The Meaning of LIFE

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“The God who is infinitely high is also intimately nigh.”

 

Recently, one of my children asked me, “What is the meaning of life, mama?”img_6387

 

There it was, that age-old, deep philosophical question everyone eventually asks themselves. The answer came easily and quickly. And it is true. The answer is JESUS.

His love and grace are always the answer to every question, every dilemma, every challenge, every stress, every fight, every longing, or pain. It sounds so simple I know, and my child looked at me like I was crazy.

The next question I got was, “So is that going to be the answer you always give if I ask you again?” and I said, “Yes. Because it’s true. Do you want me to lie to you or tell you the truth?”

Jesus will help you find things. He will lead you where you need to go. 100_0751Remind you why you walked into that room. He will guide you into your future career and all the big things in life.img_5518  He will tell you the things and people to avoid getting close to. He will listen when you cry, He will be with you in every detail,img_3103 and every joy…img_5207Even when you think you are alone, you aren’t . He is there, wanting to hang out with you. He is in everywhere.beach pics (266)

It’s all about HIM. The Old Testament is Jesus concealed. The New Testament is Him revealed.

Everything we do or think or say is a reflection of where He is in our lives. Are we close to Him? Are we far? Do we need to spend more time thinking about what He says and less time focused on TV and games or reading romances or watching You tube tutorials or pinning ideas on our Pinterest boards or painting? Uh hem. Oopsie. 05-img_3518

How much do we reflect Him? Do people around us see Him in us? Or do they see us freaking out on our kids at Wal-Mart instead? Uh hem. Not that I do that. Ever. Uh hem Uh hem. Seriously. Do our kids see His mercy in our eyes or condemnation? How about our tone of voice? Am I consumed by me, me, me?

These are tough questions. I know. I am asking myself. Where is Jesus in my life right now? I can’t ride on the coat tails of my conversion fire. I have to daily go to Him and refill my spiritual tank. He is always there. Twenty four seven. And it’s all free for the taking.img_4934

Toby Mac has a wonderful line in his encouraging song, Move. “I can hold your hand but I can’t turn your eyes to freedom.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzYsrAcuS0s

And it’s true. We all have to turn our own eyes toward freedom in Christ. It is for freedom that Christ set us free. (Romans 5:1) I wish we could unzip people stuff them full of Jesus, and zip them back up. But it doesn’t work that way. So let me encourage you to move closer to Him. You will be refreshed. He Promised. img_4243

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The MARY Choice

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Another Mary I want to share with you is Martha’s sister.

We all understand Martha.

We want to get it right.

Whether the Christmas meal is at our house, or a pot luck at our sister in law’s, we want our squash casserole to rock their world. We want our Oreo pie plate licked clean before we pack up and leave.

But Christmas is about JESUS.IMG_5753

We have to reprogram our brains to remember this fact. Jesus did NOT come to bring us stress in the kitchen, or at Mama’s house, or in line at Wal-Mart. He came to give us peace on Earth, and blessed rest.02-img_4810

Invitations and service opportunities abound this time of year. It’s easy to over book the calendar and forfeit Christmas peace and joy.

I’m pretty sure that crying at the stove because Uncle Tommy’s favorite fudge won’t set up is NOT what God had in mind when He sent His Only Begotten Son.

It has been said, that “The hardest choices are not between good and bad, but between good and best.”

Martha’s Mary made the best choice. When Martha started griping, Jesus said, “ Martha, Martha…. Only one thing is needed…Mary has chosen the good part and it will not be taken away from her.”

That One thing is Jesus.         We all need more JESUSRelated image

I have been making conscious decisions lately to make the Mary choice. I’d rather leave the house a wreck and spend time with the Lord before leaving it.

I’m taking deep breaths and praying out loud when the kids start fussing, instead of biting their heads off.

I am practicing choosing kindness over frustration when someone cuts me off in traffic or butts in front of me out there in the maze of shopping.

Baby steps still get us there. Let’s make the Mary choice. Let’s choose MORE JESUS and Have a very Mary Christmas.

PRAYER: Lord, help us remember that JESUS is Christmas. Help us to choose the best things over the good things. Remind us we can keep our peace.
Let us be like Mary, who chose the One thing that mattered. YOU.
In Jesus Name, Amen.

A MARY Little Christmas

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There are a lot of “Marys” in the New Testament. But since it’s Christmas, I want to focus on Jesus’ mama first.

Likely we are a hodgepodge of denominations here, but I bet we can all agree on this: Mary had to be a special gal to mother the perfect Son of God.

A few years back I discovered a film masterpiece, titled The Nativity Story. If you don’t own this movie, I highly recommend you buy yourself one for Christmas. The Nativity Story (Widescreen)

It is a beautiful glimpse into what it might have been like for Mary and Joseph in their little village and all the drama leading up to the birth of our Messiah.

Now, I’ve heard and read the Christmas story many times. But after seeing this film, I connected with this precious couple in a fresh way.

At the time I was introduced to the film, my husband and I were in a wilderness journey ourselves: misunderstood by extended family, falsely accused, and uprooted in a foreign state.

Film is a powerful medium.

Watching Joseph and Mary’s destiny bond them, even as their familiar world collapsed, deepened my respect for them.Seeing the sacrifices they made for each other and how they trusted God with their mind-boggling purpose, humanized them for me.Image result for the nativity story

It’s easy to think of them as historical icons or decorative figures on my table and in the neighbor’s yard. But they were real, regular folks, like us. And that helps me.

They inspired and encouraged me that my husband and I could maneuver the sharp turns and blind corners of our journey. That we too had an intertwined, ordained purpose to follow God. And we too would come out stronger as a couple. And we did.Image result for the nativity story

During this busy week before Christmas, do yourself a favor.Grab a copy of this spectacular  film (and a bag of something yummy) and give yourself a Mary little Christmas.

THANKSGIVING

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“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”
Psalm 100:4-5img_5255-1

Memories of childhood celebrations spent with my big family are joyful ones. After a long boring church service followed by a long boring drive to the family homestead, the real fun began: Lots of great food, hiking through pastures with cousins, dodging cow patties thrown by brothers, exploring ram shackled homes we never should have entered, finding treasures, like glass medicine bottles, amongst the rubble.20-img_5991

More food then off to shop at the Christmas House. Evening ghost stories with Uncle Ronnie and big talk of driving to the graveyard to knock on the mausoleum door. Finally, Daddy would proclaim, “Time to hit the road… Head’m up and move’m out!” Hugs all around before we’d pile into the station wagon. I’d sleep with my feet in Daddy’s lap and my head in Mama’s, my pockets stuffed with pilfered sour balls from Grandma’s candy dish.05-IMG_7083

As life rolled on, Thanksgiving changed. In the early days with my own children, we often lived in isolated areas with only my husband’s side of the family nearby. But those celebrations stretched me, and showed me I’m no slave to tradition. I chose to embrace the changes and found unspeakable beauty and joy in them.000_0011

One particular Thanksgiving in North Carolina stands out vividly. We awoke to a magical wonderland outside our window. Snow is HUGE for native Floridians. We flung back the blinds and thanked God for His awesome creation.img_0877

We stayed home that year. We had each prepared handmade cards for each other. Even my hubby had made time to write love notes. After dinner, we all read aloud our “Why I am thankful for you…” cards. I was a jolly mess.

The children had memorized a sweet poem about the Pilgrims and recited it. We read the 100th Psalm. I made a ton of food and didn’t lose my mind. The kids played in the snow with Walmart bags tied over their sneakers and socks for mittens. I read a novel with tea and pie instead of cleaning the kitchen.img_0798

Each Thanksgiving is different, even if it’s the same. I pray your Thanksgiving memories bring joy to your heart and inspire you to look for new ways to thank God for His awesome gifts of life and love.img_0717

Here is the poem my children learned:

Across the Atlantic, from England they came,
To worship the Lord and honor His name.
After many a fright and weeks at the sea,
They spied America and knelt to their knees.
They thanked our great God for His mighty power
and for keeping them safe aboard the Mayflower.
Anonymous

MY FAVORITE THANKSGIVING PROJECT

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Pick someone you love. (I chose my husband but you could certainly choose a child, parent, sibling, or friend)44-img_0003

Create a Thanksgiving Journal for this person.

You need a notebook. We were in our poverty chapter when I did this, so I had to get creative. I used a recycled three ringed binder with a clear sleeve on front and back. I wrote on plain ole lined notebook paper. You could use anything. Just don’t let yourself get stuck trying to find the perfect book. It’s about your heart, not the packaging.

Begin on Thanksgiving Day (or close to it) and present the journal to your SWEETIE the following Thanksgiving. 365 reasons why you are thankful for them. Yes, it is a year-long project, but don’t let that deter you. We all know how fast a year goes by. Date entries or number them and do a few extra when you get behind. No legalism allowed!

Here’s the plan:
Once a day, write something you are thankful for about that person. The entries don’t need to be long. Some will be, but no pressure! For example, “I am thankful that you love me.” That is a great entry. See how short that was? And keep this project a secret. No spoilers!05-img_3518

When I created mine, it was the most difficult year of our lives.I’m NOT kidding: Bankrupt, carless, homeless, living on the good graces of my father-in-law in NC. Uprooted from our home state, I lost custody of my oldest son and had to leave him with his father in Florida. Jobless with no prospects with four small children. Then, we lost our baby when I was six months pregnant. AND my husband had to have emergency surgery! So… finding things to be thankful for that year was a stretch. Sometimes, I just wrote, “I am thankful you took out the trash today.”img_4801-001

But I am telling you, God used this little project to FLOOD me with HIS JOY (which is my strength, and yours too. Neh. 8:10).Winter didn't get the memo.

By the end of that year, I had my perspective back. God cleared the fog from my heart and my husband and I moved into a deeper love, far richer than we had ever known before the chaos of life threatened to swallow us both. daniel-with-1-2

Keeping my eyes on being thankful for my man, rather than on the difficulties and emotional turmoil in our life, changed me.It’s funny. When I started the project, I thought I was doing it for him.

XO

Happy Thanksgiving!

The WALL

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“If God sends us on strong paths, we are provided strong shoes.” Corrie ten Boon.img_6281

The book of Nehemiah recently came alive for me. No longer the boring Old Testament story about rebuilding some crumbling wall, it became a manifesto for stepping out for God, following His plan despite the enemy’s attacks, and persevering through adversity. Now that, I can apply to my daily life.img_5581

It has been said that the Christian life is not a playground; it is a battleground. As much as I wish it were otherwise, the fact remains. We become soldiers when we enlist to follow Jesus. But thankfully, God equips each of us with the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God, and the shield of faith. He has given us all we need to overcome. And best of all, we fight from victory, not for victory!

Just like in Nehemiah’s day, anytime we attempt to build, or rebuild, our lives for Christ, there will be adversaries. We must be aware of the enemy’s devices. His attack plan always includes three weapons: ridicule, confusion, and discouragement.img_3585

“Are you serious? What can you do? There is so much to do and you are so little.” The enemy whispers to our mind, ridiculing our resources and abilities. But we must remember, when we are weak, He is strong. Nothing is impossible with God.

Pray. Lean in on God. “Be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God and He will give you the peace that passes understanding and guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”(Phil. 4:6-7) Don’t underestimate the power of prayer.img_5126

We must stay focused on the vision the Lord has given us. Don’t get sidetracked or offended by the words people say. Persevere. Nehemiah had a mind to work. We must settle our minds too and keep your eyes on the goal.

The beginning is usually exciting. Midway through however, the enemy doubles his efforts by launching confusion. God is not the author of confusion. He gave us a sound mind. When confusion hits— run to the Word. Bathe yourself in Scripture. Only the Word of God is a plumb line to clarity. His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. We can trust His Word to lead us.img_6248

Next, the enemy attacks with discouragement. These subtle attacks from within often arise when fatigued. Many heroes of the faith, like Elijah, battled discouragement following huge victories primarily because they were exhausted. Warren Wisby said, “It’s always too soon to quit.”

Frustration can also trigger a quitter mentality. We must not focus on the rubble around us, but rather on the Great Redeemer within us, who is more than able to fix all our broken down walls.img_1799

Finally, the enemy pulls out his big gun— Fear. He threatens, “If you keep going, there’s going to be bigger attacks. You want that?” He means to stop us. But God said, “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”(Neh. 4:14b) img_7130-smile

We must guard the vulnerable areas of our lives and stand firm in the evil day. Stand in Lord and in the power of His might. Fight the good fight of faith. Remember who we are in Christ. We are more than conquerors! Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.img_7916

We must get our eyes off the enemy. Fight. Not be idle. There is no armor available for our backs. There is no retreating in Christ. So much of the battle is remembering who we are in Christ. We have been given weapons. We must use them. Take the thoughts captive and resist the enemy with the Word, like Jesus did in the desert.

“Our God will fight for us.” (Neh. 4:20) That is what the Nehemiah and the people said. They were bombarded with attacks, but they persevered. They had minds to work, hearts to pray, eyes to watch and ears to hear. They accomplished their goal to rebuild the wall.img_2079

What a great example for us. We too can fulfill our God-given purposes. We overcome as we defend our place on the wall in this world. If God be for us, who can be against us? We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us! Go for it baby!img_5452

War of the Roses

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Weeding one morning, I savored the victory as I plucked tiny sprouts and tossed them in a pile. Satisfied with my work, I stood to scan the shrubbery. I spotted a cocky monster towering the center of one of our rose bushes. It had grown unnoticed for months to reach such size, but its day had comewar-of-roses-close-up-blooms-photo.

I approached cautiously since our lovely plant also boasted an army of thorns. I went in, glove free, flinching with each jab from my traitor roses, barely managing to tear a single limb from the weed, unable to reach its meaty base.

Determined to beat them both, I continued pursuit, but that demon was hunkered down good. Choosing pain over defeat, I dug in, eventually forcing the beast into submission.

As I nursed my bloody arm and gathered the remains of my victim, God, the Master Gardener, revealed a truth to me: Bad habits of wrong thinking are spiritual weeds.

In infancy, these mental weeds are easy to pluck up, instantly gratifying, even refreshing.
Yet, when left to burrow deep in our hearts, extraction requires spiritual surgery. And surgery ain’t for sissies, honey. Healing up, neither. Still, freedom is worth the effort and pain.war-of-roses-triple-buds-photo

False beliefs lie camouflaged deep within our psyches: jealousy, resentment, judgmental spirits, bitterness, unforgiveness toward others, and ourselves.

The world excuses these things, blames them on our genes. Red headed Aunt So-and-So had that same fiery temper, Uncle What’s-his-name was an alcoholic too. But don’t be fooled. Justifications are branches on the tree of bondage.war-if-roses-tree

Bad habits are morbidly comfortable. Mere pruning isn’t enough. Parts may rip off at first, but for true healing, the root has to go. We may feel we’ve lost a limb, and we have, but God can be trusted. He knows what we don’t need. He is with us in the transition. He will send love, and loved ones, to encourage us.

Ironically, we often fight the Lord as He yanks at our false beliefs and habits. Like my conspirator rose bush, we lash out, unknowingly protecting the very thing that is strangling us. But God can handle it. He has taken scars for us before.

When the scales finally do fall from our eyes, we choose to endure the pain of ripping. Toxic relationships have to go, boundaries must be marked, and new mental habits birthed. Battlefields are bloody.war-of-roses-wet-battered-blooms

But we are never alone. The Lord is our front and rear guard. If He is for us, who can be against us? He whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

And know this: God doesn’t waste pain. He will use it all for good, when we surrender it all to Him. And we will reach our fullest potential when the snares of false friendships are untangled and we release ourselves from the lies we’ve believed.img_5322

Then, God will reveal His plans for us, plans to help us and not to harm us, visions He sowed in our hearts at birth. Hindrances wither and dreams blossom to their intended splendor. We walk in victory as magnificent roses. And our Master Gardener gets all the glory.

Dish by Dish

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Anne Lamott, wrote a witty book about the writing life called, Bird by Bird. She tells the story of how her brother had an assignment about birds due the next day, but he’d procrastinated, so he was overwhelmed. His father told him, “Just take it bird by bird, buddy, bird by bird.”IMG_7151

My young daughter stood in front of a heap of dishes in the sink and asked me, “How am I ever going to do all these?” I heard myself tell her, “Just take it dish by dish, baby girl. Dish by dish.”100_9780

As I walked away, I pondered how universal and cliché’ that concept truly is. It can be applied to virtually any task or goal. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

We just have to start. If we simply focus on the next thing, rather than the whole avalanche behind it, we progress. Nike says “Just do it.” My mother says, “Just do something.” I say, “Do the next thing.”

Jesus is the King of calm. He didn’t run down to the river Jordan all rattled and bark at John to hurry up and baptize him because he had to get to the desert and deal with the devil already.IMG_6739

He didn’t spend three years stressing about the cross. He moved gracefully to the wilderness. He dealt with each temptation as it came. He addressed the devil with the Word. Verse by verse.

I homeschool year by year. I plan meals night by night. I write word by word. I even gain weight bite by bite by bite by bite.

Jesus didn’t borrow troubles from tomorrow. He knew each day had enough of its own. Instead, He prayed, and obeyed. He guarded His heart. He stayed busy doing good and going about His Father’s business. Mission by mission.

So I’m gonna try and do the same. He knows what’s best after all. Day by day. Task by task. Pray and obey. I will do the next thing and trust that He is growing me from glory to glory.beach pics (266)

Aside

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27

We all need help. Yesterday, m01-IMG_3709y dear friend needed mine. She was in a spot and needed my hands to help guide her own. All I had to do was shuffle paper and books and sort through piles. Box up, organize, delegate.

Because it wasn’t my stuff, it was easy, refreshing and inspiring to unbury her. She got relief and I got recharged. That was the most I’ve felt like the “body of Christ” in years. I’m tired of church hunting. I want to be the church.

Trying on churches is frustrating. It shouldn’t be so difficult to find a home base. Why can’t churches just teach the Word and leave man made religion out of it? Why can’t we 100_8979focus on Jesus and His finished work at the cross rather than mingling law and grace?

Why do so many churches focus on light shows and flashy music? Don’t get me wrong, I love good music. I don’t have a problem with lighting. But mostly, I want anointed music that glorifies Jesus, not sin focused boohooing about my failures and how desperate I am. I want to lift Him up, magnify His name, see Him in every element of the service.
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I don’t want Kung Fu taught to my kids in Sunday school. I don’t want them watching TV or getting so much candy that I have to fill their mouths with metal. They don’t need sugary bribes to memorize the Word or to remember to bring their Bibles. I don’t want them bullied while teenage assistants text, or chat in corners, instead or doing their job. Children don’t need jungle gyms or game rooms. Why do we think Sunday school needs to be a cross between Chuckie Cheese and a night club? They don’t. Jesus is more than enough.IMG_5753

Why must we sit in the service wishing they wouldn’t guilt trip us about serving and tithing? It’s not about works! Please dear Pastors, give us more Jesus, more Word, not judgment. Not condemnation. Don’t shame us into serving. Give us Jesus!

He is the one who motivates us to fund missions, work in the nursery or stock the food pantry. Seeing the loveliness of our Lord Jesus unveiled in the Old, and New Testaments, naturally results in good deeds. Understanding His lavish grace floods our souls with compassion and a desire to sow our time, love and money.

But please, don’t mix law and grace. Don’t teach grace one week just to nullify it the next by a lecture on the law. Jesus fulfilled the law. The law was given to show us our need for a Savior. It’s not about what we can do for Him. It’s about Him and what He did for us. I09-IMG_8693f we could live in victory by our own works, we wouldn’t need saving.

I want to plug into a church where Jesus is the main thing and we keep the main thing the main thing. I’ve had enough churchiness. I’ve had enough of worldliness. And I sure don’t need a worldly church. Or shame based sermons. Just give me Jesus. He is more than enough.

MORE THAN ENOUGH

IMPERFECT DREAMER

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