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.

20 Psalms to Help Your Kids Memorize

It’s important for our children to see us seek God in His Word. The hope is that they will eventually look for Him there, themselves. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (NIV). Being able to understand and apply Scripture to our daily lives through prayer and time spent reading our Bibles is a tough concept to teach children. Before we can expect them to memorize Scripture, it helps to read it with them, discuss what it means (on a level they can digest) and how they can apply it to their lives. 

Memorizing God’s Word should not become a legalistic task, but rather an opportunity to bond with our Father in heaven. God will honor every effort to get our kids into God’s Word, and undoubtedly meet us in those moments. 

If you’re wondering where to start introducing your kids to the book of Psalms, here are 20 wonderful ones to start with: 

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A Prayer of Reassurance for the Christian Who Doubts

Doubt is an inevitable part of our humanity. It can steal our victories before we’ve had time to enjoy them, and rob our sense of self-worth. Doubt can attack us even on our best days, and pummel us into a dark corner on the bad ones. But Christ wants us to walk confidently through life, not be paralyzed by doubt. 

He is our strength when we are weak. 

He is our rock when we feel the avalanche of worry and anxiety in our lives.

The world is pushing in on us from all directions, with every kind of threat. But our great God is more powerful than your doubt! When we submit our doubts to Him, we remind ourselves who he is and who we are in him. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, we become unstoppable in accomplishing God’s will for our lives. The journey will not be easy, or pain-free… but it is possible to kick doubt out.

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Is Anger Always a Sin?

“A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” Proverbs 15:18

God’s anger, referred to as wrath, is His holy and perfect reaction to sin. God does not sin in His anger. His anger is always justified, and throughout the Old Testament, His wrath was meant to draw His people back to Himself. Human anger, the focus of this article, is widely staked in our prideful justification. Although it is possible for us to have a righteously angry reaction to sin, most human anger rises up and reacts as a result of it. Proverbs 16:32  reminds us, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”

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What does “Salt of the Earth” Mean in Matthew 5:13?

“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” Matthew 5:13 ESV

God has good plans for us, but they require us to work hard in pursuit of His will for our lives. We must daily take up our crosses and decide to follow Jesus through every obstacle that presents itself. We must seek Christ as our greatest treasure and satisfaction.

What Did Jesus Mean When He Used the Phrase ‘Salt of the Earth’?

Jesus often chose common subjects to demonstrate His teachings. “Salt was so important and valuable that Roman soldiers sometimes were paid in salt,” wrote Greg Laurie for Harvest Daily Devotion, “Hence the expression, ‘He’s not worth his salt.’” Salt on its own is used for clearing roads and preserving food, but it also enhances the taste of everything it’s added to. Even in ancient times, “salt was a symbol of lasting concord,” the New Testament Greek Lexicon defines, “because it protected food from putrefaction and preserved it unchanged.”

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What Does Jesus Mean by “Blessed are the Meek” in Matthew 5:5?

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” – Matthew 5:5

Jesus preached the Beatitudes to teach us what it means to have a truly repentant heart. Matthew 5:5 is included in the well-known Biblical text called the Beatitudes, “virtues that should characterize those who are ready for the kingdom and to assure them of blessing and reward when it comes” (Moody Bible Commentary). Meek isn’t a common word we use to describe someone. A deeper look at its true meaning explains why such a characteristic is a rare commodity. To be meek is to be kind and gentle, submissive or compliant, tame, and humbly patient or docile. God sees every part of our hearts, and His truth serves as a necessary guidepost to ensure we are living the way He has called us to live.

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