Bracing for Impact?

Bracing for Impact

It’s the first week of summer break. Like many mamas, I’m taking it a little slower this week…relishing in the fact that no lunches need to be packed…there’s no morning bell to beat…no spelling words to study.

But at the same time, as summer has been approaching, I have been bracing for impact. Summer will bring a lot more…quality?…time at home with my kiddos.  Each summer gets less and less exhausting as the kids are getting older.  But, I know there will be bickering, there will be yelling, and there will be tears.  I just hope its not mostly from me.

Whatever this summer holds for any of us…whether its lots more time at home with the kids, a more stressful routine of balancing kids and work, difficult relationships, or even bigger transitions looming in the Fall –  there will be joys, pains, and challenges.  More often than not, we feel ourselves bracing for impact.

But I am reminded of God’s greatest desires for us…

“Don’t let the impact of the world shatter your thinking or draw you away from focusing on Me.” Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, May 22.

The great God of the Universe wants us to put our focus on Him, to seek His face, feel his deep love, and be still in His presence as we face each new day.

“God’s presence is real, full of love, and completely transformational. It takes what was broken and brings healing. It takes what was lost and guides us to our rightful place in the Father. It satisfies the weary, brings light to the darkness, and pours out the refreshing rain of God’s love on the dryest, deepest parts of the soul…He longs to make the reality of his presence known to you. He longs to refresh you with his nearness” Craig Denison, First 15, May 18

I love the concept of ‘making space’ for God.  I was recently taught that even when we use God’s gifts to capacity, we are called to still hold space for God.  Without making time to focus on God each day, the impact of the world (and the little people whom I love so much) will no doubt bring out the worst in me. My goal this summer is to make space for God.  Rather than bracing for impact, I want to feel His loving embrace.

“The absolute, most important single act of the children of God is making space to encounter our heavenly Father in the secret place…It establishes roots which enable us to receive all that we need to bear the fruit of the Spirit.” Denison, First15 May 22

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  These are the fruits of the Spirit.  These particular virtues have been on my heart for a few years now.  Perhaps because they are ideal virtues to teach our little ones…Perhaps, because they are ideal virtues for us as adults in a broken world.

I struggle.sooo.much to be patient and gentle with my children.

John 15:7-8 says “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you…By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” 

Will you join me in planting seeds as we head into summer? The fruits of the Spirit have already been gifted to us.  But we must nurture them to see growth. For me, it’s only by making space for God and watering the dryest parts of my soul.  Then, we pour out our love to the world around us. Now that’s worthwhile impact.

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Wait Right There…

pregnant-mary

These days, if I like a song, I download it immediately. There’s no waiting to go to the mall to buy the cd. We watch shows on DVR or On Demand. If I’m ordering an item online, two days seems like a reasonable delivery time…any longer of a wait is quite pesky. If I miss a loved one, I can instantaneously exchange words via text or even Facetime. I am quite thankful for these wonderful technologies that make life easy and on-demand. But, my need for instant gratification is only being fed more and more. Instant gratification rules the lives of my children. We don’t have to wait long for much of anything anymore. But waiting is good for the soul. Waiting builds anticipation and increases appreciation.

Advent is a precious season of expectant waiting – a time ripe for longing for a God who was made man, in the form of a helpless babe. In the sixth month of her pregnancy, the Angel Gabriel appeared to young Mary and told her that she was pregnant with the Son of the Most High. Can you even imagine what those last three months of her pregnancy must have felt like as she waited for this mysterious God-Child? What would the God-Baby look like? How can God even become human? She must have worried about how she could ever live up to expectations as His mother?! Then, Jesus was born. Shepherds and Wise Men (Magi) visited. They spread the word that, truly, the Savior…the Messiah…the Lord had been born to an unwed virgin in a manger. No pressure, Mary – you just have to raise this God-Child to adulthood.

Then, thirty plus years pass as she waits to see how her son, the Son of God, is going to be a Savior. Oh my, can you imagine the waiting? Do you think she ever nagged him? “Jesus, it’s wonderful you are a carpenter like your dad and all, but aren’t you ready to step it up? You’re almost thirty now.” I can’t imagine her wait, her anticipation.

Each Advent, we have the opportunity to wait. We wait for the celebration of the birth of Christ. I was recently struck by this particular version of “O Come Emmanuel” by Allen Levi, Ed Cash, and Bebo Norman that I have loved for almost twenty years now. The lyrics and the slow, almost hopefully somber tune capture our desperate need and hopeful expectation for the arrival of our Lord – Emmanuel, God with us. This hopeful waiting captures the essence of Advent.

“Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel.”

And even though we are still waiting during advent, we sing:

 “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel. Shall come to you, O Israel!”

In this first week of advent two thousand and sixteen years after Christ was born, we still wait. Because waiting is good for the soul. Yet we also rejoice; for the Light of the World has come to shatter the darkness. I think I might wait until Christmas Day to belt out this fabulous version “Joy to the World” this year. It’s going to feel good. Because some things are just worth waiting for.

We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you. –Psalm 33:20-22

*You can download these beautiful versions of “Oh, Come Emmanuel” and “Joy to the World” on iTunes here.

Double Down

h_t_mcmonagle_030

Five years ago this week, Ryan and I doubled down. Our twins were born on 11-1-11. It wasn’t exactly a gamble on our part, but there was plenty of uncertainty to go around. We had no idea what to expect.

To be honest, if God had approached me before I got pregnant (which He didn’t) and offered me twins, I’m quite sure I would have said, “Oh, wow, that’s so nice of you to offer.” (Gotta be polite, right?!) “But I’m much more comfortable with the idea of three children. We don’t want to have four…never even considered the possibility. So, thanks, God, but no thanks.” To think that in my desire to stick in our comfort zone, I would have actually passed up such an amazing blessing. The real gamble is when we don’t put our trust in God’s plans.

But, still, uncertainty is very uncomfortable isn’t it?!

Being up in the middle of the night with two babies who didn’t sleep at the same time was uncomfortable. Doubling down definitely more than doubled the chaos and tears around our house. I couldn’t have imagined the messes, the exhaustion, or my ability to hit peaks of anger I had never seen in myself before. (And of course, I couldn’t have grasped the joys that lay ahead either.)

Most days, life feels just outside of my control. And that is just the way God wants it to be. Instead of mastering our lives and our days, God asks us to submit to the One and Only Master. EVERY day, I lose my patience. I struggle with yelling at my children. To put it simply, my kids often drive me batshit crazy (sorry).

I am not in control. I misplace my priorities regularly. I make mistakes every day.  Get this…yesterday I washed two mini iPads in the washing machine with the laundry. I kid you not. I cried. Does that sound like a mother who has everything under control?

Control is really just an illusion. For me, control is even an idol. I’m learning, very slowly, that lack of control and a bit of uncertainty in our lives is not bad.

“Our natural inclination is to be so precise– trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next– that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (April 29)

Chambers goes on to explain that the nature of a healthy spiritual life is to be “certain in our uncertainty.” Despite the fact that we are uncertain of what tomorrow may bring, we have peace in our “gracious uncertainty” because we are certain of our God.

If faith is having confidence in what we cannot see, then we must double down in the face of uncertainty. I love how Stefani Gretzinger sings in “Out of Hiding” of God’s promise to be our “lighthouse when we are at sea.” When we lean hard into this faithful God, His love beyond measure brings comfort that no amount of certainty will ever bring.

There will continue to be uncertainty ahead. There will be many dark days in all of our lives. There will be days where any sense of control has simply gone out the window.

Again, I am encouraged by music. Chris Tomlin sings of our “Good Good Father” and reminds us that our God knows what we need before we say a word. He is perfect in all of His ways. And on those hardest of days, I pray that I will listen for His tender whisper and rest in knowing that I am loved by Him. It’s who I am.

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“Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in– but you can be certain that He will come.” Oswald Chambers

Rest in Peace…This Summer?

RIP

Perhaps one of the most common acronyms in the English language, ‘R.I.P.’ evokes memories of loved ones lost, eulogies for famous musicians on Facebook, and even corny yard decorations at Halloween. This condolence and outward expression of our inner sorrow and grief wishes a peaceful eternity to those whom we have loved and lost. The original Latin phrase, “requiescat in pace,” means “may he or she rest in peace.”

So, is it a given that you have to die to truly rest in peace?

In my crazy, loud, messy, chaotic household, I have asked myself this question…especially on this first week of summer break! Peace and quiet are a commodity around here. And then there’s the real anxiety and worry. What would I do if I ever lost my husband? Could I handle the death of a child? Am I a good enough wife and mother? Do people like me? Everyday stresses of work and finances alone cause unrest in most households, ours included.

In a recent sermon at Christ Community Church, Pastor Tom Nelson expressed that our cultural landscape is well described as ‘restless.’ No amount of massages, date nights sans kids or vacations will ever bring us true rest and peace. Anxiety and restlessness creep into our moments of quiet and erupt in the middle of our chaos.

Tom noted that even the Huff Post has addressed the subject. In an article titled, “5 Signs You’re Restless With Your Life (and What to Do About It),” Kevin Klatches writes that if you are feeling restless, you should “consider it a warning sign from your soul to take action.” He suggests, “Don’t settle for restlessness…The universe is calling on you to take action. Listen to it.”

He’s so right. The universe is calling on us to take action. The Creator of the Universe gently calls to us…

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke…and you will find rest for your souls.” -Matthew 11: 28-29

Are you living with a restless heart? Is there an unsettling discontent or anxiety that marks your life? Do you feel emotionally and spiritually weary?

In his book, The Life We Long to Live: the yoke, Tom Nelson warns us that “…our thirsty souls are chasing mirages…” We hang out in the desert while the One who offers streams of healing waters bids us to come.

Isaiah 58:11 promises, “The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

My only hope for a rested soul is when I seek the transforming presence of God regularly…when I open my heart and let Him meet me where I am – often tired, weary and anxious.

This summer, whether we find ourselves in a sun-scorched land or a pool of anxiety, may we hear the Creator of the Universe beckoning, “Be still and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10.

Because we don’t have to die to rest in peace.

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*This song, Come To Me, by Bethel Music is worth a listen at least once, maybe a hundred times…

“…I am the Lord your peace…
Steady now your heart and mind
Come into my rest…
And lift up your weary head
I am with you
Wherever you go

Come to me, I’m all you need
Come to me, I’m everything…”

Heart Health

Heart Health

Valentines Day has come and gone. I got my chocolates and a sincere and loving card from my husband. These two items confirm what I know…He loves me deeply, and he knows that I love chocolate deeply. I can only hope that my card to him expressed my love adequately…and also that he will give me some of his chocolate.

My words might adequately express my love, but my actions certainly don’t always express my love. I am often curt and, frankly, just plain exhausted. Sometimes, my exhaustion turns both my heart and emotions to a hard shell…much like that on the chocolate candies. So, quite often, I need to stop, assess the condition of my heart, and simply soften up. I need to ask myself, “How am I nurturing my heart health?”

In a recent sermon at Christ Community Church, our pastor, Tom Nelson, reminded us that we must regularly check the condition of our hearts. The American Heart Association has deemed February to be American Heart Month. According to the American Heart Association, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease. As we all know, regular exercise and a good diet are the first steps towards a healthy heart. Tom drew a similar conclusion as he encouraged us to take notice of the spiritual condition of our hearts.

Just like with physical health, our emotional and spiritual health are also dependent on regular exercise and a good diet. Our pastor reminded me that we must discipline ourselves to actively seek a good diet and exercise of spiritual disciplines…such as prayer, meditation and study of scripture.

Pastor Tom also noted two specific heart killers – a worried spirit and a hurried spirit. Those two traits have the potential to put me in critical condition, daily. So, I ask you…When were you hurried today? What worried you today?

Tom shared that worry keeps us from moving forward in a life with vitality and joy. A life characterized by worry is not the good life God intends for us.  I am certainly not implying that there isn’t an appropriate place for deep concern or lament in our lives. But for a healthy heart, we must genuinely hand over our fears and anxiety to God and seek His supernatural peace that transcends all understanding.  It sounds crazy, but it’s real.

And for a healthy heart, my goodness, we must absolutely slow down and take time to be still. That’s my kind of exercise! It’s difficult to love the people around us when we can’t slow down enough to feel their needs.  And it’s hard to truly be in anyone’s presence if we are always in a hurry.

Join me as I assess the condition of my heart. Can I truly love the people around me if my heart is not well?

I think most people would choose to live for love. It feels good to love others. I know most people have an insatiable desire to be fully loved. I do. But all of the affection, all of the praise, all of the security in the world is not enough. The love of this world doesn’t quite fulfill and doesn’t give us the ability to love back. We must seek God for that complete fulfillment. His love is perfect and limitless.

My healthy heart goal is to live for love…

“It’s to choose to root yourself in the unconditional affection of your heavenly Father rather than seeking fulfillment from the fickle love of mankind. It’s to choose to serve and give rather than looking to receive from a world that has so little to offer. To live for love is to seek first God and his ways and thereby receive the fullness of life only he can give…It is impossible to live for love as Jesus commands unless we first receive daily the perfect, powerful love of our heavenly Father.” -Craig Denison, First 15

How’s your heart health?

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“…You’ve got your reasons
But I hold your peace
You’ve been on lockdown
And I hold the key…

…I’ll be your lighthouse
When you’re lost at sea
And I will illuminate
Everything

No need to be frightened 
By intimacy
No, just throw off your fear
And come running to Me

‘Cause I loved you before you knew it was love…” 

-CLICK HERE to hear “Out of Hiding” by Steffany Gretzinger, Bethel Music 

Crushed by a Vending Machine?!

Focus

I would have liked to win that Powerball.  Like many people, I thought through the ways I would use the money.  And of course, being the benevolent person that I am, I would only need to keep about 20 million dollars or so. Then, I would give hundreds of millions away – going down in history as the most generous lottery winner ever. I’m such a good person. Hahaha.

My odds of winning were, of course, quite low.  I heard that my chances of being crushed by a vending machine were greater. What an odd statistic. I guess I’ll have to manage without my windfall….and avoid unsteady vending machines.

Actually, after facing the disappointment that I was not America’s newest billionaire last Saturday night, I decided to not buy a ticket for Wednesday’s drawing. It had nothing to do with my chances, really.  Of course, I knew I wasn’t going to win. I just decided it wasn’t really worth my emotional energy to even dream of the possibility. I was better off placing my focus elsewhere.

At the encouragement of a dear friend, I chose a ‘word for the year.’ The discipline proved to be beneficial the last couple of years. So, my word for 2016 is focus.

Already, I have soaked up a multitude of applications as I have examined where I place my focus each day.  I’ve asked myself – What are the false hopes (like winning the lottery) that I allow to cloud my focus? On what do I exert my time and energy? Often, I don’t like my answer. How can I be more efficient and focus on the most important aspects of life – serving, loving, and meeting the needs of my family and the people I interact with each day?  And how does my focus on God affect my ability to be a more patient, kind, and loving person?

I’ve realized that, at the end of the day, there’s a much greater chance of being crushed by misplaced focus than by a vending machine!

So, instead of wasting time and energy on inefficiencies and false hopes, I’m going to hone my focus this year.  I’m going to focus on my family. I’m going to focus on a healthy(ier) lifestyle. (I’m even going to focus on my tennis swing.) And most importantly, I’m going to fix my eyes on God and meet Him each day right where He is waiting for me — offering me pure fullness of joy. I don’t even have to go up against crazy odds to find my treasure there.

“…if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:3-5

What’s your focus in 2016?  Join me as you fix your eyes on what’s most important to you. And, by all means, watch out for those dangerous vending machines.

“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” – Isaiah 45:3

Wait Here to be Called

 

Mary and Gabriel

I don’t like to wait. I don’t like to wait in lines at amusement parks. I don’t like to wait in the carpool lane at school. I don’t like to wait to be seated at restaurants. Our kids can’t wait to open their Christmas presents. I can’t wait for the magic of Christmas Eve. And to be completely honest, sometimes, I can’t wait for all of the holiday craziness to be over, so we can get back to our routine.

Yet, the Christmas season, particularly Advent, is a season of waiting. The focus of the Advent season, of course, is to prepare for and celebrate the birth of Jesus…and anticipate Christ’s return. Advent reminds us of the importance of waiting.

This past Sunday at church, we lit the third Advent candle, symbolizing joy. Yet, our pastor acknowledged all of the pain in this world. Friends are grieving the loss of loved ones. We are heartbroken by the inexplicable violence and terror in our society. We feel the darkness when lives seem broken beyond repair. In the midst of this season of both joy and pain, we were reminded by our pastor of the words of David, who faithfully sang to the Lord, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent…” Psalm 30:11-12.

During Advent, we are waiting on the birth of Emmanuel – ‘God With Us’…A God who not only lived and died among us, but a God who promises to be with us in the middle of our joys and our pains. We wait with a spirit of hope. We wait, with faith, for a God who brings peace to our hearts in the greatest times of pain and can even turn our wailing into dancing. When we wait on the Lord, we ultimately put our hope in something greater than our circumstances. Psalm 27:14 encourages us to wait in hope: Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”

We also wait for God to guide us throughout our lives. I once saw an airport sign that said, “Wait Here To Be Called.Wait Here To Be Called”  I chuckled to myself thinking it would be nice if it was that easy. We wait for our calling – to be a spouse, to be a parent, to find the right job or career – to be used by God in some unique way. We wait, not knowing how or when God will answer. Psalm 37:7 reminds us to be patient, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…”

Whether or not we like it, we spend much of our time waiting – waiting for the next stage of life, waiting to feel God’s call, waiting for the pain of death and the pain of sin in the this broken world to lessen. We wait for heaven. We wait for Christ’s return.

The airport sign made me think a lot about waiting on God.

But perhaps instead waiting to be called, our calling is to wait!

God asks us to wait patiently in hope and expectation because He can heal our hearts, give us peace beyond understanding, and clothe us with great joy. So, this advent season…enjoy the wait.

The Angel, Gabriel, rocked young Mary’s world with inconceivable news of an unplanned child. The life she had been waiting for would look entirely different than she could have ever imagined. Gabriel told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; God loves you dearly.” (Luke 2:30 PHILLIPS).

And the same is for you as we celebrate Advent.

Do not be afraid; God loves you dearly.

Add to the Beauty

Purple Mountains Majesty
I don’t know about you, but I love patriotic songs. I often puff up with pride and even tear up a bit when I hear a good rendition of “God Bless America” – whether at a 4th of July celebration or the seventh inning stretch of a baseball game. (And in case you haven’t noticed…its baseball season over here in KC! GO ROYALS!!!)

“…From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam…”

And then there’s the purple mountains majesty, the amber waves of grain and the shining seas in “America the Beautiful.”  Perhaps these songs particularly catch my heart because we have called the mountains in Colorado and New Mexico, the sea in California, and now the plains of Kansas our home over the past four years. Put a military figure – those very heroes who “more than self their country loved” – behind the microphone, and I really have to hold myself together.  But beyond the lyrics describing the aesthetic beauty of our country, there are a couple of lines that get lost in the middle of “America the Beautiful.” I believe they are the true crux of the song.

“America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
from sea to shining sea.”

I believe that the very best of our country isn’t found in the beauty of the mountains or on the most stunning beaches of our coast. The writer of “America the Beautiful” recognized that the good of our country is crowned by brotherhood. Relationships. Community.

In each of the seven states I’ve lived in, there are plenty of people who believe they live in the best place in the world. They would never move away. You certainly can’t easily convince a Bostonian to move to California or a Kansan to move to Texas. When it comes down to it, most of these people love where they live – not because of geography – but because of their people. Geography doesn’t hurt, but it’s really all about community.

So how do we ‘crown thy good with brotherhood?’ What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? How can we truly embrace and serve our communities? These are the questions I’m asking myself as we approach the holiday season.

Our best patriotic songs are more than just pride reserved for national holidays and ballgames. These songs call us to do our part to add to the beauty. We are called to crown our beautiful country (and our world) with love and compassion in our immediate circles and greater communities. What does that look like? To crown our good with brotherhood is a call to be fruitful and productive with the talents and gifts God has given us. It’s a call to look for ways to serve those around us – near and far, daily and long term.

As we appreciate the bounty of fall and approach Thanksgiving this year, will you take a challenge with me? Not just to be thankful – but to actively add to the beauty. Start small. You might just make a big impact.

Sarah Grove’s words in her song, “Add to the Beauty” recently struck me:

“Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces
Calling out our best
And I want to add to the beauty
To tell a better story
I want to shine with the light
That’s burning up inside”

True, America is beautiful. May God give us the grace to add to the beauty.

A Loss of Innocence

Fourteen years ago, I became an adult. I graduated from college. I got married. I got a job. These milestones alone don’t make an adult. But it was in that year, 2001, that I took responsibility for myself outside of my parents’ nest. They would no longer be depositing money in a meal plan, holding me to a curfew, or tucking me in on holidays at home. My husband and I were the newest extension of my parents’ nuclear family.

Fourteen years ago, my childhood innocence was lost. But not because I became an adult. Many of us lost a bit of childlike trust in the world on September 11, 2001. Loss of innocence, a fairly common theme in fiction, is not just a coming of age. A loss of innocence, according to Wikipedia, is an experience or period that widens one’s awareness of evil, pain or suffering in the world around them. My generation had not witnessed The Great Depression, the horrors of WWII or The Vietnam War like our grandparents and parents. But the kind of nightmare that rocked our country to the core on September 11th took the innocence of many young adults with it.

Less than three months into my newly minted adulthood and marriage, the terrorists tried to break us. They devastated our country with four doomed flights that stole thousands of precious lives – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and best friends. Again – a kind of devastation my generation had not yet seen in our country.

My 9/11 experience was not particularly unique. The news of the strike on World Trade Center Tower 1 flashed across my television screen in our Dallas apartment. As the nightmare unraveled, I was able to reach my husband, Ryan, who had safely landed in Chicago for a business trip. He had no idea of the gravity of the situation when I reached out to him to make sure he was safe. For several days, he was stuck in Chicago. I later found out he had been working in the Sears Tower. I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time. My parents were home in Georgia. I witnessed a tragedy unfold – one greater than any of us could have imagined- as an adult by myself. I wasn’t in New York, like so many people I know. I didn’t lose a loved one. I can’t even imagine the pain. But the world changed that day. And so did I.

The world changed because I realized we could no longer trust it. Our insulated, powerful, country built on the tenants of freedom was crippled. But our great nation was not paralyzed.

That terrible night, President Bush addressed our nation:

“Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts… Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror… These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve…This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.” –George W. Bush

Not everyone agrees with the wartime decisions President Bush made after 9/11. But the President’s powerful words of consolation and resolve on this dark night gave me great comfort as a young adult who suddenly felt very vulnerable. His charge to unite a great people gave our country strength in our fight against such evil. And, for me now, his words on 9/11 serve as reminder of that horrible day and the painful rebuilding process that would follow. Many noble lives of our brave military men and women were lost as they fought for our safety and freedom in the years to come.

Fourteen years later, we have not forgotten. A simple click on today’s news media or Facebook brings to life many vivid memories and horrific experiences. And with those stories and graphic pictures as a reminder, we Americans continue to share a resolve for a strong and peaceful nation and world.

For the first time, this year, my own children are aware of what happened on 9/11, and they are asking questions. In a day and age when terrorists are motivated by a desire to repress basic rights and bully innocent victims, I pray that we can take a moment to examine how we might do the opposite in our own personal spheres of influence.

My hope and prayer is that the generation of young parents today who lost a sense of innocence on September 11, 2001 will raise a generation of children who seek to love and show grace, even – maybe especially – to people who hold different beliefs and practices. As a basic starting place – prejudice, discrimination and bullying are simply unacceptable.

Fourteen years ago, my childhood innocence was lost. But our great country has found resolve. As President Bush urged us, let us continue “to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.”  You in your corner, and me in mine.

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“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” -Philippians 4:8-9

***This year on the 4th of July, we had the honor of saluting the US flag shown in the picture above. It had flown over Syria just two weeks before as our military heroes fight ISIS to defend our freedom and safety.***

Jesus Farted Too

Cross

If I had to choose my least favorite word, it might be fart. I don’t like to hear it, say it, read it, or smell it. In my mind, it’s the worse ‘f word.’  So, to say the least, I’m being a bit vulnerable by writing it here. I should probably get more comfortable with the word anyways, seeing as we have 3 boys who think anything to do with ‘the topic’ is funny.

As I was arranging bookshelves in our son’s room in our new house in Kansas City this week, I propped a devotional and children’s Bible right up against a grotesque book about different kinds of flatulence. My first instinct was: ‘You can’t do that!’ Shortly followed by the thought: ‘Why not? Jesus farted too.’ Fart BookAfter all, He was fully human, all the way down to his bodily functions. He probably even thought ‘passing gas’ was funny when he was a little boy…While gross, I’m pretty sure that kind of humor is not a sin.

This thought process of intersecting Jesus with the real, sometimes disgusting, nitty-gritty details of our lives made me think about how we incorporate our faith into our everyday lives. Especially as our family begins with a blank slate in a new place, I am thinking about what it looks like to foster our faith in the center of our home and our lives.  Personal daily reminders of God’s promises and His amazing grace help keep me centered. I need God throughout my days.

  • I need to be reminded, regularly, in the midst of my anxiety and burdens that Jesus offers rest for my soul.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
  • When I am restless, stubborn, and lacking in faith, I need to be reminded of God’s patience and ability to sustain me.
“…there will be times when God’s glory is right outside our door, yet we’ll choose to stay inside the tent. There will be days when we hear the clear promises of God and laugh in disbelief…Still, our heavenly Father will respond. He will wait with us and sustain us. He will turn our restlessness into rest in Him.” –Sarah Matheny #shereadstruth
  • Even with my very own children, I need to be reminded of what our call to love looks like. Love is patient. Love is kind. Every single morning, I have to ask God to give me the fruits of the spirit… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control don’t come easy in a house full of rowdy kids. And these are the characteristics I most want to model to my children.
  • When God is near, I am reminded of my desire to share the love and peace and grace of God with the people in my life.
“They were not to be a people unto themselves enjoying their special relationship with God and paying no attention to the rest of the world. Rather they were to represent him to the rest of the world and attempt to bring the rest of the world to him.” –Douglas Stewart
  • When God is at the center of my life, I am reminded that each and every day, He makes me new. Fresh. Clean. A blank slate. In worship yesterday at Christ Community Church, we were reminded to number our days.  Basically, embrace the precious time that God has given each of us.  Each day is a new day to invest in our relationship with God, as well as the people around us.

I have no doubt that in all of His humanity, Jesus put real effort into fostering a relationship with His Heavenly Father. A Father He couldn’t see with His eyes either. All relationships involve effort.

So, here’s to blank slates, to being made new each day, and to allowing Jesus into the nitty-gritty. We have a patient, loving and tender God who is overjoyed when we hold Him in the center of our days.

Lately, I’ve been hearing God’s voice in this beautiful song by Matchbox 20, “Overjoyed.” I am reminded of the relational nature of our Great God who wants to meet us daily. Will you hold Him too?

“Maybe if you hold me baby
Let me come over
I will tell you secrets nobody knows
I cannot overstate it
I will be overjoyed”