Passionate Purpose

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“But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24

Every day I am witness to the wandering purposelessness of mankind. Humans racing from here to there, searching, striving, seeking to find some sense of purpose or fulfillment, mostly in all of the wrong places. Why am I not more outspoken of the answer I carry within me? Where is the boldness and courage to testify to the magnificent, unparalleled grace of God?

Once upon a time ago, the phrase “life verse” was commonly used within the church. I don’t hear it as frequently these days, but if someone were to ask me, my response would be automatic, Acts 20:24. “But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.” I would have provided that answer 20+ years ago as well. Yet what it means to me now has grown and convicted me in new ways. This verse has taken root in my soul and wrapped itself around my heart. At various times throughout my life, I have felt frustrated by the fact that I wasn’t living out the ministry God called me to. In hindsight, I can see that I had the opportunity and the means to testify to God’s grace, but did not utilize them. The rearview mirror has revealed to me that God also needed to do some refining, purifying, and sifting in me. With every refining fire, every purification process, and every sifting season, God has faithfully uprooted something in my life that was preventing His work and movement in my life. In some seasons, I turned my back on the Lord and utterly neglected my faith walk with Jesus. In my younger years, I did not realize just how fleeting life really is. I felt like I had all the time in the world to fulfill God’s purposes for my life. I would wait for the exact right time for Jesus to catapult me into the ministry He had prepared for me, but, God doesn’t move like that. He wants our faithful obedience in the routine of everyday life. If I could not faithfully testify to the gospel of God’s grace right where I was, why would He move me on to the next thing with more responsibility?

When I read Acts 20:24 now, my heart is drawn to the opening words: “But I consider my life of no value to myself.” I missed that part for a long time. I cannot live for myself and for Jesus at the same time. What has prevented me from finishing my course and the ministry I received from the Lord? My desire to chart my own course, to satisfy my wants and my desires, to live for myself–basically my selfishness and old sin nature that I failed to fully crucify. Yet when I begin to consider my life of no value to myself, then I have learned to release my pride, my striving, my selfishness, and my focus has shifted to the grace of the Lord Jesus in my life. And how can I withhold sharing so beautiful a Savior and Redeemer while others scurry about, seeking their own fulfillment?

The purpose and passion of the Christian faith is not to be kept to ourselves. It is meant to reach far beyond the doors the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. The life lived for Jesus requires boldness and courage. It demands a setting aside of our rights. The fear is what holds us back. The fear asks us what about what we want? And Jesus promises that what He has for us is far beyond anything we could ask, think, or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). If we are grasping tightly to what we want, then our hands are all tied up and unable to reach for what God has for us. But, are we willing to trust Him? Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:1). David says this in Psalm 37:4 “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” When we focus on the mission and the purpose of testifying to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, our hearts desire HIM. Jesus gladly and willingly gives us more and more of Himself. He wants us to learn what it means to delight in Him and then not keep that to ourselves. Testify to His grace, friend!

Daily, I am surrounded by people, and I wonder what makes them tick. I wonder if, when they lay their heads down on their pillows at night, do they ever ask what this life is all about, what the purpose of life is. I watch as people try to find meaning in social media, but are merely wasting their time with mindless scrolling. I see the struggle to stay young and thin and fight the aging process. To grow older is a gift not all may be able to experience. I am becoming more appreciative of the days because, with age, for me, has come wisdom, and another day lived with the Lord. People have grown hardened, defensive, angry, and rude as a way to protect themselves from a plethora of things, thoughts, feelings, relationships, experiences. The sad and mistaken mantra of this current culture is that everyone has their own truth. But, the absolute truth is found in Jesus Christ, and He Himself said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

I find myself more and more relating to the words the apostle Paul penned to the Philippian church: “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). When people do not know Jesus, then they have no true sense of purpose. I know my purpose: to consider my life of no value to me and to testify to the gospel of God’s grace. When I–and you–are living out our passionate purposes in Jesus, then we are inevitably inviting others to join us. We are offering hope and truth to a lost and dying world. And, friends, the people around us are hurting, are broken, are lost, are searching, and are without hope. Testify to the gospel of God’s grace! If you know Jesus, then you have a story of grace to share. I find myself graced by Jesus on the daily. Who am I telling? With whom am I sharing that grace? I want to live out the life verse Jesus gave me all those years ago: “But, I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.” I have wasted enough time–I don’t want to waste another day. Do you?

Love Is Obedience

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“But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:5-6

Obedience is not a popular word in 21st century America. “To each his own” is the common philosophy of our times. We bristle against anyone limiting us or placing restrictions on us. Yet, obedience has been the hallmark of God’s children since the dawn of creation. Perhaps, better said, a resistance to obedience has been the battle of God’s children. Our human nature wants to do what we want. We teach our children early on to learn obedience. Granted, the abuse of the term obedience has contributed to our reluctance and rebellion against obedience. Men and women have misused the concept of obedience for personal gain throughout history. But, they, too, are human. They are not the perfect God, who has no malicious intent behind His commands to obey. God is the Father of Lights. There are no shadows with Him. There is no darkness in Him whatsoever. Thus, He will never abuse the power of obedience. We must settle this from the start; otherwise, we fail to trust in His kindness, goodness, and will for our lives.

I, myself, have wrestled with the premise of the word “obedience” in the past. It feels like a surrender of power and control. Obedience has always suggested rules to me. Rules generally did not equal fun. Obedience sounded like a drudgery that would pose an impediment to what I wanted. Funny enough, with maturity, it is evident that my opposition to obedience was rooted in selfish wants and desires. And perhaps even some fear. Fear of what I would lose if I surrendered my will. Now we are getting to the heart of it. Throw onto that low-burning flame the mindset of popular culture and we have an inferno. Society screams to do what you want, to not conform for anyone while Jesus gently beckons to follow Him, to choose His will and His ways, and to not conform to the world but, instead, be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2).

In the church denomination of my early childhood, being a Christian was synonymous with boredom, a lack of joy, and appearing burdened and unhappy. I didn’t see it then, but as I grew up and became an adult with my own relationship with Jesus, I felt heavy-hearted with how much was lacking in those churches. All that mattered were the do’s and the do not’s, very much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They were the individuals who imposed man-made rules on the Jewish people. They added to the Law and created burdens for the people. The joy was lost. Jesus never meant for His rules to be burdensome. 1 John 5:3 tells us, “Loving God means keeping His commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.” Faith follows Jesus. Obedience follows faith. Freedom and joy follow obedience.

To have saving faith in Him, the follower of Christ says to Him, “I believe that You loved me so much that You sacrificed Your life as the payment for my sin and that You shed your blood on the cross out of Your deep, unconditional love for me.” The believer acknowledges their own personal and desperate need for a Savior. Jesus loves us so much. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Jesus demonstrated His love for us by sacrificing His life for us. I love Jesus beyond measure because of His great love and forgiveness. How do I, in turn, then show my love for Jesus? John answers that for us quite clearly in 1 John 2:5-6. We show our love for Jesus by obeying Him and keeping His commands and by living our lives as Jesus did. We know that Jesus lived His life on earth to glorify the Father and to love others. Jesus lived a selfless and humble life. Jesus put the needs of others ahead of His own. Jesus came to fulfill the will of the Father. Jesus was obedient to the Father–to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). The perfect Son of God was obedient to His Father. How much more should we, who are imperfect, obey the commands of the Father? The commands of God are for His glory and our own good. They provide freedom and life. They offer us a way to live with joy and in peace. God’s rules protect us.

That being said, we must be on guard to never make our relationships with God about following a bunch of rules and checking things off a list. That is called legalism. Obedience to Jesus should flow from a heart that is responding to the great love of Jesus in our lives. Jesus has done a work in my own heart and life where this is concerned. I would read passages like Ephesians 5:22-23 or Colossians 3:12-17 which both outline certain behaviors that should be associated with the attitudes and actions of a follower of Jesus. I would try to embody those character qualities, which is not a bad thing. I had it backwards though. I tried to follow the rules because it was what I was supposed to do rather than out of a love for Jesus. However, by loving Jesus with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, these character qualities would be the result of obedience in my life. When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, He discussed some of the Ten Commandments and the Law. The people were so fixated on following the Laws that they missed the whole purpose. They would obey the Law by not literally committing murder, but Jesus said being angry at a brother made them guilty of murder. It is what is in our heart and the motivation behind the behavior that matters. His point was, and is, that our desire to obey Him should originate from a heart that is set on loving Him. We can never earn our salvation or be good enough for Him. Obedience stems from a heart that is in love with Jesus and a desire to please Him and bring honor and glory to His Name. When we love Jesus, we will obey Him.

Where is He desiring your obedience to Him today? I encourage you to not delay your obedience any longer. Follow Him. Faith follows Jesus’ example, and joy follows obedience. To love Jesus is to obey Him. When you love Jesus, you want to obey Him.

Life Lessons

“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” –Psalm 16:11

What makes you feel alive? What causes you to laugh with abandon and utter delight? When was the last time you paused long enough from the busyness of life and the chaos of the everyday assault of activity to remember? Go ahead. Take a moment. Remember. Close your eyes. Invite God into your moment and ask Him to show you. I’ll wait.

Welcome back! What popped into your mind? What memory came alive? How long has it been? That’s the tricky thing about time. It sneaks up on us and then is gone. It feels elusive and like we are constantly working against it. We fight the clock in some manner nearly every day. In the midst of the living, have we forgotten what it means to truly live? I am, by nature, a reflective person. I want to consider where I was, what God has taught me, and where I am going. Yet I am also very much a list-maker. I love myself a good to-do list. There is a sense of great satisfaction as I check items off, one by one. Somewhere along the way, I fell victim to the lie that I could relax and enjoy what is going on in my world, once my list is all taken care of. What have I missed amidst the doing, the activity, the to-do list?

Life happens so quickly. It is here, then it is gone. Life passes us by and we are merely passengers without the intentionality of truly living. When I was a young mom with four small kids, the days often felt long but the weeks flew off the calendar. I remember thinking, mistakenly, that I had all the time in the world with my children. It didn’t seem like the time would come for them to move on and live their independent lives. Sure, I knew the day would come. Yet, it seemed so far away. What I missed one day I could surely make up for the next. But that’s not quite how life happens.

Motherhood was my world. I loved being a mom. I felt like it was what I was created to do. When they were little, I loved it. I was exhausted a lot but I loved it. The primary school days and days of middle school were a different type of busy, but we lived it, we loved it, and I embraced it. Single motherhood was not easy, but I found my groove with Jesus and He carried us along. The teenage years, though dreaded by many, were not too terrible for us. We were a team that worked together to get it done. There were fights, disagreements, heartaches, heartbreaks, celebrations, disappointments, and every thing between the extremes, but I found myself rather enjoying those years and the people my kids were becoming. One by one, they grew up. One by one, I shifted from the center to the sidelines, forever their greatest cheerleader in life, wherever God decides to take them.

Life on the periphery of motherhood feels a bit differently than what I once had, who I once was. This transition, this void, compelled me nearer to the heart of Jesus. My role is changing, and the focused energy of my days is as well. Last year, a friend referenced this major life shift as a sort of grieving. At the time, I somewhat scoffed at this, not fully understanding. Yet, that was before one child moved 13 hours away, the first son headed off to college, and the youngest girl began her senior year of college, leaving me with only one kid left at home–and he has the busiest social life of them all. So I brought my question to Jesus–what does life look like for me now? What next?

Every year, Jesus and I dialogue about the focus of the upcoming new year. For 2023, He left me a beautiful word: life. Paul said it well, “For to me, to live is Christ,” Philippians 1:21 (ESV). Again, in Colossians 3:3-4 (NLT), Paul says, “For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” I love it when Jesus is so sweet, tender, and kind to me. Those moments when He says, “I see you, and I am not finished with you yet.” That’s the gift He gave me with the word “life” for 2023. In the Greek which is the language of the New Testament, life is translated “zoe,” which means unending life, God’s life. Jesus Himself told His followers in John 10:10 (ESV), “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jesus came to bring life that matters, life that doesn’t lose purpose or fade as the years pass by.

Truly living is found in the simple moments, the unexpected joys, such as the playfulness of puppies, the deer grazing in the meadow, the sky as the sun sets. In those moments where you know Jesus is speaking His love over you. Life is found in the relationships we have with others. Our families of origin, our church families, our coworkers, our friends, our immediate families. Yet there’s so much more than that. Life is Jesus, our relationship with Him, the mission He has set before us right where we are. Life changes, sure, but Jesus doesn’t. As long as there is breath in our lungs, He has a purpose for us. The landscape of our mission field may change, but Jesus wants us to truly live during our time here on earth. It is all a precursor to fully living in eternity with Him.

Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, had much to say about life in the book of Proverbs. “My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commands in your heart. If you do this, you will live many years, and your life will be satisfying,” Proverbs 3:1-2 (NLT). Again in Proverbs 4:13 (NLT), he says, “Take hold of my instructions; don’t let them go. Guard them, for they are the key to life.” Knowing, keeping, guarding, and obeying God’s instructions give us life, show us the path of life, and teach us how to truly live.

What does this mean for me and for you, friend? For me, it is a notebook to write down everything God is teaching me from His Word about life in 2023. It is not waiting until the to-do list is complete before I enjoy the moments. Life is about Jesus, amidst the ups and downs. Good days will come, along with the bad. Seasons of life will change, and so will we. But God’s promise of life never does. I will enjoy the days as they come, rather than wait until all is perfect. I will not take for granted the beauty and the gift of the moment. I will live in Jesus’ will for my day and walk in obedience to His Word. He promises abundant life. He promises the joy of His presence. He promises to satisfy us. Will you trust Him to strengthen you to fully live, as you surrender your life to Him? Life is found in Jesus.

A Celebration of God

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Merry Christmas, King of Kings

Happy birthday, Lord of Lords

You came to earth

To make a way for mankind

To have a home of eternal belonging

The busyness of our days,

The hustle, the bustle, the haze

Often blind and distract us

From worshiping you as we should

Reorient our hearts to You

For You, O God, are more than worthy

Of power, of honor

Of glory, of praise

You are the Friend of sinners

You are the Healer of broken hearts

You are the intimate Lover

You are the Keeper of the stars

You are near to us

You are in us

You hear us

You love us

You are the Light on our paths

The hope of our days

The anchor in our storms

The home for which we long

Focus us to You this Christmas

Fill us with hope, joy, peace, and love

Inhabit our praises 

As we celebrate You

For now and always

Finish Strong

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“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

“They will still bear fruit in old age, healthy and green.” Psalm 92:14

“Pray that I finish strong.” The words spoken to me from a dear friend and mentor in the faith. Each time she says it, I am taken aback a little. Here is a woman who exudes the joy of the Lord, whose heart is set on eternal things. She is a selfless, kind, and giving woman, yet her prayer is that she finishes strong. More than once this has caused me to pause and reflect on her words. At times, I am puzzled. Sometimes, I shake my head and chuckle because she is the last woman who should be worried that she wouldn’t finish her race of faith strong.

Yet, in the last few weeks, these words have hit me differently, striking a chord within me. Perhaps it is because another birthday has since come and gone. With each passing year, the days feel fleeting and the urgency to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for my life kicks into high gear. Perhaps it is because I am now left with only one child at home and I am faced with the question, “What’s next?” since all I have known is motherhood. Either way, finishing strong is at the forefront of my brain these days. Yesterday I ran another half marathon, maybe my eighth, possibly my ninth, but I have stopped counting. The last few miles are the most difficult. The first few, I am just warming up. Miles four through eight, I am settled into a groove, running on autopilot and feeling pretty good, but I know the toughest miles are just ahead. Miles nine and ten are manageable. But it is the last three that are the do or die miles–every single time. I’ve run it enough to know that it becomes mind over matter, so to speak. When you’ve been running for that many miles. one would think that the last three should be the easiest because you are almost there. But it is in those miles that I am truly tested. Do I have what it takes to finish strong? Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” The last few miles are often the toughest.

Paul packs a lot into those three sentences. Paul didn’t just say, “I finished the race.” What would it all have mattered if he merely finished the race of life, yet failed to keep the faith? Three important things we learn from this verse.

  1. The Christian life is a fight. In the book of Jude, Jesus’ half-brother writes these words in verse three: “I found it necessary to write, appealing to you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.” Contend for the faith, fight for the faith, go after the faith, argue for the faith. Nothing about fighting the fight is passive. We do not grow spiritually by accident. We will face suffering and trials, just as Jesus did. Jesus Himself said that the world would hate us as it hated Him (John 15:18). The book of Acts is the story of the early church and how the Gospel, our faith, was spread far and wide–namely through the persecution of the church. Sometimes the fight will be internal, our flesh nature versus our spiritual nature. Paul speaks of spiritual battles in Ephesians 6. This Christian life is not for the faint of heart, but we have a God who sustains us in battle and we are reaching for the upward prize in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:14).
  2. The Christian life is a race. Paul is not the only writer in the New Testament who refers to life as a race. The writer of Hebrews in chapter 12 verse 2 says: “Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us.” Just like in a physical race, the spiritual race requires endurance. We need to train, to be ready, and to fix our eyes on Jesus who is the example for us. Yet we don’t run this race alone. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “Let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” In the last mile of my half marathon yesterday, a fellow runner joined me and began making conversation as the race neared its end. It was exactly what I needed to finish strong–just like we need each other to finish the race of the Christian life strong.
  3. Keep the faith. When all is said and done in this life, what we do for eternity is all that will matter in the end. Where we live, how much money we made, what accomplishments we have–none of this matters if we have not kept the faith and used our time here on earth wisely. Kingdom work is the focus of our faith. Are we pointing people to Jesus in our daily lives? Are we living for today or are we living for eternity?

Thinking back to the desire of my friend to finish strong, it resounds with startling clarity. Life wears us down. We grow tired and weary. We lose our motivation. Life, like long races, makes us want to give up and to quit at times. I once thought it would be easier to let the things of the faith slide during the bewitching years of life–when life is full of carpools, ball games, activities, and commitments. Yet, I see now how difficult the challenge is to keep it strong until the end, as it nears the final stretch. As life changes and the demands on us decrease, it would be simple to slide into the thought patterns that what we do next will not matter as much. Yet, God promises to complete the work He began in us (Philippians 1:6). He also says that the righteous will bear fruit in old age. How we finish matters to God.

The last three miles are the toughest, for sure. Yet what awaits us at the finish line is only the beginning and a cause for celebration. As I finished the half marathon, I wasn’t focused on how tough it was to get there. I was elated that I finished strong and I finished well. When we cross the finish line of this life’s race and reach our heavenly destination, we will be in the presence of Jesus. And every battle we fought, every setback along the way, every aching muscle will fade away and be totally worth it. We will be celebrating that we fought the good fight, we finished the race, and we kept the faith. Finish strong, friend, because Jesus is not finished with us yet. We will bear fruit in old age!

No Greater Love

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No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Tragedy struck close to home this week. At the college my daughter attends, there was an active shooter situation in which two brave law enforcement officers paid the ultimate price with the sacrifice of their lives in protecting the students and faculty on that campus. Several days have passed since this event, but the impact and effects have only begun to be felt. Many have wondered at the crisis in such a small, close-knit community and how such a horrific thing could occur. Evil is present and lurking in this world, and nothing is off-limits to the enemy of our souls.Initially, shock was the immediate reaction, but as time elapses from the event, humble gratitude that can never be repaid or adequately expressed abounds.

Yet, light, God’s light, is always present in the darkness. Two men exemplified the words of Jesus found in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (KJV). Most run from danger. Many mock the men in blue. Yet, as students sat in their classrooms on that Tuesday afternoon, two men, two officers, approached danger head-on. They stepped into the line of fire to protect those students and faculty who were unaware of the threat lurking right outside the windows. Only our Father in heaven knows how many lives were saved by these officers. These officers were well-loved by their college community. As I have ruminated on the events of this week, I keep coming back to the choice they made that day. I doubt they knew what the outcome of their day would be, that the suspicious individual they approached would turn and open fire on them. Yet, I suspect they would do it all over again, had they known. They would have chosen to lay down their lives to protect the community, just like Jesus.

Scripture verses like John 15:13 are easy to quote, yet many of us would not truly expect that such a thing would ever be required of us. Jesus is our ultimate example of sacrificing Himself for the good and salvation of others. Lately, I have been reading books set during World War II, books that highlight the willingness of others to put their lives at risk in order to provide safety and refuge to the Jews during that time. Prior to the tragedy this week, I found myself contemplating whether or not I would have the courage to make the same choices. Would I be willing to die to save the life of another, just like Officers Painter and Jefferson?

While I may never be placed in a situation that requires me to choose between my life or saving the life of another, daily I have the opportunity and the challenge to make a choice between what I want or what I can sacrifice for the good of others. I can be kind or I can be cruel. I can put myself first or put others first. I can be patient or I can be rude. I can be distracted or I can be present in the moment. I can offer my time or I can be too busy. I can live me-centered or I can be upward and outward focused. Often, the easy choice is the safe path. I can stay within my safe perimeter or I can step out of my comfort zone. Proverbs 28:1 tells us this, “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing them, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Oh that I may be bold as a lion.

Jesus laid down His life for me, for you, that we may receive in His eternal inheritance. Jesus carried our sins with Him to the cross and paid the penalty of death so that we may live for Him and with Him forever. Jesus calls us to imitate Him, to be like Him, to follow Him, which means do as He did. Lay down our lives, even in small ways, for others. I long to honor my Savior, and this week, honor the legacy of the heroes who died protecting others, by being kind and dying a thousand deaths to myself for the good of others. Their sacrifice will never be in vain.

Please join me in prayer for the fallen officers, their families, and the college community and surrounding area: “Blessed be the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in our affliction, so that we may know and be able comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Officer John Painter and Officer JJ Jefferson, E.O.W. 2.1.22

Following the Fireworks

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“This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5

How do you feel once the holidays have drawn to a close and the reality of every day life begins to settle back in? For most of us, we start a new year with high hopes, dreams, goals, expectations, and even resolutions. Oftentimes, gym attendance peaks during the month of January, diet plans are established in exuberance and dedication, and resolutions are made to do better in the coming year. Yet, as the days creep into months, our best of intentions begin to wane and our resolutions unravel.

Years ago, I gave up on the entire concept of New Year Resolutions because I always found myself being disappointed in my failures and shortcomings. I began the practice of setting goals for the year and evaluating them periodically and adjusting as necessary. Honestly, this seems to work better for me. I prayerfully reflect on the year that is ending and ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to direct the goals I set for the year to come. This year is no different. I sat down with a notebook and a Bible, and the Lord and I established some plans together for 2022.

As I was cleaning my house this morning, I contemplated this year of 2022. We have experienced and survived a host of new challenges since March 2020. Last year, I don’t think I was alone in bidding good riddance to 2020. I welcomed 2021 with open arms and great expectations. Yet, the year didn’t go as planned. 2021 brought with it its own new set of heartbreaks, disappointments, and unexpected changes. Beloved family members were lost; physical ailments and injuries abounded; altered plans and adjusted dreams were made. The clean slate with which the year began quickly filled with undesirable messiness.

I love a blank notebook, a clean slate, and a new beginning. Hence, a brand new year is ideal and full of possibilities. Yet, after the disappointments of the last couple of years, I find myself facing this year guarded and with reservation. The unspoken mindset is 2020 was bad, 2021 didn’t get better, and in 2022, I expect nothing good.

But God, in His kindness and faithfulness, whispered a question to me this morning: “Where are you placing your hope?” Where, indeed? My hope, subconsciously, has been placed in what I can see around me though I know where my true hope lies. The last two years have slowly and subtly worn down hopes. Perhaps, I have even ceased to hope anymore because without expectations, there will be no disappointments. This is not the abundant life Jesus offers to us in Christ. This is not how we as believers should be anticipating a new year. The prayer of my heart cries, “Father, change my perspective. Rekindle and renew my hope in You and You alone.”

God brought to mind this verse from Romans 5:5: “This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” When we hope in God, we will NOT be disappointed. He will never let us down. Hope is the anchor for our souls, Hebrews 6:19 reminds us. Humans will let us down; not intentionally, but we are all human, after all. Only the Lord Jesus Christ is perfect. We can trust in Him. He wants to stir hope and expectation in Him in 2022. Hope in Him will not result in disappointment. Jesus is 100% trustworthy. Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us. Jesus is coming again. Jesus has a plan for every single one of our lives. Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit as a deposit for our inheritance to come (Eph. 1:14). We can fully expect God to do what He has promised, just as Abraham did and it was credited to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:21-24).

I don’t know what 2022 will hold for me and my family–only God knows. I do know that change is coming yet again for my family. Not change in a bad way, but organic and natural changes that occur as children mature and grow up. Change is not always easy and is sometimes a little scary. But when my hope is placed in God alone, I know I will not be disappointed, regardless of what life brings. Circumstances will change. Challenges will come. Bad things will happen. Loss may deliver blows. But God is still good, and when my hope is in Him, I will not be shaken by soaring on the highest mountaintops or sinking into the lowest valleys. The key is trusting in Christ alone, looking to Jesus as my Hope, my Deliverer, my Savior, and my Redeemer. He is coming again for me. Until that day, I will look to Him and put my hope in Him and will not be disappointed, no matter what happens.

Hope in Jesus will never disappoint, my friend. What are you hoping for in 2022? Entrust it to Jesus–and expect Him to do exceedingly far beyond what you can ask, think, or imagine.

Happy New Year 2022!

Fifteen Minutes

“How long does it take your soul to realize that your life is full? The slower the living, the greater the sense of fullness and satisfaction.”

–Ann Voskamp

The moments are full of promise, ripe with life. Yet I choose how to spend the moments. Am I hurrying from one thing to the next, eager to check things off my to-do list before I allow myself to enjoy what awaits at the end of the chores and responsibilities? For far too long, I have been ruled by expectations and my own self-imposed parameters. It’s been like a personal reward system. If I can just accomplish a, b, and c, then I will allow myself to enjoy this, that, or the other.

What happens, unbeknowingly, is that the little reward system continues to be pushed forward further and further into the future. The day is heavy with responsibilities, errands, and chores, and by the time the sun has set in the western sky, I think to myself, “I will get to enjoy the day tomorrow then.” But tomorrow brings with it its own responsibilities, expectations, errands, and chores, and the cycle repeats.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Delighting in something is a positive experience; it is not sacrificial. It is not a woe-is-me scenario. When I am delighting in Jesus, my heart is aglow within me, and I am certain it delights Jesus when I find my delight in Him. I have found that I am most delighted in Jesus in the little things, in those things that I know He did just for me and my pleasure and enjoyment.

While I recognize that cell phones are somewhat of a necessity in our modern times, I do not especially enjoy them. In fact, most days I hate them. People keep their faces glued to them and have lost the art of fully engaging in the moment. Time is not guaranteed to us. Tomorrow is not certain. Maybe it’s because I am staring at the reality that there will only one of my children remaining at home in just a few short months or maybe it’s because I feel time is slowly fading away and slipping past me. But, I don’t want to miss the moments. Not one of them. How much of life is lost and how much beauty is missed because our faces can’t be severed from the almighty cell phone screen? We have forgotten how to just be rather than be entertained. We have learned to stay so distracted that we can hardly be alone with our own thoughts, much less quiet ourselves enough in the presence of God to hear His still small voice within us that matters more than anything going on around us. I am guilty of this but have become hyper-aware of it, and I am ready for something new. I am ready to set down my phone and look up, look around, and fully engage in life around me.

Each week, as a fresh one begins, I take time to reflect on where I am and consider what God may want me to focus on, to be aware of, or specific ways to live intentionally in the coming week. This week, I have decided to sit outside on my front porch in my rocking chair for at least fifteen minutes a day. Don’t misunderstand me: I love the outdoors. I run nearly every day during the week, and my dogs get a nice, long walk each day as well. I escape into the mountains almost every chance I get, especially during the month of October. So it’s not like I am never outside. Yet, I am often outside doing something or being active.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Never is that more real than when I take time in nature and settle myself before Him. Creation speaks of His artistic mastery. Sunsets and sunrises are magnificent to behold. Clouds in the October sky are vibrant and the mountains look alive set against them. The wind whispering through the trees, as leaves make their descent to the ground below. Chirping birds, racing chipmunks, and sassy squirrels all seem to be extra busy this time of year. Crisp fall days incite a playful friskiness in my pups. As I sat on my front porch rocker this evening, I beheld all of it. My dogs chasing each other at full speed through the yard, completely unencumbered. My hot, steaming mug of apple cider held tightly within my palms to warm me. Fifteen minutes became thirty because my surroundings testified to the glory and majesty of my heavenly Father, and it was breathtaking. My heart rejoiced, and my soul was satiated in the goodness of God, right here, in the land of the living. My phone remained on the kitchen counter, where it belonged. Nothing on that device could ever compare to the wonder of my front porch.

James 1:17 states, “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” As I sat there, totally captivated by the scene around me, Jesus was right there with me. And He was showing me that by delighting in His gifts, I was delighting in Him. Every single thing, from the falling leaves to the warm cider to the carefree playfulness of my dogs, was a gift from Him to me. He is so very good. He is so very kind. He is so very personal. And He is so very intimate. My heart soared, and I knew this savoring of the moment was synonymous with unfettered joy.

Though the days of travel baseball with my oldest son have drawn to a close, the memories we have made through the years are gifts from the Father. One of our final trips was to the coast in South Carolina. During that trip, I snapped the picture that is posted at the top of the page. The sun’s rays landed just right opposite the ocean, as the waves gently kissed the shoreline. We walked for miles that evening, talking and being present and fully engaged with each other. Each moment a gift. I see the glory of God in that picture, and His gift to me is forever captured. I will never forget that evening with my son nor the goodness of God in granting us those stolen, special, and sacred moments together.

As I came back inside from my front porch sitting, I felt a settled calmness and peace within me. Joy and even happiness filled my heart. I expect that my fifteen minutes of intentional sitting will become the most anticipated part of my every day. I dare you to try it. No distractions. No phones. No books. Just you and God’s creation around you.


Jesus, The Example

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“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued trusting himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23

In Jesus’ day, there was no social media, no Galilee Gossip twitter feed. Nope, news traveled the good old-fashioned way–by word of mouth. When someone had something negative to say about Jesus (and trust me, those old religious leaders infamously known as the Pharisees and Sadducees, had plenty to say!), they gathered together and conspired against Him. They did not hop on their tablets and spout off about Him. And Jesus did not respond @ anybody in His own defense.

Ultimately, what they had to say about Him, they said to His face as they slapped Him, mocked Him, beat Him, tortured Him, and crucified Him. And how did He respond? He did not revile in return, meaning He didn’t spout off or retaliate in an angry, abusive manner. He didn’t threaten them. He entrusted Himself to His Father. He knew that God would judge justly, regardless of what men were saying about Him or doing to Him.

In our modern era of technology, we would all be wise to take one out of Jesus’ playbook and hold our tongues…or perhaps, hold our hands tightly clasped together so we don’t get typing-happy with our fingers and in a matter of seconds, obliterate someone with our words. Even when we feel justified. Jesus, who WAS the only perfect human ever, would have been justified to defend Himself, but He trusted God’s plan for His life.

Jesus told His followers in Luke 6:27-28, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”** That is the epitome of living counter-cultural in our world. Our instincts and automatic reactions are to defend ourselves and go back after the offender. Jesus says to do differently than that–to love them, to do good to them, to bless them, and to pray for them.

I don’t always feel like praying for someone who has hurt me or even made me mad. In fact, it is usually the last thing I want to do. But, I have learned that it is impossible to retain feelings of anger and ill-will towards someone for whom we are praying. As we pray for them, our hearts are the one that begin to change.

Before Jesus was crucified, He warned His disciples of His pending death and resurrection, though they did not understand it at the time. In His discourse on the Mount of Olives found in John’s gospel, Jesus said this, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). Jesus wanted them to expect hatred, just like His followers today can expect hatred. But Jesus also already told them how to interact with those who hated them. He instructed them to love them rather than respond with hatred, to bless them, to do good to them, and to pray for them. Exactly what we all feel like doing in that situation, isn’t it?

Jesus’ words apply to us in our culture today too. When we feel attacked for our faith or are on the receiving end of hatred, venom, ill-will, malice, anger, or anything of the like, we have the power to respond just like Jesus did as they reviled and abused Him. His Holy Spirit within us offers us the strength to apply the holy hush. By that, I mean, our lips and our fingers remain silent, though everything within us longs to defend ourselves, react, or even retaliate. We can trust that our God is our defender, and He sees and will judge justly–maybe just not on our timeframe or in the exact, public way we would love to watch happen.

David experienced something similar when he was running from King Saul prior to becoming king. He had a couple of opportunities to physically defend himself and end the pursuit on his life. Yet he refrained, saying in 1 Samuel 24:12, “May the LORD judge between me and you, may the LORD avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you.” The rising King David lived with and demonstrated complete faith and certainty in God’s justice, not taking it upon himself to mete it out.

We have that same choice. While it is so easy in our flesh to react or to go public with our grievances, even in self-defense, the wiser choice is to entrust ourselves to our Father in heaven who sees and judges justly. Will this be an easy feat? Absolutely not! But, Jesus is our example. Jesus even said that when He left, He would send His helper, the Counselor, and His Holy Spirit to us (John 16:7-11). That same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is the same Spirit that will allow us to practice the pause and not lash out against our enemies, to those who abuse us, and to our persecutors.

Let’s be like Jesus and entrust ourselves to our heavenly Father who judges justly. Let’s be like Jesus and love our enemies, do good to them, bless them, and pray for them. Though it will not be easy, it will most definitely be worth it. The more like Him we become, the greater we shine for Him.

** If you are in abusive relationship, please seek help and get to safety immediately.

Cultivating the Art of Casting

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“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:6-7

How big are your shoulders? At times, I am convinced mine are larger than a linebacker’s because I feel like it is my duty to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. Okay, so maybe not the weight of the entire world but, at the very least, the weight of the world of my people who live under my roof. I mean, it is what moms (parents) are supposed to do, right? Our job is to worry about the people for whom we have been entrusted and thereby responsible for. WRONG!

Maybe not everyone is a mom or a parent, but not so fast, because you don’t have to be a mom or wife or parent or husband to feel entitled to worry. Basically, the only requirement to worry over something is to have a heartbeat. Some people are natural worriers because it’s how they feel they demonstrate “love.” While others would never have labeled themselves as worriers because they have life under control. Control is often fueled by fear. Thus, a direct connection to worry.

Today is the day of letting go and letting God. It is, after all, His responsibility anyway. For as much as we think we love our families more than anyone else ever possibly could, God loves each one of them so much more and so much better and so much more perfectly than we ever could in our own brokenness. As much as we think we have control over our own environments and individual universes, the reality is, quite simply, we do not.

I never would have considered myself a woman prone to worry. However, upon reflection and hindsight being that perfect vision of 20/20, I realize that maybe, perhaps, I was, years ago, a great worrier. Nope, not a great warrior which is so much more desirable and adventurous. Instead, just your every day, ordinary worrier. I only came to this self-diagnosis within the last 18 months, when the Lord and I did some work on past wounding and present healing. It was during that time when the Father graciously showed me how much of life I had been carrying on my own shoulders during my younger years. During these last 18 months, He has taught me the beauty of true release and the art form of surrendering control. Oh, I am nowhere near perfect on this, but I am aware of what it looks like when the tendencies begin again.

When my children were younger, I didn’t see it. My worries and fears manifested as I tried to control their environments as much as it depended on me. Protecting my children was not a bad thing, for it is part of the duty of parenthood. Yet when fear is the underlying factor, it’s time to step forward and take notice. I would worry over the silliest things, though they didn’t seem silly at the time. The firstborn bears the brunt of the overprotectiveness, but by the time you have the fourth one, it is less about protecting and more about worrying. I remember feeling that stirred-up feeling in my gut all the time. I cared so much over what people thought of me and my parenting because I was a young mother. In addition to worrying about my children, I worried about how others perceived me. Oh, the energy I wasted worrying over insignificant things and things beyond my control.

The worrying came to a head when my lastborn was an infant and diagnosed with a potentially blinding disease. Any semblance of control I thought I had was stripped away within seconds. Despite my best efforts to protect my children and prevent the worst things from happening to them, I was powerless. I could not determine the outcome of his disease by my sheer will to do so. Oddly enough, (or not oddly at all because God’s timing is always spot-on), I was fully submerged in a Bible study on faith. Faith is seemingly strong when all is well.

But faith begins to show cracks when pressure is applied if the faith is not deeply rooted. It was during that season of life that God began to change me and change the way I responded to situations and how I prayed. Worrying over my son would not change one thing about the situation, but I loved and served a God who absolutely had all the power and control over my son’s entire life story. God began to pry open my fingers from the death grip I had on fear and worry.

As life continued and I encountered various trials and challenging seasons of life, my tendency to worry and fret would rear its ugly head. Sometimes, I quickly recognized what was happening and other times, well, I admit, I can be a slow learner. Thank God He is a patient and compassionate God and Father. Along the journey of worry and fretting, I lost sleep at night only to realize later that God never sleeps so I can release it to Him because He’s God and He’s got me.

Finally, it felt like I had conquered the fretting. I mistakenly attributed it to being because life was finally as I had anticipated and desired it should be. But, then, along came 2020. I am digressing here for a minute, but one thing I have learned is that just because we find ourselves weak in any area where we thought we previously had victory does not mean we never conquered it. Sometimes, we face it again because we need to strengthen our faith muscles and foster our constant dependence on God in the face of that weakness.

So—back to 2020. Life had been smoothing right along until one of my sons faced a health challenge that was unanticipated and unexpected. All of it occurred prior to the pandemic in our country and before life was shut down. Yet, it was during those few weeks that I found myself back to those old habits of worrying. I just wanted someone to tell me everything was going to be okay yet I knew life didn’t work that way. I had learned this already, hadn’t I? Eventually he was just fine but only after a few nights in the hospital and surgery.

My experience with Jesus through that was priceless. He taught me that things don’t have to be okay or look okay for me to be okay. His shoulders are wide enough to carry all of my burdens, cares, worries, and anxieties. His love is deep enough to hold me steady through whatever storms life may hurl at me. In hindsight, I can see He was preparing me to learn how to cast ALL of my cares on Him prior to COVID. He was gently reminding me that I am not in control because He is, even when life feels like it is spiraling out of control and going completely off the rails. He was preparing my heart to trust Him when times are uncertain and the unexpected becomes the norm.

Life is about to change yet again, with kids returning to school, with one daughter married and beginning her career, and the other heading to college. After this school year, all but one will have flown the nest. My role is changing, our world is changing, but God is not changing. Daily, the news threatens to put one in a tailspin if we let it. I can look at the calendar for the week and make my plans, while also looking three or six months ahead and feeling myself to start to fret. But in this new rhythm of life, God reminds me of something. He tells me to cast my anxieties on Him just like a fisherman casts his net into the sea. He wants us to place them all on His shoulders because He cares. It’s easy to feel like no one cares about the invisible loads we carry, but Jesus cares. He cares so much that He wants to lift it right off of our backs and place them on His own.

In 1 Peter 5:6-7, Peter reminds us that it takes humility before we cast our anxieties on Jesus. We need to humble ourselves before the throne of grace, acknowledging our weaknesses and need for Him. It’s a whole lot easier to slide those burdens off our shoulders when we are already bowed down on our knees before Him. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we know the God who does. When we feel ourselves begin to fret and worry, may we feel the quiet whisper of Jesus in our ears telling us, “Cast it all on me because I care.”