September 25, 2020

These are not just unprecedented times…they seem to be unrelenting. Our enemy is working overtime to make Christians feel “…tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).

And it’s not just “out there” in the politico-nasty Twitterverse. It’s repeatedly hitting close to home. Many of my favorite people are being beaten and battered by storms of intense troubles. The waves seem to be getting higher and the winds seem to be getting stronger. We need an anchor, and quick.

Hebrews 6:9 has one. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

What anchor? What hope? If you read in context, this Hope Anchor consists of the promises of God. His very great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4)

So let’s take a minute and anchor our souls because things don’t seem to be calming down anytime soon. To which of the following promises do you need to anchor today?

Jesus promises you LIFE. Is the virus causing you fear as you honestly acknowledge your mortality for the first time? Remember: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…” (John 3:36). The whole point of salvation in Christ is to have a way past sin and the grave. Eternal life at home with Him is already underway for you! You no longer need to fear the grave.

Jesus promises you ACCEPTANCE. As we see how divided our country is and as we see how polarized our friends’ responses have been, are you afraid of rejection or not being really loved for your true self? Remember: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). He knows you. He isn’t surprised by you. He will never ever reject you.

Jesus promises you REST. Do you feel like you can’t go on because your sin and your circumstances have made you exhausted? Remember:“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Go to Him and stay there. There’s no task list or report card or deadline with Him. Just a gentle and lowly friend who cares.

Jesus promises you TROUBLE. Do you feel that somehow God is personally out to get you for letting these things happen? Remember: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Okay so this last one’s a zinger. Nevertheless, it is good to remember He didn’t promise perpetual sunny skies and smooth sailing. He is honest. He warned us ahead of time. Trouble is part of the package in this broken world. But for a Christian, we always have the assurance that God uses every single trouble to not to scar us but to shape us.

So I pray for you today that one of those promises from Jesus will anchor your soul in the midst of the storms of life. Storms that may outlast the derecho clean-up, may outlast the election, may even, God forbid, outlast 2020.

But the faithfulness of God’s love for you will outlast it all. And that’s a promise.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Hopefully,

September 18, 2020

Do you know how deeply loved you are?

You, yes, you.

You: with your financial problems and your weight problems and your marriage problems and your parenting problems. With your pride and insecurities and your addictions and your fears. With your secret sins and your shame and your sense of failure.

Your Father in Heaven loves you right here, right now. He’s not waiting for some future version of you. He’s not waiting until you get your act together. He’s not waiting to see if you make the A-Team. 

You’re His child and He’s a good Father. 

He never acts like a bad father. He is never harsh. Never aloof. Never disinterested. Never enraged. Think of the most amazing father you know–Those qualities–patient, kind, gentle, caring, providing, affectionate, interested, devoted. God is that times bajillion.

You are His dearly beloved.

I needed to be encouraged by that truth today-and so I thought you might too.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 ESV).

Oh Lord, give us faith to believe it.

September 11, 2020

Any parents out there second guessing yourselves today?

When we were raising our family, I was rarely certain or decisive.  Every direction and choice seemed to have supreme and irreversible consequences.  To spank or not to spank? What schooling choice is right? How busy should our family calendar be? Are sleepovers okay or the epitome of recklessness?

And today, the list of options is even longer and opinions are even more polarized.

Anyone out there secretly afraid that no matter what you do you’re going to screw them up? I can totally relate. The burden feels so heavy, and the stakes are so high.

At times like this when our parental confidence is tremulous it’s important to remember:

Our kids are not actually ours.

They are God’s. You can trust your Heavenly Father with your kids–He loves them more! He sees them–inside and out and they are never out of His sight. What He allows into their life He is also using for their good. 

He sees, understands, and perfectly cares for:

  • The kid who this week stepped into a public school for the first time.
  • The kid whose best friend humiliated them
  • The kid who heard and then repeated some colorful new vocabulary
  • The kid who is dealing with parents who have split up
  • The kid who had family values challenged by a new authority figure
  • The kid who struggles with math, or phonics, or speech
  • The kid who just hasn’t figured out yet what he believes

None of these circumstances intimidate or worry God. He is completely wise and knows what is really best. He’s not second-guessing the path on which He’s placed your kid.  He isn’t afraid for them. Because He knows His own strength.

God wants you to prayerfully steward these precious souls He’s put in your family. But you can be free from fear. Relinquish control to the perfect Father who will never lose His grip—on you or me or your kid.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30).

In His grip,

September 4, 2020

Our family–Thanksgiving 2002

When I was a young mom with four kids ages 5 and under, I struggled with being joyful (Every mom reading this just muttered, “Amen, sister” under her breath.). The strain of having so many asking so much of me day after day after day was not only physically exhausting but mentally as well. Although I loved my kids desperately and was literally living my best life, I found myself becoming resentful of these little ones who consumed my resources and gave little back. Four little kids produce a lot of noise, bodily fluids, and chaos. That’s just life.

I knew something had to change. God knew my mind had to change.

In His infinite kindness He led me to John 15 and I camped out there for years. Joy was the missing ingredient in my life. And in John 15, Jesus gives a counter-cultural recipe for achieving it.

Spoiler Alert: It isn’t more “me” time. It isn’t a break, a vacation, a run, a bubble bath, a glass of wine, or a date night. Those things can definitely be good and healthy things and it’s wise to try to fit them into your life. But they won’t produce lasting joy.

The only way to true joy is love. Sacrificial, die-to-myself kind of love. Putting up with them kind of love. This is costing me a lot, in fact this might just cost me everything kind of love. “Love each other as I have loved you” Jesus love.

To this day, when I feel joyless, stressed, under-appreciated, or basically filled with self-pity, love is the way out. The only way out. If I prayerfully force my mind to look outside myself at other people’s hurts and needs, I realize how many others have it much worse than I do. Then if I actually do something loving with a pure heart for someone else (whether it’s a clingy 12 month old or a grumpy neighbor)——inevitably, that is how Jesus’ joy has been and still is made complete in my heart.

It doesn’t have to be something monumental. It might just be a smile and a wave for that neighbor. Or stopping what you’re doing for the umpteenth time and without malice, listening to your child. I have learned that loving others produces joy.

And I’m not even a 2 on the Enneagram!

In the midst of life’s chaos, don’t forget there is joy to be found. The Holy Spirit accomplishes it for us when we live and love like Jesus. Begin to talk in your family about what others-first love might look like in your family, in your neighborhood, and in our derecho-damaged, COVID-crazy world.

If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:10-12).

With joy,

August 28, 2020

I texted a dear friend late last night. I asked her to pray for me. I confessed I felt weary even though I know Galatians tells me not to! Nevertheless I was feeling weary of it all. It’s not anything new. It’s just 2020. It’s all just so disruptive, unpredictable, unstable, and cumulative

2020, seriously go home. 

I wish none of this had happened.

And if you love The Lord of the Rings like I do, that phrase, “I wish none of this had happened” instantly reminds you of a critical scene between Gandalf and Frodo. If you hate LOTR, I don’t even know how to help you. 😉

Frodo was feeling like I was——worse even. He’s like, “I’ll see your “COVID-19, Derecho Disaster” and I’ll raise you “Mortally Wounded by an Orc Blade and Hopelessly Lost in a Pitch Black Underground Mountain Maze Filled with Goblins, Chased By a Psycho Who Wants to Kill Me For The Ring Which I Must Destroy On This Impossible Quest Or The Forces of Evil Will Forever Defeat Anything Good and Lovely In This World.”

I’d be in a funk too, Frodo. Granted his is make-believe and ours is real life. But still.

And as expected, wise old Gandalf has a word in due season. When Frodo says, “I wish none of this had happened,” Gandalf explains:

“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world than the forces of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the ring. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.” 

Meant to.

What if we were born, lived our normal lives for years and years until March 2020, at which point we were meant to go through all the chaos we are going through?

Meant to——for what? Please. It’s not as if there’s an epic battle of good versus evil in which we are called to play an important role or anything.

Except there is. We certainly didn’t choose to live in such times. But here we are. We have to decide what we are going to do with the time that is given to us.

What should we do with the time that is given to us?

Have you noticed how neighbors are talking to neighbors suddenly? How months and months of isolation, followed by an impossibly rare natural disaster has broken down the barriers that were there three weeks ago? I bet many of you have met neighbors for the first time. I bet many of you have shared generators, hauled debris, have toiled blood, sweat, and tears side by side with people who last March you didn’t even know existed. I bet those people would now happily come over to your house for a cookout, for a bonfire, for a chance to retell the story of the storm. I bet you are in a position to “love your neighbor as yourself” like never before in your life.

What to do with the time that is given to us? How about the great commandment? How about the great commission? Love your Neighbors. Eventually make disciples of them.

I am seriously not a fan of this “COVID-19, Derecho Disaster.” But if we were meant to have it——that is an encouraging thought.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up just as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

August 22, 2020

Road tripping to Arkansas!

This week I went to Siloam Springs, Arkansas— home of the beautiful John Brown University. We dropped off our twin daughters for their freshman year of college. My, how time has flown! It seems like just yesterday they were toddling down the hallway after a nap looking for some snuggles and story-time. Now here they are: Beautiful, accomplished, and competent young women – ready to take on the next challenge. I couldn’t be more proud of them.

I guess I just want to encourage you moms and dads this week — keep up the good work! I know how exhausting parenthood is. And how daily that exhaustion is. The sheer volume of practical, recurring domestic duties and the way they pile up — dishes and laundry and cooking and shopping and sweeping and bathing and feeding. It’s a LOT. And then there’s the weight of responsibility of raising a tiny little helpless soul to be a functioning, upstanding citizen and by God’s grace a thriving, maturing disciple of Christ. It’s daunting. it’s challenging. It feels unending. But it’s not.

I’m here to tell you: that level of parenthood not only has an ending but that ending sneaks up quickly on you. I’m a country music lover and so in the words of the incomparable Brad Paisley, there’s a “Last Time For Everything.” And you usually don’t know when it is happening.

Somewhere along the way my kids climbed off my lap and never climbed back up. I don’t know when the last bedtime story was. The last bath. The last tuck-in.

But I do know when the last meaningful conversation was: their last night home. Until 2:00am. We talked about college and money and church and love and responsibility and friendships and how unbelievably blessed we are. They are two of my favorite people on the planet. They aren’t just my kids—they’ve become my best friends.

Of course I will always be their mom. But this transition to friendship has been satisfying and incredible. It is literally the cumulative result of all those tedious, exhausting, difficult, challenging parenting days and weeks and years. so keep up the good work parents! The payoff is worth it.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

August 18, 2020

How are you guys doing? I’m not asking just to be nice. I really want to know. I welcome your reply——even if we’ve never spoken before. How are things at your house? Do you have power yet? Internet? Do you need storm recovery help?

New Covenant Bible Church has been sending work crews to some in our church family who have been hardest hit but we certainly don’t know about everyone’s needs. We want to help with the overwhelming physical needs of our people. So if you have those types of needs——please don’t hesitate to let me know!

But as urgent as all that is, I’m frankly more concerned about the inner, spiritual needs of your family. How are you——on the inside? How are your kids?

A friend asked me yesterday about a decision relating to Children’s Ministry and my answer was, “It’s hard to think about that when I wonder if dinosaurs might fall from the sky tomorrow.”

I don’t think they are going to… but to be honest, at this point I’m not ruling anything out.

We are in the middle of a historic moment. A horrible, stressful, unprecedented, overwhelming moment. The number of chaotic and unsettling and downright scary situations occurring in our worlds right now is crazy. Almost as crazy as dinosaurs falling from the sky.

It’s okay if you’re not okay. But if you’re not okay——make sure you let someone know. There’s something to be said for “Keep Calm and Carry On.” But there’s also something to be said for having a safe place to be raw and real and to process this crazy time in which we live. God gave us one another in the church to provide companionship and encouragement when life gets hard. Life is now officially hard. Be brave enough to let your small group know how they can pray for you, your marriage, your kids, your home, your job, your life. If you don’t have that kind of community around you right now, please reach out to me or someone else you trust who can help you can find the kind of care your soul needs. Together, with God’s strength, we will get through all this.

Casting all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you. (I Peter 5:7).

With love and concern,

August 7, 2020

Phobias!

What is the silliest thing that you’re afraid of? That’s the Icebreaker question on this week’s GNNNN. We are asking it to prompt a discussion of fears in your family. This week’s Bible story is the account where Jesus calmed the storm. He performs this miracle to remind His friends that He is God in response to their cry, “Don’t you care that we are all going to die?” (Mark 4:38).

I’ve asked some of my friends that same Icebreaker question (mostly for fun and future pranking) and their answers have been everything from rats (that is NOT silly) to balloons, bridges, birds, tapeworms, ticks and tsunamis.

As kids, all our fears seem equally valid: bees, thunderstorms, monsters. But as we mature, we diminish some and dismiss others. But some we hold onto and decide, “This one. This one is for real.”

Fear of heights, needles, snakes, and the dark are some of the most common adult phobias. But did you know that 25% of Americans fear an IRS audit (1)? An estimated 12% of American adults are afraid of clowns (2)! Strangely, according to one 2017 study, more Americans are afraid of water pollution ( 53.1%) than of dying (20.3%)(3).

Fear of dying, though. Pretty sure that one’s gonna climb the list in 2020. Trying to not catch or spread this potentially fatal virus has changed the way we shop, work, school and worship. It’s changed the way our entire society now operates. Please understand: as a young woman, I suffered from significant and paralyzing anxiety. I am super compassionate to those who live in fear or battle anxiety on a daily basis. And I know COVID-19 has certainly amped up the environment where those fears can thrive.

But let me challenge you…What if even the very real, very pervasive fear of death could be diminished for us as maturing believers? What if it we could be free from it?

I heard a challenging quote many years ago that has stuck with me and helped me. It helped me when my baby niece was diagnosed with a rare cancer. It helped me when my friend and my nephew left for military deployment. It helped me when my teenage children drove home at night from hundreds of miles away. Or traveled alone in a third world country. It helped me through the deaths of three young nephews, a dear sister-in-law, and my father. It helped to ground me during many times of worry, crisis, and grief…when the possibility of death also includes the reality of death. It has reminded me that I (and my family) am safe in God’s hands at all times and in all circumstances–even in the midst of this global pandemic.

The quote is from Stonewall Jackson, a genius Civil War general and devout Christian:

“Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. Captain, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.” (4).

Belief that our days are already numbered by God as the scripture teaches, has brought me incredible peace and stability even when the world seems dangerous or my loved ones seem to be going into “harm’s way.” If you want to live Bold and Brave, that quote will help you do it.

In the meanwhile, look out for wolves, snakeskins, cats, horse teeth, going airborne on the I-80 Interchange, getting your fingers sliced off while ice skating, and of course, don’t let the bedbugs bite.

Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15 (NIV)

With love to you and your family,

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: A dear friend recommended a book to me that I read last fall. I promptly ordered an entire case and gave it to friends as a Christmas gift. If your world is rocked with fear and anxiety around death and dying, I highly recommend it to you. It is a short and easy read-but one of those books where you want to pause and reflect after every other paragraph. Literally life changing. Paradigm shifting. Empowering and encouraging. Remember Death-The Surprising Path to Living Hope by Matthew McCullough
WEB SOURCES: 1. Fear a tax audit by IRS? Don’t – the odds are with you 2. 20 Childhood Fears That Stick with You Until Adulthood. 3. Inc.com “Forget Dying and Public Speaking, Here’s the 47 Things Americans Fear More in 2017” 4. Stonewall Jackson Quotes

July 31, 2020

So, okay we’ve all been grieving the loss of a lot of things lately. Milestone events everywhere from dance recitals to sports seasons to graduation ceremonies to weddings and funerals. Some of us have gone months without seeing parents and grandparents.

All this grieving has been happening in significant isolation. I’ve regretfully noticed my weekly posts have become a little morose too. This is not a healthy way to live long-term. I’m asking you to join me in taking a break from all the negativity.

The Nobel poet laureate Miley Cyrus instructs us how to quickly change our perspective. A paradigm shift from stress to happiness is as easy as, “the DJ plays my song and I feel alright… So, I put my hands up, they’re playing my song and I know I’m gonna be okay…”

Obviously, I’m being facetious. But no matter what our circumstances, we can all find something for which to be grateful. Something to celebrate.

So, I recommend you have your own little Party in the U.S.A. I’m not asking anyone to cross any social distancing boundaries you’ve established. I simply think it would be healthy for us all to find something to celebrate in our families and then just go for it.

Has anyone lost a tooth? Learned to tie their shoes? Become potty-trained? Taken off the training wheels? Finished a book series? Gotten braces? Gotten braces taken off? Had their tonsils removed? 😉 Passed a level on a video game?

How about you Moms and Dads? Have you finished a work project? A home project? Met a fitness goal? Set a fitness goal?

This weekend, celebrate it. Your way. Balloons and ice cream optional. Miley Cyrus dance party also optional, but extremely helpful.

“Clap your hands all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy (Psalm 47:1).”

Good luck getting that song out of your head.

July 24, 2020

I spent this week at the lake with the family, watching kids finally doing normal summer stuff: jumping off the dock, tubing, water skiing, playing in the sand, and watching Hamilton on endless repeat.

For me the week has been all about soaking up some rays and getting lost in a good book.

Restful and relaxing.

But the week is drawing to a close and “real life” awaits. Sending my girls off to college, and our youngest adopted son to his senior year of high school. Time flies, my friends.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about scarcity of time. Vacations always make me do that. I can get so focused on how fast the time is passing by that I fail to fully enjoy the time I have.

I think it’s because the longer I live the more I experience how fast time flies. “Time flies” is just a softer way to say: Life is short. “Life is short” is just a softer way to say: We’re mortal. Death is coming. We don’t know how many days we have on this planet with our loved ones so we feel a frantic sense of time-scarcity.

But what if that’s really the illusion? What if in Christ the one thing we have more of than anything is time? How would that change our perspective? How would it change my focus here on earth? What if clinging desperately to these moments with my children could instead give way to a confidence that we have billions of years together in eternity? I might be able to let them go on their own big adventures without the paralyzing fear that something might happen to them.

Let’s never lose sight of the Good News: Jesus defeated death for us. Therefore, we really no longer need to fear our own mortality. We don’t need to feel sad that life is short. We don’t need to sigh about how fast time flies. Don’t get me wrong, when I drop the twins off at JBU this August I’m gonna bawl my eyes out. But I hope it’s with a firm resignation that they are safely in our Father’s hands and with a desire to see them live bold and brave for His glory.

At our annual summer picnic and baptism, join me in letting these words cement our eternal hope: “Buried with Christ in baptism. Raised to walk in newness of life.” (Colossians 2:12)

In Christ, we are already resurrected. We already have eternal life. It’s ours now. No scarcity at all.

Preaching to myself here, friends.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).