Tag Archives: Jesus

How I Found Peace Living in the Not Yet

Sometimes, life leaves your brain full and your mouth empty.A season of life two years ago encompassed one of those times for me. The thing is-these seasons don’t just end with a nice and tidy resolution. They don’t leave us with an instant epiphany of profound theological insight. Rather, we are left with a reminder-:spiritual, physical, emotional- that we are humans wrestling with the realities of living in a place of in-between.

It is not yet Heaven.

The days of December 2013 quickly filled up with preparations for Christmas as well as doctor’s appointments. My eldest son became increasingly ill. A periodic problem with an upset stomach evolved into a daily issue. Watching your child feeling sick packs a punch to the stomach and the heart. The immediate desire is to fix it.

Yet, beginning in October, we sought an answer from many physicians and no one could fix it. How can that happen? We live near Chicago; a mecca of renowned and state-of-the art medical centers. A gold mine of wisdom on the complexities of the human body. Yet, each visit to a different specialist yielded more questions. We just wanted answers.

Emergency room doctors ruled out some things But nothing made him better. Daily, he made the trek to school with virtually nothing in his stomach except a bit of protein shake. Sometimes, he couldn’t gather the stamina to make it to school. My husband and I worried. The school pressured. The bills mounted.
We prayed. Friends prayed. Strangers prayed. But there were no answers.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6 (NIV).

Embracing the peace of Christ in the midst of uncertainty challenged me.

Finally, after many tests and procedures, a diagnosis was reached. Whew!  Finally a name and a course of treatment. Finally, an answer! Medicine would bring healing and resolve the problem. I grabbed hold of the answer and felt a sense of relief; control; no uncertainty. How easy is it to acknowledge the “peace that passes all understanding” when circumstances line up according to our expectations?
But would that peace permeate if the circumstances change? The events of the next day confronted me with that question.

Following dinner, upon preparing to study for finals, he fell to the couch and began to seize. Never having witnessed a seizure, it was the most terrifying moment of my life. The limp look of his body; the lifeless look in his eyes, will remain etched in my mind for a long time. Those five minutes led me to a profound realization as my mind grasped to acknowledge the surreal reality spinning around me: there are many things I can control-but death may not be one of them.

Fortunately, he came out of the seizure, was quickly rushed to the hospital, and the scans came out clear. But, more questions arose...and yet no answers. In my frustration, I hesitated to let go of what I thought to be a resolution. I didn’t want to believe that our lives were once more catapulted into the abyss. How do you embrace the peace that transcends all understanding when God’s movement does not align with Earthly expectation?

As we dealt with the uncertainty in his health, we attempted to proceed with the rhythms of life. That wrenching moment rewound in my mind in the midst of my days. Ambulance sounds caused shivers down my back. Yet, I attempted to let Jesus, not me, guard my heart.

The dark, frigid winter painted an appropriate backdrop to the events and feelings over those next several months. While we continued to hold on to the glimmer of light held out for us through scriptural promises, the realities of living in the “not yet” continued to speak into our lives. How does one live in the truth of new life in the resurrection, yet, face the reality of destruction and death of the things of this world?

My heart and my mind bear the scars of living in a kingdom that is both now and not yet. But I am keenly aware that I am not the only one. In one way or another, all of us feel that paradox. Circumstances may differ. Our expectations and God’s answers may or may not merge. Yet, the testimony and scars of others bear witness to the peace that Christ offers, while living in a kingdom that unfolds toward completion.

It’s the peace that Jesus promised to his disciples, who had given up everything for him. “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLV).

Eventually, the winter season yielded to the brighter, warmer days of spring; not just meteorologically, but symbolically as well. My son’s health improved. I am aware that I am bound to encounter those seasons of restlessness again. They too are promises of Jesus. But He also imparts a peace that “transcends all understanding” as we navigate through them. 

Overcoming Restlessness on Those Long Detours: Learning From Mary

Several years ago, my preschool son drew a picture of Mary and Joseph. Not just any picture, mind you. Usually, the manger scene as represented through the eyes of a child wielding a crayon finds its place on a paper canvas.  But Eli’s mind captured a different scene in the narrative. He captured what he believed to be Mary’s perspective on a long journey.

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“Are we there yet?”
Long journeys arouse restlessness in my youngest. He tends to be very organized and finds comfort in checking off lists. Oh, he loves adventure and even surprises but he’d prefer them to unfold in a brief, orderly process. His eye is fixed on a goal and arriving there according to his timeline and expectations of the journey. Imagining Mary on a long trek to anywhere brought empathy from him.
Little did he realize that traveling to Bethlehem signified a very small milestone on the road leading to God’s purposes for her.
Only nine months earlier, this teen found herself ordained to a new purpose. Unexpected, Holy. Scandalous. Sometimes new paths entice us with a sense of exciting adventure.  Although Mary offered praise to God for this new calling (Luke 1:46-55), I’m not sure even she fully understood the earthly ramifications of such a journey.

How do we respond to those seasons in our own lives when we suddenly find that the familiar path we are accustomed to trodding is closed off?

A detour sign emerges-signaling that the better route is the new, unfamiliar one. Reluctantly we begin; not knowing where it will take us. Unaware of what we may encounter along the way. Often, it seems, the detour takes way longer to arrive at the destination than had we taken the shorter, familiar one. At least that’s what we believe. But….the detour sign was there for a reason.

Are we there yet?

As the detour continues longer than anticipated, we grow weary. Surrendering ourselves to the One who plots our course can take us to places we’d rather not visit. The physical, emotional and spiritual compressing takes its toll on our earthly selves. Haven’t I walked far enough? Is there something else of which I need to let go? 

 Nearly nine months into her pregnancy, she and Joseph were required to register for the census in their hometown. Not convenient for this couple. Three grueling days is the estimated time span of traveling by foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Ninety miles were spent navigating a rugged terrain and daunting hills. In addition, the chilly weather, dense forests of the Jordan Valley, and hidden predators made the trip particularly dangerous.

However, it was not as dangerous as the place that exists outside of the will of God. Mary, in her praises to God, acknowledges the accounts of God’s character displayed through His people. Merciful. Liberator. Provider. Creator. Sustainer. Holy.  With those narratives alive in her mind, she kept walking.

Are we there yet?

The detour continued. Did Mary wonder if her detour culminated with Jesus’ birth? Is that “there?” As she feels the baby wiggling, does she ponder where along this road, the promised King living inside her would make his debut?  “There” may have appeared as a foggy destination.

Henri Nouwen writes, “To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our own imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our imagination, fantasy, or prediction.” (The Spirituality of Waiting)

Mary trusted that God was weaving a narrative far beyond her own imagining. And that is why she kept walking. To “There.”

As I ponder Mary’s journey, I am reminded of my own detours. Some I have embraced. Others have been met with protest. The new journeys took me into unfamiliar territory. Some treks I would prefer not to take again. Yet, God walked with me. And molded me. And loved me. And assured me that I had nothing to fear.

Because no matter my destination, or where I think it may be, God is with me. Always.
When I question the unexpected turns, God is with me.
When I stagger because my body is worn from fighting evil forces preying on my soul along the way, God is with me.

God is with us. Immanuel.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you[a] a sign: The virgin[b] will conceive and give birth to a son, and[c] will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
Because of Him we have hope. We have no need to fear wherever life takes us. Like Mary, we can keep walking.

The Hard Work of Being Neighbors


On November 9,the day after the Presidential election I woke up to a raw reality.
A tidal wave of voices-loud, vulnerable, celebratory, discouraged, respectful, disrespectful, urban, rural, old, young, male, female-washed over our shared land of Earthly citizenship.  The feelings of divisiveness that had been bubbling below the surface for so long exploded. Americans of every political perspective spoke: some through words, others through actions. And running through it all was a question that lurked in the hearts of all: Does my narrative matter-to anyone?

The Pharisees challenged Jesus with this question: What is the Greatest Commandment?
Jesus gave an unexpected answer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength and Love your neighbor as yourself.
The Pharisees themselves didn’t fully grasp the implications of their own question.
We don’t often grasp them either.

How can you love your neighbor as yourself if you don’t see your neighbor as yourself?
You see, for the past year, opinions, pleas, conversations have flooded social media, workplaces, social gatherings. There are lots of voices and not all of them are audible.  But does anyone really listen?
It’s much easier to reduce people to labels and perceptions that keep people at a distance.

Listening takes work. Especially when passions are at play. Many times, our passions are viewed in the context of our narratives.  The problem is that our narratives are not complete. We are still living them. There are more experiences that will shape us, new information that will challenge us and people that we need to encounter-that will further expand our perceptions of what it means to be Americans, as well as fellow Creations of our God.

Investing in others’ lives takes work. Lauren Winner writes about the spiritual practice of hospitality in her book Mudhouse Sabbath. She writes, “God’s creation gives us a model for making and sharing homes with people, but the reality of God’s Trinitarian life suggests that Christian hospitality goes further than that. We are not meant simply to invite people into our homes, but also to invite them into our lives.”

Further,Winner suggests that the invitation happen in the context of our messiness; not when we think we have our “home” orderly, That, my friends, requires vulnerability. Letting go of the walls of our cause and standing in the same space. Acknowledging that at our core-we our both humans-created in the Image of God. We come bearing our imperfections and our common longings for validation.

It’s easy to love neighbors like ourselves. When we feel misunderstood, we tend to look for comfort in those who share our views.  We long for someone to listen and validate our pain and hopefully our identity as we see it. But when we engage in those interactions, we must be aware that there is a bigger narrative at work. One that involves the stories of people different than us.

To love neighbors as ourselves, demands movement into places of discomfort, vulnerability, and risk. Because that is what we long for from others.

The show “Breaking Borders” (Travel Channel) brilliantly challenges us to come to the table-a symbol of community-and know your neighbor. Really. By Listening, Restraining the temptation to exert control with words. Hearing each other’s stories. Asking questions. Understanding that perspective is shaped by our personal stories.

Who would have thought that Israelite settlers and Palestinians living in the West Bank could engage in civil conversation on the politics of homeland? But it happened. Despite disagreements.  Sharing stories and breaking bread together remove walls. We recognize that most of “those” people are really like us.

Loving our neighbor can only come about through recognizing that Jesus makes it happen. Even if our neighbors don’t know him. He’s the root of our love.
God ordained love. The kind that transforms the way we see each other through our Earthly lens. Love that is born out of the Holiness of God’s character. Sacrificial love as described in 1 John 4:7-9.

Navigating through these tumultuous waters is not easy, friends. Can we covenant to doing the hard work together? To venture into those sacred spaces as we are led? And to be willing to be transformed in the process?

How Watching TV with Your Kids Fosters Important Conversations

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Once upon a time, (which didn’t seem so long ago), my husband and I snuggled and watched “our” shows together after putting the kids to bed.
Truthfully, we watched about a half an hour of shows before we feel asleep too.
There was a pretty clear line between the content of the shows that our kids found entertaining and what we enjoyed. Dora, Diego, Wordgirl are fascinating….to a preschooler. But growing older, non animated characters and talking animals no longer hold our attention. (although, I still find my self belting out “We Did It!” at unexpected moments of conquest).
Our kids were not just plopped in front of a tv as a babysitter (most of the time..). I would usually try to fold laundry or accomplish some other small task while watching television with them.  The goal was 1) to know the actual content before their eyes and ears and 2) find ways to engage them in conversation from the subject.  I’m sure you are familiar with the subject matter-kindness, respect, friendship, wonder of nature, understanding your emotions.  These topics are core values for most families-they are tenets  of our society. And they reflect basic characteristics which, we as image bears, “wear” as God’s children.
The infusion of God’s word into our hearts and minds comes about both through intentional discussion as well as those teaching moments that occur in the daily moments of life as a family. One way  to engage your older kids/teens in conversation about the intersection of faith and choices? Watching tv together.
WHAT?!
The idea really isn’t as unrealistic as you may think. Because, there isn’t just a one size (or show) fits all method.
So what to do?
There are three questions that you may be asking:
1)How do you decide what’s appropriate? What you choose to watch is a decision based on your family’s dynamics.. What we feel comfortable letting our kids watch may not suit your family’s comfort level.  There are so many factors that affect your decision. I trust that you are seeking discernment from the Holy Spirit in your parenting journey.
2) How would I ever get my teen to watch tv with me? Getting teens to watch a show with you may be like pulling teeth. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t need to be planned. Teaching moments often come through unexpected moments. We are fortunate because our one tv is in the living room- the gathering space where our kids hang out with their electronic devices. Yes, they do watch some shows on their laptops but they prefer the big screen. I know their favorites. Become familiar with a few. Catch a couple episodes with them. (It’s a great time to “pay bills” or “fold laundry” in front of the screen). When I notice that they are engaged in a segment of a show, I can utilize a few bytes for discussion at the time or later.
3)What could I say to my child that will elicit an actual response (not an eyeroll)?  Sometimes nothing. Stories can speak for themselves.  One of the shows my kids like is “The Middle.” The plots speak lessons for themselves. Who hasn’t wanted to crawl in a hole after experiencing something thoroughly embarrassing at school? Yet, everyone must face the choice in how to respond to those moments. Another one that my daughter and I used to enjoy is “Girl Meets World.” Yes, it can be a bit cheesy but the lessons are significant and address character in a way that hits home.

Take advantage of historical presentations

For our family, the miniseries “Roots” provided a visual account of slavery in a way that no verbal description could match.  Admittedly, the graphic events were difficult to watch. But this is history and the events were real.  The discussions that took place were initiated through my kids’ observations. Furthermore, we could engage them in identifying the effects of those events today.
The show “Timeless” (NBC) provides a fantastic opportunity for interaction. Set within the context of time-travel, the characters go back in time to various events in order to alter details which are seen as “destructive.” The twist is that the characters’ present lives are unknowingly affected by the outcomes as they are changed-and sometimes the tragedy still happens but differently. In the midst of it all, they are fighting against an antagonist who is seeking to destroy America by showing up at the same events and bringing about greater catastrophe. Not only does the show give you a real life glimpse into the complexities surrounding the events but the viewer is challenged to wrestle with the ways history impacts the present.
Though the values portrayed on some shows differ from those that we have instilled in our now older children, there is a point where kids must realize values, struggles, injustices, tragedies and consequences of choices in the world around them. The characters and stories emulate real life. Relationships are complicated, we all make choices we regret,  tragedy can occur at any moment. How do you respond?
Engaging with our kids about  these “glimpses” of the world around us offers opportunity to reinforce where hope is found, why following Christ impacts our choices, and how God’s Word navigates us through the wind-y paths of life.
It’s a modern context of the conversations between parents and kids that took place long ago:
” These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  Deuteronomy 6:6-7
What conversations popped up as a result of your recent viewing?
 
 
 
 
 

When the Church IS the Church


What does the Church look like? 
I’m not talking about architecture.  What does it look like?  In my last blog I pondered what it takes for people who don’t follow Christ to begin to take notice of the Church.  I believe that the Old Testament gives us a “pre-christian” understanding of community.  There is a realization that one’s actions benefit or hurt another.
Everyone’s intention is to live in a way that the whole community is built up.
The New Testament paints a broader picture because not only do we see ourselves as part of a community but it’s one that is made up of imperfect/diverse people with the common goal of following Christ and living in the constant grace that is woven through the fabric of their life together.  Acts 2:42:  All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper, and to prayer. 
In 2016, communities of Christians living together do exist.  I know first hand of one and, just like any group of believers, they have their places of strength and areas of struggle.  The book of Acts is not requiring that all Christians must live together everyday. The point is that they share life together: a life guided by Jesus who infuses us with a desire to live in a way that may run counter cultural. 
Verse 47 adds, ” 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.  More and more people were added.  hmmm. 
Was it due to a  high end audio system?
 A hip pastoral staff? 
Good coffee?  

Perhaps, it was watching a group of very different people(different ages, varied abilities, clashing personalities) come together to intentionally become Jesus’ Body on Earth.  Not an easy task at all.  Even the disciples had arguments. 
Not easy, but possible
Not easy, but transformational.  In fact, despite the early persecutions and deaths, Christianity spread rapidly in the early years. 

Here are just three contemporary examples of what happens when the Church IS the Church.
Ravenswood Covenant Church on Chicago’s northside began a ministry to High school mothers.  They began a partnership with a local high school where the church provides resources (daycare to their children, education on various topics and mentoring) to support them.  At a vulnerable time in their lives, these young women receive  the help of Jesus’ hands and feet without judgement or condition.  I’m sure setting this program up involved  many logistics, some concerns (“what about insurance liabilities?” “we’re helping a teen who got pregnant?” ),…..But they did it because Jesus is living in them.
Christ the Servant Church in Olathe, Kansas partnered with a local prison ministry.   The congregation desires to offer “unsuspecting acceptance.” to criminal offenders and their families. Each month, the Sunday worship service is led by a group of former prisoners who travel to different churches to use share their gifts with the greater church community.  Afterwards, the congregation and worship team share in a meal together. A man who attends the church originally came because he supervised some of the offenders.  Following his visit he told the pastor he would be “willing to attend a church that would welcome ‘men like this'” .(www.covchurch.org/news/2013/6/03). He later became a follower of Christ as did his family. 
The Bridge Teen Center in Orland Park (http://thebridgeteencenter.org), Illinois offers a safe  space for teens to explore their identity as well as build relationships with others. My kids love it! Programs are divided into different “buckets” which expand both heart and mind: Community Connections, Mind/Body, Expressive arts, Educational Support. Best of all: the programs are all FREE!  And if that wasn’t enough, bus transportation is provided to pick students up at their school and bring them to the Bridge. Walking into this place, you feel validated in every sense: the decorations and furniture themselves shout “You are worth it!” No 70’s couch and mismatched rugs here. Chic, comforting,  functional for the teens who find refuge here. Want to know what it’s like to be a teacher? meet one and ask questions. Interested in honing culinary skills? cook with a local chef in the commercial grade kitchen. Need to chill after a bad day? Nap in the padded quiet zone nooks Having problems with family? vent to a trained adult leader.  Although it is not promoted as a Christian venue, the center was founded by a former youth pastor-Priscilla Steinmetz.  Biblical principles form the foundation and drive its mission. She and 200 volunteers work to engage the community in every possible angle to ensure that lives can be transformed here. Change lives, impact an entire community.

Acts 2:47:
47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
So…..what would happen if these examples were commonplace in the Church?  What are the implications for our nation; in particular?  What kind of transformation would take place? How would that impact the debates about government based programs to the vulnerable? How would the Church be redefined? 
When have you witnessed “The Church Being the Church?”


"If the Church Would be the Church"


My neighbor and I have some lively discussions. It’s refreshing; actually, since our demographics differ greatly. He is an 80 year old widower, father, grandfather, vet; and agnostic   I am 50, wife, mom, and Christian.  We talk about everything: parenting, economics, the state of the country, gardening and when the Spirit opens a window of opportunity-religion. Although his wife was connected to a church family, he had (and continues to have) no desire to learn more about the character of God nor be part of  the body through whom the Holy Spirit here on Earth.
The funny thing is, we share similar philosophies regarding many issues such as parenting, lifestyle and a belief in right and wrong.  The difference of course is that I see my worldview reflecting the “kingdom” on Earth in which I live.  One that is supposed to radiate light to others; one that should bring a salty flavor to those who encounter it; one that turns the human ways of looking at things on its head.  It is indeed a Kingdom that began as God chose to be in covenant with imperfect human beings and through whom would show the other nations that “I am your God”.
As our recent discussion turned to the issues of abortion and valuing life, I heard him passionately state his sadness and anger at the act.  Personally, I  believe abortion to be more than a legal issue. I think there are a plethora of social layers that must be addressed in order to decrease abortions, I stated to my neighbor, “Well, it would help if the Church would be the Church.” 
He stared at me for a minute before replying, “You know…that’s a good one!  That is really true. ‘If the Church would be the Church’, he mumbled to himself. “I’m going to remember that.”
When I said that, I wasn’t referring to protesters outside clinics  or social media comments. I was referring to being the hands of feet of Christ who bear the image of God through actions that seek to restore and bring wholeness-providing, shelter, materials, friendship, help along the journey of giving life. Hopefully, it would result in reducing the possibility that abortion would even be considered as an option.
Because of Ray’s reaction to my statement, I am left pondering the question, “Why is he not seeing the Church?” 
Who else is not drawn to it because its visibility has diminished; it’s saltiness has become stale; its light-dim?
Certainly, we, in our humanity,  can’t fix everything.  Earth is a taste of Heaven.  But at the same time it’s just that-a taste.  Shouldn’t there be something about living in God’s Kingdom that would make people walk away from life as they know it in order to be part of such a place?
Casting Crowns’ song, “We are the body” so eloquently asks the questions we as the church should be asking. (the song is based on James 2)
But if we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going?
Why is His love not showing
them…..There is a way?
As Jesus is the way.
In my next post, I will share some creative ways that the body of Christ’s arms reach others in their dire circumstances and show them Jesus is the way.

How an Errand With Your Child Becomes a Sacred Moment

We’ve all been there.  After a day or days filled with non-stop activity, or caring for family in a myriad of breathless ways, you long for a respite.
AHHHHHHH!
A dreamy illusion of a bubble bath with soft, relaxing music in the background fades. So you go for the next best thing: an excursion to the store-and maybe a little splurge on a coffee drink as a treat by yourself.  All you yearn for is a few minutes away from the beckoning voices and drama. Yes, it is an errand-but it’s a few moments of gather -your- thoughts solitude. There might even be an opportunity to sneak a peek at some article of clothing or cute piece of dinnerware that usually gets a glance as your attention is diverted by securing the items that were actually on your list.
Ahhhhhhh…….
looking
In my life this is what really happens…. After announcing of my impending departure to the store,  my teen occasionally follows me as I walk out the door. “I’m going to come along.”
What?
I try to explain that, really, I’m just going to pick up a “few things” (including that coffee drink) and I’ll be right back.  But my response is not met with success.
He persists, “I don’t care. I’m bored.”
The voice in my head argues back, “I just wanted to go to the store by myself.”
But saying those words doesn’t feel quite right.
And, despite my best efforts to escape by myself, I find myself giving in. When your teen son wants to tag along with his mother, that becomes a sacred moment.  In this phase of life, a few stolen moments with my son are hard to come by-especially if they are initiated by me.

My son tends to open up in the car-about everything.  His normally quiet demeanor transforms into a verbal conversationalist on all kinds of topics.  Those thoughts that have reserved space in his mind and feelings in his heart let loose.  Burdens are shared and a heart, which often pushes away helpful pieces of wisdom from his “you-don’t-know-what-it’s-like” parent, opens up to receive.
I am reminded of the generations of mamas who have experienced similar tensions.  Maybe the venue was different. Perhaps, it was a matter of finding those sacred moments in the field as they gathered crops or walking to the market.
It’s into those moments that God spoke:
” Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.”  Deut. 6:6-8 (The Message)
These sacred moments provide the opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to take the word of God-if even for a few moments-out of our mouths and into their hearts. In addition, we are able to model the incarnate Jesus, who often exuded the love of God by listening and asking questions. Those opportunities don’t always arise at the most convenient times in our agendas-but sometimes what we really need, we don’t always recognize. And that is when I am thankful that the Holy Spirit gives me a nudge (sometimes it’s more like a punch.)
There is nothing wrong with taking time for yourself.  There are times when escaping to your oasis of choice is the absolute best thing for you and those around you.  But also remember, that God answers our prayers in ways we don’t often expect.  It may come in the form of running to the store.
Where do you find your sacred moments with your kids?
 

Sometimes God's Purpose for You is Right in Front of Your Eyes

Have you ever dreamed up big plans concerning how you can be used by God to change the world?  Sometimes God puts big plans in our hearts.  Plans so big and so overwhelming that the immediate reaction is to run; or at least find excuses.  (Let’s not forget that Moses, Jeremiah, Saul, Peter…. encountered those fears). Without a doubt, God is in the business of using us, imperfect as we are, to accomplish great things.

Yet, we easily can get so caught up in those big dreams that we lose sight of the many opportunities we have everyday  to bring the face of Christ to others. Many of those opportunities happen in the mundane, moments of our lives. Jesus regularly spent moments with those who he encountered….while traveling, stopping at a well, eating with friends.  We get so accustomed to the tasks in our routines; so distracted by the images on our electronic devices, the agendas that fill up our days,  that we don’t see others the way Jesus saw them. 

 Sometimes, we don’t see them at all.
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I am reminded of a few scenarios in which I, unexpectedly, encountered what I call “Divine” moments.  

  • Finding myself lost in a lonely hospital hallway while looking for the meeting room of a support group I attended, I encountered a man. After helping me out, he shared with me that his wife just underwent a double mastectomy earlier in the day.  He was on his way to her room.  
  • While we were cleaning out my grandmother’s space following her funeral, I engaged in a conversation with a man who poked his head in to my grandmother’s room . It was an encounter that, at first, seemed inconvenient with a man, who seemed “grumpy.” I left blessed.  (For the full story:http://stephaniejthompson.blogspot.com/2013/04/divine-interruption.html
  • Helping a woman at a party learn to use her smartphone to see pictures of her grandkids, led to her sharing about a predicament in her life and an opportunity to pray for her.
I don’t share these glimpses into my moments in order to bring glory to myself.  In fact, I’m sure I would have been blessed many more times, had my eyes been looking for the opportunities.
So…my challenge to you as well as myself is this:  When you wake up, ask God to give you the eyes of Christ.  Lend yourself to being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. 
 What would happen if you went into the bank/ gas station and actually talked to the person behind the counter?  
What if you paid for the coffee of the person in line in back of you?
What if you practice grace when the waitress/restaurant staff messes up your order?

What if you listened (really listened-you know what I mean) to your kids/spouse tell about their day?
None of us knows the stories behind those whose paths we cross in a day. Only God knows.  But what we do know is that all of us are broken people in need of grace and hope and validation that our lives matter. Sometimes, God’s purpose for you, is right in front of your eyes.

 
 

I Want to Be Known for Jumping Fearlessly Into Pools

You might be surprised when I tell you that one of the sections of the newspaper that I glance over is the obituary section.  What?! When I have this time to myself (which is precious), why would I spend a minute reading death notices about people I have never met?
Well, for a few reasons.  I actually do come across the unfortunate news that someone I once knew has passed on. Beyond that fact,  certain notices draw me in and remind me of that which we, in our culture, like to avoid: the reality that we are mortal.  Everyone. Our families friends, and ourselves.  At any moment, our lives may be affected in a very real way by the reality of death.  Glancing over the obituaries reminds me to evaluate my priorities.
One of the rewards (probably not the right term) is learning about my companions on this journey called life.  In those few  words that represent a miniscule of someone’s life (and may not be fully representational of their whole character), I learn a lot about people.  These are not descriptions of those who made headlines. Rather, these quick biographies belong to those with whom we interact and encounter in the daily rhythms of life. Sometimes, I am inspired to be a better version of myself; a more accurate image bearer of my Creator as I learn from them.  Such was the case this past week.
As my eyes focused in on the tribute to her life, her career achievements jumped out at me. Margaret was a doctor who pioneered treatments for persons affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder in the 1970’s.  Of course my heart skipped a beat because I am an advocate for families affected by autism and other mental health disorders.  I’m always interested in those individuals who are seeking to make the world better for all of us by making new strides in this field of medicine.
It is particularly inspiring to know of persons who choose to work in a field that is a filled with cultural stigma; one that doesn’t result in immediate answers and demands a passion against the odds.  And in the 70’s?
My gut reaction was, “Wow!”  That woman joins the ranks of many people -both men and women; both prominent and behind the scenes-that put rubber to the road. They follow their passion to wherever it takes them.
The thing about courage is that the more we practice it, the more it shapes all areas of our lives. And that’s where the next few words seemed to jump out at me.

“She jumped fearlessly into pools deep in caves”

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Anyone who has jumped into a pool spontaneously knows there is an element of mystery combined with freedom once that leap is made.  The water’s possible chill may shock at impact. Your stomach flutters as gravity takes it’s course. Yet there’s something to be said for knowing the refreshment that is brought will be worth the experience. I(side note: I am not advocating for jumping into water without any swimming skills and not being aware of it’s depth/or elements)  To jump into pools in caves sounds both scary yet enticing.  Plunging your physical and emotional being into something so beautiful, majestic, and yet unknown takes courage.
 

Courage that manifests itself in every part of your life

If you can take great leaps into these amazing physical creations by our God, surely you learn to not let fear become a blockade.  You see the other places that you are called to leap into-and you do it.  You do it because you know that, in the end, the experience will be worth it. For you and for those in your circles.
That is why, after reading Margaret’s brief summary of her life, I said to myself,

“I want to be known for jumping fearlessly into pools in caves!”

We just must embrace it. We must believe it.

What about you?  What fears are holding you back from seeking fully the passions that God has placed on your heart?

Let’s commit to working on this together. Share your stories. We all need encouragement to take leaps sometimes, right?
 
 
 
 
 
 

If God Can Raise a Man From the Dead, Why Can’t He Keep My Crockpot From Falling?

(This post was written a few years ago. It’s amazing to look back and see that God’s hand was indeed at work through that season.)
It’s been a season of waiting. I’m accustomed to living simply but it seems that any source of Earthly comfort is being taken away. Medical concerns have drained us financially and emotionally.  Not gonna lie. It’s hard.

As the feelings of despair and worry began to grow, the oven broke. Oh, yes it did.  I preheated the oven for dinner and as I opened the door, I felt no heat greeting me.  Are you kidding me?  My panic began but stopped when I remembered my husband’s handyman gifts and ability to fix most things.  My mind focused on him coming home.  Of course, I look forward to seeing him but this was urgent!

Scott can fix it.  Scott can fix it.

Except he couldn’t.  It meant ordering a part that would take a week to come in. Well, then.

What do we do now? Eat out? Nope. Well…..we have a microwave and a Crockpot. 

Hmm. quick flashback. I remember those early days of adulthood. Living by myself and filling my stomach with microwave meals or soup mix made with boiling water. The “make-do” lifestyle of a college student and or early twenty-something seemed OK at the time. But now, married and three kids later, not so much. The novelty and the humor of it has worn off.

Ironically the annual church soup  supper was coming up in a few days so I had planned on making corn chowder in the Crockpot. I decided to make enough to have leftovers for meals for the coming week.

And then it happened.

In an attempt to carry things out to the car after the soup supper, the pot seemed to slip out of my hands. Glass shattered everywhere; including in the soup. Really?!

Do you ever have a moment when you honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry?

And then it occurred to me…

 If God can raise a man from the dead, why can’t He keep my Crockpot from falling? It’s a legitimate question. I realize, of course, that there are others in much more dire circumstances who plea for God’s interaction and rightly so. However, I also am aware that God knows what’s going on in my life. At this moment, it seems as if every comfort (not lavish) is being removed. And the stress of a sick child, the needs of the whole family, financial distress and worry make living bare bones a challenge.

Fast forward a few months:

 I resolved to fight the spiritual battle that surrounds me (us) on a daily basis. With that in mind, I try to be conscious of keeping that as a priority in prayer as well as be discerning in the moments and routine of daily life. Last week (well, every week actually), that routine included running to the grocery store.  Off I went.

Within minutes of arriving, I received a call from my daughter screaming in pain. My mind began racing: appendicitis? No more health problems! is what came to mind along with the urgent desire to relieve her pain.

Quickly, I headed home, drove in the driveway and proceeded to take the groceries out of the car. With my desire to fight away any attacks from evil, I declared “Satan you will not win!” and with that said, I found myself flat on the ground, face first, slipping on ice that was not apparent. I am not kidding. Thinking I broke my nose and knocked out my teeth, I left the groceries and tumbled in the house.

If God can raise a man from the dead, why couldn’t He keep my Crockpot (and me) from falling?

Reluctantly, I looked in the mirror and found my nose a bit bruised and my teeth intact. Could I have been kept from falling? I believe so. Could I have been hurt worse? I know so. I will claim an unseen victory.

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 6:12

I may not always have control over my situations.  I may even become frustrated and even angry over my circumstances.  But hope is found in keeping my eyes on the One who knows everything about me and has promised to fight for me.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6)

God, your Creator, the One who knows the number of hairs on your head, has your back. You have spiritual weapons at your ready. Refuse to go down the path of discouragement and hopelessness. That’s where Satan wants you.  Fight! You Got This!