Want to experience miracles? Try this.

A portion of The Hiding Place is forever cemented in my brain. Before I share what God has been showing me, let’s start here. Corrie Ten Boom, along with her sister and other family members,  were christians hiding Jews during WWII. They were discovered and imprisoned.

Excerpt from The Hiding Place.

“‘Fleas!’ I cried. ‘Betsie, the place is swarming with them!’

“We scrambled across the intervening platforms, heads low to avoid another bump, dropped down to the aisle and hedged our way to a patch of light.

“‘Here! And here another one!’ I wailed. ‘Betsie, how can we live in such a place!’

“‘Show us. Show us how.’ It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.

“‘Corrie!’ she said excitedly. ‘He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!’

“I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was in First Thessalonians,’ I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen.

“In the feeble light I turned the pages. ‘Here it is: “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…'” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.

“‘Go on,’ said Betsie. ‘That wasn’t all.’

“‘Oh yes:’…“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.'”

“‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

“‘Such as?’ I said.

“‘Such as being assigned here together.’

“I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’

“‘Such as what you’re holding in your hands.’ I looked down at the Bible.

“‘Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.’

“‘Yes,’ said Betsie, ‘Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’ She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ she prodded.

“‘Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.’

“‘Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for–‘

“The fleas! This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’

“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.

“And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”

*****For the sake of moving the story along, I’ll skip forward to the passage I want you to see. They obediently gave thanks for something as miserable as fleas. They gave thanks in ALL circumstances. Now watch for the miracle.********

“Back at the barracks we formed yet another line–would there never be an end to columns and waits?–to receive our ladle of turnip soup in the center room. Then, as quickly as we could for the press of people, Betsie and I made our way to the rear of the dormitory room where we held our worship “service.” Around our own platform area there was not enough light to read the Bible, but back here a small light bulb cast a wan yellow circle on the wall, and here an ever larger group of women gathered.

“They were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28.

“At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. So many now wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call. There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.

“One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.

“‘You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,’ I told her.

“‘You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,’ she said. ‘Well–I’ve found out.’

“That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.

“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

“Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: ‘Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, “That place is crawling with fleas!'”

“My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”

AMAZING. MIRACULOUS.

How many miracles are we missing because we fail to consider His ways are not our ways? Or we are so focused on ourselves, we can’t see up? Or….we fail to offer thanks?

Now let me share how God has been teaching me this.  In church a few weeks ago, the pastor pointed out something I’ve never noticed in 16 years of Bible reading. 2 small words.

Sacrificial thanks.

Psalm 116:17 “I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.”

Psalm 50:14-15 “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High; call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”

A sacrifice costs something. It’s easy to thank God when life is going our way. But when it’s not, thanking Him becomes a sacrificial offering. Whoa.

Ya’ll I can’t move past this one.

Now it’s about obedience. I must offer thanks, sacrificially, as an act of obedience.

While sitting on the beach, it’s easy to whisper thanks to God. But when hunkered down by pelting rain and high winds? I typically thank God for the things I like. What I FEEL thankful for. The good things.

Or when life feels difficult, I find everything except the difficult thing and thank Him for those good things. I look for the good outside the bad. But what about the bad things?

I attended a women’s event this week that again had me hearing this idea of sacrificial thanks. It was explained that we aren’t saying this thing is good. Instead we are agreeing that God is good and Sovereign. We are aligning with His will.

Some of the “bad” things in my life have produced fruit that could only come from the difficult. I’ve paid attention to my thoughts. My quickness to complain when I dislike something.

Our new house has a ridiculous amount of light switches. We’ve lived here 3 months, and I still find myself hitting 10 switches before I find the right one. “I hate hitting 10 switches to find the light.”

Steve glanced my way, “How about being thankful you have 10 switches to hit.”

Well, that’ll stop the complaining. You see, God continues to show me how I’m prone to complain. How I want life to be my way. I want peace in my home. I want my kids to stop fighting for the love of all things holy. I want my kids to be kinder, and I’m mad they aren’t and I can’t make them. I want. I want. I want.

But this sacrificial thanks thing. It’s pretty much a wrecking ball right now. Knocking down habits and patterns of destruction in my life.

I woke today planning a glorious surprise for my boys. As I finished my coffee, I slipped quietly to the laundry room to throw a load of towels in. A smile dawned as I thought how perfect the morning would be. I envisioned excited and thankful boys who would be delighted to partake in my plans.

Then God said, “Let go of your expectations.”

I heard it ya’ll. In my spirit. I heard God speak. Clearly.

I set down the laundry basket. The smile slowly faded. And I said quietly, “Ok, Lord.”

The boys awoke. I shared bits of my plan. Life began to happen. I don’t know what mornings look like in your home. But we have 3 boys and 2 aren’t morning people. Things can get ugly fast. Like spinning out of control, and the control freak in me goes into overdrive and God is whispering…. Stop. Stop. Let me.

So I stopped. I ran to my bathroom. My hideaway. And I prayed. God, I need you. In the name of Jesus I cast out pride in the hearts inside this home. Give us new hearts. Plant kindness and patience inside each of us. Help me to not parent out of anger or impatience. Amen.

I had about 20 seconds for a help me prayer.

I walked back to the battle zone. Nothing had changed immediately after praying. Except my heart. I was submitted to the work of the Holy Spirit. Surrendered to the fact that I’m not God. I can’t make these young men into any image I want. Praise God for that!

My boys loaded into the car. I listened to the words exchanged among them I wanted to erase. I wanted to get in there and shush them up right then. Stop them from warring with words. But I’ve tried that, and it doesn’t change their hearts. So before I entered the car, I prayed. “Thank you God for bickering kids that exhaust me. Thank you for unkind words thrown carelessly around. Thank you for disappointed expectations. Thank you for every bit of all of this.”

The miracles began to happen. For the sake of privacy I will not share the details. But I will say what happened in the minutes and hours after in the hearts of these children and me was miraculous.

I remember reading One Thousand Gifts many years ago and a line has remained with me. Ann Voskamp wrote “Thanksgiving precedes the miracle.”

I guess I’m a slow learner. I agree with Ann now. More importantly, I agree with God. He is good. I will obey because I trust Him. If He sacrificed His own son for me, can I not sacrifice an offering of thanks to Him?

Miracles do happen. The greatest miracles happen when the Holy Spirit gets a hold of a heart and massages it, shapes it, forms it. When we obediently thank Him for the things that aren’t lovely, we lay down our expectations at the foot of the cross. We lay down our need to control. We lay down our pride that thinks we know best. We lay it all down and simply say, “Thank you, Lord.”

Open your hands in surrender. Keep them open to receive the miracles that can only come from a place of obedient surrender.

Thank you, God for your Word. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who brings us revelation. Thank you for who you are. Thank you for loving us relentlessly.

 

Do Not Worry- But How Can I Not?

He sat across the table sipping his orange juice. He ordered a man-sized breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, eggs, and bacon. I patiently awaited my whole wheat toast, sipping water, while dying at the smell of coffee all around me.

The night before I’d spent in the emergency room. The verdict? A stomach ulcer. My medical diet became no citrus, coffee, alcohol, high fat or fried foods, no chocolate, no tomato based anything, nothing spicy. Basically they said eat small and bland. This was meal one on medicine to help with the symptoms while I await further tests and begin the process of healing.

“Mom, wanna play tic-tac-toe?”

“Yep, but I’m hard to beat.”

He grinned at the challenge. A boy is competitive by nature.

He placed the X. I placed the O while planning out my next O marking. I was strategizing 2 possibilities as he placed his next X. I went with my initial strategy to secure myself a sure win. The smirk began to give birth on my face as his 3rd X came down forming a 3 in a row. Smirk gone. Disbelief moved in its place.

He looked up at me incredulously. “Mom, what were you thinking?”

“Oh my goodness. I have never lost to one of y’all like this. I really can’t believe that happened.”

It was 3 across the top. Plain as day. Not many X’s and O’s to crowd the board. Simply that I wasn’t focused on the step right in front of me. I was laser-visioned steps ahead- planning, plotting, and thinking so far out that I failed to see the very next move to keep me in the game.

Our walk of faith is a moment by moment game. One that requires our eyes set on the next step set before us. No need to worry and fret when our Savior simply says, “Take my hand and walk with me. Let me guide you, strengthen you, provide for you, protect you, pick you up when you stumble, comfort you when the aches and pains overwhelm you.”

Matthew 6:25-34

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

You see. I do worry though. I’m constantly thinking not only steps ahead, but weeks, months, and years. Maybe the reason I now have an ulcer?

The ER sent me home with two medications. Day one and two I still had pain but less intense. I found myself all day those first two days fearing the next bout of pain. Finding myself scared to go exercise or plan anything for fear the pain would hit when I was away from home unable to curl up and stare at the walls until the pain passed.

At the end of the 2nd day, I began thinking about a dinner invitation we received for one week away. I felt the anxiety over the what-if’s of pain striking while we were at a new friend’s house. Could I manage to get through an evening?

That’s when I heard God’s soft whisper. Do not worry.

How can I not worry? This hurts intensely. I can’t function through the pain when it hits. There is no rhyme or reason to when it comes.

But worry doesn’t change anything. I can’t figure this out. I can’t heal this. I’ve been praying. I have lots of people praying. So why am I worrying about something 7 days away?

God brought to mind the Israelites in the desert. How He brought them daily manna. He didn’t provide a week at a time. He was teaching them to rely on Him day by day, moment by moment. One meal to the next.

I needed to rely on Him for this moment only. This day only. One meal at a time.

My mentor always reminds me that God’s grace is for right now in this very moment. She says, “Christmas grace arrives on Christmas morning. Grace to handle the next thing doesn’t arrive ahead of time, it arrives the day you need it.”

I was attempting to think 7 days away in fear and near panic but God hasn’t given me the grace for that day yet. My daily grace for 7 days away arrives in 7 days. Worrying about the future is me relying on my own strength and not God’s strength.

I went back to God’s whispering and listened closely. He was speaking. In my spirit I heard Him. Trust me. Let me care for your daily needs. Bring them to me. Cast your cares on me because I care for you.

A friend sent me a text in response to my prayer request for healing that read, “I stand in agreement with you that you are being healed. He paid too high of a price for you to be anything but totally restored, whole and without pain. I command the pain to leave in Jesus’ name.”

A key in her text that struck me was “you are being healed.” Not that healing would come instantaneously. All at one time in a miraculous kind of  ‘it’s gone in an instant’. It could because God is God. However, healing could take time and likely would. I couldn’t lose faith. I couldn’t let fear grow.

The next morning I didn’t think about my ulcer the same way. I didn’t think about pain that may come down the road. Instead I prayed, “Lord, I trust you. I’m healed by Your stripes. By my faith, I am healed. You are good, faithful, true, kind, loving, and compassionate. You tenderly take care of me. You love me to the point of death and back. I pray for healing and will trust you moment by moment while it comes.”

Then at each step of my day, I asked Him for what I needed. I wanted to go exercise. I didn’t stay home (which I had planned to do for fear of pain hitting in the middle of the class). I asked Him to strengthen me to exercise. I told the teacher I would be modifying my exercise while my ulcer is being healed. I thanked God when I left having completed the class.

The next meal I asked God to help me through it. He did. And the next and the next. I wanted a date night with my husband, but for the last several weeks I’d spent every evening on the couch or in bed in pain. On this new day of asking God step by step, I asked Him to keep me pain free for a date night. He did.

This ulcer is teaching me how to hold His hand step by step. How to place my worries on Him and keep my eyes on the step right in front of me. I won’t look at 2 moves ahead. Eyes right here. On my Savior, then my next step. On my Savior, then my next step.

God is good and works all things for His glory and our good. He takes the schemes of the enemy against us and turns them into something beautiful.

 

 

 

When God Leads You To A New Place

Someone asked me recently if I’d unfriended them because they haven’t received a post in their feed from me in so long. If you have wondered the same thing, let me assure you I haven’t removed you from my list. Our family has been in a bit of a whirlwind since the last post I wrote.

My husband’s job is taking us from North Carolina to Nebraska, and we are soon on the move again. This will be our third move since 2008. We are incredibly excited for this new adventure the Lord is taking us on.

Toward the end of January we knew we were moving. From the moment we received the green light, we’ve been in preparation and preparing mode. With supernatural speed, God has miraculously opened up doors only He could open in a span of time that has our heads spinning. We’ve known less than one month that we are leaving, and in that short span of time, we’ve prepared our house for the market, listed the house, sold the house, visited Omaha, placed a contract on a house, and here we are only weeks away from leaving.

In God’s kindness He prepared sweet gifts for me on the front and back end of this first phase whirlwind. A cruise before we came home to the storm of activity. And a retreat on the back end. One in which I spoke at and wondered initially what God was thinking having me speaking at a retreat in the process of preparing for a cross country move. Now I see His kindness in giving me time to rest in Him while experiencing the miracles He always performs at women’s retreats.

Weeks before we left on our cruise in January, I had a dream that we were on the cruise and found out Steve received a new job and we were moving. That was before I knew his new position was even open. As we approached vacation, and he began the process of interviewing for this new role, I knew he was getting the job because I knew God had shown me in my dream.

I believe God revealed that to me to give me the complete assurance and confidence that He was leading our family. When you know that God is opening doors, you can’t help but feel the excitement bubbling forth.

Within days of returning from our vacation, the flurry of activity began. Painting the house, purging, cleaning, rearranging, meeting with person after person. With each person along the process, God brought a gift of some sort. We began seeing God everywhere we turned.

In a span of two weeks, we had the house ready to list. The listing activated on a Friday. The same Friday Steve and I hopped on a plane to check out Omaha and search for our new home. Over the weekend, the house was shown 18 times. By the time I returned to North Carolina, we had multiple offers waiting. And we had found the house we wanted in Omaha. How like God.

On a Monday morning we signed contracts on the sell of our home and the purchase of another.

If I had planned for an entire year I couldn’t have put together the pieces the way God has. I couldn’t have worked out the timing with such perfection.

I’ve wondered if God has performed so many miracles to continue to give me peace in a transition of this magnitude. People have asked my husband how I feel about this move. His response is something along the lines, “Renee, would go to China if she knew God was leading us there.”

There is truth in that. When we see God’s faithfulness day in and day out, you begin to trust that no matter where He leads you, He won’t leave you. He is a good Father. He leads His people where He wants them and asks us to follow Him wherever that may be. No matter where I am, He is with me.

I pray constantly that God will lead my husband and trust that God leads me well through him. That He will give my husband wisdom and discernment. That He will use Him in mighty ways. And God is faithful. He does that. When God leads my husband, I desire to follow that leading.

Change can be both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Leaving the comfort and “safety” in what we know forces us to rely not on ourselves but on our Father. Our independence and self-sufficiency begin to decrease. Walking into unknown territory primes our hearts to hear from God in new ways. It sensitizes us to His voice if we allow our circumstances to soften us rather than harden us.

I will miss much about North Carolina. Our church, our friends, our ministries, the beach, the mountains. So much. But. I trust God. I trust in His goodness, His faithfulness, His kindness. He is doing a new thing in our family. It’s time to grow in new ways in Him. It’s time for new borders and territories. And I can’t wait to see what God will do.

One thing I’m most excited about is having more time to write when we move. I won’t have a social life or a women’s ministry to lead, so I’m guessing you will hear from me quite a bit more.

I would love your prayers for our family during this time. Our move is mid-March!

When God’s Blessing Looks Like Vomit

“I don’t feel like eating dinner.”

“You don’t have to eat, but you need to at least sit with us,” I responded to Andrew who all day had little to no appetite and seemed not quite himself. We were on Day 3 of a 7 day cruise where food surrounds you 24 hours a day.

Stepping one foot into Johnny Rocket’s, Andrew moaned, “Oh no, I can’t smell this food.”

“You are fine. Just sit with us.” We continued ignoring his moans believing he simply didn’t want to be there. Minutes after ordering dinner, Andrew continued complaining that he felt like he was going to be sick.

Steve ushered him out of the restaurant to sit outside with him in the fresh air, away from the smells of french fry grease and apple pie.

The rest of of our family, including Steve’s parents, waited on our order to arrive. While waiting, I decided to check on Andrew and Steve. I exited the restaurant and scanned the Boardwalk. Glancing to my left, my body froze. Andrew hunched over vomiting all over boardwalk. It was no dainty affair.

I bolted inside to tell the rest of the family the nightmare happening outside then rushed back to assist Steve in the embarrassing task of moving our vomiting child through a mass of people attempting to enjoy their own dinner.

It’s one of those moments where you feel time stops and everyone around you is frozen. I dared to dart my eyes to the tables near us and saw the shocked and horrified expressions on the couple who couldn’t take their eyes off of us. I can’t blame them. After the vomiting ended I tried to take a cup of water to wash the vomit off Andrew’s feet only to have Steve and I arguing about what is more acceptable – to walk through a cruise ship trailing vomit on your feet or to wash it right there at the scene of the crime which happens to be where people are eating.

As Andrew and I walked back to the room, he said, “Mom, God answered my prayer. I asked Him to please let me throw up and get this feeling out of me. I know He did that, and I know I won’t throw up again because there is no after burn and now I feel fine.”

Andrew was right in that he never threw up again on the trip. He wasn’t himself either, having little appetite for the majority of the trip.

The following morning we had booked an excursion in Jamaica that would require being away from the ship for 7 hours. We were hesitant to take Andrew when he was well simply because he is fearful of many things, but particularly heights or any risk-taking activity. This particular excursion was jumping from cliffs and waterfalls into natural pools. However, the minimum age was 6, and he said he wanted to do it. Having been sick, we decided it wasn’t worth the risk to take him.

The excursion began with about an hour and 45 minute drive, which the description failed to include. Immediately we were grateful we didn’t have Andrew. But when we arrived at Blue Hole, I literally began thanking God for Andrew’s vomit episode. Andrew would have absolutely hated the excursion and quite possibly would have ruined it for everyone.

Fear tends to bring out the worst in him. And if I’m honest, it brings out the worst in me as well.

Our tendency can often pivot to looking at our situations and circumstances in a negative light. We tend to ask why something bad is happening to us. We often feel our particular situation is unfair. But when we know who God is, His unchanging character and always faithful love, we begin to view every situation in a different light.

Yes it is true that not everything we experience comes from God. We have a very real enemy prowling, lurking, attacking, and accusing without ceasing. However, God’s Word also tells us that He uses all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

That means that even the vomiting episodes in front of a cruise ship audience, God can and will use for our good.

I wonder how many blessings from God I’ve failed to recognize simply because I saw only the vomit.

Dear Lord, thank you that You are for us and not against us. Thank you that you promise never to leave us. Thank you that you tell us that when we are afraid, we can trust in You. Thank you for blessings of many kinds. Give us eyes to see you in all of our life. The moments that smell like roses and the moments that don’t. Because you never leave us, we know that you are with us in all things.  Amen

 

A Letter To My Middle Schooler- I hope you aren’t cool

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Dear Boys,

When I was in middle school, all I wanted was to be cool. In my day cool looked much different than it looks today. Cool comes with a cost. Know what you are buying when you make that exchange.

Most middle schoolers want to fit in in such a way so they will not stand out. They want to be cool in their own way. Cool for one may not be cool for another.

Begin by defining cool for yourself. Don’t let the world define cool for you. The world may say cool is what God calls rebellion. The world may say cool is to love things that aren’t lovely or pure. The world may say cool is to be someone God wants to protect you from being. The world may call cool what God calls idolatrous or foolish.

The world may say it’s cool to have a girlfriend when you know that having a girlfriend will lead you into areas of temptation you aren’t prepared to fight. All your friends may have girlfriends and say you are weird if you don’t. Don’t believe that lie. The ways of the world are foolish to God. 1 Cor 3:19 “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”;

The world may say it’s cool to wear designer clothes and name brand shoes. But God’s Word says in Col 3:2 “Set your mind on things above not on earthly things.”

The world may say it’s cool to watch certain shows and movies or read certain books that are the latest craze. Your friends will stand in lines at bookstores or go to midnight showings. They may religiously watch a weekly show that in your spirit you know something isn’t right. It’s because you know God’s Word tells you in Phil 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

The world may say it’s cool to use curse words. God’s Word says in Eph 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

The world may say it’s cool to talk bad about your friends or say unkind things about people who are different from you. But God’s Word says in Proverbs 16:28 “A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends.” and in Proverbs 21:23 “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.”

The world will offer you many definitions of cool, but you don’t need to accept any definition other than the one that aligns to a Biblical standard. You have known the words of the Lord. Walk in truth. Walk with Him. The world will do all it can to show you an alternate path. It will take truth and twist it ever so slightly creating a path that will lead you off the one God has paved for you to walk. It’s what satan did in the garden. He took truth and twisted it creating a lie. If you don’t know God’s Word, you won’t be able to discern between the truth and the twisted truth.

The world does not define you. Your friends do not define you. No one has a right to label you as cool, weird, nerdy, etc. They will try to define you, but you don’t allow anyone to define you. God already defined you. He created you and He is the only One who has the right to define who you are.

You are His. Here is who He says you are.

Eph 2:10 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Galatians 4:11 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

During your middle school years, you will look for where you fit in. You will seek to find your worth and value in friends, academics, sports, all kinds of areas. Your friends don’t complete you, your grades don’t make you, your talents don’t define you. These are simply gifts from God. Enjoy them, delight in them. Thank God for them. But don’t let them become who you are.

You are a child of God. As a child of God, you are free. Totally, completely free. Free to walk in the Spirit. Free to live released of the pressure to be a certain way or to walk a certain line. You are free to be the one He created you to be.

When you choose this road, the one of being a true follower a Christ, a true disciple, you will stand out. You won’t blend in. His desire is that you are set apart. You are set apart for His good purposes. When you are set apart, you will not be liked by everyone.

This is why it’s ok for everyone to not like you.

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

My prayer for you is that you seek to be like Jesus who didn’t get in with the cool crowd. In fact, he was radical and forever changed the world.

Since birth I’ve prayed for you to be a man after God’s own heart. I’ve prayed for you to love God more than anything in this entire world. I’ve prayed that you would follow God so hard you would strike fear in the eyes of the enemy.

Stand strong. Be bold. Choose courage.

Anyone can be like the world. It’s takes courage and strength to become the man of God He wants you to be. Walk in your calling. Be who He created you to be not who the world says you are. You are a child of God. Only God can define you.

His Love Pursues You. Will You Let Him Catch You Today?

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Psalm 27:8

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.

“Mom, I’m setting up an incentive chart. If I fill up 100 boxes, can I earn a camp out alone with Dad?”

“I think that is an awesome idea.”

I walked by his room later that day and saw his handmade chart hanging on the wall. Throughout the day, when he felt proud of some accomplishment, he’d ask me if he could reward himself a sticker on his chart.

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I wasn’t around when Zachary told Steve about the reward he was working toward, but after the kids were in bed Steve mentioned to me their conversation. He concluded, “It’s done. Any one of my children who wants to spend time with me, they’ve got it. We will have a backyard camp out tomorrow night. He doesn’t need to earn time with me. If he wants me, he’s got me.”

“But it’s a work night. And a school night.”

“So,” he shrugged off my practicalities and chose intentionality instead.

When Zachary awoke the following morning, he found this note waiting for him from his daddy. An invitation to time alone. Just father and son. Campfire, tents, telling stories, sharing snacks, and watching the stars.

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The entire day I noticed a drastic difference in Zachary. An excitement, a lightness, a quiet confidence, a sweet joy. He knew his father longed to spend time with him as much as he longed for it. As soon as his father learned of his desire, he reached his daddy arms out to him and pulled him in. He’s always reaching towards his children, but most of the time they miss seeing it through the activity of life.  This time he noticed his daddy dropped everything to be with his son simply because his son wanted it.

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Our Father stands with arms stretched wide to us. Desiring we run into His waiting arms. We forget at times that our Father desires to spend time with us. Sharing stories with Him as we watch the stars He placed in the sky for us.

He desires our love. Our wholehearted devotion to Him. He delights in us.

Psalm 149:4 For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.

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Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Our Father’s love is a pursuing a love. It never stops chasing and longing for us. He takes delight in us. He created us for His good pleasure that we may glorify Him. When we slow our souls, we become aware of His pursuit. We find He’s not running the pace we run. He stands with extended arms towards His children waiting for us to run to Him rather than running to anything else.

What our souls need most is to sit in His lap. To let Him quiet us with His love. To sing over us.

Instead we run to other things to fill us, to entertain us. We are enticed away from our first love and find ourselves depleted and empty. Our souls cry out for what we really need, but we keep running away. Like Zachary, we set ourselves up to earn His love, forgetting that it’s a gift that needs no earning. An undeserved gift that awaits us moment by moment.

When we stop running from Him, stop running to substitutes for His love, and we look around us, we will see He has placed love notes all around us inviting us to steal away with Him under the stars, tucked away from the chaos of life. To hide away in His love.

He’s waiting to fill your love tank right now. Will you allow Him to lavish you with His love today?

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God Told My Son To Follow Him, So I Went Too

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Yesterday I shared how God confirmed we weren’t to wait for my birthday to start celebrating. If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, start there. We dropped Andrew at one of his educational therapies, and the two older boys and I headed to the library. On the way we made a stop at Dunkin Donuts.

“Alright boys, let’s pray. Whoever God brings to the window I’m telling them about Jesus.” Ya’ll, this is how I see the power of God so vividly. You would’ve thought I had told the boys I was buying them each their own dozen donuts.

With racing hearts, we prayed as we drove, “God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for salvation. Thank you that we can share that gift with others. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who enables us with power. Jesus said that greater than having him with us is having the Holy Spirit in us. Thank you. We pray that you would bring to the window the person you have for us to share the gospel with. We pray that right now you soften their hearts and prepare them to hear your words. Give us the words. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

I ended praying and Jacob said, “Mom! You just missed the turn!! Now it’s going to take us forever to get back out.”

Immediately, I thought to how we just prayed for God to bring the right person to that window.

“Boys, do you not think me missing that turn is part of God’s plan to order the circumstances so that the right person comes to the window?”

We turned in just after another car got in before us.

“Mom, don’t say it through the microphone.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be sure we are face to face.”

I placed our order. Waited for our turn at the window. My heart began to pound. Louder than it pounded the first year I began speaking in front of groups of people. What in the world?

He came to the window, early twenties maybe. Doing 3 jobs at once. I saw the line piling up behind us. Felt the pressure of the rush hour time of the coffee shop.

The timing feels off. No. The timing is always perfect.

Hastily, he grabbed my credit card and disappeared back inside the window. He appeared moments later, thrust the card back at me, and disappeared again. The window opened again as he handed one coffee, then a hot chocolate. The window closed again.

“Ok, mom, this is it.”

We watched as another lady made the smoothie and it appeared she would come to the window.

Lord, is it her and not him?

She handed the smoothie to our guy, he opened the window, handed the smoothie over while saying, “Have a great day.”

“Can I ask you a question?”

He smiled, “Sure.”

“Do you know Jesus?”

Time froze. His expression, as Jacob would say, looked confuzelled.

“What did you say?” He leaned out of the window closer to my car.

“Do you know Jesus?”

He paused. His eyes held mine as he said, “Yes.”

“Awesome! Well, would you pass this along to someone today who you might think doesn’t know Jesus?”

He took the Bible tract from my hand and placed it on the counter next to the register. “Sure.”

As we pulled away from the window, the boys began immediately chattering. Do you think he really knew Jesus or just knows about Jesus? I wonder if he will read it? I wonder if he will give it away.

I began the process of self-criticism. Why did I say ‘Do you know Jesus’? We live in America. It’s easy to say yes to that and still be living a life separated from God. Why did I take the easy way out.

“Mom, that was awesome!”

“That felt completely clumsy, awkward, and totally unnatural. I wish I could’ve shared what Jesus has done in my life.”

Then I stopped. This is what the enemy wants me to do. Focus on me, myself, and my words. Forget it. We prayed for the power and the work of the Holy Spirit.

“You know what, boys. It doesn’t matter what we said. We prayed that we would be a vessel. God has the power to change how he perceived that exchange. We did what He asked and the rest is up to God. He might open that thing in a year. Or today. He might leave it there for the person who God wanted it to get to finds it. We don’t know. And we never will know. But that is not what it’s about.”

We got to the library and settled into our work. Jacob decided he would share the gospel with someone in the library. I looked at him in wonderment. “The next person that God brings to us, I’m going to share with.”

Moments later an older woman appeared steps from our table perusing the books at the end of an aisle. He raised his head, eyebrows raised at me. He darted his eyes back and forth from her to me asking without words, “Is she the one?”

I shrugged my shoulders, silently affirming that he would be guided by God not me.

He leaned over and whispered, “Does she work here?”

“I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter.”

“I’ll be right back.” He left the table and came back within a few minutes holding Bible tracts. He slid them under his Logic book and went back to his work keeping one eye on the woman at the end of the aisle.

She disappeared and he said, “If God brings her back I’ll share with her.”

Minutes went by and she didn’t come back. Jacob jumped up from his seat and darted away. Seconds later he rushed back, picked up his Logic book, grabbed the tracts in hiding, and raced away.

Several minutes passed before he made his way back. His face glowed. Literally glowed. His face told me everything. He had just obeyed God and felt the blessing of obedience.

“Mom, I did it.”

“No you didn’t!”

“Yes, I did!”

“What? When? How? I didn’t hear you!”

“I followed her to her car.” (Side note, we are now praying for wisdom and discernment and discussions of not going to cars.)

“And???”

“I asked her if she knew Jesus. She stopped and just looked at me at first. Then she said yes.”

Sounded exactly like our first exchange.

“I shouldn’t have said that to her. I should’ve asked her if she has a relationship with Jesus. Or something else.”

“It’s ok. God will use your offering however inadequate it seems. You obeyed Him, which is the most important thing. And you gave her the gospel to take home with her. Now our job is to keep praying for these two people. We don’t know if they will end up reading it, realizing they need a Savior, and give their life to Christ.”

The adrenaline was flowing through him. Now it was contagious. Zachary wanted to find someone. Andrew wanted to find someone. When we picked Andrew up from therapy and told him, he said, “You know, you don’t have to give them one of those things. Just tell them who Jesus is.” I love his simplicity.

Sharing the gospel itself isn’t uncomfortable or new to me. Sharing the gospel with total strangers- this is new. I can share the gospel all day long with someone I’ve built a relationship with, a friend or a family member. Someone I know something about their life and can see how God is drawing them. But a stranger I know nothing about. That is a different story.

I can muster up a dozen or more excuses why I shouldn’t tell the cashier about Jesus. What if she’s already a christian? What if I feel the pressure of the line behind me and stumble over my words? What if she is offended by my words?

These are terrible excuses. I had a knowledge of God my entire life. I never disbelieved in Him, but I never had a personal, saving relationship with him until after I got married. Same with my husband. What if all the people in my life held back sharing the greatest gift I’ve ever received because they didn’t want to offend me. Or what if they held back because they were more filled with themselves than they were with a love for seeing me enter into eternity with them?

A month of darkness God used to speak many things to me. One being that my self sins are great. If I’m honest, the thing that holds me back from telling every person I see that Jesus saves is my “self”. It is more of a concern of if I say the right thing, what I will look like, if I will be humiliated in the face of their rejection. And God is asking me to lay down myself. He is asking me to love Him more than I love anything else in this entire world.

A radical love for Christ leads to a radical love of people.

So here’s my confession to you. I don’t love people well. If I really look into my heart, I can’t deny it. If I loved people the way God desires I love people, you wouldn’t be able to stop me. His love would pour through me all over each person I encountered.

I pour out love in the easy ways. The comfortable ways. Meeting a need, helping a friend, sharing a word of encouragement. These are necessary and good. But they take little from me. I didn’t really lay aside much of myself. Because the much of myself in need of laying aside is my pride, my fear of rejection, my fear of offending. These do not come from God.

Years ago I sent a dear friend a Bible. The rejection scarred my heart. Jacob encouraged me to send this friend, an atheist, a Bible. He stood over my shoulder as her email landed in my inbox. We silently read her angry words lashing out at me. Telling me how dare I send her a Bible knowing she doesn’t believe there is a God. Her final words to me told me she was ending our friendship.

It hurt. I cried. And Jacob looked on in utter astonishment. I explained to him that the Bible tells us the gospel offends. It’s not my friend that is rejecting me, it’s the enemy at work rejecting the Word of Truth. The results are not up to us. We are responsible for sharing the gift we hold, but we are not responsible for the person choosing to accept or reject the gift.

Yesterday I shared how God has asked me to mark my 40th birthday. I want to be very clear with you. I’m not sharing for a pat on the back. I’m not sharing so you think I’m a super christian. I’m sharing for you to see two things. The power of God is unbelievable and moveable in ways we can’t understand. And I want you to hold me accountable. If I kept this secret, I fear I would begin to tell myself things like, “Maybe that isn’t what God told me to do.” Or “No one knows I’m supposed to be doing this anyway, so it doesn’t matter.” It matters. Jesus could return today. Or the next person I come in contact could die in the next hour.

I am also asking for your prayers for the next 40 days. I am asking you to pray bold prayers as our family seeks to walk the life of a missionary on its home turf. Our desire is to see lives transformed. To see the gospel advance. We lose sight of the need for salvation right here in our own neighborhoods. I’m surrounded by people living in darkness and I hold a light to share with them. I’m praying for courage and boldness. For a deep love for people. For wisdom and discernment. For mercy and compassion. For divine opportunities.

And I pray that walking in obedience with my children will teach them more about obedience to God than any devotion I can read them or any lecture I can give them.