Posted on October 26, 2019
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10 NIV
The smell of a loaded morning diaper overpowered my coffee as I walked upstairs to wake up my kids. We’re eight years post diaper, but the oder suggested otherwise. It cut through the freshly cleaned bathroom my daughters share. Apparently chewable vitamins, when tossed into the trash alongside damp make up wipes and whatever else …smell like a loaded morning diaper.
The daily ritual of taking vitamins had suddenly become so painfully disgusting, my daughters resorted to hiding them in the oddest places. Why rebel against something that will make them stronger? Healthier? Protect them from sickness and injury?
More important than daily vitamins to protect our physical bodies are the pieces of God’s armor we can pray over our lives. “Pray always,” Paul writes, “Pray in the Spirit. Pray about everything in every way you know how!” (Ephesians 6:18 VOICE)
Real, enduring strength is found in God’s promise for the longevity of our souls. Paul said, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV) The enemy is out to injure our souls. “Put on the full armor of God,” Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:10-18, “so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
Today, let’s pray the armor of God, found in Ephesians 6:10-19. Armed with the truth and mighty power of God, we will stand tall and strong, ready to bring honor and glory to Him in every area of our lives.
Protect us from the spiritual war we cannot see. Empower us to put on Your armor and stand firm. Jesus, You understand our pain. Crucified with You on the cross, we are no longer slaves to sin, or the evil forces at work in this world.
Protect our minds from distorted thoughts and untruths with the helmet of salvation. Slice through lies and accusations, hopelessness and doubt with the sharp double edged sword of Your Word. Knowing we will face trouble in this world, ready us for battle, Father. Protect us on all sides with Your breastplate of righteousness.
Father, set our feet on the solid foundation of the Gospel to remove any worry of stumbling into battle. In all circumstances, may we take up the shield of faith, to deflect every calculated shot of our enemy. Enable us to help others put on their armor, and accept help from those You have placed to help secure ours.
Alert us to the enemy’s schemes to kill, steal and destroy. Protect us, tighten and tweak our armor when it loosens and becomes dented. Teach us to wear and use each piece efficiently. Keep us alert and help us to persevere.
Father, give us courage and bravery to pursue You and Your purpose for our lives like Paul did. To place our confidence in each piece of the armor we have prayed over our lives today, and feel the strength of Your mighty power working in and through our lives.
In Jesus’ Name,
Posted on October 19, 2019
Do this and you will live!” Luke 10:28b NLT
How often do we sacrifice our comfortable daily routine to help someone?
Sometimes we need counselors and other resources to fight the battle of our mental health. That’s not what I’m addressing here today. There are everyday moments we avoid to help people who are being isolated, picked on, and left out. Wearing an inspiring t-shirt is a wonderful reminder, but are we brave enough to leave our comfort zones in pivotal moments? We can’t help a hurting soul if we don’t make a radical move.
The parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) tells of a priest and a levite, the religious people of Jesus’ day, passing by a man who had been robbed and badly beaten. The priests would become ceremonially unclean if they touched a dead person, so that excused them from walking clear around the injured man to avoid him, right? Jesus clearly taught that it was not. The Samaritan man stopped, and with what he had on him, helped the man. He inconvenienced himself, and accepted the risk of possibly being robbed and attacked, to do the right thing.
“Which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits? Jesus asked.” (Luke 10:36 NLT)
An “expert in religious law” who’s questioning led to Jesus’ telling of the parable, knew how to answer questions correctly. But Jesus applied God’s truth to a realistic situation in which the expert could apply to everyday life.“The one who showed mercy.” the expert replied, “Then Jesus said, ‘Yes, now go and do the same.’” (Luke 10:37 NLT)
Comfortable Christianity isn’t living life to the full as Christ calls us to. Everything in this world will pass away. When Jesus returns, our safety nets will exposed, but so will all of the suffering we took on in His honor. Jesus knew we couldn’t shake the power of sin, so He crushed it’s chains for us. He healed, loved, and taught in parables so we could understand.
The man knew the law before Jesus told the parable: “’You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27 NLT) But Jesus clarified whom it applies to.
“‘Right!’ Jesus told him. ‘Do this and you will live!’” Luke 10:28 NLT
When we ignore those in need, we are no better than the priest who walked all the way around the injured man. Everything we do on this earth is meant to honor Christ. Sitting silent when someone is hurting doesn’t. Being kind like Christ takes boldness and courage, because it isn’t always going to be an acceptable move by society’s standards.
We live in a world hyper-focused on what people can do for us …but it’s backwards. We sing, “all we need is love,” but we’re not a loving society. Love isn’t everyone getting what they want or deserve. It’s literally engaged in looking for those who need us to DO something for them. The reciprocity of love isn’t self-focused, it’s them-focused.
“Do this.” (Luke 10:28 NLT)
Don’t just sit there.
“Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:37b)
Make a radical move.
Posted on August 7, 2019
When I’m tempted to wallow in the “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen” soundtrack of a suffered season …Psalms. Because the first thing I don’t feel like doing when I’m sad, angry or anxious isn’t what these profound words of wisdom instruct me to do. “It is good to give thanks to the LORD,” Psalm 92:1 says, “to sing praises to the Most High.” (NLT)
Flipping through a rolodex of the last month’s gut punches, I don’t want to sing. I’m thankful for the obligatory things …my home, health, family, talents, children, friends and God’s provision. There’s nothing earth shattering falling out of the bottom of my life. But occasionally a million little aggravations collide into a big burst of soul-stripping tears. Still, Psalm 7:17 instructs: “I will thank the LORD because he is just; I will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.” (NLT)
“After Jesus was baptized by John,” a pastor at our church faithfully reminded me the day I was baptized, “Jesus was tempted in the desert for forty days.”
“Crap,” was my first thought. CRAP. Over the next few weeks I started to feel like Psalm 3:7 …“Arise, O LORD! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked!” (NLT)
And then God asked me if I was willing to put reconciliation in His hands. Not just any reconciliation. One that had already rocked me, and my entire family, to the core. My answer was a resounding, “NO.” I didn’t want to. I’m down with heartfelt apologies. Reach as far back as you want to, God. And forgiveness? Forgiveness is a given. No apology needed. I got that memo. It’s an automatic process every Christian is wise to begin immediately after any hurt or heartbreak to prevent the root of bitterness from having babies all over our souls.
But reconciliation? Nope. No. There are some people we can love from a far and leave behind the lines of our boundaries …right? RIGHT? No. Psalm 5:11 says, “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy.” NLT
God is the one protecting and providing refuge. So, if He says we are free to come out of hiding, we should. If He prompts us to reach out one more time in an effort to build a bridge, we should obediently take the chance. What’s the worst thing that could happen when the best thing that could happen is peace?
Let’s just say …the worst thing happened. I opened up a wound that hurt worse than before. It leveled me. It surely made me ask “why …” a lot. But I kept reading through the Psalms …because coincidentally the devotional app I faithfully open every day has been in that book. (not a coincidence.) I kept praising God, through thick and heavy tears. He’s right, of course, but let’s face it …some moments make us doubt ourselves, everyone around us, all the decisions we’ve made, and the faith we stand on. Cry it all out. He can handle it.
As we continue to breathe air He will pull things out of the thin of it for us to give to Him. Not everything we go through in life is all about us. We’re called to leave the door wide open for reconciliation while God works on all of the hearts. If it’s possible …we want it. It’s OK to leave our boundaries in the protective hands of our Defender. God doesn’t owe us an explanation for our obedience. He just says, “obey.” Trust and obey.
We have to let go, so we can receive all He has for us. All we can’t see, doesn’t make sense, and makes it hard to leap in faith when He asks us to stretch past our flexibility. He knows what we need in breaking moments. Life is hard, and God knows it. He is our good Father, and so waits for us to open His book and fall into His capable arms. Every time, He will pick us up, stretch us out, and set us back on the path He’s prepared for us. He promises. And He’s good for it. Don’t let fear rob freedom.
Posted on July 31, 2019
The MidWest had more than it’s fair share of rain this summer. We count the days of summer …and it’s unfairly interfered.
Life is like that, at times. Unfair and uncomfortable. We count on certain things to go a certain way. For my tween daughters, every emotion, discomfort, and awkward situation rains down upon them as though they’ve been caught unexpectedly in a torrential downpour. They don’t need us to throw a rain poncho over their every problem. Tweens need to know it’s a normal to get caught in the rain sometimes.
If we don’t want to get drenched by life’s storms we have to remember our umbrella and choose to use it. Better yet, when we can …avoid standing in a torrential downpour. We so often try to force our circumstances, blaming our umbrella for failing to keep us dry when we take it out into sideways rain and expect it to do the impossible.
Faith …an umbrella between reality and the rain. The wind may blow it inside out, it may leak, we may forget to open it …but through every storm, Jesus remains. God’s Word is our heart’s guard. Prayer is our lifeline. Starting the day and traversing through life without it compels us to seek all kinds of crazy solutions for our inconveniences. Life is inconvenient, but out of our discomfort beautiful wildflowers often bloom …right where they’re planted.
We shouldn’t expect perfection from an umbrella. It’s a thing. It’s fallible. The weather is the weather …even the people paid to predict it don’t always know what it’s going to do. Our expectations distort when we entrust humanity to protect us from raindrops. Only God is capable of instilling that kind of bubbled protection over our lives …and He doesn’t.
We will get rained on here. Things will not go our way and people will let us down. We will let others, and ourselves, down. At some point, we’ll all stand drenched in a downpour. But not without hope …just wet! The sun comes out, and everyday God’s mercies are new. Great is HIS faithfulness. Jesus is our umbrella this side of heaven. In the sideways rain, hail, and torrential downpours, He shields us.
To our kids, we model the resiliency of our faith in Christ by how we react to the rain. A young collegiate cross country runner, rainy mud runs were my favorite. Donning my favorite hat to keep the rain out of my eyes, I laughed through every knee-high puddle and splash of mud. I set my mind, not just to make the best of it, but to see the fun in it.
The world wants us on edge every time life rains down on us. But if we choose to see the good, our kids might, too. Some tragedies are beyond a sunny explanation …but even in those moments, we have a good God whom we trust will right every injustice. We can’t explain the cause of every storm or season of suffering, but we can choose to put our favorite hat on and embrace what we can about the rain.
As Christians, we can run through the rain gripping Joy …because the battle has already been won.
Expect the rain …but know the sun still shines.
Posted on July 24, 2019
It started off as a grand adventure. We would paddle across the serene lake our cabin rested on, to the river, and all the way out to the great freshwater lake. Up and out early with visions of grandeur we would hold onto forever, we loaded into our kayaks and pushed off the dock. It wasn’t in the quiet stillness of morning as we’d woken up to so many other days, but in the choppy result of a steady wind. Soon after we embarked on our journey, both of our kids needed a tow line. Every paddle felt like going backwards. Our cabin neighbor came gliding up beside us. We wanted to know why … and…how.
“I have a keel,” he explained. “It drops down and stabilizes the boat so it goes forward instead of back and forth.”
U2, who I’ve been mildly obsessed with since walk-mans were cool, turned the 40th Psalm into a song that hit me on a new level as the melody drifted through the marrow of me as I flipped the final page on my fourth decade. King David, who wrote the song, reaches into the core of all that makes a human heart beat and break in awe of the unfailing love God has for all of us. The song played and I pictured myself in all stages of life blaring it as an unbeknownst anthem.
Life starts out as such a grand adventure, doesn’t it? But without a keel, we paddle back and forth and sometimes backwards. There’s something about turning the page on a decade that causes us to reflect back and look forward. For the next ten years, I want to steer steady, with the keel dropped down, each paddle as efficient as it can be, no matter the weather. To weather storms with more grace and poise, and for forgiveness to flow out of me faster and easier. It feels time to step up and into the girl God made me to be all those years before the swells crashed into my reality faster than I could bail out or paddle through.
There’s never been a day in my life I haven’t believed in Jesus. If anything is worth celebrating at 40 …it’s that. So I chose to celebrate by getting baptized. He has loved me through the most impossible circumstances and when I was impossible to love. He reminds me who I am and continues to grow me into who He’s purposed me to be. No one knows me like Him. It’s love, unconditional and eternal. No strings, stipulations or shame. It’s out of this world …and worth singing about. In and around the water I’m reminded of how His Word flows through and connects all He has created. No matter what storms flare up in the next decade, I’m all in.
This is 40. A few nights ago I sat up to roll over and pulled my neck out. For now my daughters say my smile lines are beautiful because they haven’t morphed into critical teenagers yet. I have to say I like them, too. Looking back, I’m tempted to remember the heartbreaks and mistakes. But the past is equally lined in triumphs. Laughter, love …and fearless adventure. So much laughter. So many friends. And now daughters … Jesus isn’t interested in keeping score in our lives. He commands us to go tell it …maybe …to sing it.
Sing your song.