Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Weeding


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But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. " Luke 8:15 NIV


Weaving through narrow, shoreline roads dotted with whitewashed gingerbread cottages, my sister and I simultaneously gasped, "How beautiful!" Peeking far above the picket fence of this corner lot a splash of nature's colors caught our attention: bright yellow, lacy white, hot pink, purple, and orange. All fashioned in their natural vases of green, this European flower garden was absolutely breath-taking.


I marveled aloud at our shared joy of flower gardens we inherited from our mother. No matter where we lived as kids, our mother always planted a flower garden. In her early retirement years she won the neighborhood "Best Garden" award for her work a number of times. One of my earliest memories is following behind her while she weeded in the hot summer sun. I'm not sure she ever formally taught me the reason for weeding or other gardening techniques but I learned just by following her.


First, weeds are sneaky. They creep up on you quickly and if they go unattended, they can choke out the healthy plants. It's essential to pull them out before they take over the whole garden.


Second, weeds must be pulled out by the roots or they'll keep growing back.


Third, weeds can be deceiving. They can be beautiful to look at, even appear to be the "real thing" so you have to discern the healthy plant from the weed.


Finally, healthy plants must be fed, watered , fertilized and given lots of sunshine to grow. If any of these elements are missing, the plant will not grow to its full potential.


Jesus warned against the weeds (thorns) of life that can choke us. He categorizes them as "life's worries, riches and pleasures." If we spend our days focused only on ourselves whether fretting, chasing money or over indulging in our pleasures we will remain immature and ineffective. But, Jesus says, if we spend our time focused on His word, effectively put it to use, and persevere then we will not only mature but reproduce.


What are the weeds threatening to take over your life's garden today? Do you need to spend some time on your knees with the Master Gardner, Jesus to find their roots? He's got an endless supply of fertilizer, living water, and Sonshine. Drink him in.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tell Your Story


Tell Your Stories Here by Tantek Celik
Flickr.com_/photos/tantek/5335291744_CC BY-ND 4.0

Return home and tell how much God has done for you. Luke 8:39 NIV

If you're visiting from the Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome!

Summer camp stories told 'round the evening fire were the best, especially Friday nights. After week-long encounters with Jesus--being stretched and challenged both physically, emotionally and spiritually--we shared our God stories around the campfire. By the end of the night, story after story, God's presence was palpable. 

We wanted to stay there in that moment, forever, basking in God's glory and our unified faith. But, Saturday came and it was time to return home to the routine of our lives. 

Jesus met a tormented, demon-possessed man, chained and banished inside lakeside caves. He ordered the Legions to leave this man and they obeyed. Immediately, this man felt relief and his sanity returned. Thankful for the return of normalcy in his life for the first time in years, he wanted to spend all his time with Jesus. But, instead of inviting him to go with him, Jesus ordered the man to return home and share all that God had done for him.

When we experience God's healing or a divine breakthrough in our lives, isn't it tempting to stay in that moment--at the foot of the cross--and bask in God's presence? Don't you just want to pitch your tent and live in that moment forever? 

But what good is God's glory in our lives if we keep it hidden in our secret places? How will others know that God's healing and redemptive mercy and grace are for them as well? 

Like that healed man of Legions, Jesus says, "Return home and tell how much God as done for you." Tell. Your. Story. It's risky business, yes, but tell it anyway. Be God's kingdom conduit of grace, mercy, and healing. 

Tell...Your...Story! We're waiting to hear it. 

Click here for my story...May God use it mightily.

Prayer: 
Oh, Jesus, thank you for risking everything to bring God's healing into our lives. Thank you for offering us your mercy and grace to forgive and the courage to share our stories with those around us. May we be obedient to do as you ask. Amen.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Tension

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"Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope." Zechariah 9:12

It's invisible, yet palpable. One moment we stand empowered and motivated then collapse deflated and defeated the next. Our God-dream meets reality and somewhere in between tension builds, plays tug-o-war with our hearts and minds. 

It showed up, forty feet high on the tapered pamper pole. Climbing was the easy part. Fully harnessed and tethered to my husband and trusted friends, my hands and feet grasped steel pegs all the way up. But once at the top, I had to let go and tension grew thick between me and the hanging trapeze just beyond my reach.

My reality  - I stood swaying on a two foot square platform atop a forty feet high telephone pole, with only two ways down. One way: admit defeat, and climb backwards. The second: trust my friends, leap forward, grab the trapeze and swing down to a secured platform only a few short feet away.

My perspective deemed the leap impossible, even dangerous. The trapeze? Beyond my reach. The longer I waited, the stronger tension mounted and climbing backwards a welcomed choice.

Abraham knew this tension well - promised offspring more numerous than all the stars his reality shouted "Impossible!" Seventy-five years old and counting, Abraham (and his wife Sarah) partnered with God to transform this reality.

Scripture tells us, "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him...Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised" (Romans 4: 18-22).

Abraham knew the facts: Twenty-five years passed since God first spoke his promise and nothing happened. His body and Sarah's were as good as dead -  childbearing an impossibility. And even if the impossible became possible, fathering many nations was beyond his reach.

And still. Abraham believed.

Fully persuaded, Abraham believed God had the power to do exactly what he promised. He would father many nations.

Scared and paralyzed from fear, I stood swaying on that pamper pole. Finally, I focused on my husband's words, "I won't let you fall. I've got you! Trust me. Just reach out and jump. Don't think. Just do it."

And I jumped. (And obviously lived to tell about it)!

When our God-dream journey tarries and reality shouts, "Impossible!" we must return to our fortress - God's promise - focus on his words alone, anchor our God-dreams in the reality of God's power and nurture hope.

When we do this we partner with God - with his promises - and he transforms our reality into his reality, making all things new. What seems impossible becomes possible; the unreachable is within our grasp.

Do you trust him? Then, don't think. Just jump!

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well " (Matthew 6:33).

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Reciprocity of Love


“If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:15 NIV
Our parents taught us well, how to honor our mother and father. They expected our honor and respect simply because we were their children and they were our parents. Honor wasn’t earned so much as it was an unspoken rule in our homes. Not much needed an explanation beyond, “Because I said so, that’s why!” It wasn’t that our parents were mean-hearted; it’s just they knew what was best for us, and if we knew what was good for us, we just did what they asked and stopped pushing the envelope.
Over the years, with children of our own, we found ourselves saying, “Because I said so” for the not-so-honorable reasons like, I’m-too-tired-to-explain-so-please-just-stop-bugging-me-and-just-do-what-I-say. But when you get right down to it, us parents simply love our children. 
Psst...Privileged  to share this over at Christian Children's Authors blog. Click here to read more.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Drenched with Heaven's Dew

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“…and he was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he learned that the Most High God rules over the kingdoms of the world…” Daniel 5:21

Indian summer held on tight wrapping it’s humidity around us like a wet blanket as we sauntered to class through the tree-tunneled path around the pond. I felt my bobbed curls—the ones that took me twenty minutes to unfurl—coil up like Shirley Temple’s locks (but not so cute), making me wonder why I hadn’t submitted to their natural tendencies.

Then, rain came—slowly, at first—one gentle drop after another.  It was almost melodic watching the rain drops create rings across the pond. Then the melody turned dark and the heavens opened just as we emerged from the tree tunnel.

She laughed and slowed.

I cry-screamed and darted.

Then, looking back at her through fogged-up glasses I yelled, “Are you crazy? We’re gonna get soaked!”

“I LOVE getting drenched by the rain,” she giggled back at me. “It makes my hair so soft.”

I tried enjoying it, partly because I thought maybe I was missing something, but mostly because I didn’t want to be rude and leave her behind.

I hated it. Soggy made me feel undone and ugly.

Sometimes that’s just the posture God wants from us—undone and ugly—because that’s where we’re most vulnerable and teachable.  It’s those times when we’re most undone that our God ears hear and our God eyes see.

(Join me in all the undone and ugly at Encouragement Cafe for the rest of the story. There is hope, my friend...)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Look for the rainbow


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Look for the rainbow, and remember My promise. With it I sign the covenant I have made between Me and all the living creatures residing on the earth. Genesis 9:17 (The Voice)


Thousands of meticulously pruned grapevines dotted the valley as we traveled north towards Mendocino, California one misty morning. Having harvested grapes at our local vineyard years ago, God reminded me of John 15:4-5:

Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (NIV)

I’d been asking God big questions that day like, “What’s next?” or “Where do you want me to serve you, Lord?” Like the past, He gave me the same one word answer, “Abide.” Simply abide—to remain with, continue, and stay or to have one’s abode; to dwell or reside—with Him. Jesus promises if we make our home with him, he will make his home in us and if we remain in Him, we will bear much fruit. It’s a double promise, so wonderfully illustrated by the vineyards.

Home with Jesus is where we live perfectly loved by the One who created us and knit us together in our mother’s womb. With Jesus, we’re encouraged to be our truest selves—the person He created us to be, despite the reality of our earthly home. Abiding is a matter of the heart—where Jesus lives—not a physical place.

And then, through our loving relationship, we will bear much fruit. We don’t bear fruit through striving or demanding or wishing. We only produce fruit by remaining attached to Jesus and being ourselves—just like a grape branch only bears grapes because it’s attached to the grape vine. It doesn’t wish for fruit, or jump through hoops to produce fruit. It just stays attached to the vine and produces grapes—the fruit God created it to produce.

If these vineyards weren’t reminder enough of God’s great promise, he punctuated the lesson with seven rainbows. Yes, seven gorgeous rainbows pierced through the mist that morning. I “ooed and ahhhed and giggled” like a giddy little girl whose daddy was lavishing his love on her.

And then…then God really showed off—around the last turn, outstretched over the vineyards was a fully arched double rainbow! The largest rainbow (or double rainbow) I’d ever witnessed. For this, I had no words, just awe—awe for God’s majesty in creation and His signature covenant. I love how it’s worded in The Voice:

Look for the rainbow, and remember My promise. With it I sign the covenant I have made between Me and all the living creatures residing on the earth.” Genesis 9:17

Look for the rainbow and remember my promise. What better reminder of his promises in John 15 than an outstretched double rainbow over those vineyards? He promises to be a good vinedresser—to care for those of us who make our home in him—so that we will bear much fruit. The fruit He created us to produce.

When we find our ministry calendars overflowing with little fruit to show, will we take the time to stop and simply make room for Jesus? Will we stop and look for the rainbow and remember God’s promise to us—that if we make our home in him he will make his home in us?

Abba, create in us the desire to make our home with you. Remind us daily of your promise that if we make our home in you, you WILL make your home in us. Help us to accept your love that only wants the best for us—the kind of love that helps us to become who YOU created us to be. Amen

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fill 'er Up: Learning Our Child's Love Language


If you've stopped by through Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome!
Hands Language by Dare
flickr.com_436723375_68060276f3_z_CC BY ND- 4.0
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 NIV
Recently, in my recent article called, Life Unscripted, I confessed how I'd wished my children were born with scripts. That way, I'd always know the right thing to say and do. While all the wishing in the world did not produce said script, I did, however, fall upon two fabulous resources (albeit, fifteen years after giving birth to my youngest child). These resources changed my parenting style and helped me communicate more effectively with both my children and my husband.
The Five Love Languages and The Five Love Languages of Children, both authored by Gary Chapman, were the most valuable tools for my floundering communication skills as a mother and a wife. In his books, Chapman identifies five basic love languages, stating that we all encompass one primary language. By identifying our child's (or spouse's) primary love language and communicating our love for them using that language, we build healthy relationships and "fill their love tanks."
Here's the five love languages Chapman defines:
  1. Words of Affirmation: compliments or words of appreciation; criticism devastates this child.
  2. Quality Time: the need for undivided attention; be totally present. Ignoring or showing no interest in them or their interests deflate this child.
  3. Receiving Gifts: the joy of receiving thoughtful gifts (made or bought) brings great appreciation and joy; overdoing this can be meaningless and harmful.
  4. Acts of Service: showing love by performing a task that's especially meaningful to that child (running their forgotten lunch to school, fixing his bike, helping alongside them on a school project). While we do some of these things already, to the child who has this love language, it's how they feel loved and are especially grateful for your help.
  5. Physical Touch: hugging, kissing, appropriate touching is how this child feels loved. As the child gets older, we must adjust the level of touch, but a simple squeeze on the shoulder to say, "I love you" goes a long way. Without this physical touch, this child feels unloved or unlove-able.
There's two tricky things about all this: one, figuring out your child/spouse's love language and two, considering how to love effectively when your primary love language is not the same as your child's (spouse).
First, spend time observing your child/spouse. How do they show you they love you? Do they praise you for doing things for them? Do they fight for undivided attention? Do they bring you little gifts or do things for you around the house? Or, do they constantly want to hug, kiss or touch you, especially when they're upset or tired? Chapman explains, "our behavior is motivated by our emotional desires."
Secondly, loving them as they feel most loved can be a stretch, a real sacrifice, especially if they don't share your primary love language. For instance, my primary love language is Words of Affirmation, but for my husband and daughter its Physical Touch. It's not natural for me, especially during conflict, to run up to either of them and throw my arms around them. I'd rather run the opposite direction until the situation calms down and we can speak "affirming words" in a calm tone. For years, these two precious people wondered why I couldn't hug them, even after things calmed down. It must have been exasperating. It's not my love language and I had no clue how touching them could make them feel more loved. Honestly, my husband used to have to ask me to hug him.
Chapman states that "when a child's emotional needs are met," [by speaking their love language effectively] "they become responsible adults. If their emotional needs remain unmet, they may violate acceptable standards, express anger toward parents, or seek love in inappropriate places."
It wasn't easy to change how I expressed my love to my children or husband. It took a lot of humbling (taking my eyes of myself and how I feel loved) and a bit of work observing and asking questions. Of course, it's a two-way street, and they've learned how best to love me, too. But, isn't that what God's called us to do? To put the needs of others before our own? To sacrificially love one another?
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:12-13 NIV