Sometimes God brings a pause into our lives. A quiet time to figure out the next step. My pause is now. May this pause draw me closer to my Heavenly Father as we commune together.
See you on the other side of my pause.
Sometimes God brings a pause into our lives. A quiet time to figure out the next step. My pause is now. May this pause draw me closer to my Heavenly Father as we commune together.
See you on the other side of my pause.
Growing up on a farm, we had an abundance of cats. Most earned their keep by hunting mice. With corn in the corn crib and feed grain for the cattle, our farm offered a buffet to unwanted rodents and, in turn, a never-ending supply of food for the cats. Our cats enjoyed several buildings to live and dine in: chicken house, hog pen, summer kitchen or wash-house, and barn.
Occasionally, some of the female cats ventured into the surrounding fields for privacy as they delivered a litter of kittens. Unfortunately, some encountered machinery such as a combine, tractor, or hay baler as they faithfully refused to abandon their kittens. Some lived, though injured, and eventually returned to living a normal cat life. They were living proof that cats really do enjoy nine lives.
Last week, 9 lives of a very different sort were celebrated. A 21 , a non-profit organization devoted to ending slavery around the world, rescued 9 lives. In Ukraine, two women were rescued and 2 men were rescued from labor exploitation. In Thailand, two women and 3 children were rescued. Praise God!
Nine lives freed from bondage. Nine lives starting over and free. Nine lives now hopeful of tomorrow.
Perhaps in time, smiles and laughter will come from those nine mouths. I won’t pretend to understand or comprehend the emotion associated with any of those nine rescues. But I can join in praising God for new beginnings and second chances. Nine lives coming out of the darkness and into the light. Nine lives free to continue to become whom God created them to be.
God is a God of second, third, and fourth chances. And, yes, even more than 9. God doesn’t keep track. Thankfully, He is always a God of another chance.
I don’t know if this applies to cats or not, but I am certain it applies to those 9 precious lives and to my life too.
Starting over and free.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV)
Recently, a friend received a Facebook zinger. You know, the type of comment that leaves a heart scar. I imagine my bewildered friend mumbled a few choice words as she hit ‘unfriend’. I read the unkind comment before my friend sent it and its author into cyber extinction. Scanning through Facebook, I found an interesting post by the offender, the same person who forgot to pause and think before posting. The offender posted how much she appreciated kind words from her co-workers following a difficult time in her life. Hmmm. Let me get this straight. The offender enjoys getting loving and kind words from others, but she doesn’t always give them to others?
Why does this sound so familiar? Because I am also guilty of engaging in the dangerous and hurtful disconnect between giving and getting. I know what I want to get from others (love, kindness, respect, honesty), but sometimes I am not very mindful about giving the same.
Give what I want to get. If I give my body more vegetables and less sugar, I get to inhale and exhale while wearing my jeans. If I give black oil sunflower seeds, I get to enjoy the splendid beauty of my feathered backyard friends.
Give what I want to get; a warm-hearted and humane life motto. Always try to give to others what I want to get back. It is the abridged version of the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12, So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.
I will give grace and mercy to someone who made a mistake on Facebook because I, too, need much grace and mercy to cover my thoughtless words and careless actions. I will give grace and mercy to those around me and in cyber world. For it is by His Blood that I can approach His Throne and receive His grace and mercy in my time of need including navigating Facebook.
So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need. Hebrews 4: 16 (TLB)
I met this little boy while visiting a Compassion project in Tanzania. After touring the facility and worshipping with the children, it was time to eat. We served approximately 100 children a meal of rice, chicken, and fruit.
This little guy was not enrolled in the Compassion program. I don’t know the reason. But he, like others, stood outside the windows. It was rewarding and exciting to be sitting with the wonderful children enrolled in the program. But it was heartbreaking to realize there are always more children. There are always more children who are on the outside looking in. There are always more children longing for a warm smile and a loving hug. There are always more children with empty stomachs. Ugly truth: there are always more children in need.
I reached out and took his hand. I squeezed it and tried to convey as much love in that touch as possible. I didn’t see the cross in his photo until later, but it is there. The Cross is there reminding me to ‘keep on keeping on’ for all the children on the outside, like this dear little boy. It reminds me there is much work to be done on behalf of the children living and dying in poverty around the world. The Cross reminds me, “whatever I do for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, I do for Christ”.
So I advocate and sponsor children with Compassion International because there are always more children. There are more lives to be touched, more smiles to be shared, and more bellies to be filled. If you look, you will find a child who needs you. Let the Cross guide you to him or her. Then there will be one less child standing on the outside looking in.
It’s pruning time in North Carolina. Northerners by birth and in heart, we are in unfamiliar land. On their daily stroll, our neighbors kindly remark, ‘You need to prune that’ pointing to the crepe myrtle in our front yard. Yes, we know. All around the neighborhood, pruning and shaping is taking place.
So we read and watch YouTube videos to gain semi-confidence. Gloved and armed with pruners (short and long), we approach the victim. Vase shape is the goal without cutting off too much. Will this lovely tree ever bloom again? Only time will tell, but we hope our neighbors notice and applaud our effort.
Many years and dozens of cookies ago, my physical shape resembled a banana but now I identify more with a Bartlett pear. A recent church message encouraged me to consider my spiritual SHAPE as defined in Purpose Driven Life by Pastor Rick Warren. I can best serve God when I am operating and serving within my SHAPE.
S– Spiritual Gifts H– Heart A– Abilities P– Personality E– Experiences.
What is my shape? How can I best serve God based on my shape? As my physical shape changes so does my spiritual shape. Thirty years ago, my shape was a stay-at-home mom of two little blessings. Later, called to serve and lead ministries, a different shape took form. In each season of life, God drew out my gifts, passions, abilities, personality traits, and life experiences. Some previously unused, now emerged. Some faded to the background, some blossomed; all by His Hands and at His timing.
In the Bible, I read about Joshua’s shaping that began under the whip of an Egyptian taskmaster. God continued to prune and reshape Joshua from the bloody doorposts on the first Passover, through the dry Red Sea, and into the Promised Land as a spy. Joshua stood firm before the nation and gave his surveillance report. He spoke truth with confidence because of his shape.
Wandering in the desert for 40 years, God continued reshaping Joshua. He would be the one, not Moses, to lead the Israelites and conquer the Promised Land. As he followed and obeyed, the Master Gardener shaped. God equipped Joshua for what he needed, as he needed it. As Joshua was faithful, God was abundantly more faithful. Joshua’s shape changed as God moved him through his life seasons until calling him home at the age of 110.
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
Looking at the bare branches of our vase-shaped crepe myrtle, we have faith the beautiful blossoms will cover the tree this summer. The flowers will serve as proof that the cutting, pruning, and shaping were necessary.
As God continues to shape me so I can best serve Him, I endure His pruning. In time, blossoms of the Spirit’s Fruit will emerge; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. A wonderful shape for this pear tree.
Tomorrow evening, Falcon and Patriots fans will celebrate their team’s accomplishment as they face off in the Super Bowl. The rest of us, the non-Falcon and non-Patriot fans, can choose to cheer for one of them (please not the Patriots) or just show up for the commercials. I view the time as four hours to chill out and eat my weight in junk food.
There will be celebrations over sacks, hard-hitting tackles, field goals, and touchdowns. I hope to celebrate the evening with some belly laughs! With a 5 million dollar price tag for commercial spots, there better be off-the-chart entertaining commercials!
As the final seconds ticks away, confetti will reign down and the Lombardi trophy will be kissed and passed around. For the victors, there will be much to celebrate.
On Friday evenings, I sit in a circle of women and we celebrate victories, some big, some small. There are no touchdown dances, mostly tears, hugs, and knowing smiles. We gather for Celebrate Recovery; a safe place to admit our habits, hang ups, and hurts.
Celebrate Recovery is the creation of Pastors John Baker and Rick Warren at Saddleback Church in southern California. Warren shares, “The Bible clearly states “all have sinned.” It is my nature to sin, and it is yours too. Because of sin, we’ve all hurt ourselves, we’ve all hurt other people, and others have hurt us. This means each of us need repentance and recovery in order to live our lives the way God intended.”
About 30 men and women come seeking recovery, a reason to celebrate. We want to live our lives the way God intended: whole and free. All of us desire to be free of whatever entangles our minds and bodies. To show up on Friday night, feels like reason in itself to celebrate. Some share reports of a good week, some tear up over their hard week.
We come to the local church as believers in Jesus Christ, that is who we are. Our identity, the very core of who we are, is in Him. Our habits, hang ups, and hurts do not define us. They are not who we are. They are our struggles but we do not struggle alone. That realization is another reason to celebrate.
The Super Bowl offers hype and hoopla. Celebrate Recovery offers hope. Tomorrow night, many will celebrate. But on Friday evenings in a small classroom tucked inside a local church, the purest, truest, and deepest of celebrations are occurring. To God be all the Glory!
Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! Philippians 4:4,5 (MSG)
Gathered around circular tables at a writer’s conference, several attendees share their calling. They know they are called to write, speak, lead, or perhaps all three. There is no hesitation or wavering in their proclamations. Their certainty rattled me and opened my doubting floodgates, then and now. I continue battling my calling uncertainty in this new season of my life.
What is my calling? How can anyone be so sure? Why do others see their calling so clearly and I see only fog?
Is writing my calling? I’m not sure. Is knowing my calling the same as knowing God’s will for my life? Probably. But to me, a calling elicits a more personal confirmation. I envision receiving my calling directly from God on His holy cell phone. Yes, please.
I believe God can and does reveal His calling on our lives but the ‘how and when’ keeps many guessing and waiting. However, I am realizing more and more, while I am waiting, I need to be busy. I can sit around and fret while eating leftover Christmas cookies or I can move some dirt.
The movie, The Martian, starring Matt Damon is a 2015 sci-fi movie highlighting human strength and the will to survive. During a mission to Mars, Damon is presumed dead and left behind. But he is still alive. Against all odds, he must find a way to contact Earth in the hope that scientists can devise a rescue plan to bring him home.
While he is waiting for a rescue plan, he must attempt to stay alive. Damon must do something, anything. He needs to get busy so he can physically stay alive and also survive mentally. So he moves dirt. Lots and lots of dirt. He shovels dirt into bins and moves them inside in an attempt to grow potatoes on Mars, a planet where nothing grows. He moves dirt while waiting to be rescued.
So, 6 days into 2017, I am picking up my shovel and moving dirt. I accomplish my first shovel full by submitting an article to a Christian magazine. Will anything happen? I don’t know. Will my calling be affirmed or denied ? I don’t know. But it felt good to move some dirt, to do something within my control.
Moving dirt is an action step of faith. Damon doesn’t know if his experiment will work but he gives it his best shot. I don’t know if the editor will accept or reject my article, but I gave it my best shot. It felt good to flex my faith muscles which have fallen flabby recently.
Hebrews 11 highlights great dirt movers. Noah started moving dirt when no rain was in sight. Abraham moved dirt in faith as a nomad while waiting for a promised land. They picked up their shovels and began moving dirt without all the answers and most times, without seeing the end result.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. Hebrews 11:13 NIV
While awaiting my rescue call, I will continue to move dirt. If you can grow potatoes on Mars, anything is possible.
Happy New Year!
Growing up, we were blessed to enjoy meat and potatoes at most of our suppertime meals. On our farm, we grew potatoes and raised pigs and Black Angus cattle. Butchering time provided meat for the freezer and lard for the cast iron skillet. Everything tasted better fried in lard. (Later, I would learn the effect of lard on my arteries.)
In our family of six, there were few leftovers following our meals. But when there were, my mother made good use of them. Mashed potatoes were a frequent leftover and the following day we enjoyed yummy potato cakes. My mother’s hands shaped the chilled mashed potatoes into patties, plopped them onto a plate for flouring, and then dropped them into a hot cast iron skillet bubbling with lard. I ate a lot of potato cakes growing up and loved every one of them.
Too often, my leftovers get pushed to the back of the fridge, lost in the shadows of milk jugs and orange juice cartons . They are eventually discovered well past their safe consumable date and into the trash they go. I need to be more aware of what is lurking in my refrigerator.
For this past month, I have been offering only leftovers to God. Falling into bed exhausted by the hustle and bustle of the season, I see my closed Bible on the nightstand as I mumble a few half-hearted prayers before drifting off to sleep. All I am serving to my Lord and Savior these days are leftovers.
But other areas of my life are receiving extra helpings from a full Krista buffet: shopping, cooking, cleaning, driving, wrapping, and decorating. Let’s not forget, eating! What remains for God? Leftovers. Bing and Burl are getting more daily servings than the birthday boy Himself.
But my loving God waits patiently. Day in and day out. He is waiting because He wants me, all of me. He wants my first, second, third courses plus dessert too! He wants me when I am smiling, when I am shedding tears, when I am loving others, and when I am failing. He wants every bit and every bite. He deserves the filet mignon and prime rib of me; not bits and pieces of forgotten scraps pushed to the back of the fridge.
So I am challenging myself to reconsider my choices and my priorities. Why is my life-menu so full? Why haven’t I allowed any time for the Prince of Peace? I know I can do better. I want to do better. I want to love the Lord with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength. Mark 12: 30 (NIV) Nothing there implies leftovers.
Today, I open up my Bible and begin reading His love letter to me. I left God several weeks ago in Galatians. I read and lean into my Abba, Father. In the quietness of the day, I offer Him – me. Pausing, resting, and intentionally making time for Mighty God, I serve Him a helping of my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength. A main course holy reunion, no leftovers lurking anywhere.
I might even find time to check my fridge too.
As the real meaning of Christmas gets buried under piles of cookies and gifts, the joy of Thanksgiving is preserved through storytelling. These stories have been told and retold and have grown larger than life. Just like wine and cheese, our stories get better with age! As I gaze around the table, I am thankful for the storytellers and for the mischievous ones who star in them. These stories remind me to whisper a simple ‘thank you’. For me, Thanksgiving is not running to the mall but lingering around the table sharing stories.
My father-in-law tells great stories and can weave a tale. If you listen carefully, you may hear some bits of truth. Our classic Thanksgiving stories are mostly about hunting and football since both are in season in late November. A must-tell is the ‘Shootout at the OK Corral’ story; a deer hunting story where the number of dead deer outnumbers the hunters. (I never said these stories involved legal activities.) It is always a crowd pleaser and signals Thanksgiving has officially arrived. Another favorite is the ‘Forearm Shiver’ football story involving a car’s broken windshield. Funny stuff.
Over the years, we have expanded our repertoire to include stories about fire. Who doesn’t enjoy stories about setting things on fire and then panicking to put them out? Let’s keep telling these belly busters! Let’s keep passing them down! Storytelling strengthens our family bonds. Storytelling is life preservation.
I love hearing these same stories, year after year. Why? Their familiarity comforts me deep in my soul. I am thankful to be part of these crazy family stories. They say I have a place; I belong. Not everyone can say that. Yes, I am thankful. I know the endings to all the stories, but I still love hearing them. Tell me again!
As I read God’s Word, year after year, the familiar stories give me comfort and peace. The more I drink from the pages, the deeper I thirst. Daniel’s steadfastness still amazes me. Esther’s and Ruth’s bravery still inspires me. Stephen’s stoning still gives me goosebumps. Paul’s transformation still gives me hope. Tell me again!
If you are blessed to be surrounded by loved ones tomorrow, pause between bites of turkey to tell a story. Someone needs to hear it.
Have a very thankful Thanksgiving!
What do you wish you would have heard your parents say? That question on a Christian radio station got my attention. As adults looking back, what do we wish we would have heard our parents say?
Some of the deep and heart-tugging responses shared by the call-in listeners were: I wish my parents would have said they loved me. I wish my parents would have told me they were proud of me. I wish my parents would have apologized for making me be the parent at times.
I considered this question on my drive and later broached the topic with my husband. I wasn’t ready for his response. We dated 6 years before getting married 33 years ago and this man continually surprises me. In certain areas, he felt he could not live up to his parents’ high expectations. I never knew he carried those feelings.
Admittedly, I wish my parents would have said they loved me. Over the years, I have justified not hearing those 3 magical words as a generational shortcoming or a result of their strict upbringing. Whatever the reason, feelings weren’t shared or discussed. But I told my husband, I knew they loved me. Without any doubt, I knew it. Their unspoken love was exhibited in many, many ways.
I knew they loved me by how hard they worked and by the sacrifices they made to provide for our family of 6. I knew they loved me when we gathered around the supper table and we had plenty to eat. I knew they loved me when we piled in the car on Sunday mornings to head to church. And when we piled back into the car for a Sunday afternoon drive and ended up at Baskin Robbins for an ice cream cone. I knew they loved me.
I knew they loved me when they knelt beside my bed holding a bowl and catching the remnants of too many pieces of apple pie. I knew it when they painstakingly helped me through homework battles. I knew they loved me when they steadied the back of the bicycle after removing the training wheels and when they bandaged my skinned knees when the ride went awry. I knew it when I was tucked in my bed safe at night. Yes, my parents loved me without saying the words.
Walking on the road to Jesus, we come upon the stumbling block of not being able to hear or see Him. We decide to sit and question. Why can’t I hear or see God? How do I know He really loves me? So we stay longer. Satan, the prowling lion, encircles and whispers lies and doubts as we rest upon that block. Will we get up and take the next baby step of faith? Our Heavenly Father awaits with open arms and big love but it takes faith to move forward. It takes believing without seeing or hearing. It takes embracing His unconditional love without hearing audible words.
I know God loves me. Without any doubts, I know. When I prayed a sinner’s prayer on a college dorm room floor, I found His love. When I held my newborn children for the first time, I experienced His love. When I look out my windows and see the tree line ablaze with reds, yellows, and oranges, I witness His love. When I cry out for forgiveness, I feel His love. When I open up His Word and read His love story written to me, I drink-in His love. With a broad brush stroke, God paints His love for all to see from Creation to the Cross to Eternity.
This is how much God loves me: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. John 3:16 (MSG)
Yes, God loves me, big time! His unspoken love is revealed in many, many ways. He shows it, displays it; the mountaintops and ocean waves thunder His love message loud and clear. His love is ultimate and complete without saying a word.
Parents, children, and others will occasionally disappoint and hurt us with their spoken and unspoken words. But I know I am loved deeply and extravagantly by my Creator and Savior.
I know my parents loved me because they took me to Sunday School where I learned this song:
Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong
Yes, Jesus loves me
Oh, yes Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me for the Bible tells me so