Seasons

Have you ever had a season of life that tries, hard as it may, to shake the core of your very foundation?

Pulled in every direction – not with busyness we create for ourselves and allow into our families’ schedules, rather life that takes its hardest swings at our most vulnerable places.

Sometimes we see the hits coming and we duck. Other times we are broad-sided and its strength and surprise steal our breath and all we can do is grab our gut, double over, eyes tightly shut, and wait for the pain to pass.

A season filled with thoughts that turn into toxic worry and torment the dark hours made for rest. With days ending at daybreak, going through the motions moment-by-moment like wading through quicksand.

Life passes in slow motion and stalls overhead, like a thunderstorm, letting its cold rain pelt and bruise all it pierces.

A season when you lie down knowing your best wasn’t good enough, feeling every ounce of your failures despite your entire being thrust into your efforts.

A season where you stand at the crossroads and wonder why it had to be this direction instead of that one. Time pushing its hand in your back, shoving you forward down the path no matter how much you struggle to go back. You can’t.

A season when spontaneous tears burst forth in the little things like at red lights, feeding the dog and taking a shower.

A season when you can scream all you want, but no one’s listening to hear it.

A season when your blood pressure pounds in your ears like a drum and your heart skips beats – you wonder if it’s checking to see if it’s still alive.

A season when you don’t have the right answers – or any answer. Life gets in your face, slams it fist and demands answers you don’t know how to give.

So many voices asking questions, needing something, demanding attention you spin and spin trying to figure out which one to listen to first until you’re so dizzy you fall down into a heap on the ground and lose the feelings in your legs to stand again.

So you sit and do nothing.

A season when all you want to do is help, but you know the problems are too big and you have no power to solve them. They threaten. Mock. Taunt. Bully. No amount of sleep or mindless media drowns them out.

A season when in a symphony of stress and depression and anxiety play their instruments insanely, deafeningly loud, and time laughs, and hearts break, and you run out of positive thoughts to lean on.

A season when you begin to wonder if it’s only a season. Maybe this is my new normal, you ask yourself.

Maybe this is all it’s ever going to be.

Shards of broken dreams cut deep.

Wandering through the dessert of dried up hope and expectations, blinded by the heat of lost opportunity.

No direction. Just endless wandering dragging one foot in front of the other and you don’t even know why.

A season when you don’t answer the phone, or you walk down a different aisle, or sit hiding in your car when you see a friend because you can’t fake one more smile or trivial conversation.

Because the thing is, you’re still waking up. Your love for your beloveds overrides all of this. Faith that whispers you’re not forgotten keeps your heart beating.

Knowing somewhere deep inside there must be purpose for your life with every inhale and exhale of your lungs who refuse to stop breathing.

There’s this push and pull of self-hate and caring for your body in spite of wanting to reject it. To show up when you know there’s no one else who can take your place. To offer encouragement to others as though it were your last piece of bread – you give it away hoping it will help them more than it helped you. To rise above your own thoughts and emotions and share your crumbs of inspiration as a tiny, flickering ember that could either ignite into a roaring fire or extinguish itself in an instant of hopelessness.

Love. It’s a funny thing. It believes the best in us even when we look in the mirror and see the worst. It has tenacity to heal the sick, raise the dead and mend a broken heart.

True love thinks of itself last and that is why we keep waking up. It’s not for ourselves, but for others. It’s why we stay up at night worrying about our beloveds, turning each anxiety-ridden thought into a prayer and casting it upward, heavenward like releasing a balloon into the big blue sky.

It’s why we fight for those we call ours. Because in a world where there is every temptation to pull back, love presses on.

It’s strength never fails. It’s authenticity never waivers.

It’s why time seems to stand still because true love is eternal.

When the big rocks of life are hurled at us and fill up our cracked jars we call our flesh, we choose love. We choose to receive it and share it. A gentle motion that dances in step with life no matter how hard or easy.

In the moments when we quote Isaiah 46:10, Ecclesiastes 3:11, Philippians 1:6, Isaiah 61:3, Psalm 27:13-14, 1 Corinthians 2:3, Joshua 1:9 and Jude 24-25 we remember this is a season.

A season that has already been traversed by the Creator of the universe who bends time in his favor. He’s lived each moment and knows how to prepare us and be with us having suffered every emotion we could possibly feel.

He’s walked the road of loneliness, abandonment and grief. He sees the broken, the innocent blood and in his anger does not sin.

Nor does he sit idly by.

He’s summoning the stars, the sun and moon; lightning bolts and hail. He’s preparing them for battle on our behalf. He inventories his storehouses of snow and speaks to the wild beasts who obey his commands.

He readies his angels for war. War over us. War because of us. A war he has already won, yet still he thrusts his force from the heavenlies into our atmosphere to intercept the curses, the hits, and the targets on our backs of which we aren’t even aware.

The angels, they march in force and ride their chariots of fire and wage a battle no eye can see or mind comprehend – all for our souls.

In hand-to-hand combat they war for us, over us, in front of us, behind us, beneath us and beside us.

We catch a glimpse of their presence and cold chills run down our arms as angry ants.

Like raging seas is God’s passion and compassion for us. He steps down onto the waves as if they were stones.

They hold his weight out of holy fear.

He lifts the hem of his robe, and with water splashing against his ankles his steps turn to a racing stride as if our life depends on it – and it does.

Fear and fury swirl in the tornado, storms screaming, our giants mocking, and all of hell has come to watch.

They climb over each other for a better view of our destruction. They bet on how long it takes until we fall.

All the while God is running, racing, with the wind and rain and thunder exploding around him.

The water holds his weight out of holy fear.

Black clouds part the way for him in humble obedience. Lightening bolts illuminate the path straight from his heart to ours.

The war rages. Hell watches and all of heaven races behind the Alpha and Omega on horses, on foot and in chariots only our spirits can see. All of heaven is coming.

All of heaven is coming for us.

We stand on the battlefield wishing we were more. Wishing we could do more. Wishing for rescue.

In the moment when hell has us by the throat, hair pulled and heel on our neck, while God races on the waves there is one word bubbling quietly in our hearts.

It multiplies in strength and size every time we think it in our heads. It rises up in our throat and with a gulp of air we speak the word. One name. JESUS.

And as though the eye of the storm shines the sun and stills the wind, we feel the embrace of the goodness of God.

We realize God wasn’t running to us because he is always with us. We see he is running ahead of us, into the heart of the battle for our hearts.

We stand on the water that holds us out of holy fear because we are his and he calls us by name.

Hail and lightning and thunder and angels and their horses and chariots rush past us and the wind of their forces nearly blows us away.

We stand with eyes shut and palms open as God’s army stampedes onward like wildebeests on the African plain. King of Glory leading the way.

When the last of the angels and shooting stars have flown past we whip our bodies around to see something we cannot explain.

The fight, the war over our souls!

God’s heavenlies doing his bidding. He speaks and the world shakes and splits. He commands and hell quivers. Hell’s minions clamor over each other to escape God’s wrath because they dared to harass one of his beloveds.

He drives them like wild pigs off the cliff back to the pit from where they came.

We stand and stare at this phenomenon. How can our carnal selves comprehend what we see?

We forget to breath, being raptured in the moment of watching the Yahweh fight for us, that we would be worthy?

We are loved. And love never fails.

We lie our weary heads on our pillows to rest before it all resets and starts again at the sound of the alarm.

We wonder if we can make it through another day. A day filled with a list too long, problems too big, people so broken, we who are ourselves are so broken – framed with feelings of inadequacies, weakness and sin.

As we close our eyes, the thunder of the mighty battle echoes in our heads reverberating the promises of God to never leave us. To never give up on us. And to always fight for us.

With that, we drift to sleep, placing our very souls in the hands of God and knowing that because Jesus lives so we also live.

We hear the whispers of Philippians 4:13 and Hebrews 12:1 and their peace seeps into the deepest parts of our thirsty souls like streams in the desert.

And we know that whatever happens tomorrow on this earth, there is a battle in heaven declared on our behalf. And we will win because Christ has already won.

Love had the first word and will have the last word. And when that last word is spoken, this season will end. And that will be just the beginning for us, his beloveds.

 

You’ve got my attention

For a few days now, I have noticed a huge blimp flying over my neck of the woods advertising this and that. It’s funny, I remember the visual of the blimp way more than I recall what it was promoting because, well, blimps are cool and it’s not every day we get to see one hoovering over the earth.

Last night, in an unusual evening of watching some television, my daughter and I shook our heads at what companies are doing these days to try to get us to buy their stuff. I looked at her and said, “Do they really think we are so dumb that this is all they think we’ll understand?”

I walked away from the experience of watching ridiculously watered-down, unintelligent, sexist (could they please give the men in ads half a brain??) commercials feeling frustrated and insulted. I cannot recall one single product they were selling.

Driving between cities this week on a long stretch of highway, billboards screamed at me it seemed every 10 feet. Everything one can imagine was either plastered in paper, boasted neon blinking lights or had 3D statues strung up for all to see. So sad that these overshadow the simple beauty and serenity of green landscapes of trees, cow fields, and farms.

In the midst of so much visual clutter, there was someone in pursuit of my attention for the past week. He wasn’t selling anything. He wasn’t trying to manipulate my emotions, compulsions or cravings. He didn’t set me up to believe a mirage of quick fixes. He didn’t make empty promises of fulfillment. He had a laser-focused message He wanted me to get – and get it good.

God has been incredibly intentional these past seven days to show me one truth – I am not alone.

Several days ago, there was a difficult day that I could barely muddle through. I was at the third grocery store of the day trying to gather everything we needed to host three dinners back-to-back in three days, including Easter. My oldest son and I were filing out of the store with the scores of other people shopping for their weekends when beautiful flowers caught my eye.

What is it about flowers and females? We just can’t help ourselves. We love them!

Years ago, I reconciled that is perfectly fine to buy myself flowers. I am worth it. But, this particularly hard day struck me with wave after wave of despair. I believed the lie being whispered in my ear that I, in fact, wasn’t worth it after all.

My son tried to convince me to buy them, but I didn’t. This wasn’t a pit party or woe-is-me moment, it was a seriously dark day for good reason and I couldn’t find a silver lining in the thunderous clouds looming overhead no matter how many hours I looked for it.

The very next day, my doorbell rang. I had no earthly idea who it was.

I opened the door to find one of my closest friends smiling, holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers!  Her heart felt God’s tug, and out of her love for me and obedience to Him she stopped her day to bless mine.

Here is what happened the MOMENT I saw her and the bouquet. God instantly brought back the flowers I wouldn’t buy – and why I wouldn’t buy them – and He whispered to me, Yes you are worth it. 

Only God could have known.

I had been cruising along with cooking, cleaning etc, in preparation for hosting Easter weekend and had not given the flowers I saw the day before another thought. But, God was watching. He saw that, although I tried to hide my broken heart from my son, I couldn’t hide it from my Father. Oh how I love Him!

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* * * * * * * * * *

Fast-forward a few days. I was unexpectedly involved in a helping a tragedy that left me extremely shaken. Dazed and numb, I continue to coast through the hours and days doing my daily work. Inside, I am a wreck. Flashbacks, sounds of it ringing in my ears and sights of it every time I close my eyes leaves me with an inner tremor I can’t control. It was 2 days before I could shed a single tear. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. It’s only been four days and the tears keep flowing…

During this time, my husband and youngest son went to the grocery store for just a couple of things after karate lessons one night, and the sight I beheld when they walked through the door stole my heart.

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I asked my favorite middle schooler why he was giving me these gorgeous roses. He smiled real big and replied, Because I love you and for what you went through. I thought you could use some cheering up. 

I know without a doubt he loves me, and am grateful my teenage son would take the time to show me.  In my heart, I heard God tell me, I see. I know. You can trust your pain to me and I will take care of you.

* * * * * * * * * *

Yesterday was an ordinary morning of racing the sunrise to get everybody to where they needed to be. I stumbled into our bathroom to brush my teeth and saw something out of the corner of my eye.

I reached for it and discovered a small yellow Post-it stuck under my medicine cabinet. Then another near my make-up. And another one inside the cabinet. And still another…

Although they were unsigned, I knew exactly who they were from – my daughter. Each member of our family has distinct handwriting, and there was no doubt at all these was from her.

How did she know I needed encouragement so desperately this particular morning? She has a very giving heart and a sense of intuition beyond her high school age.  She, like my friend and my son, felt God’s tug on her heart and responded.

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Lately, stress has been high octane around here for many reasons – some completely out of our control. Like a small boat on the ocean, I feel like our family is being tossed around by ominous, bullying waves. I am seasick from it all and wake up every morning with a pit in my stomach. This pit is the first feeling of the day – not ideal. Only God knows this, and He prepared all of these love notes, with my daughter’s help, to help me exhale through the early mornings.

Does life seem to have the upper hand for you right now? Do you feel lost, tossed, tired or forgotten?

There is one God, one true God, who knows everything about your life. Talking to Him through prayer is awesome because, unlike family and friends, we never have to catch Him up. He has been in every moment. When life takes our breath away, and we feel sucker-punched, we don’t have to muster strength to relive, retell and feel everything all over again.

He knows. He sees. He cares.

Even if you have never, ever called on Him for help – He has loved you all you along, never more – never less. His love is not conditional and does not depend on our performance or lack thereof.

He. Just. Loves. You. Period.

Tap into His love today. He’s shouting it from the mountains, singing it over you while you sleep, and painting it in brilliant colors that flowers only dream of.  He is leaving love notes all over your life.  His signature is distinct, just like my daughter’s.  He is pursing you in ways that only you can deeply grasp, like my friend’s and son’s flowers.

Ask God to help you recognize His handwriting in your life. He is writing His love story on your heart to you, about you, and for you.  Take a moment and read it today. It’s amazing what His perspective can bring to our lives – truth, peace, hope and joy – even in the midst of dark days and frightening waves.

Yes, sometimes life absolutely has the upper hand. But, as a believer, I rest in complete peace knowing God’s hands are bigger and He’s got the whole world in them. He’s got you, too. Let Him carry you today.

 

When I Can’t Be…

I was 10 years old when my great-grandmother put a 110 Instamatic camera in my hands for the first time, and a camera has been in my hands ever since.

When trying to explain my passion for photography, someone once framed it well for me – it’s how I see the world.

She was spot on.

Relationships are like lenses on my camera.  Every relationship needs its own lens from zooms to wide angles to panoramic to macros, each person in my life is seen through their own lens depending on who I am to them: wife, mother, relative, friend, coworker in volunteering, neighbor and even stranger.

Recently, my lens in one relationship has become blurred.  I’ve had lenses that have broken, and this feels the same way.  I can’t focus clearly nor remove the fog built up under the glass to see the image accurately.

Frustrated, I try to continue this relationship with a broken lens.  Even more frustrating, I don’t know how it broke?  All I know is that isn’t not working.

Last night, I drove home in tears over this relationship and my inability to fix any part of it.  It’s a very helpless feeling to look at who I am to someone and know full well on their end that it’s not enough.

Truly unaware of why my lens, my role in this relationship, is broken is perpetually discouraging.  Deflating.

I am not a quitter.  Never have been.  So, I do all I know to do – keep the camera steady and use a broken lens.  But, I know that doesn’t work.  The results are fuzzy, off center, distorted, under lit, over exposed, etc.

As I drove home in tears, hands proverbially weary from holding the camera in this relationship, I cried out to God – quite frankly I will add.  I can’t change the lens.  I am one person to this person, and can’t be anything else.  We all are.  We can’t be mothers to our husbands, fathers to wives, strangers to our children, bossy to our coworkers, etc.  Roles – lenses – are defined.  So when I realized my role isn’t working, I don’t know who else to be!

That’s when God answered me – in the rain and dark of night on the city streets.

Be Jesus, He said.

Wow, if we ever wonder if God is really listening to us, it can be in those moments He shows up in such a personal way there is no question He hears every word, every thought.  He heard me last night and responded.  However, my reply was flat.

God, I am trying to be Jesus to this person in my role to them.  I am trying!

No, just be Jesus.  No one else.

It’s like God came along side me, put His hand gently on my camera, grasped His other hand on the neck strap, lifted it from around my neck and carefully took the camera from me.

Now be Jesus in this relationship.

I will say that this is first time I’ve ever seen the world without a lens.  I didn’t realize just how many lenses we have for our lives and how much they influence how we think.  Whether I’ve been a wife, missionary overseas, a neighbor chatting on the street, a mother of 3, a daughter, an in-law, or employee, these lenses also come with filters of emotions, external factors, internal factors, past experience, and our general perspectives.

It’s no wonder I am utterly exhausted from trying to work with a broken lens.

Just be Jesus.  Hmm.  What does that look like?  I recalled different moments in Jesus’ life as He traversed this planet 2,000 years ago.  He exhibited an array of emotions and actions.  He laughed, cried, got righteously angry, worked hard, admonished, encouraged, was tired, got frustrated, healed, didn’t heal, taught, listened, suffered, was sad, disciplined, needed time alone, stood His ground, escaped, was powerful, strong, weak, attentive, dismissive, stern, gentle, was hated and was loved.

As I drove the wet streets, hand shaking and my spirit feeling faint, God prompted me to recall some of Jesus’ names: King of kings, Lord of lords, the Way, Savior, Healer, Friend, Brother, Emmanuel, Son of God, the Second (or Last) Adam, The Word, Messiah, Bridegroom, Lamb of God, our Shepherd, Bread of Life, the Branch, the Vine, Rose of Sharon, Bright and Morning Star, Horn of Salvation, Rock, Husband, Builder, God, Deliverer, Shield, Righteous Judge, Helper, Portion, Servant, and Prince of Peace to name a few.

Prince of Peace!  When those three words came out of my mouth my heart leapt in agreement.

God was asking me to put down my camera and see this relationship through the eyes of Jesus, our Prince of Peace.

I can’t tell you what that did to me in that moment.  I have been desperate for help to know the next step to take, but was so bound up in my role to this person that I felt caught in a house of mirrors – my role reflected everywhere I looked.

He removed all of the mirrors and there I sat, knowing exactly how to respond to this person.  Be peace.

There is a season for everything.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 can relate to relationships (with, of course, modification of appropriate boundaries and actions)…

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

God was prompting me to be peace to this person.  But, not through my relational lens. Be peace the way Jesus is peace.

My entire view of this person changed.  I saw them how He sees them.  To simply be Jesus to them, I was able to feel compassion, had a clear mind, and my hands stopped shaking.  My heart rate returned to normal.  My breathing slowed down.  A sense of calm washed over me like a warm bath.  I was in a complete state of peace, because for one thing I was emotionally released (if only for a time) from being locked into a certain role to this person.  I could lay that down and be Jesus to them.  Also, I was reminded that God is over all.  He sees everything, and nothing passes through His hands that He can’t use for His glory and our best interest.  This enabled me to look up to Him and not be trapped looking only at the circumstance that surrounds me.

So Jesus I will be to this person for as long as God says to.  No strings attached.  It’s a ministry opportunity and I welcome the prospect of being part of the solution and not part of the problem.

When I can’t be who my relationship defines I should be, I can be Jesus.

My camera usually stays within feet from me so I never miss a shot.  God has asked me to take this particular lens off and let Him repair it.  I gladly release it to Him.  I trust Him.

If you have a relationship in your life where you feel you’ve tried everything you know to be the right person, try being Jesus.  Just Jesus.  Not Jesus-husband, Jesus-wife, Jesus-friend, Jesus-relative, Jesus-father, Jesus-mother, Jesus-coworker.  Just…Jesus.

It’s an entirely different perspective – one I needed.  I see this person differently.  I see the world differently.  I see myself differently.  All of it laced with grace, truth and hope.

What do you see when you look at your life, your world, through the eyes of Jesus?

Perhaps that’s the problem

The downpours and cold wind this morning reflect not only the weather, but the atmosphere inside our home today.  Between oversleeping, bad traffic, final exams, and PowerPoint presentations due, we all scurried around trying to get everything together and still be on time to everywhere we needed to be.

My daughter, in particular, was having a hard time.  We all have those days where nothing seems to go right – and feeling rushed adds insult in injury.

Finally, everyone was there they needed to be, even at the expense of me missing my commitment.  As I stood still, trying to figure out where the day goes from here, God whispered to me that my baby girl needed something.

Like what? I asked.

Love, He answered.

I immediately began to think up ways I could show her love this afternoon like going to Starbucks, replenishing her eye shadow that just ran out, having a nail painting session, etc.

But all of that would have to happen after school.  God pressed me that her need just couldn’t wait.

I literally looked at the shower stall in my bathroom and thought how badly I needed one.

Nonetheless, I replied, I’m on board, God.  Mission Love.  What do You want to do?

I want to give her flowers, He answered.

Can I tell you that just makes me cry?  God is our Good Father, Abba Father, Sovereign God, and Lover of our soul.  He wanted to give His child, His beloved daughter, flowers.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and looked at the clock.  I had less than 30 minutes to get out the door, buy the flowers and deliver them to the school before the window of calling students to the office closed until this afternoon.

I raced to the coat closet and grabbed my parka.  I threw on my faithful baseball cap that covers a multitude of mistakes with unwashed hair and put on my athletic pants and running shoes – not caring in the least what I looked like.

Jumping in the van, I took off for the grocery store.

Tick tock.

Standing in front of the flower selection, one beautiful bouquet stood out among the rest, and it just so happen to have her favorite colors flowers in it.  Got it!

Next, I passed by the Valentines Day candy selection and chose a small, 3 piece box of chocolate shaped like a heart with a picture of a rose on the front of it.

I already had a card set aside just for her.

Saying hello to one of my favorite cashiers who is like family to us, I paid for everything, and bolted.

Tick tock.

Arriving at school, I parked and began to sign the card.  I wrote that God wanted our girl to have these flowers.  His words went something like this,  Just like I designed and dressed these flowers beautifully, so  I designed and dressed you, my beloved daughter, even more beautifully!  

On Bruce’s and my behalf, I wrote, The chocolates are from your dad and me because we think you are really, really, really, really sweet!  Remember, no matter how dark the clouds are, and no matter how much they may rain on us, behind them, the “Son” still shines for you and through you.

Tick tock.

I brought a roll of tape along and taped the chocolates to the card and taped the card to the bouquet.

Daring the downpour, with no time left to spare, I raced across the parking lot into the dry building.  Breathless, I asked, Good morning!  Have they called the announcements yet?

The woman staffing the front desk said they just took the list to the office.

Off to the office I raced.

I threw open the door to the office and both women at their desks looked up at me and the bouquet of flowers in surprise.

May I add my daughter’s name to the list to be called?

We are new to this school, so I am still learning the ropes.  Their response was unexpected.

Um.  I’m not sure.  Let me check.  I think it’s against policy to allow these.

Whoa.  Really?  I never saw that coming.  But, they were from God, so how do I explain that???

Rather reluctantly, the woman went into an office to ask.  I was puzzled at her anti-climatic attitude.

Before she left the room, she left me with some thoughts.  She said, We usually don’t get flowers except for teachers.  Is this a birthday?  

No, it’s not, I replied.

She continued, At my old school, it was against school policy to carry flowers around all day.

Uh, okay, I said, hoping her old school policy didn’t apply here.

While she was gone, the other woman said to me, I have to ask, if they are not for a birthday, then why?

Trying to hold back my mamma’s tears, knowing what a hard time my daughter was having, I answered honestly, Because sometimes a girl just needs to get flowers.

She paused, took her glasses off, and stood up.

Great.  I’m probably in trouble now, I thought to myself.

She walked over to the counter where I stood and said, You’re absolutely right.  In that moment, her heart melted, as most women’s do over flowers.

She continued, If they won’t let you give these flowers to her, then she can keep them up here for the day and pick them up on her way home.

At that moment, MY heart melted at her kindness.

She sat back down at her desk and mouthed to me silently, Just know it’s an option.

The first lady came back out to me and said, I’m sorry, but they are just not allowed.

Why? I asked – genuinely confused.

She’s not allowed to take them to class because it will cause a disruption.

Okay, so can she keep them in her locker?

They will die.

I don’t think they will die in a matter of a few hours of a school day.

To know me is to know I hate conflict.  I just hate it and all the drama that goes with it. But, God wanted His daughter to have these flowers, and by golly I was going to fight for Him to give them to her…and asked for Him to fight for me as I stood there dripping wet, still holding the flowers.

It’s just not allowed.

I’m sorry, but why?

Because if we allow her to get flowers, then we’d have to allow that for all of the students.

And…what’s the problem with that?

Ha!  I stumped her.  She had no legitimate response and stood looking at me with frustration.

May I speak with who you asked? I asked calmly and with a smile.

Tick tock.

Sure, she said with displeasure.

The dean of students came out to greet me and told me the same thing I had just heard.  And by now, another woman (I have no idea who she was) was standing and watching this.

Oh, but they didn’t know I had a wild card.  Remembering the offer of letting the flowers stay in the office for the day (for everyone to enjoy on this gloomy day I might add) I played that card and proposed the office option.

The names of students to come to the office were literally being called as the dean and I spoke.

Tick tock tick tock!!!!!!

I held my breath, waiting for the okay from the dean.

She agreed, and just as she did, my daughter’s name was called over the intercom.

With not a second to spare.

I asked if I may wait and give them to her in person and explain the office procedure.

So there I stood in the hallway as a swarm of students passed by looking at a mom in a soaking wet parka and running shoes, holding a big, bright bouquet of flowers.

I turned around and saw my girl waiting in line with the other students that were called.

I held out the flowers and said smiling, These are for you.  The card will explain why.

We walked to the office together and put them in a pretty vase they set out just for us.  She and I turned to leave, but as I did I looked over my shoulder and mouthed to the compassionate woman at the desk who offered the wild card, Thank you, as a tear trickled down my cheek.

She smiled silently back at me and nodded.

As I left the school, something the first woman said to me wouldn’t let me go.  It’s why I am writing this post today.  She said, If we allow her to get flowers, then we’d have to allow that for all of the students.

Maybe that’s the problem?  Remember, God told me to do this so I take no credit, I was just the messenger.  But, perhaps if more parents would be willing to make their family second priority under God, then a ripple effect of love and confidence would be evident at school.  Statistics today show that children are more stressed out, are on more medications, and attempt suicide more often than in preceding decades.

Maybe they need a mom or dad to allow their day to be interrupted and do something out of the box for their child.  Kids are sending us signals all the time of what they need from us.  Are we listening?

God is sending us a word to speak over, or something special to do for our children, are we listening?

Are we willing to play the fool and be embarrassed over showing our children they are dearly loved?

I’m not advocating causing a scene or breaking rules, but as I found out today, there are often ways around an obstacle that offers a peaceful resolution.  Are we willing to advocate for our kids?

If not, why?

If not us, who will?

Now I know some would say that it wouldn’t be fair to the students who don’t have a dad or mom.  It would make them feel worse.

I get that because I lost my mom the summer before my senior year and didn’t have a dad. If anyone gets that point, I do.  But, think of how it could spill over to friends, mentors, and other relatives’ lives who could pick up the ball and run with it!

I would have given anything for someone to have brought me flowers in the middle of English class when every…single…day I struggled to find purpose for my life – feeling like I was a mistake and was left here to be nothing but a burden to my family and society.  I needed one person to show me I mattered.  That I was worth something of value.  I was loved. I would’ve been grateful no matter who the flowers, or note or chocolates, or whatever it was came from.

Our children today need to hear that they matter and they are worth it.  They need to hear God loves them.  We love them.  They have a future.  That they do fit in, even if we are their only safe place to feel accepted.

The easy thing would have been to wait and give the flowers to my girl at the end of the day when she came home.  But, God’s ways are not like ours.  We see only this moment in time. He sees time as one continuum, and if He took the time to urge me so in telling me it was as much about the timing as it was about the gift, then I’d better stop my agenda and listen.

If parents think their children are a-okay and are the exception and don’t need any extra effort from us to show how wonderfully they have been made, then parents aren’t listening. Their are no children who have it all figured out at 12, 14 or 17 – regardless of how many times their only response is, I’m fine.

Today, it was my daughter’s turn to feel special.  Wanted.  Loved.  Valued.  Important.  My boys will have their days, too, and I’m guessing God won’t ask me to bring them flowers to school, but I will be listening closely to the heartbeat of their lives to know when they need a boost, and I will be keeping an ear pointed to heaven waiting for instructions on how to show them they are so very loved.

Listen to your children.  Listen to the Lord.  Count it a privilege to get to be the secret agent acting as the messenger delivering God’s word of hope, love and a future.  Watch for the moment, and don’t let it slip by.  You may not get another chance.

What he said, she said about love

Happy 2013!!

I am so excited to continue this blog into a new year – this is a first!  We have 364 more days to traverse together, God willing.  Before launching forward, I want to share a December moment that I hope will be a blessing to you.  Ironically, this moment of the recent past has become a springboard in my life for a better future.  So perhaps this Christmas post does have a rightful home here today as I pray the same encouragement for you.

This Christmas was our first time using our new advent candles (via a recent post).  I really didn’t know how this would work out, and felt like I was bucking the system making up our own.

Turns out, we have had more meaningful conversation surrounding these candles than any other year ever.  On the 4th Sunday, we lit the 4th candle, the red candle of love.

A

We asked the same question around the table, Anyone have a story of love they’d like to share?  My husband, Bruce, spoke up, I’ve got one.

He continued, looking at our children, Your mom and me.  She’s the only one for me.  Over two decades ago, she accepted me just the way I was – failures, flaws and all.  She was way out of my league.  I am still amazed that she chose to love me, but I’m glad she did.

I listened, then added with a contemplative smile, That’s funny, because I remember it very differently.  I couldn’t believe you wanted me!  I was such a mess.  I was a broken person with a shattered life, who felt very unlovely and unlovable.  You were my knight in shining armor.  You swept me off my feet – especially in your Air Force uniform.

Two people.  Two very different stories about the same love affair.  How could this be?

There was one common denominator that went far beyond our starry-eyed love for each other.  It was God’s love for us – and still is.  He is the God who saw our whole lives, and purposed to intertwine them together.  We have always loved each other, but it is God’s unending love for each of us and for our marriage that is the foundation, the glue, the common ground on which we stand – even if we don’t always see eye-to-eye or momentarily dislike one another.

We read 1 Corinthians 13, known as the love chapter, and we see what we strive to be to one another.  However, when I look at our marriage through God’s eyes, I see His vision for us, as well as where He implements this passage in our relationship.

God is 1 Corinthians 13 to us because God is love (1 John 4:16 ).  Knowing He has our back gives us strength to show love to one another.

God gave up His only Son out of love for the world.  Each December, we begin the reflection of this great sacrifice at Christmas as we walk Jesus’ timeline on this earth.  We do this every year in honor, remembrance, and celebration.

Spouses can have this same love in their marriages as well.  Whether it is as Christmastime, New Year’s, or any of the other 363 days of the year, we can light God’s light of love in our relationships. We do this not in our own strength, but in His.

God is for marriage – the way He intended it to be.  God is for His children who are the husbands and wives that make up the millions of marriages in this world.  It pleases Him to see men and women living in healthy, loving, covenant community with one another.

If you’ve come to a point in your marriage where the light seems all but extinguished, hope is elusive, and warm hearts have turned cold, seek God first.  Ask Him again to be God of your marriage.

He is the tie that binds when we are frayed and frazzled.

I look back at the beginning of “us” and am in awe at how differently Bruce and I saw the beginning of our relationship.  Both broken.  Both flawed.  Both dependent on God alone to guide us by His mighty hand.

We’ve called on that same hand for twenty-two years.  To hold.  To warm.  To lead.  To sustain.  It is strong enough to carry any load.

Because we have been forgiven and set free from our sins, as believers, we have total freedom to love each other as Christ loves the church, even as we still wrestle with our carnal natures.

It will always be a mystery to me that God can take two broken people and create one whole marriage.  I’ve never been good at math, but how does 1 + 1 = 1?

Scrapping the math book (gladly, I might add) I turn to the Bible for the answer.

“Haven’t you read,” (Jesus) replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” ~ Matthew 19:4-6

I believe with all my heart that one of the main issues tearing marriages apart is that husbands and wives fall into the trap that in an argument, touchy topic, or whatever threatens to divide, there must be a winner and loser.  In a marriage, if there is both a winner and loser, both people lose – and so does the marriage.

We must daily remind ourselves that we are on the same team.  I know.  I’ve been both the winner and the loser and neither position was productive in our relationship.

When we take sides, we divide what God declared as one entity.  This only leads us farther down the wrong path.

As 2013 begins, may I challenge each of us to examine our relationship with God, with our spouses and all of our relationships?  Are we loving others as He loves us?

No matter how wonderful or not our marriages are today, there is a whole year just waiting to happen.  We will ride the highs and feel ran over by the lows.  Today.  Today we must decide what our plan will be.  That begins with God’s plan.

Whether you are married, engaged, or seriously dating, one New Year’s resolution worthy of doing (not just making) is to pray for these relationships, release our control of them, submit to God and His plan, and love as Christ loves us and gave Himself up for us.

Let’s make this year, 2013, the year God has full-reign in our hearts, minds and actions for His glory and our good – and all of this begins at home.

What do our relationships look like from God’s perspective?  Read with me 1 Corinthians 13 as God Himself sets the example for each of us to follow…

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

God’s grace, peace and blessings to you this new year,

Kristi

Does arguing with your spouse count as going to church?

Our family attends church every week unless we are out of town or ill.  This is not to achieve some perfect attendance award, but if a solid commitment to go is not regularly upheld, it is way to easy to find excuses not to go.

Excuses not to go?  But, we love our church!  We absolutely love going to church.  It’s a warm, loving, Bible-teaching church filled with many of our favorite people in the entire world.  So what’s the problem?

The problem is this annoying thing called sinful nature.  Speaking for myself, after living this many years on earth, I have realized that it only takes me missing two consecutive Sundays before the temptation begins to creep in to use that allocated time for myself.

When we take the day off of work, or forego a class in college, it opens up free time that wasn’t there before.  Do you get as excited as I do about how to spend it?  Work, play, sleep – I can fill bonus hours in countless ways.  When going to church feels optional, I begin to think about all of the other things I could be doing.

That’s the enemy’s whispers because of two reasons: One, he knows the Bible instructs us to go, and it does because of the second reason…there is blessing in going.  We worship, learn, fellowship, and are inspired and encouraged by others as well as have opportunities to serve fellow believers to list a few.

Hebrews 10:25, Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

So, our family attends church every week without question.  However, recently, the train in our family derailed.  Actually, it derailed Saturday night.  That was the first problem.  My husband and I have been married for 22 years.  We’ve seen each other at our worst and at our best.  We’ve been through tragedy, victory, and just about everything in between.  But, this Saturday night, we sinned.

We let the sun go down on our anger.

Every marriage has hot spots.  If not, I’d love to meet the couple that never, ever has any problems whatsoever.  When two sinful people take an oath to live the rest of their lives together, differences are sure to appear.  It’s just going to happen.

We had an issue that is an actual problem.  None of this leaving the toilet seat up or down or where to squeeze the toothpaste tube stuff.  That’s newlywed growing pains.  This had to do with different parenting styles in a certain area.  The details aren’t important here, but with a valid issue as real as this one, that Saturday night we went to bed unwilling to budge in our positions.

In the wee hours of the night, when my head finally hit the pillow, I thought about church which was only a sunrise away.  Ug.  Realizing it wasn’t going to happen because of Bruce’s and my standoff, I turned off my preset alarm and fell asleep.

The next morning, I woke up with a heaviness in my heart.  Going to bed angry with each other was our first mistake.  We know better, so how is it we can justify and rationalize sin?  I knew a couple once who went to bed in a heated argument so much so, one of them left the bedroom and slept somewhere else in the house.  Overnight, the wife had a massive heart attack in her sleep and died.  The husband is left living the rest of his life knowing a fight was his last interaction with her.  A heavy weight to bear indeed.

Scripture is clear – In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent… – Psalm 4:4

‘In your anger do not sin’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4:26-27

We did.

We should have gotten out of bed and dealt with it, but let’s face it – too much stubbornness and pride was at stake.

The next morning, while the kids slept in, Bruce and I had to figure out where we were going from here.  In the early years of our marriage, there were times we went to church blazing mad at each other.  We didn’t speak to each other the whole time, but were nice and sweet as honey to everyone else.  Hypocrisy.

How dare I hug a neck or share a laugh with a friend or casual acquaintance while I shoot laser eyes at the man who voluntarily entered a covenant with me to spend the rest of his life with me – and me with him.

But, sometimes problems just can’t be solved by the time the music starts.  Like problems that pop up on the way to church, for example.  What do we do then?  We have different roles of service we are committed to serve.  Things are expected of us.  Do we let everyone down?

Wow.  Writing this lets me see how much going to church can become more about people and less about God.  While we are tangled up in our drama, it’s like God is standing there saying, Helloooo!  What about Me? I thought you were coming to meet with Me?

Church is God’s house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:13).  So what does God say about conflict and attendance?  Jesus spoke directly to it in Matthew 5:23 –

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come offer your gift.

Ouch.

But, He’s right.  Believe me, I’ve tried to skirt around this.  I’ve gone to church before knowing this Scripture, so I thought that if I just didn’t worship while the music played I could still reap all of the other benefits of church and serve my duties.

What?

Everything we do is an act of worship.

Romans 12: 1-2, Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

But, Bruce and I not going to church meant our kids would have to miss, too.

Yep.

There is a cost to sin.  Our first sin was going to bed angry and not resolving it.  The cost?  All of us miss church.

So we did.

They slept, blissfully unaware of Bruce and I working through this sticky issue we had between us.  For two hours, we talked, debated, talked…round and round we went.

We eventually resolved our conflict.  New strides were made in this area more than in many attempts in the past.  It was great!  Progress! Apologies were offered.  Tempers cooled down.  And everything culminated in praying together and starting the day over – ironically just as the last hour of church ended.

I remember thinking to myself, It’s strange, but I feel like I’ve been to church today.  We missed the music, the teaching, our friends and our service, but God was able to finally break through our stubborn hearts and help us resolve a long-standing issue.  We grew as people and as a couple.  We grew in our faith.  Hey, aren’t those things some of what church is about?

We’ll stream the sermon we missed online, but I’ll tell you that I feel like I got a great one at home.  We felt God’s hand of discipline in that our kids missed church as a result of our sin of going to bed with unresolved anger.  Children learn future habits from their parents.  Do I want my children’s marriages to be ones laced with fake smiles hiding hard hearts on Sunday morning, or be willing to miss a rare Sunday to resolve conflict and return to church with genuine love and living in peace and harmony with their spouse?  I would beg them to forfeit the proverbial perfect attendance gold star in lieu of being righteous in God’s eyes and in the eyes of their spouse.

Here’s the two ways the rest afternoon could have gone: We could have gone to church spitting mad and held it in for a few hours.  However, the minute we got home that can of worms would pop open and everything would start up all over again – probably for the rest of the day.

Or, as it happened, after praying with each other, we prayed with the kids for God to be with us in our day.  This resulted in a picnic!  We went to a favorite little shopping place that has green space and each of us got lunch from where we wanted – all within walking distance from each other.  We had a family picnic – even brought the dog and our newest pet, a hedgehog.  Bruce, leaning on crutches and me with my surgical shoe firmly planted in the ground, threw the football with our kids.  We played frisbee and took silly pictures of our pets.  We thoroughly enjoyed the gorgeous fall air and warm sunshine.  We stayed for hours.  It was some of the most enjoyable family time we’ve had in a while (thanks to the medical issues we’ve battled lately).

One very surprising thing happened that afternoon I must share because it wasn’t a coincidence.  Like I mentioned, we each got a to-go box from the different restaurants we wanted.  Donning my casual athletic shorts, a t-shirt and one running shoe :)I walked into the place where my food was waiting.

Stepping up to the counter, I waited while two guys looked pretty busy filling orders.  One of them looked up at me and said, completely out of the blue, You look like you’re expecting to have a great day today!

Not convinced I heard him correctly, I kindly asked him to repeat.  He said the same thing.

I almost went the self-deprecating route, telling him how much a shower helps, but I decided not to.  Instead, I smiled and muttered a quizzical Thank you.

He paused from his duties, looked at me, and said, It’s like you are shining.  You have this glow about you.

I must say I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that before.  A little embarrassed, I wasn’t sure how to respond.  I think I let out a nervous giggle (I do that sometimes).  I paid for my food and joined my crew at the picnic.

While eating, I told my family what happened.  Bruce said, He saw Jesus in you. (Matthew 5:16)

Hmm.  That guy’s remarks was such an odd moment to experience.  But, I believe God allowed it for a reason.  It proved to me, in a most unique way, that God’s ways really do work.  They really are best.

I know my marriage and I know me.  I can be stubborn!  If we had gone to church under false pretenses, the afternoon would have been miserable. A dark cloud would have hung over our house and who knows how long we would have drug out our argument.

Instead, we dealt with the matter at hand, however inconvenient to our family’s schedule, and enjoyed a blissful afternoon of rest and relaxation, laughing and sharing life together.  The light of Christ shone through our humanness because God knows what He’s doing.  A light so bright that evidentially it can radiate to the naked eye.  Humbling!

He’s given us instructions for living because they glorify Him and are in our best interest.

More than that nice guy in the restaurant, I want Christ’s light in me to shine on my family – my husband and children.  I want to be the same person in the privacy of our home that I am in public view at church.  Their opinion of me matters most.  But, more than what they think, I want the God I serve to be pleased with me.  Even above my husband, God is the One I must ultimately answer to.

My family ended the awesome day yesterday watching the 1966 classic, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (an annual tradition for us).  Linus thinks he’s found the most sincere pumpkin patch for the imaginary Great Pumpkin to visit.  He tells Lucy, Look around, not a sign of hypocrisy in sight.  May we be found the same.

I realize some problems are bigger than a weekend.  I get that.  But, what God is getting at is that what is in our control, what is our responsibility, we should own.  We have the freedom to be angry, but are instructed not to sin in our anger.  As a friend and I were just saying earlier this week, we reach our victories quickest when we don’t stumble along the path.  Had Bruce and I dealt with the conflict head-on, tired and all, instead of going to bed, we would have reached resolution hours earlier, gotten a better night’s sleep, and had been able to go to church with clear consciences and whole hearts.

Below are some go-to Scriptures I frequently reference and hope they are a blessing to you as well…

Hebrews 4:14-16, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Jeremiah 6:16, This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls…”

Romans 12:9 – 10, Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:18, If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Hebrews 12:1-3, Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

1 Corinthians 9:24, Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.


Why I love the body of Christ – forgiving friendship

Yesterday, I wrote about a friend of mine who has an amazing testimony of redemption and transformation.  Today, I’d like to tell you a story…

Once upon a time there were two friends.  For years, they shared life together.  One day, massive heartbreak occurred.  The friendship dissolved.  Time passed, but not without the lacing of an occasional, short hello or semi-genuine smile when we saw one another. It never grew less awkward.

Boundary lines were drawn and mutual friends were lost.  My name was dishonored, and at times I felt extremely alone.  Betrayed.  Unloved.  Forgotten.

During this time, I sought God as my refuge.  He and I dealt with my heartache.  He taught me how to be okay, even if life around me wasn’t fully okay.  He became known to me as my God of sanity.  Still, there was a sense of awkwardness stirring.  Things were unsettled between my friend and me.  I had done what I could to seek amicable relations, yet I felt powerless to do anything more as I no longer had a dog in the fight.

I let my friend go – partially because I will never force anyone be with me who doesn’t want to, and partially because I could not control any of this, including her feelings toward me.

Years passed.

Recently, to my surprise, I received a phone call from her.  Just to hear her voice on my voicemail caught me off guard.  I had no earthly idea why she called because our lives have not overlapped for a long time.  Before I was able to return her call, I ran into her at church.  I began with an immediate apology for not returning her call yet due to life barraging me with wave after wave of relentless issues to deal with all at once.

She simply took my hand, and with tearful eyes, began to apologize to me.  I was taken back at her sincerity, genuineness and humility.  She was visibly, transparently broken. She told me that God used a recent sermon to convict her so heavily regarding me that she could not carry this weight one more step.  The words she used were extremely powerful to me…

Although I have always loved you, I have not loved you well.  I am sorry.

When she said that, it was like cool water to a thirsty soul.  Over time, I had worked things through with God to overcome my grief, anger and sheer shock of events, but I had no idea how much good it would do for my heart to hear her words.

Her husband stood with us as she offered her apology several times.  I told her with amazement, Your countenance is different.  You have a softness about you that I haven’t seen in years.  She replied through tears, Thank you.  I needed to hear that. 

It was a beautiful moment between two people.  God had surely done a huge work in her heart.  It was visible in many ways.

Her apology is one I never thought would happen. You know how it goes – hurts happen, time passes, life goes on, the subject gets dropped, feelings get stuffed and we smile as if nothing ever happened while a sting pierces our heart – but we hide it well.

This is not how God intended it to be with people, particularly within the body of Christ. He has set forth rules for handling life’s sticky situations, and Christians are, therefore, held to a higher standard.  I totally get that, but what I think the world doesn’t understand is that we are human, very human.  Christ lives in us, but we have free will to choose our behavior.  We want to please God, but we wrestle incessantly with our human nature that is selfish on all counts.

Paul wrote about this in Romans 7:14-25.  It takes everything in us, but it is only with God’s help, we live the way He wants us to live.  Our spirit knows the Truth, but our flesh craves a human response.

Delightfully, because God had worked with me to forgive her a long time ago, I was freely able to extend that forgiveness to her with no strings attached.  That’s what felt so incredible!  She and I came at this from two different vantage points, but because God was the common thread, He wove us together in His mercy and grace.

I can say with a sincere heart that all is well.  It was a biblical moment that superseded our humanness.

Just last week, I read the headlines of a national magazine that so-and-so will never forgive so-and-so and that she has written her off forever.  I thought to myself how sad that was.  Forever is a long time.  And, for Christ-followers, we will share forever together so we’d better learn how to get along now!

Are either of us, my friend or me, perfect people?  No.  Do we have perfect lives?  No.  Do we serve a perfect God, who took the time while ruling the universe, to reach down and mend a relationship among the 6+ billion people who walk this planet?  Yes.

It was a miraculous moment.  Honestly, I had given up hope that anything like that would ever occur.  Her heartfelt actions and words refreshed my hope that the seemingly impossible is possible with God.  Everything is possible with God (Mark 10:27).

Had we not been believers, trying to live according to God’s ways, our story would end with the same headline of being written off forever.  Not so with God.  Who would have thought?

Being a part of the body of Christ means we are intertwined in each others’ lives.  We are – family.  We have a Heavenly Father to whom we are accountable for our actions.  The world says to be our own god and make our own rules and answer to no one.  The only place that gets us is alone, because it’s all about us, right?

Christians may not always get it right.  We live under a microscope of cynicism from the world who waits for us to get tripped up in our faith journey.  Yep.  It’s going to happen. We are sinners saved by grace.  But, the difference is that with God, we get a chance to start again.

His forgiveness is the only kind that lasts.   If we forgive on a human level, we are bound by conditional love – which is hyper-temperamental and unreliable.  We forgive out of our finite capacity based on our personalities and life experience.  However, God’s forgiveness is based on what has been given to us – divine forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice for our sin.  And that is an unconditional, endless supply to offer others.

Do we wrestle with emotions?  You bet.  In the course of my life, it has just about killed me to offer forgiveness in certain circumstances, and I will not write that I have perfected the area of offering divine forgiveness.  But, through this experience with my friend, God has poured streams of living hope into my soul – an unexplainable optimism – that where we give up and come to the end of ourselves, God says, Finally!  Now let me carry it the rest of the way.

I love being part of the body of Christ.  Why?  It works.  God’s way works.  Not according to world’s standard because good guys finish last, right?  But, according to God’s standard, we can have unshakable peace, audacious faith, and irrational joy – and we get to share these hidden treasures with other believers who have also discovered them along their faith journey.

God’s way is hard.  Really hard.  But, it’s the right way.  The world’s way of dealing with broken relationships is broken itself.  Grudges drain energy.  Unforgiveness poisons the soul.  Ongoing anger turns bitter.  Relationships end, but the hurt never stops.  I’ll take the hard, but beneficial, way any day.  Christians still have feelings to work through, we’re not robots, but laying them at the feet of the One who carried the cross of my shame, I am free to trust His system of perfect love.  After all, at any moment, I may be the one asking for forgiveness.

Even though I am imperfect, I can love with God’s perfect love.  Where what I have within myself ends, He begins and carries the baton of righteousness and godliness for me – holding my hand as we run the race.  Helping.  Cheering.  Instructing.  I am never alone. Neither is anyone who calls on His name.  I have my friend back again and we have both been changed in the process – hopefully to more resemble the One who created us.  God is our Redeemer, Restorer and Reconciler.  We are thankful.

If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. ~ Psalm 130:3-4

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Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. ~ Ephesians 4:2-3

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Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. ~ Matthew 5:22-23

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Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. ~ Ephesians 4:32

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Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” ~ Matthew 18:21-22

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Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. ~ Colossians 3:12-13