Cupcakes and Culture

Cupcakes, laughter, and serious talks filled the evening of our girl’s group, after which my co-teacher and I pondered things of culture and how our group of girls was affected by them. “Culture is like a rushing wall of water all around us, and we need to stand tall while it rushes about us and nearly over the top of our heads,” I had shared with her.

20170408_155133

She nodded in agreement. We are here for more than to have fun and allow daughters of the King to be blithely swallowed up by their surroundings. Because Christians are here to permeate culture rather than allow culture determine what we do and who we are.

I’ve long been intrigued with ambassadors. Leaving one’s own country to live in another for the sake of your own, must be a challenging but fulfilling occupation.

Ambassadors are fulfilled in a sense of greater purpose than walking the streets and enjoying a house in a certain country. They are there to speak out for their country.

You’d be there for a reason greater than seeing sights and enjoying ethnic foods. You’d even be there for more than to love on native folk. You’d be there for your own country’s sake, and everything you did would have a mission to benefit your country.

20170420_170028

I can’t speak up for anything lately without being told I’m judgmental,” I shared with my friend. “It’s as if the truth of God is wiped off the slate because all people want is the mercy of God.”

We fail to see that the truths God asks us to hold on to are a display of His mercy, that His no is not deprivation, but an invitation to greater blessing.

That when He asks us to put down our phones, He’s not asking us to shut out relationships; He’s inviting us to embrace the love right before us, to be engaged where we are because we miss out when we don’t do so.

That when He asks us to hold on to “old-fashioned” views of marriage and sexuality, He’s not unloving—He’s calling our land to a solid foundation of love that will bless this culture rather than imbalance it.

That when He prompts us to reduce our screen time, He’s inviting us to a life of good rather than staring at a screen with the good (or not so good) things of another’s life, leaving our own destitute of fulfillment. Because we won’t be as rich from watching a life as we’ll be from fully living a life.

 

That when He asks women to honor their husbands, He’s inviting them to a place of honor for their own hearts, a place where they can be at rest and receive the care they  end up craving even when they try to prove themselves equally capable.

Do we remember this, His way is perfect, His word is tried, that every good gift is from a good Father Who lives in the light and longs to bring us to life?

The truths of God lead us to be changed by the mercy and grace of God.

20170705_100805

Cheap grace lulls us to sleep; real grace leads us to vibrant life. Cheap grace gives hand-outs; real grace holds a hand.

We are ambassadors of a heavenly kingdom, and less we be distracted from our mission and lose our calling, let’s keep referring back to the heart of God so we can be a true representation of His heart!

When Glaring Teens Need to be Heard

Those eyes, they glare at me. And my heart wilts just a little more.

I’m so done. How can you be a mother, give so much, and get that? Like, don’t they know I gave up my own life for theirs, that I don’t always feel glorious about home schooling one more day, that I make those green smoothies because I love them?

Don’t they know I’m a good mom—as in, a really, really good mom?

The twelve year old son, the one who looks at me contemplatively and asks me how my heart’s doing, well, he turned into a brat for awhile. And I’m done being weak and disrespected and known as the softie who can’t take anything, so I clamp down.

These kids—don’t they know I’m fully human and I have feelings, and they can’t –I mean, they really can’t—talk to me with that edgy tone?

20171018_110611

My husband calls me into the room for a talk, and shares with me how I could be hearing their hearts more than clamping down on the edgy parts of their hearts. “Perhaps”, he says, “that would help them not be so disrespectful. They want to feel heard, and sometimes not everything comes out all pretty and sweet.”

We empaths feel deeply. The slightest tone of voice, especially when we’ve been raised by a father who never, ever raised his voice, can drive us over the edge. We avoid conflict like the plague and all we want is to be honestly, truly loved and communicated with in the same love.

But kids aren’t perfect, and even most adults will have an edge to their tone every once in awhile. I’ve clutched my heart many times in a desperate quest for escape when a family member or friend has looked at me with less than warm vibes bouncing from their eyes.

How not to go over the edge when you hear the edge?

Just the other day, I literally ran out of the house when conflict happened with one of the kids and I had to send him to his room. And my husband says, “Maybe try to listen more before you discipline?”

So yeah, I’m the softie trying to prove herself strong. If they can bark, so can I—and I can send you to your room, too!

20171004_204120

I look at the hats sitting on the shelf of the shop I clean, and I see the slogan, “Don’t tread on me.” I feel it within, this cry of the heart—please don’t tread on me, kids.”

Somewhere, there’s a wound deep within that rises hard core to a fizzing top when I hear the edge. And I’m taking it out on the kids, this inability to handle it and get to the bottom of the heart behind it—because I’m stuffing my own hurt way down deep.

I sit them down for Bible time after daddy goes off to work his night shift, and I say it, loud, to hearts seated round the living room. “I’m sorry for not listening well to your hearts. I’m sorry for not giving you what I want for myself.”

Kids are forgiving beyond belief, and a few of them cuddle up close . The next day when fights simmer, I pause, and I ask this heart, then that one, what’s going on. I do it again, and again, and again. Sometimes, I listen and talk it through, then discipline because the need is obvious—but often, we simply talk.

20170928_161042

When relationship is there, the love is there, and when love is there, the heart wants to do good. There is no need to discipline a heart in the right place, no need to prove yourself to a heart already in a proven place—even though they’ve made a mistake.

The air clears, and I listen more. I take time to talk it through, to get to the bottom of the frustration rather than send the frustrated child upstairs with no answers. I focus on training the littlest bratty child rather than attack the older child for scolding bratty behavior. I try to be fair, just, and approachable—for everyone, not just the littlest one.

The twelve year old is hugging me again, and my heart is at peace. Not all is perfect, and it never will be. But love covers us in a blanket of acceptance. 

Children know when they are accepted for their performance or loved in spite of less than perfect behavior. I’d rather have a child vibrantly loved than have a silent, performing child working for my love. And this is where I was headed until I repented of my very own inability to work through conflict.

20170925_191655

Teens may need the mercy seat right along with this mama, and I feel the need of it keenly. Mercy—we are all in desperate need of it, daily. Repentance mingles with grace, and the soul is at rest. Perhaps the heart, rather than wilt, can be made alive with the glory of grace in an edgy world where all is not always as it should be.

Perhaps, we all need to be heard a little more, and condemned a little less? That spouse, friend, or child who makes you want to shy away—perhaps they need to have the deepest places of the heart heard and cared for? Perhaps, just perhaps, the ugly coming out is a sign that they are affected in an ugly world? 

Perhaps we could be like Jesus, and send the teen off with mercy, to sin no more, rather than condemn him for sinning against us?photo

When Stillness Fights Your War

The two armies approached each other on the screen, and I cringed.

I hate war. Like, hate it with a passion unlike most other things. Killing each other to win anything seems contradictory to love—and what is worth more than love?

But if wars need to be fought, I’m glad some men have stamina enough to face ammunition whizzing through the air and puncturing human hearts. In olden days, the bayonet was only faced by the brave of heart who refused to turn away at any cost.

Some people would rather die than surrender. To them, surrender means weakness.

Soldiers of the kingdom fight under a different set of values. We fight just as hard, or at least we should. The enemy can be as slicing and deadly as the bayonets of old, piercing ourselves and those we love to the death, unless some powerful warfare is waged.

To us, surrender is the most powerful warfare and always means victory.

We don’t give up and we don’t give in, and we fight strong. But because our war is between the flesh and spirit, surrender is one of our most powerful tools. Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

20171028_162002

Sometimes, we fight needlessly because we refuse to give in to what we know the Commander says to us. We want, we desire, and we strive for things God is not giving us.

The war wages on, and while it wages in our hearts, we become occupied with it, consumed by it. Being caught in a fight of our own making because we refuse to surrender our desires brings us to spiritual exhaustion. We become so taken with ourselves that we are no longer taken with grace.

How can we constantly be engaged in our own world and at the same time be releasing love, joy, and peace into the atmosphere around us?

You must surrender the things that take your heart away and cause you to be in a ceaseless inner fight. Release your desires, and surrender. God will overtake your heart with peace and then, you will have space for the work He has for you.

20171028_154612

A clean heart allows God to create His business in your life. A pure heart will see God.

Today, surrender. In God’s kingdom, surrender marks the strongest and toughest soldiers. The brave know how to follow their General’s lead, no matter what. And He always leads them to rest.

After leading them to rest, He leads them to fruitfulness. A soldier is always occupied. When surrendering in warfare of our own making, we become free to return home, where we engage in the growth of all the things God calls us to.

20171004_144615

I don’t believe we realize how much of our time is taken with distractions of our own making. We exhaust ourselves, and for what? Sooner or later, the inner turmoil must cease, and it will cease when we hand over the reigns.

We may be without, but we will be full within. Only the brave know how to say no to the enemy and yes to God. Only the strong soldier knows how to walk faithfully when all else calls you to quit, veer to the left, or take an alternate route.

Let the bayonets slice the air around you while you surrender into peace and blessing.

20171004_144502

When Women Break Out of Silence

 

The afternoon was exquisite as we rested on our beach towels and the kids paddled away in their kayaks.

Not everyone has an entire shed full of wet suits and water toys, along with the energy to share it all with numerous families all summer long. But my friend Julie was a generous host, and kept the door to her little lake house open much of the summer to eager kids and wet bodies dripping water over her floor as they headed to the bathroom.

I wondered who had the pleasure of scrubbing that toilet when the days were over. Most likely, her.

Her little place could have been quiet, still, orderly. All the better for no wear and tear, but here she was, handing out cold lemonade and letting everyone use her everything.

I loved hearing her talk about the studies she and her husband led on marriage and child training. This lady had a heart for the hearts of others, and it showed in every way.

IMG_20171003_151535_364

But my boy and his little friend fought a lot that day, and on the way home, my other friend and I demanded utter silence because our heads were ringing with unwanted conflict for most of the afternoon. We turned on the music and drove quietly—because sometimes, little boys happen on such a mood that if a single word escapes little lips, it is ugly.

Silence is better than ugly, but silence is not better than joy.

Psalm 93:17 says, “If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.”

As we drove in silence, I watched other ladies facing my car when we all paused at the red light. The first looked as if she’d been crying; the second, as if she knew the weight of the world would rest on her shoulders as soon as she reached her destination.

And I wondered, where was the joy—for all of us? Because life can silence us, but only God can release us into full joy.

Only the God soul knows the joy life.

If God had not released my own heart, I’d be in silence somewhere behind the bars of condemnation, guilt, and fear. But He said to me as He said to Lazarus that day, “Sara, come forth!” [John 11:43, NKJV]

6196A328-5276-4FC1-B4E3-92D737B63F4B

He broke my old Sara chains and called me out. Out of silence into giving life; out of guilt into freedom; out of fear into faith; out of despair into joy; out of co-dependence into confident living.

He calls you out, too.

Soul, what is gripping you? Of what are you afraid? What clutches at your neck each day, stopping the joy you want to inhale?

20170504_151225

If you think others are hindering that inhale of joy, you are wrong. Because the power of the cross is greater than another sinful human, and the breath you get to receive from the Spirit of Christ is a greater inhalation of life than the other finite lives you want to depend on.

Those lives have no power to give a single breath, the Other Life created each breath you breathe.

20170509_123213

I soaked it in at the noisy, happy place by the lake, grateful for a friend who shared her everything with us that day. And I knew beyond doubt that there’s an even Greater Friend Who is with me, sharing His everything each minute, each hour, each season.

The Life we get to breathe from is Infinite, not limited to finite humans who sin, just like us.

We only need to chose which air we breath. Breathe in the joy, and break your soul out of silence!

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.

20170903_115633

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.”

20170903_164224

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.

580107862

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.

20170903_182037

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.

20170917_130536

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.

sea-2564085__340

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.

ci5-0067 (3)

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.

20170704_194717

 

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.

received_10155727264584461

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]

20170917_132145

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.

IMG_20170914_203456_482.jpg

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.

IMG-20170912-WA0003

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.

20170903_173231

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.

20170903_190702

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.

20160622_193751

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.

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.

il_fullxfull.381246852_59ps

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.”