Joy in the dark.

Dark Autumn mornings beg me to smack the snooze button. At my dimly lit desk, coffee steaming into the quiet, I felt a pang of jealousy of as I read Acts 8: “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.” (Acts 8:39 NIV) I would like the Holy Spirit to physically relocate me, I thought to myself, which is exactly what happened to Phillip. (Zondervan)

There are many pandemic days burned into the permanent section of my memory. Days full of shock, tears, heartache and loss. Normalcy has fallen by the wayside, and it’s been hard to cope. We miss hugs from friends, seeing smiles in person, and sharing live laughter. 2020 has been a very hard year.

The generation currently navigating junior high has a skyrocketing suicide rate, and they now pile on the anxiety of quarantine. My daughters are in 7th and 5th grade.

The patch of sunflowers I planted in late September had a slim chance of surviving long enough to bloom. Yet today, I cut the first batch and brought them into the warm house. Miracles do happen, and life can bloom despite of the odds stacked against it. In the midst of heartbreak over what they haven’t been able to do this year, my daughters have chosen to remember where their strength comes from. My oldest will clunk up the stairs from the basement in her pointe shoes to show me what she has been working on. Her grades, even though she had been zoomed in for much of the first quarter, were straight A’s. Today, a photo gift she made for a friend arrived in the mail, and she wore a new outfit she bought with her allowance to zoom into school. As I write, I hear her laughing with friends on a group chat.

When I told my husband the buns were on the stove next to the crock pot this morning, my youngest daughter laughed at no less than ten of her own “bun” jokes. Everyday, she has us rolling in laughter, despite of these dark times. This girl, who tends not to communicate with the same word count her older sister does, shared with me on our ride to school today about her nightly conversations with God.

God could physically pick me up and move me. He could change our circumstances …make it easier …ease the pain of isolation… Jesus wept and prayed for God to change His circumstances, too. He was isolated and deserted as He was crucified, unjustly. He endured all of the pain of this world voluntarily because He trusted God’s will. So in moments of isolation …I choose to remember the source of my strength.

Jesus gives me the perspective to see my situation through the filter of hope, and the blessings He’s sweetly and faithfully embraced us with in 2020. The laughter, long boating days in the warm sun, lunch dates during the school day, late night talks, and time with my girls who will disappear back into their busy lives as soon as they resume. I’m not glad its happening, but I know where my strength comes from. Acknowledging personal hardship is important. Tears are healing and some anger is righteous! But I know beyond what I can see, feel, and plan for …God is always on the move …and He is always good.

Remember the verse at the top of this post, and the man who went away, rejoicing? Phillip shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with him, and he was baptized! His joy was a sign of new life, and evidence of the Holy Spirit. (Zondervan) 2020 has taught us not to hang our hope on our plans, routines, and goals. All of those things are good, but His plans are more than we can ask for or imagine. It may get worse before it gets better. We were never promised life would be easy. But, if we unplug from the manic media and choose to tap into our real source of strength, we can live joyfully even in crazy hard times. Dark times. Jesus links arms with us through it all.

(Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the New Testament. Copyright 2002.)

Picture Day

The windshield wipers squeaked and scraped across the windshield. Misting gray skies muted brilliant colors of the changing season. Wet blacktop swished in traffic, and dreariness attempted frame the day before it had barely begun. Slumped over, choppy breaths evidence of watery eyes, my passenger clutched a cuddly elephant. School picture day meant we would eventually frame 2020 and place it on the fireplace mantel. 

“What’s the matter?” I asked her. She simply shrugged and could not say. The cumulative effect of this year’s anxieties have worn her to the core. She feels beyond my reach, at times, a helpless feeling for a mom. This has been a year full of infinitely more things I cannot explain to her, definitively. Her eyes waver back and forth to me and we both wonder what tomorrow will bring and how we can possibly brace for what it will be like. I want so badly to tell her when this will all be over, that tomorrow won’t be worse, and we’ll all get through it …together. 

Under normal circumstances, parenthood illustrates our daily need for God. The author of Hebrews wrote, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he said down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”(Hebrews 1:3 NIV) The Greek Word for exact defines the instrument used for engraving or carving. 

Numbers, facts, and circumstances change daily in our lives. The author of Hebrews assures us exactly where Jesus is. Our Savior sits at the right hand of the Father. 

Unchanging truth comes from God alone. He knows the number of our days. Nothing changes it. God is the only One who can peer beyond what we see and experience in the present moment. His Truth, alone, is trustworthy and dependable. He is good, and makes good of all things. 

God is personal. Reframe the truth as such. His greatest expression of love for me was Jesus, who came to earth and died on the cross to save me from my sins …and through salvation in the Him the Holy Spirit lives in me and my soul lives eternally with Him. When our lives are built upon this Rock of truth and our faith is rooted in God’s love, we wade through the really hard things with Him.  

Why, then, is it still so hard for God’s Truth to make it past the lump in my throat today? I know Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, fighting for me. Why do I feel so powerless, my prayers seemingly ignored? Because the truth about the world we live in can be pretty grim.

The world’s unfairness isn’t just a fleeting feeling, it’s a magnified fact of life on this sin-soaked earth. There is real evil in the world, intended upon stealing, killing, and destroying us. Our enemy lies. When we feel we are surrounded by unfairness and evil, lies and manipulation …it’s because we are! It’s really hard, and it can make us feel hopeless and helpless to stop it or make things right. Especially when our kids are hurting and there’s nothing we can do to fix or ease the pain. 

Perspective is our rescue. Knowing what is true allows us to see through a different perspective. One of wisdom, peace, hope and love. Jesus is the way we keep moving …because when we can stand anymore …He carries us. 

Letting go is the hardest task in parenting. We ache to see our kids go through pain we wish we could prevent and steer them around. Imagine how God feels about us, when we are in pain, mistreated, hurt, manipulated, and taken advantage of? We have limited power on this earth to set things right, but He is limitless. God, though we don’t understand His purposes or His timing, is in control. We may be manipulated by media, but God is in control. We may be taken advantage of by corrupt leaders, but God is in control. We may not get answers to our prayers in the way and timing we want …but He does hear us …and He will answer. 

The reality of my 2020 is- I don’t know what time I’ll pick my daughter up from school today. But, no matter if it’s normal pick up time and I have her favorite snack and cuddly source of comfort waiting for her in the passenger seat, or a hug and spirit that will share in her heartache and tears, we will turn on the wipers …drive through the cold misty rain …and go home together. And I’m thankful for that …for together.

7 Prayers of Joyful Defiance in a Tired World

Defiance is a disposition to resist. The joy we have in Christ allows us to face adversity through the perspective of victory. Jesus has already defeated death. The strength of God sustains us when we are too tired to trudge through this world. The joy Jesus died to grant us is set apart from fleeting feelings of happiness or sadness. Joy remains regardless of what we’re feeling. It’s a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit, residing in every believer. This world, though saturated in disaster and discord, will be righted once again by its Creator. Jesus will return to make all things right. And in this tired world, our joyful defiance shines like the stars in the sky on a clear summer night. We can star gaze with a grateful smile knowing we’re loved, and He’s coming soon.

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7 Prayers of Protection for Your Family

Moses wrote to God’s chosen people: “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4 NIV).

Rock, beyond meaning solid and sturdy, is rooted in a privative word meaning “to confine, secure; to shut in, besiege; to shut up, enclose.” God doesn’t just protect and defend us, He secures His own. We live in the freedom of Jesus’ victory. The world is riddled with trauma and its inescapable effect on all of us. But in Christ, our joy cannot be stripped by dire circumstances. Agony on earth is temporary.

Confidently run to the Rock for respite from worry and protection for your family.

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5 Ways God Has Qualified You to Make a Difference

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

We are born into this world to make a difference. Every life matters. Each is specifically purposed and designed by the Creator of the Universe. Look around at the care He has laced into every detailed flower, butterfly, species of tree and grand forest. The great bodies of water and their beauty on the surface, and the plethora of life that teems underneath. He has named each star in the sky. We have not even discovered all of the beauty He made to bless our lives with! We are a part of that beauty, His most precious creation! Scripture reminds us God cares for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, and begs us to imagine how much more He cares for us! The purpose of our lives is to bring glory and honor to our Father in Heaven.

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5 Prayers for Discovering Hidden Strength

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Paul knew, when writing the above verse to the Philippians, his strength wasn’t merely a blessing over his own agenda. The strength Paul unearthed in his own life came from his relationship with Christ. He knew the closer he pulled into His Savior, the more he would be able to endure. We sometimes mistake strength with the ability to push through to the things we want to accomplish and achieve. But when our lives are aligned with God’s plan and purpose for them, we experience the supernatural strength of the Spirit to endure the promised hardship alongside mountain-top moments. The fruits of the Spirit are not developed by our sheer will, rather fostered and uncovered in our souls as we learn more about who God is, and who we are in Christ.

Here are 5 prayers to pray for discovering the strength God’s spirit has placed in you. Pray them with confidence, faith, and trust that He who can move mountains can move powerfully in you too.

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How is “All of Scripture God-Breathed?”

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Paul’s popularly quoted verse definitively states God is the Author of all Scripture. Though penned by men, it is divinely inspired, or, God-breathed. Since humans are imperfect by nature, we can conclude not all of Scripture is a direct quote from God, though many divine revelations in the pages of the Bible are. The historical accuracy of the Bible sets it apart from other stories and wisdom passed down through generations. “We have access to knowledge that is unshakeable true and infinitely valuable,” John Piper wrote on the topic.

“All Scripture is God-breathed,” also explains the alive and active Word of God. Meaning, we can study Scripture today and still find it relevant to our daily lives. God moves in and through His Word, guiding, counseling, connecting to and comforting us through its ancient pages.

What Does “All Scripture Is God breathed” Mean?

“All Scripture is God breathed” describes the Bible’s nature as God’s literal word, given to men by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This divine inspiration is the supernatural work of God’s Holy Spirit. The NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible further explains, “This doctrine does not downplay human action in Scripture’s authorship but affirms Scripture’s ultimate origin in God, who gave it.”

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