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As a little girl, my sisters and I received a new Easter outfit every year often including a new pair of white patent leather shoes. I felt grown up as the heals clicked down the church hallway. We paraded into church with our new dresses, Easter hats and our fancy shiny shoes. Those were special shoes, marking for the most important day of the year.


This year my Easter shoes looked different. Our church sponsored a stay-home mission trip. We served local organizations in various ways to help alleviate much of the added work that this difficult year brought.
Assigned to staining a deck and ramp of a warming center, I tried to work without inconveniencing the residents, but that proved more difficult than I thought. We could not lock the windowless door, so several people accidently stepped out onto the wet deck. Redirected to the other exit, most quietly respected the request.


At the end of the day, my white shoes were covered in red stain blotches. I sent pictures to my kids asking them to guess what I had done that day. Various guesses related to blood commenced, entertaining us with the silly humor we like to share.

But one moment from that day captured my attention.
Two men approached the ramp hesitating and unsure of what to do. I apologized for blocking their entrance, inconveniencing their normal routine.
One replied, “It’s okay, you are making our home beautiful.”


This caught me off guard, he said “home”. Home implies permanence, a dwelling place for family. A place I regarded as temporary for those suffering setbacks, a place of rescue and even sanctuary but not home. His comment humbled me and reminded me of how little I really knew of other’s sufferings.


Holy instances like these, cause one to pause and reflect. Straining to see behind the supernatural veil, I captured a glimpse of Jesus in that moment.
Jesus, as Messiah, had no home but He abided in the Father and we abide in the Christ. When we serve the least of these, we serve Jesus, and we are truly home. Discussing this with my son, he drew my attention to Psalm 91:1 “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty”


That man’s pleasant response reminded me that he was not the only one at home in that instance. I too, found my home there because Jesus was there in that man’s words. As I write this, I am reminded that maybe I mislabeled the needy person in that circumstance. Truly after a difficult year, I was the least of these and this man’s humble spark of gratitude in a life of hardship, deeply ministered to me.
Now, my stain-spattered Easter shoes remind me of the promise that my eternal home will always be in Jesus.

 

Choose between a lighthearted or bitter future 1

Anger wells up when life seems unfair. Recently, a memory snaked its way back into my mind. That waitress was so rude. Why didn’t I notify management? Rehearsing the speech I wish I gave, I laid awake for hours. Friends, that incident occurred years ago. Why did it slip in now? I don’t know - but it was something I needed to get rid of.

After laying there for a while I heard this whisper: “Why are you holding onto that offense?”

“Well, I don’t know.”

“What are you supposed to do?” The whisper continued.

“Forgive. I forgive that waitress for her insensitivity and the frustration she caused in me. Forgive me for hanging on to this memory like a dog with a bone. I’m so sorry Lord.”

Culturally acceptable, anger is emotion can cripple us. We allow the imagined argument to swirl around in our heads, feeling justified by the cause.

Ephesians 4:26-27 is a well-known verse among church goers. “And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”

It seems so hard to do. It is easy to point out in others but difficult to apply to ourselves. Everyone gets angry, this is part of the human condition. Sometimes we don’t even see the bitterness we hang onto.

Foolishly we nurture unforgiveness until it morphs into bitterness, which leads to an inhospitable environment. Like poison it spreads and hardens our hearts so that they are no longer malleable by God. This occurs when the offense becomes bigger and more important than God. The word “foothold” use in verse 27 means give space to. Our response opens the door and invites sin to live in us.

Sometimes we don’t even see the bitterness we are hanging onto. How do we recognize it?

Does the memory pop into my mind and anger surges again? Do I feel the need to talk about it with others for sympathy or justification? Do I qualify my emotional response with excuses? Does the experience and its corresponding emotions keep me up at night?

If the answer is yes, we must wrestle them away and allow the Holy Spirit to soften us again. We choose to let it go, yes, we decide not to feed the thoughts anymore. Shake off the anger and extract the poison by giving it over to Jesus. Jesus took our sin, there is no need for us to hold onto it. Lay the burden at Jesus feet, see yourself doing it (Matthew 11:28). He is our rest.

When I am angry, I need to remember.

God is good

Vengeance belongs to Him.

The other person who made me angry is made in the image of God

The other person deserves God’s grace as much as I do.

Extending forgiveness benefits both of us; extracting the poison from our heart.

Choose between a lighthearted or bitter future, we are in control of this.

It seems easy, yet human nature naturally embraces the trap of regurgitating past hurts. Those angry thoughts do return, there is real pain and insecurity associated with the memory. Thankfully, our God is trustworthy with this vulnerability. We return to the top of the list above and fight the urge to hold on lay it at the feet of Jesus.

When the temptation to ruminate on the rude waitress along with my ineptness at handling the situation occurs, I remember:

God is good.

Vengeance belongs to Him, He will lovingly correct her.

The waitress who made me angry is made in the image of God.

She deserves God’s grace as much as I do.

Extending forgiveness benefits both of us; extracting the poison from our heart.

I choose between a lighthearted future; we are in control of this.

Jesus reminds us that His burden is light. Always ready for us, He calls the weary to Himself. (Matthew 11:28-30) God used my anger to teach me and trust Him. He will do the same for you.

Untitled design 4

Are you frustrated with the fractured society that has infiltrated the church? Anger, conflict, and division ripped through our country this last year. People were categorized allowing us to dehumanize them. BUT they are human - created in the image of God. We need to see each person as individuals. Young people look to their elders for example and accuse us of apparent hypocrisy. Jesus calls us to restore others – repairers of the breach in the King James. Isaiah 58:12 NLT Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes. 

As I scroll through social media, my stomach flipflops to see the vitriol written. Brutal critiques of the “other side” continue to flow. Criticism from younger people bring tears to my eyes because they are partially correct. Offensive words put us on the defense, but I implore you to look beyond the acidic words and see the pain behind. 

Together we can open an amicable discourse that encourages freedom to respectfully express opinions. We can each be the repairer of the breach we see in our communities. Where do we begin? 

  1. We repent of any offense we are carrying. Ideologies divide our theology and that must stop. Humbly we go before our Lord and admit we do not have all the answers. Young and old in the church disagree about important topics but not the Gospel. If Jesus is Lord, we belong to the same family. We pray and live Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. NLT 
  2. Listen to those that disagree with you. Not online, but in person or on the phone. Listen to the heart behind the opinion, the depth of knowledge behind it may surprise you. Our goal becomes understanding, building relationship and trust. Proverbs 12:15 Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others. NLT
  3. Instead of correcting their opinion, tell them why they are important to you and your community. Ask them how you can pray for them. Where are they struggling, how can you be an answer to their needs? Encourage them through Scripture, not to correct but to grow together. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. NLT 
  4.  Throughout your discourse, clearly state your mutual faith in Jesus. Our unity rests on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the nonnegotiable center of the relationship; Jesus is the Lord of our life. Centered on Him nothing else matters, let Him teach each of us to be more like Him. Galatians 1:11-12 Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. 12 I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. NLT 
  5. Respectfully disagree if you feel it necessary. Make it clear, all opinions can be discussed if they are stated respectfully both by you and your young friend. No opinion should be held so tight that it damages the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Proverbs 18:2 Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. NLT 

 Each generation holds important characteristics to cherish in one another. Combining them together, the Holy Spirit interweaves us in ways beyond our understanding. 

  1.     Traditionalists bring wisdom of their experience. 
  2.     Baby Boomers get it done with their strong work ethic. 
  3.     Generation X join us with their ability to problem solve. 
  4.     Millennials strong desire to care for their community empower us to reach out. 
  5.     Generation Z’s pragmatic approach to life help us to ease into working in a diverse workforce. 

 It is true that Jesus said He would bring division (Luke 12:51-53) but the division occurs in recognizing the deity of Christ. We are divided by believers of the Gospel and those that reject it. Within the faith we need each other and we need to initiate the restoration of our church homes.

 

Inward revivals radiate outpng

An inward revival radiates out. You can’t help it because the joy of the Lord bubbles out flowing onto anyone that passes. This is who I want to be in 2021, no not just want CALLED!

My hope does not rest in the current circumstances of our world. Darkness wants to rule over us and tell us this situation or that situation will steal something from us. Honestly, I’m not interested in the opinion of man, whether I agree with the opinion or not. In the long run it doesn’t matter. My hope resides in the promise that God is with me. No one can take that from me.

I believe God told me last summer to go and serve Him no matter how I feel. He can protect me but there may be “deep waters” I will have to go through, and He will be there.   (Isaiah 43:2) So I served, one eye on the circumstance and the other on the Lord.

Romans 12:2 inspires me to get both eyes on the Lord and away from the dark. It now seems customary to share negative opinions, showering them over whomever is nearby. I repent of any way I have contributed to this and ask God to transform me. Our mind holds the key to renewal when we willingly surrender our thoughts to Jesus.

Reading through this verse let’s dig in and apply it. When we daily allow Holy Spirit to transform our way of thinking we learn to live God’s will. This good plan, Agathos in Greek, holds a promise to not only possess a good nature but a useful one. A usefulness that bubbles over with joyful and honorable actions. This alone is complete we don’t have to do anything else and others will notice the change.

Fill us

 

With that I am letting going of criticism and embracing altruism. Although not necessarily the antithesis of one another the first often hampers the  care for others. Revive my spirit Lord so that I can revive others.

Father forgive me for my wrong thinking. Help me to shed my cultural mindset and to daily look to YOU for renewal. Mold my heart and mind to you so that I am empowered to love the way YOU love. In Jesus Name, AMEN

Savor the flavors of Gods goodness

Thanksgiving 2020 feels like un-holiday. For many of us, extended family will not gather. Full tables with empty chairs make for a bleak celebration. Such an outlook can contribute to our despair instead of filling us with gratitude. We need to tilt this holiday on its side. This year will be different but not bad. Gratitude, the center of this holiday, focuses on what we celebrate the good opposed to focusing on what we’ve lost.

In the book Beautiful Resistance by Jon Tyson, he highlights the importance of celebrating God’s goodness. This reminds us that He provides the blessings in our life. It forces a pause to look for the good in the busyness of life that we often overlook. I don’t want to do that anymore; I want to embrace the good.

There are multiple Hebrew and Greek words used for the word good throughout Scripture. Its complexity becomes apparent when we search it out. Good, such a simple word, how could it be so complex? The difficulty rests in using words to describe our God. His perfect holiness transcends our own understanding and words fail. Good describes one’s nature as pleasant, agreeable, joyful and happy but it also means excellent, distinguished, upright and honorable. It describes the personality as possessing integrity, virtue, and purity. Further we see it described as precious and beautiful, full of kindness with an upright heart. Wrap that all up with gentleness, mildness, and meekness.

Read through those words again. Let the richness of each word envelop you with its strength and comfort.

Studying God’s goodness reminds me of a plentiful feast. After a season in which much was stripped away, we find a rich banquet set before us. We crave refreshment and sustenance as we sit down to God’s rich table. We take a bite, savoring the flavors as they stimulate our neglected taste buds. At the end of the meal we sit satisfied that God’s goodness met every need. When we nourish ourselves on the complexities of the word it revitalizes us, feeding the joy inside of us.

Psalm 23:6 reminds us that God’s goodness pursues us. God sends good, pleasant, agreeable, and beneficial circumstances into our lives for our welfare daily. Our job is to look for it. Even in times of suffering, good will surface. Caught up in what we don’t possess blinds us to the present blessings. We simply need to turn and let the goodness chasing us catch and surround us. No matter what God is good. That is worth celebrating.

 dragonfly effect 2

 

Dragonflies played a lovely part of raising our son. To pass the time while his sister napped, we
counted the dragonflies that sunned themselves on our neighbor’s roof. As he grew, he learned
to capture these delicate creatures and bring them to me for study.
 
Dragonfly eyes dominate the tiny faces of these odd creatures giving them excellent vision.
While our vision sees in shades of three primary colors, the dragonfly sees way beyond that, up
to 30 different primary colors. Their vision captures much more of the vibrancy of the light
spectrum, they even see ultraviolet rays!
 
Body heavy, these fascinating insects look like that couldn’t get off the ground. Yet, their
iridescent wings glimmer in the sunlight as they fly. Masters of flight each of their wings work
independently allowing them to catch their dinner on the fly. At 30 miles per hour they can eat
hundreds of mosquitoes a day.
 
I can relate to the dragonfly. I feel like I’m awkward and unable to do what God calls me to each
day. But if these baffling insects can traverse the air with acrobatic stunts, I too can learn live in
the way I am designed. Free to fly as God leads and seeking the vision to see His next steps. This
is how I see you as well.
 
Dragonfly women fly because they are fruitful, linked, and yielded.
 
        F: Fruitful, bridges to other generations and builds relationships that bring unity to the
            body of Christ. We recognize we need each other but we also value the next as well as the
            previous generation as dynamic members of our community.
       L: Linked by these bridges, we depend on one another because we yearn to nurture
           each other as well as be nurtured. A vibrant woman thrives in community.
       Y: Yielded to the Holy Spirit, we desire a close relationship with God that builds our
           confidence and anchors our identity in Christ. We release insecurity through living as God's
           child.
 
When we learn to live this way, we recognize God esteems us as His daughters. Our mid-life
centers around renewing and restoring ourselves recognizing we are still needed. We are a vital
part of our community.
 

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

 

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Anger wells up when life seems unfair. Recently, a memory snaked its way back into my mind. That waitress was so rude, why didn’t management get notified. Instead I sat there and took it. Rehearsing the speech, I wish I gave I laid awake for hours. Friends that incident occurred years ago. Why did it slip in now? I don’t know but it was something I needed to get rid of.

After laying there for a while I heard this whisper “Why are you holding onto that offense?”

“Well, I don’t know.”

“What are you supposed to do?” The whisper continued.

“Forgive. I forgive that waitress for her insensitivity and the frustration she caused in me. Forgive me for hanging on to this memory like a dog with a bone. I’m so sorry Lord.”

Culturally acceptable, this emotion can cripple us. We allow the imagined argument to swirl around in our heads, feeling justified by the cause.

Ephesians 4:26-27 is a well-known verse among church goers.  “And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” It is known but seems so hard to do. It is easy to point out in others but difficult to apply to ourselves. Sometimes we don’t even see the bitterness we are hanging onto.

Sweet old ladies welcome everyone, the mood of the room lightens when they are present. Without complaint emotions are faced and dealt with. Forgiveness can get easier with age but only if it’s regularly applied. Unforgiveness leads to bitterness which leads to an inhospitable environment.

There is a woman at my church who has survived a traumatic childhood. Her teenage years were spent in Germany during World War II. She lost a great deal. She came to the United States as a young woman and became a citizen. Now as an elderly member of our church she calls all of us family. She loves the Lord and lives in gratitude for the life He has given her. She is always ready with a hug and word of encouragement. She gives honest feedback but always delivers truth in love. Her presence invites others in as a strong example to those around her. She is a role model for me but scoffs at me when I tell her so.

When I am angry, I need to remember.

God is good

Vengeance belongs to Him.

The other person who made me angry is made in the image of God

The other person deserves God’s grace as much as I do.

Extending forgiveness benefits both of us.

Choose between a lighthearted or bitter future.

It seems easy yet human nature naturally embraces the trap of regurgitating past hurts. Return to the top of the list fight the urge to hold on lay it at the feet of Jesus. He reminds us that His burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30) Always ready for us, He call us, the weary, to Him.

 

Philippians 4 6

 

 

Hannah moved back home in March due to Covid-19. Now twenty-one years old, our adult
daughter joined us in our empty nest. It took some adjusting but we are accustomed to our new
unit of three. At the end of this month she returns to Indiana as a senior in college. Our normal
August good-byes are complicated by a nation in turmoil and a pandemic. Will she be safe? Will
she be wise? Will the added stress trigger her anxiety?
 
Worries are not allowed to have free rental space in our heads. That space is to be used for
God’s word. Easier said than done but we are wise to listen to Matthew 6:27 (NIV) “Can any one
of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” That answer would be NOPE. We are to trust
Jesus with our thoughts. Psalm 9:10 (NIV) “Those who know your name trust in you, for you,
Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
 
For the most part all my thoughts are in place but occasionally, one goes skittering through as if
it has a will of its own. Especially at night, half asleep, when we should be at rest; they pester
us. Whether it is a nagging member of our to-do list or a worry that has no place there we need
the tools to shut it down. It needs a good cleaning but how do you do that?
 
2 Corinthians 10:5 in the NIV says “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself
up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to
Christ.” First, we must recognize we are to demolish them. Not hopefully we can demolish
them, nope. Remember warrior of God, this is your job and you have the tools to do so. (Judges
6:12) This applies to the worries, but it also applies to the list of responsibilities that don’t go
away. Rest is a necessary part of our battle plan. We are to command any swirling thought to be
quiet until morning. Take it captive – write it down. Revisit it in the morning. This will make it
obedient to Christ. With practice, our minds learn to stay quiet. I want to stress that this is
something we need to practice as a discipline.
 
Let’s look at Philippians 4:6 in detail. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about
everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (NLT).
1. Don’t worry.
2. Pray about everything. That literally means all things. Every detail matters to God and it
is ok to share it with Him. He will listen.
3. Ask God to provide for you and those you love. This is your time to fight. Remember you
are standing on the victory already provided for you. (Romans 8:37)
4. Thank Him. Gratitude is an amazing weapon against anxiety.
His promises will quiet the wayward thought. This takes practice. One of my favorite prayers is
simple. “I trust you Jesus.” Sometimes it is on repeat until His peace surrounds me and fills me.
Not because it takes repetition to get Him to answer but because I need to believe it myself.
Instead of worrying let’s turn it to a prayer of thanksgiving. She’s growing up so fast turns to
thank you Lord she’s able to go to school. He’s leaving home becomes thank you he has this
new adventure to follow his dream. They might not make it without me converts to thank you
they are learning independence. Through God’s grace we can quiet those pesky thoughts and
rest knowing God is in control.
 
It is not a one and done. This takes time and it is harder when life is difficult. We can feel fear
and worry, we are not to stay there. If this is an ongoing issue remember you don’t have to live
this way. There is no shame in getting help. Your mental health is as important as your medical
health; you're to live in freedom.
 
God is infinitely greater than everything. That is a huge statement. His power is boundless.
Creativity was birthed in His being. God is the source, the beginning – the end. You know this. I
know this. But do we live this way? In transforming into the woman He desires us to be we must
rely on His power. He can turn a worrier into a warrior. Does it surprise you that I referred to you
as a warrior of God? Who me? Yes, you. This battle is the internal battle we each fight.
Remember you are fighting from a place of victory. Do not give up! Keep fighting my friend.

Believing for things not seen

I clenched my hands in my lap as my daughter slipped into last place after swimming a difficult race. Once out of the pool, she sunk to the floor, her body heaving as she struggled to catch her breath. Come on girl, it wasn’t that bad. Teammates gathered around her. Should I go down there? I’ve never seen this in her before.

I’d just witnessed my child having the first of many panic attacks. It was a surreal experience, and it reminded me that as a parent, my ability to control my child’s world is an illusion. We could not fix this for her. Seeing my child spiral in her own mental health magnifies my own temptation to worry. As we escorted her back to health, she saw doctors and counselors and gained tools to battle this beast.

As a senior in high school, fear of the future fed her anxiety. Feeling pressured to determine a lifelong career, she struggled to balance her current responsibilities with the best choice to continue her education. We watched as her battle ebbed and flowed, her triggers unpredictable. Unbeknownst to us, this inner conflict had been brewing under the surface for years.

As senior year progressed, her growth in health and faith complemented one another. She took control of her diet and exercise. She questioned promises in Scripture, pressing into the One who created her. She began to understand the Holy Spirit guided her daily through this difficult journey.

She left for college one year into the healing process. Far from us, I cried myself to sleep. Could she do this without our daily support?

As her parents, we prayed and determined to trust Jesus. On particularly bad nights, I lay in bed and repeated “I trust you. I trust you,” until my own fears quieted and I drifted to sleep. Hebrews 11:1 reminds us our “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Our hope rested in Jesus: Even when we did not see her healing, we knew Jesus was at work.

Our faith rested in Jesus.

Our faith hoped for healing.

Our hearts knew Jesus was present even when we didn’t see the evidence.

His presence brought peace when our world seemed so dark.

Today, she is a thriving college junior. Her battle continues, but she wins most days. The healing we hoped for is gradually occurring. Her struggle developed her independence and growth in her own faith.

Our current world circumstances push at our faith to anger and fear but our faith doesn’t rest in what we see. Trust Jesus in the waiting. He brings peace and hope when circumstances feel out of our control.

He answered Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and Love your neighbor as yourself.Luke 10 27

This morning I am mourning the death of George Floyd. No, I didn’t know him, but he represents the ugly monster of racism that lurks in the shadows around us. Don’t worry this will be gentle post, I’m not going to rant and rave. I’m writing from a mother’s heart, from a perspective that knows gentleness opens hearts. Please recognize that gentleness, like the whole of the fruit of the Sprit, comes from a place of strength. Grief weakens me but, in my weakness, I will allow the Holy Spirit to be strong.
At nine years old, I didn’t understand why we were moving. I loved our two-story home set in the middle of neighborhood block in Flint, Michigan. Heartsick, my parents determined it was time to leave their beloved city. Crime increased around us, they were concerned for the safety of their five daughters, so we packed up and moved out.
For me it felt like a lighthearted adventure. Our new home’s backyard sloped own to a swampy field that then merged with the woods. A nature lover, it was a dream come true. Timid, it took me a while to adjust to the new school, but I did. It was a beautiful setting for a wonderful childhood.
My husband, like myself grew up in the country and we both wanted to give our children a similar childhood. We live in a small town, mostly white, insulated from the conflicts that our city neighbors face daily. Our children are grown, my son moved to Minneapolis in the fall for graduate school at the University of Minnesota. He now lives a short distance from where Mr. Floyd was killed. I can’t hide from racism anymore. It reared its ugly head near my family, I can’t pretend it isn’t real.
Take some time to read Luke 10:25-37, the story of the Good Samaritan. It is time to stop passing by and looking the other way. I will stop and bind the wounds of my neighbors. I may not feel like I’m part of the problem, but my choices haven’t made me part of the solution either.
So, what do we do? First, we pray but not just to pray over the situation but for prayer to empower us to action. What is the Holy Spirit saying to you? Where do you need to go to show your neighbor of color love? Jesus commanded us to love God and love our neighbor. Love takes action and He gave us His Spirt to move in that direction. Second, act on what He is telling you to do. I will continue to work with Micah 6 Community in Pontiac, my work there seems insignificant compared to the magnitude of the problem, but it is one small positive thing I can do. What nonprofit can you give your time and money to that will put a nail in the coffin of racism? Third, find businesses that are minority owned and frequent them. Your support empowers small businesses to grow especially in times of economic stress.

Lament with our neighbors over all the losses and a painful history. What I am suggesting is not enough but it is a beginning. I invite you to join me on this journey. I don’t know all the next steps, but I know I have to do something. I hope you will join me.

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