That shore - we're all searching for it. We are looking for a place to land, even temporarily, until we reach the heavenly one - but the storms beat hard and a lot of times we feel like we're drowning. For me, the stress of the past few weeks has far surpassed any stress I've ever felt before and I can't even describe how completely and totally done and exhausted I have been.

But I've been carrying a lot of wheat. I've been relying on my own resources and clinging to things that I think are going to help me - longer to-do lists, more spending, going more places. I have gotten a lot accomplished, but it's been at the expense of my attitude and my time with the Lord. I need to "take up my anchors" and "commit myself to the sea" - stop trying to provide myself and start letting Him in again. (vs. 40) He's the only one who can help me get "stuck fast" in this place where my "two seas" are meeting - who can help me "run aground" and "remain unmoveable". (vs. 41)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

the feast of tabernacles

God has been doing an incredible job of providing for us. He has always taken good care of us, but in this stage of life it is especially noticeable how He has thought of every single little detail and has made sure we have what we need in every area of our lives. Nothing has been overlooked or left out. There is still a transition, and the nature of a transition is that it has its many bumps - but God is allowing the bumps in my life and then going back and smoothing them out - just so.

I'd been contemplating the way He's been providing, and then read this morning in Zechariah 14:

"And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of the tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain, there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of the tabernacles." (vs. 16-18)

The feast of the tabernacles is for giving thanks and rejoicing. It is eight days of tithing, hospitality, and being joyful - in remembrance of God's provision to the children of Israel in bringing them out of the land of Egypt. Looking it up, I learned that "In Biblical times, Sukkot (the feast of the tabernacles) was considered the most important of all the holidays, referred to simply as "The Feast" (I Kings 12:32). It was a time of many sacrifices (Num. 29:12-40), and a time when (on Sabbatical years) the Torah would be read aloud to the people (Deut. 31:10-13). It is one of the three required festivals of the Lord (Exod. 23:14, Deut. 16:16)." (

The holiday of thanksgiving was the most important of them all. I felt God telling me this morning to keep the feast of the tabernacles in my own life - to thank Him for all the little details that He has been so faithful to work out. Back in Zechariah, He tells us that there will be no rain on those who do not keep the feast, and I hear Him telling me this morning that this rain He's sending merits joy and thankfulness in return.

"In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the Lord's house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts." (Zechariah 14: 20-21)

"And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates. Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose: because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice."
(Deuteronomy 16:14-15)

Friday, May 22, 2015

great is Thy faithfulness

It's in my times of great need when God's great provision is most noticeable; perhaps that's why He has me there so often. Here, I can only begin to recount His faithfulness over the past few weeks. From a purely materialistic standpoint, He's provided everything we needed - a house, kitchen appliances, a washer and dryer, a mini van, a lawn mower, food - everything. But even those things pale in comparison to the people He's put in our lives to help us through this stage - mentors, countless helping hands on moving day, generous and selfless hearts who have given of their time and resources to help us set up life on Main Street. He's provided employment opportunities (for both of us - I'll be working part time in the fall) and given me a renewed desire and energy to be a mother and to blossom where He has placed me.

The summer is off to a wonderful start.

But in the midst of all of it, I found myself lacking joy yesterday. It seemed so ridiculous, really - I've been given absolutely everything I need and more, and yet in the cold, gloomy, runny-nose morning yesterday I was having a hard time coming up with reasons to smile.

Looking up "joyful" in the concordance, I found Isaiah 49:13.
"Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted."

As I read that and other similar verses, I found the common thread - one that I already knew existed but that became more real to me that morning - that true joy springs out of challenging times and takes place in the midst of the hardship - not necessarily when it is over. And so, the nature of joy is to have it when life is disorderly, chaotic, sick, and unsettled, because life is disorderly, chaotic, sick,and unsettled.

Lord, remind me.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

perfecting holiness

I am the "tender herb" in need of "the small rain" that Moses describes in Deuteronomy 32. On Monday, I am not only moving 2000 miles, but also moving on to a season of healing in my life - one that the Father has promised me for a while now. Trying to make sense of all that has happened and of God's purposes in life, I've been reflecting on who I've been, who I am right now, and who I want to be. So I've been thinking a lot about personal growth and change. And I've also been thinking about what part of that personal growth and change is my responsibility, and what is God's - because He is faithful to transform us into what He desires that we become - if only we ask.

I've made many mistakes in this stage of life I'm coming through, and I don't want to make them again. In fact, I don't want to make mistakes at all! I wish I could walk into this new era without the worry that I'll mess it up again.

I want to be perfect.

But it is not up to me.

I was reminded recently in a book I'm reading that personal and spiritual transformation is by the power of the Holy Spirit: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (II Corinthians 3:18)

There have been many times when I've struggled to become who I should become on my own - it's a desperate search for identity and purpose in my own strength. But God has been gently reminding me lately that "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. […] For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection.” (II Corinthians 12) God desires my perfection too! But my perfection will not come by my own doing - it will come only by His strength - and not only that, but in my weakness. I see that in my own life right now; healing has come only as I have surrendered myself completely to Him; giving Him permission to do with me as He wants and use me as He wishes.

We see that holy transformation and perfection are not up to us, which ultimately is very liberating. We wonder, though, what should we be doing? As I've studied to understand God’s will for my life in this season, I’m coming to understand that really, what He asks of me is rather simple. For starters, He desires faithfulness: “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (I Corinthians 4:2). He also desires obedience, rather than a lot of giving up or doing: Micah 6 tells us: “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

God isn’t asking for big sacrifices, unbelievable service, or anything that we cannot possibly accomplish. His will is for us to walk humbly and uprightly and to show mercy to others, as He has done for us.  This is echoed in II Samuel 15:22: “And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

We're also encouraged by Paul to press on, to keep pursing that perfection that we so desire, and not to give up. “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

As I floundered around searching for purpose and understanding, God showed me all of these things. He made it clear who He wanted me to be coming out of several years on the mission field, and He helped me find Truth in all of it. And then at the end, He gave me II Corinthians 7:

"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." 

II Corinthians 7 goes on to talk about joy in tribulation and godly sorrow working repentance. I felt like verse 11 could have been written directly to me: "For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter."

I felt like God was saying, "look at the journey I have taken you on! Look at how much you have learned, how much closer to Me you have become, and how much better you understand that your strength is only in Me!" He's right - I would not exchange these years for an easier way, ever, now that I know how much He did it for my own good. 

I know of no better way to "cleanse myself" than by being washed by heavenly rain. And so, as that tender herb, I'm poking my little green head out of the rich, black soil, ready for Him to continue to "perfect holiness" in me.