Face to Face with Raw Grace

I looked around, and I watched for joy.

It seemed more than finding joy, I found faces creased with worry-lines, etched deeper with each passing year until they became such a permanent part of countenances they no longer disappeared.

Even in laughter, sadness remains in the faces of those around us.

I hear their stories, and I weep. Life is cruel and unforgiving at times, early dreams gone to the wind as if they were never held tightly by young, hopeful hearts who had not yet learned that this planet is a wrecked place.

There will always be death.

There will always be infidelity.

There will always be hidden sins affecting the lives of those we love.

Because there will always and only be humans living on this earth, and we get to live right alongside them. Not only that, but we are human, too.

Human enough to mess up just like them. Human enough to be gripped by the failure of another until we make it our own, somehow believing life to be over unless another very fallible human begins to live a different life.

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I see them go under, then step out and up. Somehow, these strong people know that there’s more to life than what another human does—even if it’s done to them.

The person who wronged them never defined their worth. What they saw from the person’s visible actions didn’t match up with what they knew God’s heart saw when they were yet in invisible places in their mothers’ wombs.

In Psalm 110:1, David writes, “The Lord says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’

The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!”

If God asks Jesus to sit at His right hand until He {God} makes His {Jesus’} enemies His footstool, it seems to me we can do the same.

Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed me the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

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And in Ephesians 2:4-6, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ.”

See this—He has seated us with Himself. Who else gets to sit in warfare?

We are blessed in Christ. Blessings are free, and they are a gift.

He’s made us alive, when before we were dead.

He’s raised us up, above this planet where otherwise we would be destroyed.

Grace is unmerited favor. That means you get it when you don’t deserve it, and I dare say you receive it when all odds defy it.

You don’t work for it; it’s handed to you while you rest right in the center of your enemies.

This means before they’ve gone away. You can rest in the middle of warfare because you’re seated with Christ in heavenly places—and we all know that evil can’t get close to God and the heavenlies.

Our warfare is fought in our rest. Grace has only to be received.

But what is this grace? If we must receive it, doesn’t such a gift merit a true understanding of its attributes? For what if we are offered a counterfeit, and we receive it without being aware that it’s a replacement, wrapped in packaging so close to the original but designed to trick us?

We need real gold to purchase real things. In the same way, we need true grace to inherit real salvation. Settling for cheap grace when there is true grace is the worst dilemma that could occur to you on this planet.

Cheap grace doesn’t save you, either from your own sin or that of others. True grace always delivers.

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Cheap grace lures you into a counterfeit “peace” while you continue in sin; true grace sets you free from the bondage of your sin. {“For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” 2 Peter 2:19b}

I wonder how we are more concerned with setting people free from working slavery than we are with setting them free from soul slavery.

My friend looked at me the other day in bewilderment when she said, “I know so many Godly men who are living in sexual sin, and have no qualms about it.”

Godly?” I queried. “How does one profess to walk with Jesus when they purposefully choose to walk in the same sin as a lifestyle choice?”

Falling into sin, then getting back up because you know saving grace is one thing. Deliberate choice for a lifestyle of ongoing sin is quite another—and we can’t profess to walk with Jesus without receiving His grace that saves us from those sins.

My children can’t choose a daily lifestyle of rebellion to their father without losing the peace they enjoy with him. Just as the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of {our} wisdom” {Psalm 9:10, ESV}, so a healthy fear of their father is the beginning of their joyful relationship with him.

Grace sets us free to walk in life; it does not give us a ticket to continue in death.

As Shane Beeson says, “Just because we’re not under law doesn’t mean we have no law.”

The law is our greatest tool of teaching us how impossible it is to live righteously. We are set free from the law because the Spirit of Christ can do what the law could never do.

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Under the law, we know what we should do, and we don’t do it.

We know what we shouldn’t do, and we do it anyway.

God wants us to feel this sting. He gave us the law of righteousness so that we would know our inability to live righteously without His Presence. He wants us to know the need for His own Spirit to indwell us, because He wants to be center of our hearts.

As darkness is dispelled by a strong beam of light, so the power of sin loses its force when the light of true grace is known in our otherwise dark hearts.

If you were to hold a flashlight with no batteries, darkness would remain when you pushed the on button. In the same way, when you know only cheap grace, your life will not change.

Just as a flashlight must be charged by batteries in order to work, so your soul must be full of the Spirit in order to change. Just as it is not enough to go camping with a flashlight full of dead batteries, so it is not enough to claim grace that is not truly saving you from the power of sin.

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You can hold that flashlight all night long, but it will do you no good. Likewise, you can name the name of Christ all day long but it will do you no good unless you allow Him to dwell in you and change your life from the inside out.

A joyless life stems both from a lack of deliverance from our own sin and that of the sins of others. We are meant to be overcome by neither. We are meant to be seated with Christ in heavenly places, to rest in the center of our enemies, to know what it means to be set free from sin rather than be overtaken by it.

We must first understand true grace, then choose to receive it. When we do, the Spirit of God will indwell us with a Presence not our own, and will lead us to a continual and fuller awareness of His saving grace.

The world will know you, not by your words, but by your fruit. They must see the affects of your grace in order to believe in the truth of your grace.

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They must see light turn on when you hold the flashlight,or they will never take the trouble to carry it—and they will want you to toss it as well. Just as they are better off without the burden of carrying the non-working flashlight, so they feel better off without the burden of a religion that doesn’t change a life.

They know more than we think they know, for darkness is felt more than seen, and light shines more than we are even aware.

And no matter what, they must see that the grace you profess to know can keep you in the peace they so desperately desire to know.

The hard in your life need not create hardness in your heart. As you receive this saving Grace for your sin, may you also receive it for the sins committed to you, and allow God to seat you, even still, in heavenly places with Him.

Because nothing beneath God will ever rise above God. He has you, and He holds you—because His grace saves you.

Love, Dimples, and Age

My man was gone for the weekend, so I took our dimple cheeked daughter out on a date. She is miss drama herself so there was plenty to talk about as her brown eyes looked soulishly into mine in expression of her thoughts and feelings.

There’s this boy……” .

What? Her, already?

I listened in amusement. And as I listened, I looked around. People, I love people.

Talk about the guy, girl situation, and there are lots of observations. Middle aged couples sat, seemingly a tad bored, guys on their i-phones while the ladies looked a bit wistful or sat quietly.

But in the corner sat a wrinkled old man, seemingly enthralled with his lady who was wrinkled and old as well. He held her hand, cupped into his, as she shared her heart. The attention he gave her was blissful, the desire for her was obvious.

People joke about men not needing to communicate, but I’ve seen enough men in love to know that they have amazing capacity to dig right into a woman’s heart and get her to be vulnerable with her deepest feelings. The wrinkled old man with his wrinkled old lady, well, he had her leaning forward while he gazed into her face and cupped her hand in his.

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It was the sweetest picture I saw all day. And I saw a lot of sweet ones today.

I saw a one year old digging into his first piece of cake, chubby cheeks smothered in frosting. Pure sweetness.

I saw large, soulish brown eyes looking into my face while dimpled cheeks filled with cotton candy ice cream. I heard her dump her heart. It was sweetness itself.

I saw my nine year old son walk up to the woods with my four year old, dog in tow. The four year old turns and says, “Mama, we will be OK. Don’t worry, Mama.” My heart melted at the sight of them.

I saw a husband bring his wife a plate, then ask if there was anything more she wanted. Sweet thoughtfulness.

But none trumps the comparison of those two middle aged men, bored and preoccupied while sitting with their ladies, and the wrinkled elderly couple who were so in love.

If love grows with age, if wrinkles are a sign of long years together, if old-age love successfully defies the lie that to be loved you must be beautiful, then, well, I guess I’m ready to be old. And I’m thankful that age is not to be feared by Christian women who know that true beauty comes from aligning our hearts with the purposes of God.

The brown eyed, dimple-cheeked daughter may grow older with her worth aligned to truth, that the true essence of a woman is the soul–not the skin.

That true beauty is as beauty does–not as beauty looks.

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That cultivating one’s appearance is healthy while fretting over an appearance you don’t have, is not.

That every woman has beauty to offer, regardless of age or appearance, and we have only to cultivate what has been given us.

That the day of one’s birth has been planned, just as the day of one’s death—and every single day in between is beautiful.

Let her know, just as she does now, that true love grows better, not worse, with years.

Join Me in Shedding Light?

I carefully placed another lamp on the side table, and worked the extension cord over.

Purchasing a large home with not enough light had me roaming the isles of Goodwill in search of lamps, and that day, I was happy to find two matching ones for the living room.

Goodwill boasts of less than beautiful décor, though, so I set them in the garage and painted them lavishly with metallic spray paint. God bless whoever invented the stuff, because it has saved my day!

I pulled at the extension and plugged it in. The lamps burst into a beautiful, soft glow over the living room area, and I was satisfied. Next time we had guests over, I wouldn’t feel like I sat them in the dark.

This week, I’ve been feeling a bit gloomy. Like perhaps my own atmosphere needs a little more light to shed on those around me.

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I’ve been to a conference, and the faces of the staff were healing just to watch. I rarely see joy and clarity light up faces as I saw on the lovely people of Joann Moody’s team. I was mesmerized, struck, drawn in.

I couldn’t wait to be prayed over. Eyes clear as day looked into mine, and life poured out of lips. Life-giving words, confirming words, words that could be known only by the spirit of Christ giving knowledge for someone he didn’t even know.

I came home, all lit up as if my heart was ablaze. And we went back for more.

Something about the Spirit of God had even the kids in tears. The girls don’t usually sit in their chairs at a church service with tears pushing from their eyes. People don’t usually receive words so vital to their lives, so personally tailored to their own lives from someone who has no idea who they are except as he prays by the Spirit of God.

These people pray in the airports; they pray on the streets, they pray everywhere and all the time. And, they love it. There is no duty-bound, guilt-ridden sense of obligation—only a love relationship with the Infinite God Who created the finite world, and holds it all in His hands.

Jesus says to us, people of God, that we are “the light of the world.” He says that when we light a lamp, we don’t put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, so that it lights up the house.

“In the same way,” He says, “Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father Who is in heaven.” [Matthew 5:14-16, ESV]

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He also tells us that we are the salt of the earth, but if our salt has lost its flavor, it’s not good for much except to be thrown out and walked on. [verse 13]

Wow! Thrown out and walked over?

His words echo my heart when I see the name of Christ being claimed while His life isn’t lived, and I see the world turn away in disgust.

Or when someone who claims to be “extra spiritual” goes about hurting others, giving off a distinct sense of self more than casting the light of the person of Jesus Christ to hearts needing a touch of something more than they know.

Could it be worse to claim the name of Christ but not cast the light of Christ, than it is to not claim Him at all?

A false representation of God’s glory is the chiefest cause of people not believing in the glory of God at all.

If we claim the name of Christ, we are to be salt, flavor, light. We are to bring about the better and good in our homes and cities. We are not only to speak life, but to give life.

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Hear this—we are not asked to give rules, but asked to give life. When we give life, those who are touched by that life will be changed by the Life-Giver.

More than ordering your life perfectly, make certain your heart is ablaze with a Presence greater than your own. Make certain His love is pouring out to those around you. Make certain you are changing the atmosphere in which you live, and that, when you enter a room, you cast off light and warmth.

Allow the Spirit of God to dwell in you mightily, and shy not away from bringing His presence with you in your home, at work, in the airports, and on the streets.

If He is truly in you, He will shine His light on all those around you as they look at your countenance and enjoy your presence.

As the lamps shed warmth and light in my living room, so I am to shed light in my atmosphere today. I am to live out the gifts He’s put in. I am to be light, salt, and flavor. I am to touch lives in ways they dare not hope for, because Christ in me is the Giver of Hope.

Friends, join me in shedding light today?

How to Love the Offender But Hate the Offense

What about another person’s sin?

My mind has struggled to grasp how to forgive another while being entirely at odds with what he or she did. And I hear people say, forgiveness doesn’t mean you need to be OK with what happened; forgiveness means you release what happened, and move on.

Forgiveness means we can be entirely not ok with what occurred. We can forgive another without being in relationship with another. We can forgive someone without approving of someone’s actions. We can be entirely upset by the sin, but have a heart of love for the sinner.

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Loving someone doesn’t always mean you’re in relationship with someone. I’ve seen some of the best women need to walk away from relationships because they were destructive in the worst kind of way.

Well-meaning Christians [or the wrong-doer him/herself] imply that if you’d only forgive, everything would be fine. People forget that forgiveness for the offended can happen without the offender changing at all, and if forgiveness means we put ourselves in harm’s way again, we may have a wrong understanding of it for our particular situation.

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Forgiveness is wise.
Forgiveness is safe.
Forgiveness is freeing.

The freedom of forgiveness means you walk in life. If your version of it takes you right back to death, perhaps Christ would want to give you His version instead?

Forgiveness doesn’t imply hiding abuse. Like the one mother who had hidden for her abuser since childhood and was now struggling to know whether her version of forgiveness was the right one, I encouraged her that true love brings things to light so that he has a greater chance of forgiveness before his death.

In the name of forgiveness, she was allowing a child offender to go free—and who knows how many other children were abused because of her willingness to “forgive.”

When we hide for another, we make the sin of another more possible.

Does your version of forgiveness bring you freedom or keep you in fear?

Jesus died for the sin of the entire human race. He forgave, but He still hated the sin so much that He died publicly for it. Sin demands an answer.

Galatians 6: 1-2 says, “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”

See this—God never asks us to ignore the sin; He asks us to restore the sinner.

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We can be entirely hard on the sin without being unloving toward the sinner. You can be merciless toward the act itself while showing mercy toward the one who committed the act. In this way, sin is dealt with while the soul is loved on. Was not that what Christ did?

Realize that the sin toward yourself is a symptom of great need in another. Rather than react toward the person who failed you, look into his/her life and try to understand the why behind it. Learn to pull out roots more than chop off plants.

When roots are pulled out, the plants don’t grow again. But chopping off the plant while leaving the root cause only ensures the same old plant will sprout back. Many times, those who fail us need us to stick in there and walk back to life with them.

There’s another side as well. Remember Jesus, when He entered the temple and threw the money tables over while demanding everyone get out? This wasn’t so gentle. There are sins that demand firm aggression and an absolute denial of access into our lives.

The Gentle One became strong.
The Meek One became as bold as a lion.
The Loving One refused to tolerate.
And the One Who knows all things didn’t cover for them.

He is the epitome of Love. Look to Him for an example of how to show love, and how to forgive. Realize that even the Son of God didn’t allow sin to pass by unchecked, and for people to benefit from His offer of reconciliation, they must also accept His offer to help them change.

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Forgive another, and walk with them to healing—but know that, when you need to, you can also forgive and never walk with them again. For one sinner, Jesus walked, talked, and graciously continued relationship; for another, He overthrew tables and demanded them to leave.

Neither one had Him locked in bitterness. The Son of Man walks free regardless of what happens around Him, and so can you. Simply know His heart for each person and each situation, and He will show you what you need to do.

Simply know this—in either case, you are free.

Owning Our Need…..and Seeing What a Gift It Is to Do So

I’m sitting on the bed, choking back the words in my throat.

You know, that time of choking on words because you’re hearts rather choking on you? That was me the other day.

I’d been telling my man what a hard time I was having with the kids, and he told me about the hard things I needed to hear, myself. Ouch.

It’s never fun owning your wrong when all you want is for someone else to own theirs. But I had just read in Proverbs 10:17 that “whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.”

The words had jumped at me. Because for so long I had had a beef about the kids not wanting to own their wrongs………and here I was, doing the same thing.

You always have to be right.” The words stung me because it was what I hated most in them. My inner slogan had rather become, “Just own it!”

I swallow hard, and I own it. I’m not hearing them like I need to, and I project my thoughts onto their own hearts, feeling that I know what their motives are. Many times, mothers are spot on when the growing babies are in denial, stubbornly refusing to admit their wrong—but here I was, determined not to get my toes stepped on, and taking it too far.

Just because someone does something 20% of the time doesn’t mean they do it 100% of the time. And when there’s conflict, another is rarely 100% at fault even if they do have a fault.

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Bitter words can be saving words. And I knew in that moment that I had to do what I want others to do. I had to own my failure. Because when we claim the grace of God, we must also embrace each word of God—whether it feels good, or not.

If Jesus owned the failure of the entire world, how can we not own the failure of our own, one, small person—especially when He’s already paid the price for what we’re about to admit to?

The photo of the cross and nail pierced into its wood sits before me. What on earth do I think I’m doing when I don’t want to own my sin? How can I want to hear words of grace but ignore words of rebuke?

Jesus heard words from His Father that were so difficult to hear that He walked the garden late at night with drops of sweat glistening on His forehead as He begged God or a way out.

Really get this, soul—the Son of God was about to be blamed for, be crucified for, be mocked and whipped for, lie in a dark tomb three days for, this very sin you almost can’t even admit. He was about to own the burden of, carry the weight of, hold the shame and guilt of this sin you want to pass onto the back of someone else for the sake of your own skin.

Perhaps our crooked places would become a bit more straight if we listened in on every word of God, not just the easy ones. Perhaps we would save more souls than lead others astray as it mentions in Proverbs 17.

If the earth, which holds the only tangible source of power we know will vanish in light of God’s power, how can we hold onto anything of this earth that has no power at all?

God’s words have resurrected the dead. They’ve brought creation to existence when there was nothing. And each word He speaks to you is purpose-filled for a grand culmination of good in your life and those lives affected by you.

I choked back the words I wanted to speak on that couch, and allow freedom to wash over my heart instead. Because of it, I hope to bring more freedom to those around me.

Because every single word of God is good. And repentance, as well as grace, is a gift.

In fact, I don’t think we get to have one without the other!

When Moms Want to be Lit up More Than Burnt Out

I stare at the wall hanging in one of my favorite stores, then carefully place it into my shopping cart.

It was perfect. The words, the font, the message. And I purchased it without guilt because somehow I knew our home “needed” it.

I had just finished cleaning the best gun shop in town, and enjoyed chatting with the bright eyed little boy who occupied one of the back rooms while his daddy put in a few hours of work.

He walked on my wet floor and chattered incessantly when all I wanted was quiet. But he taught me a lesson.

I had left my own little boy at home with his daddy while I did my weekly job away from the house. It was hard to leave. Somehow, I always feel I’m not good enough of a mama when I pull out of that driveway.

Feeling like I’m not enough is a constant challenge for many of us mothers. But here was a little tyke with eyes so bright and happy they nearly blazed with confidence, and he was, get this, occupying himself in the back room of a gun shop.

And here I was, feeling badly that my own little boy was running around a large house and property with his dad and three siblings. Perhaps the boy alone in the room was happier than my own boy in the house—because love isn’t felt with things as much as it’s felt with rest and freedom in the atmosphere—and it may or may not be happening in either place.

 

I wanted to meet his mother. I did get to observe his father, and there was this relaxed, all is well with our world type of demeanor. He had the bright face, too.

Mothers, our kids do better with our sometimes-absent bright face than they do with our constantly present, stressed out countenance.

I’m thinking knee-deep into this dilemma of wanting to fill every single gap I think I need to fill—and then find myself snappy and exhausted as a result. This summer, I’ve been taking a step back.

It’s hard. I’m wondering if my friends are offended because I haven’t had them over as much as I’d like to.

I’m wondering if my husband’s thinking I’m slacking on taking care of his needs.

I’m wondering if I’m enough, enough, enough—and I’m choosing to let go, anyway.

I fill that gigantic glass jug [the one I found at a yard sale for two dollars] with granola so the kids can eat breakfast before school, and I’m hidden away in my office with my Bible, laptop, and coffee. The next week, I purchase cups of instant cereal at the outlet store for a treat. My kids thought I’d finally joined the “fun mom” crowd until they read the ingredients—get this, the first ingredients were beans and lentils, and the fruity cereal was colored with paprika and beet juice.

I let go of two weekly commitments so I could add in two others for the benefit of our family.

I quit pinching every penny, and I purchase a few lovely things for our home along with teaching DVD’s to create a more restful school atmosphere.

Because the mind that never quits will soon have a brain that doesn’t know how to shut down. And when you’re pushed so hard for all things good you soon can’t be anything good.

I speak it to my husband, this thing of trying so hard to create a perfect life for my kids that I end up creating a stressful atmosphere. Because the body that never stops will soon have a brain that doesn’t want itself or anyone else to stop, either.

We were born to be, not born to perform.

Be kind.

Be loving.

Be full of smiles.

Be rested.

Be connected to the people who matter.

Somehow we’re conditioned to think that the busier we are, the more productive we are. Did you know we can spin crazily for a lifetime without producing the product of a moment?

Life is not so much about what we say or do or what model of parenting we choose as it is about what kind of presence we host. The peaceful presence of God determines what we say and do; therefore, taking time to know and commune with God is the most important gift we can give to our kids and spouses.

Cut your corners but don’t cut your time. If you’re willing to cut corners you will soon notice that you enjoy your extra time much more than you need the satisfaction of accomplishing everything.

And if you wonder if you’re a good enough wife, mother, or friend, remember that you are a human being more than you are a human doer.

I’m noticing an extra smile twinge the corners of my mouth these days. An extra moment to give. Extra energy to put out. I’d rather have extra energy to put out than have no energy because I’m constantly stressed out.

God is a Being, and you are made in His likeness. Because God is the Being He is, He does the things He does. He doesn’t do the things He does so He can be the Being He is. In the same way, you can’t afford to push too hard to do many things so you can be something.

You do the best thing because you already are something—and you don’t need to prove what already is.

When you allow His Being to enter your own, you will be love, peace, and kindness.

I pick up that wall hanging. I drink that coffee, alone. I have that quiet time. I create space just to be, simply to enjoy, breathe, and smile.

I’m done rushing about trying to do everything I think those around me need me to do—because I’ve seen that doing so much good takes me from being all things good.

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There is never too much to do—there is only an inward push to be too much because we think we’re not enough. Mothers get this—that push is a lie, and if you need to, drop that paring knife and go purchase onions that are already chopped.

In a burning world, we don’t need to be burnt out. We need to be lit right up, because we were made to be long before we were stressed with too much to do.

When Bitter Means Better

I’m standing outside a small meeting place in Seattle, chowing down food with a vengeance I hope no one sees.

For crying aloud, some of the friends I came with are fasting. But I’m this starving girl with a mouth so full I turn my head so no one notices. Those fasting days have been gone for awhile and life seems to demand a steady supply of food just to keep going strong.

A gentleman walks toward me, nods, and taps a finger to his brain. He knows. I need this food just to be able to think.

But there’s a booming voice inside and I tilt my head toward the open doorway as the African-American preacher shouts it out. “Bow in the name of Jesus Christ!”

I’m spellbound as he continues. His passion draws me in and engages my soul in all that matters most, as does the older lady with glasses on the mid-ridge of her nose, speaking of things that bring her to righteous anger.

I smile, then reach out and thank her for saying what I want to say. In a world of relativism where truth is perceived as judgment, seeing one dare to speak up for truths that are dying out is refreshing to say the least.

Friends, it’s still wrong to cheat on your spouse.

It’s still wrong to lie and steal.

It’s still wrong to beat your kids.

And get this—it’s still wrong to embrace a gay or transgender lifestyle.

Most of the people who say truth is relative and life should be gauged by one’s own happiness [if you want to live a gay life-style, do so], don’t truly believe what they say. When rubber meets the road and their spouse cheats on them [for the sake of his own happiness], they have no trouble labeling it wrong with the most severe judgment.

The problem rises when we choose to label certain things wrong because they affect us, but claim truth to be relative for other areas that don’t affect us.

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A sovereign God Who created the universe gets to choose what is best for the whole of His universe. The fact that humans are able to pronounce such great displeasure and judgment on things that rock their world, but declare others judgmental for hanging onto truth in a rocking world, is but proof of their mortality.

We are humanly capable of defending our own hearts but mortally incapable of living for the heart of God—unless we are indwelled by the Spirit of God.

Spiritual warfare doesn’t just happen. We must speak it out, seek it out, proclaim it out.

We must fight for it, deny for it, reach for it.

We must dare push through the wall of apathy in our culture, and engage the deepest things of God in a world which allows things of the surface to rule.

You don’t have to be burnt up in a burning world; you must be lit up in a dark world. And you must know that, as light overtakes darkness, so every single truth of God will overtake the apathy and relativism of man.

I bite into a flax seed, and its bitter flavor pierces my mouth. Where did that come from? Sweet granola with bitter seeds?

They’re bitter, but entirely nutritious—and the whole of the granola is crunchy sweetness, chock full of nutrition for a day out.

When truth seems bitter, know that it is God’s invitation to wholeness, a life made sweet with His presence. You cannot claim the Presence of God without giving yourself wholly to the heart of God.

Some of the bites you take may have bitter flavor. Take them anyway, and your life will be blessed with the entirety of God’s gift of life, just as my granola was crunchy and sweet even though it was filled with bitter flax seed.

If I had left them out, that bag of granola would have missed one of the most nutritious ingredients. Leave out the truths with a bitter sting to them, and you begin to merge away from the entire picture of wholeness God wants to grace your life with.

As the booming preacher shouted it out, “Bow in the name of Jesus Christ,” so may your life walk it out, “Truth is found in the heart of God.”

How to Be Something for Your Husband Without Having to Be Everything

I scrubbed up the mud marks from the bathroom drawer, the one I had freshly painted the other day. How kids can take merging beauty and turn it upside down in one day baffles me, still.
Painting white over ugly brown wood is one of the most rewarding things—and though it’s hard work to renovate the old, it’s one of the most refreshing, fun things to do.
Just the other day, I had stood by while two men loaded up an old, free hutch into my dusty mini van. It barely fit, but there I was, eyeing some old piece ready to be coated with chalk paint before it would grace the first office I had ever had. I was nearly giddy with excitement over having a lovely piece for all those books I had been storing away for some years because the shelves were always full–and some books, well, they don’t go on the family book shelf!
My man walked by as I painted away. “Thank you for making our home a lovely place to be,” he commented.
We had just bought our first home, and I had a few moments to swipe the brush after a full day of gardening. The extra rooms turning into each of our offices was a bonus I hadn’t expected—and many nights I’d lay in bed scrolling Pinterest for inexpensive ideas on how to turn ugly into lovely.
But the son needed T-shirts today, and new shoes. “Part of the reason I have been growing my hair out is because I feel like it matches the clothes I have, Mama. I don’t have any T-shirts.”
I hit the road with this son of mine, the one who has an adult head on young shoulders, and loves hanging out with older, wise kids. His shoulders are getting broad, hunky. And he tells me of his deepest heart while we drive.
I treasure it more than I treasure most things. I’m in awe that he trusts me. And we drive from one place to another in search of the clothes he needs until he’s well equipped.
He walks by as I’m painting, later. “Mama, how do you like my shoes?”
I look at him, and his satisfied eyes let me know his heart is cared for once again. I don’t really care that his shoes aren’t my style, because happy hearts are more than a style—they are a miracle, a blessing not to be taken for granted.
He runs off for his weekly swim with friends. And I don’t regret a minute of the time or money I spent on this child, because that’s how he hears love. Spend time with him, and his heart settles peacefully. Care for his needs, and he’s confident as he goes out. Hear his deepest thoughts without criticism, and he keeps nothing back.
I keep swiping paint. Old cabinets are detailed, and it takes a few hours just to put on the first coat. I’m weary when I’m through, just when my man asks if I’m opposed to him going to the gym.
I shake my head. I’m envisioning a quiet night with the little boys while everyone else is out. Clean up, shower, chocolate……and then, he asks if I’d like to go with him and read while I watch the little boys swim.
I hesitate. “Any good wife would join her husband,” my mind reasons.
“I want a shower, chocolate, and Pinterest,” my hormone-wracked body argues.
“I think I’ll stay,” I say. “I’m not feeling well, and I’d love a quiet night.” He nods his head. He gets it. The days have been maxed for him, too, and I’ve found him alone in mind-repose on quite a few occasions lately.
This thing of not needing to be everything for everyone has taken me years to learn. And as I showered the day’s dirt away, I realized it again.
When I’m not trying to be everything for him, I get to be something for him.
I got to love on him last night in one of the best ways he really gets love.
We got to hold each other numerous times today.
I got to interrupt my project to care for a business call he needed me to make.
I got to put food aside for him when he returned, hungry and sweaty, from the gym.

 

 

 

 

 

There’s this little fear-thought the enemy of peace wants to thrust into my head when I decline an outing with him, even if it’s only to the gym. “What if some other pretty girl with a perfectly toned body does arm curls beside him when you’re not there?”
And I feel the pressure of it all, this need to be everything at once no matter how tired I am. I decline anyway—because I’m learning slowly that driving myself hard for too many good things will drive me away from the one good thing.
 
Because a good thing, at the wrong time, becomes the wrong thing. 
I’m learning that the pressure to be everything will keep me from the blessing of being
something he needs most of all.
I stay home. I clean up, shower, and spoon that chocolate ganache into my body which has been demanding hormonal balance all day long. As I shower, words begin flowing into my head and I can’t wait to finish and type them out.
 I wonder, would they have come had I been bone weary at the gym, trying to be something for someone when I could have been simply me, loving from my small corner as best I could?
Sometimes, love is as simple as gladly interrupting your favorite project to make a call for your man.
Sometimes, love means you smile and offer him food when he comes home.
Love means you take your son to town when you’d rather be home—that you spend the money on clothes for him when you really want throw pillows for your new home, instead.
I’m painting away, and this son walks up again. “Mama, look.”
He’s dripping blood, and I swipe away, this time with wet paper towel. I know taking him into the house is my version of love for that moment. Placing a bandage on his forehead becomes a privilege, an honor, a special moment because he’s here, and he holds my heart, and I hold his.
Love requires you to give until you’re full, not dish out until you’re bare.
Get this, mothers and wives—you don’t need to be everything, because you already are something so vital to your loved ones’ existence, and you’re irreplaceable.
When you calm down, breathe deeply, and love hard in all those small moments, you give your man something so precious that it can’t be replaced by some girl at the gym doing her big moment of weight lifting.
Do your own thing, and do it well.
You don’t need to compete with Hollywood—just care for your body, maintain your weight, and do well with what God’s given you.
You don’t need to prove anything—just be entirely full of Proven Love.
You don’t need to be the best cook—just work to please your man with his favorites every once in awhile, just because.
You don’t need to be an entrepreneur—just find out what your gifts are, and utilize them well.
You don’t need to save every penny—just make the most of your man’s budget—and pick up those free pieces of furniture beside the road.
You don’t need to do it all in one day—you just need to embrace the process of each day.
My hutch is partially painted, and I didn’t join my man at the gym. I’m so human I can’t do it all, and I’m so finite my energy is dependent on rest and sleep.
Why is it that women tend to live as though they should have no human needs at all? Why the guilt over saying no to those we love?
Because we fail to see that in saying no, we get to say yes. In saying no to more activities, we get to say yes to extra room for love to grow in our hearts.
I enjoyed the process today. I slowed down, and relaxed. Each bite of chocolate was a gift, and when the crew walked in, I got to smile and welcome them home.
Because perfect love never meant perfect performance.
I get to paint the hutch partially. I get to accomplish what I want for others, partially. I get to know it’s OK, because my humanness was never meant to compete with God’s perfection.
Embrace the journey, and know that, when you don’t perform perfectly, you get to know and show Perfect Love—and that is all that will ever last. Refuse fear of failure, and make way for peace in the process.
Give your all to small moments, for they make up a large life of love.

How to Foster Honor in a Younger Generation

The younger girl spoke vehemently, and I watched the older lady wilt.
I watched her wilt because she knew what I saw—that tones of such a nature are rarely becoming when directed toward a person three times your senior.
It was awkward. But more than that, sad. How honor loses it’s seat in our society baffles me. And as she spoke, I knew there was truth her mother needed to hear, but was unable to hear because it was spoken with such heat and disrespect.
Years of the same old had brought the ugly side forth. Like a dam waiting to burst, the girl’s heart had finally had enough, and she was letting her mother know. But in letting her mother know, there was an even more vital thing she didn’t know.
When we speak the ugly reality, we must speak it in an honorable manner.
 

 

 
There is little left in our culture to properly define and exemplify true honor. In other cultures, we read of children standing when a parent enters the room; here, parents are sassed about and disrespected while kids slouch in front of the TV, remote in hand, guiding their way through another movie which most likely feeds even more disrespect.
When our girls grew older, they began loving high school romance movies. Their father and I put a stop to them because these shows fostered selfish, vain, immature attitudes, rich-kid lifestyles, and pre-mature making out. Many of the main characters showed anything but honor to those around them.
It wasn’t easy to say no to the girls. We wanted them to have fun. But rather than spending hours in front of the TV watching shows that lead them away from God more than toward Him, we tried to foster hard work, intense play and recreation, and more reading rather than more of those shows.
Fill your child’s life with the good and they will have little time for the bad.
What are we feeding our kids? And why?
It’s not uncommon to walk into a home and have a child ignore your presence completely because his eyes are glued to his video game. If you say hello, you get a quick, reluctant response as if you’re not worth the time and effort to greet.
In our culture it is not unusual to see men wilt while wives emasculate them and strip them of their dignity—in public, at that. We forget that to a man, honor speaks love—just as to a woman, time, tenderness, and affection speaks love.
We attribute a man’s need for honor to an egotistic desire for recognition and status, while forgetting that they were created a certain way for a reason—and it’s not sexist to affirm that need and put forth effort to meet it.
In many other cultures, the elderly are cared for, respected, and seated at the table with their families; in our culture, they are often passed over, neglected as grown kids run their own families, and despised as “old fashioned” when they try to speak wisdom into a younger generation.

 

 

 

When a president in the most powerful country of the world is elected, people drive cars with demeaning bumper stickers and run protests until people get hurt. This happens regardless of which party is elected—because people have forgotten that in the same breath as we’re asked to honor God, we are asked to “honor all men, and to “honor the king”. [1 Peter 2:17]
In our culture, we’ve forgotten the dignity of honoring a person for his office or calling more than for his perfection. We’ve lost our fear of God, and of those whom He’s placed in powerful positions. We forget that despite our greatest efforts, God still has the final say of who enters the oval office in the White House.
When David was on the run, trying to escape a wicked king who was hunting him down out of sheer jealousy, he had opportunity to kill the king himself. Rather, he cut a corner off Saul’s robe as he slept—and later berated himself for doing so. He warned his men severely not to kill God’s anointed.
His honor moved Saul to repentance, and he returned from his jealousy driven man-hunt in shame. [1 Samuel 24]
David was able to show honor because he first possessed it. Only when honor is known vertically [with God] can we show it horizontally [to others].
The young girl in the first paragraph was obviously frustrated with her relationship with her mother. I spoke with her, for the trial had lasted for many years.
“You must continue to be honest with your mother, but you must change your tone. There’s a way to own your feelings in an honorable manner.”
Ladies, we can twist our faces into an angry knot—or we can express our feelings in a loving manner.
We can speak vehemently and forcefully to the aged—or we can allow powerful truth spoken in love to work its own force.
We can shake our head in disgust at our men—or we can get into their heads and learn more about them, including how they are hard wired to need honor because that’s what God created them to need.
When we speak to our men, we need to treat them with the same courtesy we treat our girlfriends. Every relationship only lasts with certain dynamics in place, including your marriage. Never expect your man to put up with tones and attitudes you wouldn’t expect your friend to put up with.
If a friendship cannot thrive with certain things, neither can your marriage. Accept that fact, and cease to blame your man for being so sexist.
We can ignore the aging parents, or we can sit them at our dinner table and glean from their years of experience before walking the same journey. We can absorb the fact that we wouldn’t even exist had they not given their own time and energy for our well-being and care.
“Your mother needs to hear the truth,” I urged the young lady. “But she will hear the hard things spoken in a soft way much better than she will wade through a rebellious attitude. Allow raw truth spoken in love to work its own power.”
 

 

 

 
We mistake pretense for honor, but nothing could be further from the truth. When we learn to speak honorably, we have an open door to speak even more clearly. Honor never implies shutting down or putting up with wrong or hurtful things.
Being an honorable person simply means that you show respect as you disagree with another. Others will listen more carefully to you—not less—when you begin to know and possess your own honor.
Honoring others is not only for their benefit, but also for yours. When you see the value God places on you, you will be loathe to represent yourself in a manner others find distasteful and even disgusting. No one, not even your girlfriends, appreciate seeing a woman put down or dishonor her man, her friends, or her kids.
Own your worth and dignity by speaking honestly, but honorably!

How to Be Your Child’s Best Friend

I dropped her off in Seattle at 5:00 a.m., and whispered loud, “God, thank you for a mother like her.”
She had hugged me long before walking away. And when she walked away, somehow she stayed with me. Because no matter how many changes come, somehow her heart syncs with Christ’s, and I’m in awe of her grace and presence of love.

My mother left a legacy of love behind her. She has more patience and grace for ten children than most have for two, and I’m watching her after thirty seven years so I can learn more of the Christ in her.

My mother cares little for earthly things, but much for heavenly. After, and even during raising her own ten kids, she’d bring in other kids who needed a home. She’d bring out the math books for those kids as well as her own, and she’d hold and nurture them at night just as she held her own.
Now that her ten are grown and most of us have left home, she has four girls in her home from three different families. Girls who need her love and care because they’ve been through more than girls should have to walk through at their ages.
She’s reading books and learning all she can about helping others—and all the while she’s serving her own family.
My mother knew how to turn ancient old houses into cozy homes, how to serve her family without resenting it or thinking she’d be better with a career. She took what money she had, and multiplied it with her contentment. And no matter what, she always loved, laughed, and shared her heart with our own.
A child cannot make her mother her best friend. Only a mother can make herself worthy of that name. My mother did, even through those years many call turbulent teens. Somehow she knew how to require obedience while still holding the heart.
All ten of us knew beyond doubt that mama loved our hearts no matter how icky they were, and that, when our lives were blessed, she was happy enough to soar through the sky with joy. And when we were tots, all of us knew she was in charge and had the final say.
We didn’t get to boss mama around because mama knew that kids in charge of their own lives bear too much weight on their shoulders—weight meant only for adults to carry. She led us to good places because we weren’t wise enough to do so on our own.
We learned that mama meant what she said—and it was all said in love. And I asked her the other day, “Mom, how would you train your eleven year old son to clean his room as I’ve asked him to?”
“Consequences—I just wouldn’t put up with it,” she replied.
I run upstairs and follow through. I know by her example that grace and love doesn’t mean permissive disobedience. It’s a bit like Christ, Whose love washes away sin.
Contrary to what some teach, Christ’s love, when fully realized, removes sin from our lives rather than condones it. No one can know Love without being changed by that Love.
My mother knew that true love in her would guide is to Love Jesus truly—because isn’t that what the heart was created for most of all? She knew that requiring obedience in love would ultimately enable us to know what Christ’s gift of love really meant.
When we’re not changed by Love, we don’t truly know love.
If Love didn’t change lives, it wouldn’t be Love at all.

Perhaps, rather than expecting Love to accept all things, we need to accept that Love changes all things. 
Love is what love is—and when you know Love, you do what love does.
What amazes me most about my mama is her lack of pride. She really doesn’t care about any kind of persona—she’s just her, and just being her means her heart is open wide to live and love with no agenda.
Her heart, it’s kinda like an open book. You get to read it, and you also get to have your own heart read. Nothing’s threatening because when love is, there’s only growth to be found and love to be shared in the best days or worst. I think this is why Christ in her is so alive—because hasn’t He said He’s with the lowly, but abases the proud?
Kinda like all being human together rather than some of us trying to be super-human when we’re not.
A week before mama came, I attended the funeral of my dear friend’s mother. As I watched the family share, I observed a girl go up to the microphone who was not immediate family. Many years ago, she had been invited to my friend’s home, and there she found love, belonging, and blessing enough to cause her to return many times over—and cry hardest at the beloved mother’s funeral.
Another mother who left a legacy of love.
Today, what will you leave behind you? What are your priorities? What drives you most? What satisfies you?
Will you leave the world as barren of love as when you came, or will it be a better, richer, fuller place because of you?
Bring hearts to your own. Whether you have ten kids or two, love on them extravagantly—and then,dare to love even more.
Will your legacy be worthy of bringing you fruit, and will it praise you in the gates long after you’re gone? [Proverbs 31:31]
I drove home from Seattle with the sun rising above the mountains, and my thoughts twirling with life-giving truth. Early risers took to the four-lane freeway with me, and I’m impressed with how much can be accomplished so soon in a day.
It’s a bit like life. What we choose to accomplish, we will. Because where our treasures are, there our hearts will be.

May our treasure be changeless love so we can bring love to a changing world.