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.

A Powerful Prayer to Break Generational Curses

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And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’” Exodus 34:6-7 ESV

Generational curses are behaviors we adopt because of the environment we are brought up in. Addictions and abuses can influence our behavior, but ultimately, we all have the choice to shake off those chains and embrace freedom in Christ. “The sins of the fathers are punished in the children through becoming the children’s own sin,” John Piper explains, “the hatred of God is the embodiment of what the father’s problem was.” Consequences for repeated sins are definitely generational. God proclaimed to Moses in the verses above He would not leave the guilty unpunished. Why would He want His children to continue on in deplorable habits that would bring them no true happiness or satisfaction? God so loved the world, He sent His only Son to save us. (John 3:16) He is slow to anger, always good, and He provided a way for us to break the curse of sin we are all born under. 

Paul wrote, “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)

7 Powerful Psalms that Teach Us about Love

Love is mentioned 168 times in the English Standard Version of the Book of Psalms. Many of the Psalms were written by King David, a man after God’s own heart, and from whose line Jesus descended. The inspired Word of God teaches us the importance of love throughout the entire Bible, as the story of Jesus unfolds from the beginning to the end of Scripture. John tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). The Psalms are a poetic expression of worship. God’s Word is powerful, and we are made to give glory to Him and proclaim His love.

Here Are 7 Psalms That Teach Us about Love: 

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5 Prayers of Intercession for Your Spouse’s Health

“…I am the LORD, who heals you.” (Exodus 15:26)

Prayer is powerful. When we pray to God on our spouse’s behalf, we acknowledge His sovereignty. Our Creator is in control. He allows suffering, but is not the author of it. God sympathizes with our pain. The author of Hebrews reminds us, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”(Hebrews 4:15)

Marriage allows two people to accomplish more for Christ than we could alone.We can have full confidence God hears us, and is close when we are brokenhearted. His plan for our lives is good, despite the rampant pain and heartache in our world. We can trust and pray for His will for our lives. Because, despite the depravity in the world, His plans are more than we can ask for or imagine. Let us lift all of our worries up to Him, and ask for increased faith and trust in our God. The One True, Triune God.

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When to Tell a Friend How they Hurt You

“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)

Oh, how careful we must be when reacting to hurt. Quick to listen, and slow to speak. The most important thing we can do is choose to wait on our words and prayerfully seek God’s guidance.“This section of the letter,” the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible explains of James 1:19-20 (above), “focuses on the power of God’s Word and the need for believers to respond to it in obedience.” The human anger James is speaking of is unchecked emotion. Righteous anger, taking a stand against injustice, has a place in God’s Kingdom.

When we scroll through social media or click through different newsreels, we rarely witness quick listening and slow speaking. Passive aggressiveness is posted for all to wonder if it applies to them, and the entitlement to speak our truth holds little regard for who it’s actually hurting. If someone disagrees with an agenda, they are ghosted. Before telling a friend they have hurt us, filter what happened through the following steps.

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What Christians Need to Know about Reformation Day

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:21

Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.” Reform signifies an improvement upon or ridding of oppression/evil by providing a better way. Reformation exposes corruption in an aim to make things better. As Christ-followers, we are in constant reform. “Since Christians are always sinners,” wrote W. Robert Godfrey, “the church will always need reform.” Contrary to what the Catholic Church of Martin Luther’s day proclaimed as truth, Luther poured over Scripture to find there was no penance required or good work needed to earn righteous standing with God. Through Jesus, our faith allows us to confess our sins and repent, becoming more sanctified by the day as we reach closer to the gates of heaven.

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