A Friend

praying

Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:4-5 NIV)

There once was a man who couldn’t help himself. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t work. A life sentence for a man like him was simply to ask. Day in and day out he would ask for enough to get by. He wasn’t going to get wealthy from his begging. He simply needed to provide enough for himself. I imagine he didn’t have a family but this man had friends. He had people who cared for him and wanted the best for him. They stopped at nothing to get him where he needed to go.

This story is a beautiful depiction of true friendship. This man could not get himself the help he needed but his friends could. They brought him and were met with crowds of people. There were too many people and no room to get in. So his friends tore the roof apart so they could lower their lame friend down. They didn’t give up, they found a way. You see, their friend would only be cured if he saw Jesus.

Sometimes, we are met with circumstances that are beyond us. They seem unfair, even wrong. We wonder if God has forgotten about us. We feel abandoned. And we find ourselves unable to pray. But God is always at work. He understands we are struggling. He knows our hurt. He recognizes that we are simply overwhelmed. That’s when He calls on someone to pray for us.

When God sees us unable to help ourselves, He brings in others to help. He calls in someone who will pray. When we can’t get to Jesus alone because the obstacles are too numerous, He provides a friend who will offer support. God brings in those who are willing to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. They lay us at the feet of Jesus because they know this is where we need to be.

Be encouraged today. God has not forgotten about you. He remains faithful, working out every single detail. And when you cannot pray, He will provide someone to do that for you too. He loves you and He knows what you need. When He calls upon you to pray for someone else, be honored. He is at work in the life of someone else and allows you to be a part of it.

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Seasons

lemonThe Christmas decorations were placed back in their rightful containers. Some were wrapped with care, others placed without protection. They will stay in those boxes until the end of the year when we again celebrate the season. It’s always a sad time, packing away the trinkets. Many carry precious memories. But life moves on and it’s time for the next season. So we put them away until Christmas comes again.

Our lives are marked by seasons. Some seasons overflow with joy. We celebrate. We embrace the blessings God provides. We are thankful. Seasons of joy are what we live for. They excite us. They remind us we are loved. They give us a reason to celebrate. But would we honestly understand true joy without pain?

No one looks forward to seasons of pain. Not one person hopes for struggles. People don’t ask for hardship or tragedy or dark times and yet they come. They come because it is in those times we see strength. We persevere. We fall to our knees and beg for God to walk with us. It’s in those difficult times we understand God and His love a little more. And when we struggle through coming to the end of another season, we are forever changed. Our perception has been altered. The world around us hasn’t changed but the way we see it has. And joy, what about joy? Joy is that much sweeter.

Each January, we make promises and resolve to live better. It all sounds great but I have far more failed resolutions than successful ones. For me, change doesn’t come because of a date on the calendar or the time on a watch. My life changes through experiences. Those experiences are called seasons. And each season is important. It adds to my life. It changes me. It makes me the person God intended. As hard as life can be sometimes, I wouldn’t give up any seasons, good or difficult.

So, for the New Year I hope to look more intently to see God. I want to be thankful when life is grand and all of my prayers are answered. And I want to see His gentle hand when things seem unfair. More than anything, I want to use those seasons and memories and experiences to bless the people He places in my path.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance,  perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4 NIV)

I’m Guilty

jonahandjona

“No guilt in life, no fear in death

This is the power of Christ in me

From life’s first cry to final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny.” (In Christ Alone)

We sang this song this weekend at church. It’s one of my favorites because it is the perfect picture of life. As we sang the verse…”No guilt in life…” it reminded me of a story about Jonah. It happened several years ago but it still rings fresh in my mind. He was playing on the bleachers while his sister had soccer practice one night. My husband told him not to play on the bleachers because it was dangerous. I’m married to “Mr. Safety”. Anyhow, the little boy playing with Jonah fell and hurt himself. He ran to his mom crying. Moments later, Jonah burst into sobs crying, “I’M GUILTY!!” He had disobeyed his dad and now his little friend was paying the price.

This morning I read the story of David and his guilt. He slept with a married woman. She became pregnant. He tried to cover it up but his plan didn’t work. So, he had her husband killed. Then he took her as his wife. It was the perfect plan. He was king. He could do what he wanted. And everything seemed to be going along as he hoped until Nathan, prompted by God, confronted him. He was guilty! He had consequences to pay. But did that mean God would never favor him again? Did that mean he would be unloved by God? Did that mean God was mistaken when He said David was “a man after my own heart”? I don’t think so.

There are times in our lives we are going to make terrible mistakes. The fact is, we are sinners. We are not perfect nor will we ever be. We try but sometimes our best efforts fail us. We are guilty. But our story doesn’t have to end there. In the midst of our humiliation, God is with us. He sees our hearts and wants to redeem us. Some focus on the consequences but I focus on the relationship. After we’ve sinned and been forgiven, I believe we are more humble. We trust Him a little more and follow His leading. We are not so eager to pump ourselves up. We refocus.

If you find yourself in the midst of a mess, know God truly loves you. He doesn’t love you because you are perfect. He loves you because He created you. He can redeem your mess. He forgives your sin. He will never forsake you, ever…even when you are guilty.

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48 NIV)

Trusting God with our Children

Jonah Scout 042

A few years ago

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.(Romans 8:37 ESV)

Last week, I went to open house for my son. Since we talk a lot about life at school, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Some of his teachers greeted me asking who my child was. They offered kind words (whew!) which I always appreciate. Then they did their presentation. I was surprised though. I assumed the teachers my boy favored would be the fun teachers. What I realized is that my boy prefers the teachers who are personable. Those who took the time to shake my hand, look me in the eye and offer encouragement about my boy where the same teachers who have taken the time to get to know my child personally.

God knows each of us personally. He knows our children personally too. It has been a season of changes and I am thankful for this scripture. It has become real to me over the years and now I am reminded of it as I send my children off each day. He loves them. He will protect them. And He will draw each of them closer. Unfortunately, growth often comes when life is hard. Yes, God wants our kids to struggle so they can learn to rely on Him.

My tendency is to make life easy for my kids. I love to surprise them. I enjoy blessing them unexpectedly. But the reality is, those things aren’t going to increase their dependence on God. Real life happens every day and I’m not supposed to hide them from it. Instead, I’m supposed to teach them how to walk through it. They will come up against challenges and I have to let them pursue the solution. If I do it for them, they will never learn on their own. It is a hard road but I KNOW God is with them. It is comforting to see God has surrounded my children with wonderful people. Some of these people are fellow Christians. Others are not. All are welcome in my children’s lives because they all have something to offer and they care.

God never called us to an easy life. He doesn’t call our children to leisure either. Their spiritual growth will come when they fall down. They will learn from their mistakes. It will not ruin them if they have a misstep here and there. We just have to get out of the way and let God work.

Thank you Lord for those who surround us to teach us, guide us and encourage us. They are blessings from you meant to help us as we journey through this life.

Kind Words

words

Last week, my girl had to give a speech in class. This alone sends shivers down my spine. My first experience with speech giving sent my seventh grade teacher into hysterical laughter. She doubled over with tears in her eyes cracking up. The thing was, it wasn’t meant to be funny. It wasn’t supposed to entertain and as the students carried on, I decided that would be the last speech I would give. And it was, at least in seventh grade.

Karoline told me she couldn’t bring herself to speak in front of the class so she postponed her speech a couple of days. When she finally stood before her peers, she started to cry. She said she pulled herself together and pushed through but was not at all impressed with her delivery. She was just happy to have it over with. I truly felt her pain.

Our experiences in life along with our beliefs develop our understanding. We become what we’ve experienced whether it is good or bad. We are humiliated when we make bad choices therefore becoming humble. We are offered mercy when we least deserve it making us more compassionate. We are forgiven for the worst offences allowing us to look past sin to the heart of the offender. Every single traumatic experience has caused us to grow and expand our perspective.

Our lives are filled with mountain top experiences and sprinkled with difficult times. It is in those times of struggle we draw closer to God. We rely on His strength. Our trust is solidified. It’s funny, but most people will talk about difficult times over the easy because that is where change has happened. When we push through we see it was not us, but God. And we learn we are dearly loved.

After my daughter gave her speech, she moved on to her math class. Her teacher told her she had heard about the speech. Karoline was surprised when she said she heard it was really good. Many, many people around us are struggling. Sometimes they just need to hear words of affirmation. We may not be at the same point, but we are all on the same road. It’s a wonderful thing to lift someone’s spirits and remind them we understand.

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.(1 Thess. 5:11 NASB)

What’s Missing?

 

building

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7 NIV)

I was driving down the street the other day and noticed a building was missing. It had been demolished with only the cement slab left intact. Hmmm, I thought. What used to be there? I’ve driven by that exact building a thousand times but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember what structure stood there. Of course, this made me think of why I couldn’t remember. Rather than admit I’m getting old, I decided my memory lapse was because I had never once entered into that building. I had no need to go there, so for me, it was an object taking up space.

This past week, a news story of a middle school boy has made the headlines. He committed suicide in a bathroom at his school. Rather than continue to live as he was, he decided it just wasn’t worth it anymore. Every single day, people passed the boy and had no idea he was suffering. Just like the missing building I passed every day, many didn’t even notice he existed. That in itself is a tragedy.

I think about that boy and others like him. I think about the people God ordains to cross my path each day. I want to be more mindful of them. It doesn’t take much. A smile and hello could be the simple act to cheer a downcast person. An offer to help could brighten another’s day. Listening to another’s struggle could show you care. People just want to know they matter to someone, anyone.

I confess. I find myself caught up in my to-do list each day. I rush around completing my errands without a thought of those around me. I am cordial to the clerk offering my thanks but I am completely unaware of his demeanor. I am so focused on my responsibilities; I have no time to allow anyone in even if God opened the door.

Lord, I know I am often distracted by the tasks I need to complete. Remind me to pay attention. Show me where I can make a difference. Help me look at those around me as precious children You love.

Is Jesus Angry?

anger

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20 NIV)

Was Jesus an angry man? I’ve been thinking of this lately. The political ads are beginning to increase. They are filled with jabs at opponents. Today marks the 13th anniversary of 9/11. People are remembering the horrible loss of life. Americans and Christians are under attack by terrorists around the world. It’s easy to become angry.

It seems everyone is angry about something. And it can get to the point where it consumes all of our energy. There is certainly plenty of fuel for the fire. But I have to ask myself how Jesus handled all of the injustices He experienced. What exactly made Him angry?

One of the events that recorded Jesus anger was the overturning of the money-changers’ tables in the temple. He was angry because they had taken something holy and made it an opportunity for financial gain. They had no care or concern for the spiritual well-being of their people. They were only interested in making money. His anger arose because a few were tainting the purpose of temple worship.

Jesus also became angry with the Pharisees. They were the spiritual leaders of the day but instead of honoring people, they imposed strict rules. They used their leadership as an opportunity to oppress people while Jesus offered freedom. Throughout His time on earth, Jesus challenged them because He knew they were leading people away from God. Their rules prevented people from worshipping God.

So, what makes us angry? Are we irate because the world doesn’t accept our views? Do we condemn those who don’t hold the same values? I suppose I would have to answer “yes” to all of those questions at some point. But what I realized is the thing that made Jesus angry was watching those He loved be led to believe they were not loved by God. He hated when people were told they didn’t matter to Him. I believe that’s why He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. I think that’s why he healed the blind man and forgave the woman caught in adultery. Over and over, He went to the imperfect and showed them they were meaningful to Him. Every day of His life Jesus showed people they didn’t have to be perfect to follow Him.

It is angering to remember 9/11. It is frustrating to hear of wars and brutality all over the world. And it’s saddening to see how we treat each other. It’s heart-wrenching to see how hate and condemnation lead to such violence. But, in my anger and in my sadness I have to remember Jesus’ love and His desire to have a personal and loving relationship with each and every person, regardless of their sin.