December 24, 2020
Hope has a name…Jesus!
Matthew 2:1-12 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
There are so many cool things in this passage, but this year God pointed out a couple of things I had never learned before:
September 23, 2020
“How’s that working for you?”
How’s that working for you? This is a funny little question we ask in our family at times, usually tongue in cheek, knowing it may be time to try something new. But sometimes it’s just so easy to keep trying the same thing, getting the same results, and deceive ourselves into thinking this time it will be different, isn’t it??
This morning as I was spending time with Jesus, He impressed upon me the need to share something He has been teaching me that is both loving and _______ at the same time. I’ll let you read to the end and fill in the blank however you see fit!
It starts with the year 2020 and the question “how’s that working for you?” This year has been so different than anything any of us have ever experienced in our lifetime, regardless of our age. Pandemic, division, isolation, hatred, chaos, natural disaster and destruction, fear, upheaval, worry, doubt, confusion….and the list goes on. I’m absolutely not negating the beauty of the things God has also been doing in the midst of it all (true to form, I’m a glass half full kind of girl who always looks for God’s fingerprints and blessing amidst even the worst of circumstances.). But let’s face it – I think we are all ready for 2020 to be completely reset.
And here’s the beauty of what He’s been revealing to me that I have to share with you!! We are in the midst of a DIVINE RESET. September 18 marked the beginning of Rosh Hashanah and September 28 is the Day of Atonement. Now, I’m not Jewish and I am certainly not a Jewish scholar, but God has taught me to pay attention to the rhythms and cycles He set in place so many years ago. They have divine meaning and purpose for us still.
For those who do not know, Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year. The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) are characterized as a season of repentance and prayer, of seeking understanding and revelation for what the Father has for us and desires to accomplish both in and through us in the year ahead, of celebration in fellowship, and a time of dedication to following God. It is a divine reset that ends with a day of fasting and surrender to God’s will and leading for the year ahead. And don’t we all need one????
I truly believe that this is a time for repentance among believers and non-believers. It’s a beautiful invitation to stop what you are doing and ask yourself “how’s that working for you?” If you are a Christian, ask God to show you what areas He wants to refine in you. (And remember, when He begins a work, He will complete it as long as we stay surrendered to Him. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us that He is both Author and Finisher of our faith!) If you are a non-believer, ask Him to reveal Himself to you and seek His truth – He’s able to stand up to your hardest questions and patient in leading you to get to know Him. Simply take the time to ask questions and seek answers as you would for anything else…..don’t miss this opportunity!!
In reality, I also believe it’s time to ask “how’s that working?” regarding the many things in our world right now that are so broken. We’ve been doing it our way for so long and really…how’s that working for us???? Thousands of years ago, God set forth truth and guidelines that allow for us to step into the blessings and promises He has for us. As a world we have drifted. As a nation we have drifted. As a Church we have drifted. As individuals we have drifted. It’s time to go back to His word and be reminded of the beauty in His instruction and plan for us. It’s time to surrender our will to His and allow Him to bring true healing to our land, to our nation, and to our lives. He loves us so much and His plan is not restrictive or out-dated….it is merciful, loving, sacrificial, and full of truth, grace, and justice! And what’s happens next for each of us personally hinges on our repentance and surrender.
Don’t miss the Divine Reset of 2020! If you are looking for a starting place during Rosh Hashanah, I’d suggest spending time in Isaiah 58 and in the book of John. Both of these will reveal to you the heart of God for His people. And as always, if you want to talk or process any of this together, my door is always open and I always have a cup of tea and conversation ready to share. Thanks for reading this! Have a blessed day!!
September 4, 2020
Grace and Peace
Colossians 1:2 ” To the saints and faithful brethren in christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The sweetest thing was revealed to me this morning in my time with Jesus. As I was reading Colossians again, I didn’t even make it past the second verse when I was struck by the greeting phrase “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace and peace. Two things so obviously missing in our world today. Then I was drawn to look at other letters written in the New Testament. Did you know that 10 of the letters written include that in their greeting? And 8 others contain a variation of the same phrase? Maybe this was just a “typical greeting”, but I just don’t think so. These men who wrote these letters were also living in a time where grace and peace were far from abundant….yet they personally experienced and knew both of these things even in the midst of the chaos and pain around them. They knew grace and peace by experience because they knew Jesus intimately. And I believe they opened each letter with this phrase because they truly wanted others to experience the same thing. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as we see so many storms around us that both directly and indirectly affect us. Yet, in the midst of it all, I am blessed with grace and peace that comes from God alone. My heart’s desire is that each person reading this would know God’s grace and peace to the depths of their souls. I’d love to hear a short line in the comments from anyone who wants to share: how have you known God’s grace and/or peace in the midst of this season?
June 15, 2020
Don’t Let Your Love Grow Cold
Matthew 24:12 “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”
This verse has replayed in my mind and heart so many times over the past few weeks and I feel compelled to share it with anyone who has a heart to listen. Those who know me well, know that my heart is simultaneously broken, convicted, and hopeful in response to the events that are taking place in our country right now surrounding racism and the movement toward anti-racism.
My heart is BROKEN first and foremost because I know God’s heart is broken. If there is one consistent message throughout the entire Bible, it is that God absolutely, unconditionally, and sacrificially loves all people. He created us uniquely with passion and purpose. There is implicit beauty in our differences with every individual adding unique value to the whole of society. The very idea that we can become so fearful of others and/or self-centered in our views and priorities breaks His heart. Passage after passage in the Bible speaks of the value God places on all races and highlights His heart for a multicultural Church (check out Ephesians 2:11-22, Jeremiah 17: 26, Isaiah 56, Luke 10 just to name a few). John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” His heart is for us all.
My heart is CONVICTED because I realize that some level of racism isn’t fully eradicated from my heart yet. I grew up in the South and witnessed plenty of racism. I am also certain that there are viewpoints and opinions I hold that have been affected by my life experiences…this is true for all of us, but that doesn’t make them right! For years, I have been heartbroken over this reality and if asked, I would say I am not a racist person. Yet I am discovering that unintentional passivity is another form of racism, and one that requires full repentance from me personally. Isaiah 58 clearly instructs us to stand up for the oppressed. And there is no denying that what so many people of color experience in our country can be described as oppression. If you don’t see it, I challenge you to take the time to simply talk to people about what their experiences have been. We can hide behind social programs and “success stories” all we want, but that doesn’t change the heart of what it feels like to be oppressed and to experience systemic racism. We should always be willing to stand up for those in our society that are both intentionally and unintentionally discriminated against.
While I have taken this to heart on some levels, I am realizing that God desires so much more from His people surrounding this! Check out Isaiah 58:6-7….
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?”
I truly believe that God desires us to do more than the minimum to love our brothers and sisters well. I believe He desires us to be agents of reconciliation and restoration! To truly be agents of reconciliation, we must be willing to share the gospel as well as to live it out….there is no reconciliation without Jesus. When we are reconciled to Jesus, He will teach us to truly love others from the overflow of His love and real change will occur. This is why my heart is also HOPEFUL during this time! Check out the rest of Isaiah 58:8-12.
8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
“If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
12 Those from among you
Shall build the old waste places;
You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
It’s time to step up, Christians! While I recognize that there are MANY things broken in our world that deserve our attention, we cannot deny that God has chosen THIS time to bring THIS injustice to the forefront. I, for one, want to join Him in His work! As the Church, we should be leading the way in revealing His heart, sharing the gospel, loving others well, and advocating for justice. As a wise pastor once said, it’s time to EDUCATE, RELATE, and ADVOCATE. When we get this right, the world will see Jesus!
December 5, 2019
Have you met my friend?
As I sat down with my tea and journal this morning, I was overwhelmed by the thought of friendship. Friendship is such a beautiful gift. Having lived so many different places, we have friends literally all over the world (Go Air Force!) I thought about how I love to connect my friends with each other and how fun it is to see what happens when you introduce people you love to one another. It’s so fun to see them experience that same joy of knowing this amazing person whom they may never have otherwise known!
Then I thought about Jesus. Of all the friends I have, He’s the one who has literally been in every situation and every moment with me. He’s the one who knows the good, the bad, and the ugly and refuses to desert me. In fact, His Word tells me that HE DELIGHTS in me! Oh how I love this. Oh how I love Him!
When I started thinking about this, it led me to wonder exactly how I would describe Him to someone who didn’t yet know Him. And then I thought about the movie Elf! Yes, I said Elf, lol! Elf is definitely a Christmas movie staple at the Rocconi household and promises lots of laughter year after year. There’s a scene in Elf that perfectly describes how I feel about Jesus. Buddy the Elf is standing in the department store when he hears that Santa is coming to the store the very next day. He can hardly contain his joy and excitement and yells out, “Santa, I know him, I know him!!!!” That! That is exactly how I feel about Jesus! Jesus, I know Him!! I know Him!! And He knows me….oh what a gift!!
You see, I met Jesus many years ago. I heard all about Him as a child. Growing up in the South, we went to church…at least for a while. I had a great grandmother who helped enable us to go to a Christian school…again, at least for a little while. Then when my parents split up, that all changed. We still went to church on occasion – mostly on the weekends that my dad had us. But a foundation had been laid and God had captured my heart. In fact, the difficulty of our family situation helped me know God in a much more intimate way….pain has a way of doing that. Don’t get me wrong, there were many good moments and fond memories growing up too and I love my family. But our family life was overwhelmingly characterized by brokenness, loneliness, neglect, being pawns in parental fights, chaos and anger surrounding us, yada yada (sadly the plight of so many other children of divorce).
However, when nothing else was stable or secure, God was! And even at a young age, I learned the beauty of a friendship with God and knowing He was trustworthy. Along the way, God provided friends and neighbors who would ultimately drive me to church amidst a chaotic and broken season at home, when I was essentially raising my sisters on my own. God even provided for me to go back to Christian school beginning in my sophomore year of high school. He surrounded me with youth leaders who poured God’s love and wisdom on me and helped me to lean into God rather than to run the other way. And God protected me, even in the midst of my freshman year of college characterized primarily by self-centeredness and rebellion against God…..I was “tired of being the responsible one in the family” – you should insert an “eye roll” here. This was my “woe is me phase” where I decided that living according to God’s standards wasn’t worth it when no one else around me was. After all, I had been the responsible “adult” in my family for years, caring for my sisters, etc and now this was my “chance to just be about me.” Ugghh. Ugghhh. Ugggghhhh. What a wasted year! Comically, even through all of that, God protected me from so many bad choices and gently called me back to Him. He even saw fit to bless me with meeting this incredibly handsome guy who also had a heart for God and the two of us were able to begin growing in our relationship with God together. It was just like God to know exactly how to help me find my way back to Him!
Fast-forward 30 years, and life has been this incredible journey with ups and downs, joy, laughter, sorrow, difficulties and blessings. But all of it alongside this amazing friend. So, how would I describe this friend to someone who hasn’t met Him? Oh He is faithful! He is trustworthy. He is steadfast. He is safe and secure. He my rock. He’s my confidante. He has been with me through thick and thin. He makes me laugh. He’s with me when I cry. He speaks beautiful words of wisdom and love to me all the time. He leads me. He guides me. He NEVER gives me incorrect instructions (although I sometimes think I should do my own thing and don’t listen the first time.). I literally only need to look up to see Him holding me by His right hand. When nothing else makes sense, He does. When everyone else sees a mess, He sees a beautiful young girl who He created and has amazing plans for. He loves to reveal Himself to me in the middle of the craziest of circumstances as well as in the quiet moments. And OHHHHH how He loves to invite me into His adventures. Those who know me well, know I have a thousand crazy cool God-stories that can only be explained by walking with Him day in and day out. I wouldn’t trade a single moment spent with Him!
There’s a song that says, “I have never known a love so real, I’ve never known a peace so real, I just want to be here with you.” That perfectly describes my friend, Jesus. If you haven’t met Him yet, I really want to introduce you to Him! The kind of friend He is, everyone needs! Everyone! He makes life so full, so complete.
So, here’s my Christmas gift to you. If you don’t know Him yet, and you want to meet my friend, I’ll introduce you! Come and see for yourself. No pressure, just check Him out. What do you have to lose? Personally, I cannot imagine navigating life or eternity without Him. I have intentionally made room in my schedule to simply connect, have tea/coffee/lunch, whatever with whoever wants to meet my friend…because he’s sooooo worth knowing. And the kind of friendship I have with Him, He wants to have with you too! In fact, it’s WHY He came to earth so many years ago and why He died for you and me. Christmas isn’t about the presents…it’s about His presence! And He wants to be with you!! Merry Christmas!
March 4, 2019
Invisible People: A Girl Named Alex
I can still picture her long brown hair, her hollow eyes, her drawn face, her crooked and already decaying teeth, and the dirt surrounding each of her fingernails. Yet, when I looked at her I saw a beautiful young lady, created by God for so much more than she was experiencing. She sat on the corner of South Audley street, across from the Mayfair library in London, perched on a piece of cardboard and covered with a dirty white(ish) blanket. Her face was cast downward. As people passed by, she would occasionally look up, hoping that someone would see her, possibly showing her compassion, giving her money or inviting her to work for wages. As she looked up, there was a deep sadness in her eyes – a sense of knowing that to most people she was simply invisible. They didn’t want to look at her. Looking at her would create this awkward clash with the reality that there are so many people on the earth facing hardships that we cannot begin to understand and that we do not have the ability to easily help. It would cause them to struggle with the idea that there were hurting and lonely people out there, needing to be seen, needing to be loved……and that may come with inconvenience, interruption to plans, or an unforeseen cost. And honestly, I think some people were simply afraid to look at her, not knowing whether she meant them harm or was on drugs, or any number of other fears that war against compassion. The world today is a scary place and we often don’t know how to respond to this.
As we walked past, my heart ached because I knew I didn’t have anything to give her at the moment. My “go-to” in the US is to carry blessing bags or gift cards for food that I can give to people as the need arises. This addresses the “fear” that by helping someone out, we might be giving them money that would be used for drugs or alcohol, perpetuating potential issues. (I know, that’s controlling….but it’s a way that allows me the freedom to engage without fearing that I’m adding to the problem.) Anyway, we were in London and I didn’t have anything prepared this time. Regardless, I knew I needed to at least make eye contact and offer a smile, let the girl know she was not invisible – not to me, and not to God. So I made eye contact, smiled and walked past her on to the next shop. But I couldn’t shake her image from my mind, so I got a little cash and headed back to sit and listen to her story.
As I approached, she looked at me timidly, wondering what I was doing. I started to sit on the ground next to her and she moved over and graciously offered me a section of her cardboard. I introduced myself and asked her name. I think she was surprised and pleased, as a hesitant smile came upon her face. We sat and talked for a while. She was hungry for companionship. I asked her about her life and how she came to be in this spot at such a young age. Sweetly, she opened up and told me her story. I really have no way of knowing how much of it is true, but that doesn’t matter to me so much as giving her a chance to sit with a “friend” who is interested, even for a few moments.
Her name is Alex. She is 21 years old. Twenty- one…..my oldest son is almost 21 now. Yet her 21 years of life have been much different than his. She grew up in Serbia, but her family was too poor to care for her amidst all of the conflict and poverty in her country. As many Serbian families have done, her parents gave her up in hopes that someone else could better care for her. She was placed in an orphanage along with other refugees and had her basic needs taken care of. Until she “aged out.” Aging out is a funny thing. It makes perfect sense that at some point these children need to be able to care for and provide for themselves. Yet, there often exists some gap or break in the system that doesn’t always fully prepare them for what this looks like. From my limited knowledge, this seems to be a problem in the US as well. In fact, in the US 20% of kids who age out of foster care (that’s one out of every five kids) instantly become homeless.
Anyway, back to Alex’s story. Alex had just recently “aged out” of the home she was in. I don’t fully understand how or why, but upon her release from the group home, she didn’t have the proper paperwork to obtain a bank account and a regular job. She was pleased when she found an employer who would pay her cash for her work. For two months, she worked for him under this arrangement, but when the paperwork still had not come through, he had to let her go. From that point forward, she was on the streets, begging for money or work. She told me what a hard worker she was and how she willingly did all kinds of cleaning jobs for people when they offered. She felt good about being able to do this well. All I could think about is how likely she was to be picked up by a sex-trafficker and drawn into a life she never wanted. Young ladies like Alex are the perfect targets for these predators and it broke my heart that she had to face this reality and risk daily on the streets. The mother in me couldn’t help but warn her to beware of anyone promising her reward for this lifestyle.
As we talked, she shared about how some days she would have money to stay in a shelter. Other days she would have money, but the shelters would be full. And then there were days she would have no money and simply stay on the streets. I asked about her parents, if she ever heard from them or tried to contact them. Like so many refugee children, she had no idea if they were even alive. She was truly alone in this world. And this was her “normal.”
Even amidst all of this, she seemed to have a glimmer of hope. In one month, if all went well, she would have her paperwork in place to get assistance and to work. In her own words, “there are many people much worse off than me. I am young. I have my health. I am able to work. I know there is more for me out there. I know it.” I shared with her how God loves her and has so much more for her life. We prayed together, for her safety and provision…and for her to experience God’s protection and love.
Her image is engrained on my heart and mind forever. Across the street from where she sat is a beautiful courtyard and church. Inside that church is the most beautiful sculpture named “Homeless Jesus.” It is a sculpture of a hooded man lying on a bench. You cannot see His face, but His feet have crucifixion scars on them. They are the feet of Jesus. I am reminded of Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
I don’t pretend to have all the political answers to such complicated things as homelessness, refugees, drugs, alcohol, etc. But I can love. I can share. I can let people know they aren’t invisible. I can take them to the feet of Jesus and let Him begin a healing work. I can remember their names and pray for them often. And I can write their stories – the little that I know- so that others can get a window into their lives as well. And maybe, just maybe, by understanding and seeing others journeys, we will gain a heart for who God created them to be and the world will be a better place.
February 22, 2019
Discipleship thoughts: Be Disciples, Make Disciples
Matthew 28: 19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Many of us have heard this verse almost as often as we’ve heard John 3:16. But have we really put it into action? Discipleship seems like kind of an outdated word doesn’t it?? What does it really mean even? In a practical sense, discipleship is just learning to walk alongside someone through the good, the bad, and the ugly and to go hand in hand right back to God and His truth. It’s a community approach to pursuing God’s best for our lives and the lives of those around us. Let’s face it though. Discipleship can be messy, it’s inconvenient at times, and it requires commitment on both sides. It also requires a level of authenticity and investment that many in our society shy away from. But Jesus, in all His wisdom, KNEW that discipleship is essential to growth and He trusted us with this responsibility!
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be the kind of Christian that simply checks a box on Sunday and doesn’t live life any differently than everyone else all week long. I want to see people the way Jesus sees them and as the people He created them to be. I want to love them with His heart, to have compassion whether it’s popular or not, to teach others the truths God is teaching me, and to learn from others who are also willing to spend time learning and being changed by God! I want to spend time in His word and hear what He has to say about everything…and to obey it! And I want to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit within me and manifesting itself to others through me.
This is where authentic community and discipleship come in. True discipleship happens in smaller, intentional groups where we carve out time to invest in one another and seek God together. We are called to make disciples, to walk alongside each other, discover the truths of God’s Word together, to contend for each other in prayer, and to spur each other onto the fullness of living a life in love with Jesus. When we live in a world of true disciples rather than mere converts, we will see the world around us change. People will love more boldly, give more freely, shower compassion on each other more selflessly. People will reflect Jesus!! And the world needs more of Jesus!
Challenge: Who are your “go to” people? Do you have a person or group of people in your life that you can process things with and that will lead you back to the heart of Jesus at every turn? Are you taking time to also pour into others around you and lead them back to the feet of Jesus? Those relationships are so vitally important to our walks with God. We are called to both BE DISCIPLES and to MAKE DISCIPLES. If one of those key relationships is missing in your life, ask God to show you who He has for you to walk alongside….and then pursue it!! It’s worth every minute!
February 7, 2019
House Ready; Heart Ready
When I heard God telling me to get my house ready and get my heart ready, a flood of emotions filled me! What does He have in store? I know change is on the horizon, and this is confirming that feeling/knowing. But ready for what??? A thousand different scenarios played through my mind. Could it be a move? Could it be opening our home and hearts to someone – a friend, a stranger, an orphan, or even a relative? Or is it just a call to greater hospitality or hosting a move of God in our home??? I don’t know. And I don’t have to know. I just have to be obedient. This I’ve learned many times along the way. When I am obedient, He is faithful to complete His vision through me….and His vision is always better than I imagined!! Ephesians 3:20 says , “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever, Amen!
Ok, so I have my marching orders….but what do I do to accomplish this “getting my house and heart ready”? Well, I don’t exactly know so I’m writing about it all. But one thing struck me today as I was cleaning. How many times have I readied my house before?? I’m a neat freak who loves organization, so my house truly isn’t that messy compared to most. Compared to most. Did you hear that???? And that’s where the rub is. How often do we compare our walks with God and our hearts to “most” rather than to God Himself?? Compared to most leads to pride. Compared to most leaves no real room for humility. And we learn over and over in the Bible the importance of humility in becoming more Christlikeness. Hmmm. Compared to most has to come off the table. Compared to God…that needs to be my standard. His Holy Spirit resides in me and is constantly at work forming me in His likeness. I just need to cooperate. And by cooperate, I mean listen and obey. James 1:22 says “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
I. for one, can tell you that a million times over I’ve gone through my house in various seasons, cleaning out closets, scrubbing walls, and floors, emptying the refrigerators and closets of things that don’t belong. So then why doesn’t it stay that way?? Life happens along the way. A piece of clothing is tossed on the floor, someone enters a door with dirty hands or feet and leaves a mark. Unattended to, these marks can begin to collect more dirt and dust, the fingerprints left behind, mar an otherwise clean wall, the clothes left out of place leave a stench behind. In fact, without daily attention, everyday life can simply leave what was once beautiful and pure just a little “less than.”
As I’m using the magic eraser once again on the same door I always use it on, I’m struck with the similarities between our houses and our hearts. How long does it take for the marks left behind (by sin, by culture, or even by other people) to finally become noticeable enough to us or to others for us to give them the proper attention they need to be cleaned out?? I was reminded of a wonderful story the other day of a group of friends that so desired their comrade to be healed by Jesus that they dug a hole in the roof of a house and lowered him down to Jesus on a mat just so they could reach him and be healed. (You can read this whole story in Mark 2) These friends easily recognized their friend’s need to be physically healed, but didn’t immediately realize that the greatest healing their friend needed was forgiveness of his sins. How often do we easily recognize our own “perceived needs” and readily pray for those to be met, forgetting that the greatest need we have from God is forgiveness. And we have a God who is truly the “magic eraser of all erasers”, never hesitating to offer forgiveness and completely purify every blemish and sin we have!!
So, I’m back at “Get your heart ready, get your house ready.” I still don’t know what’s on the horizon. But I trust God enough to say whatever this adventure is, I’m all in. So I’m getting my house ready and my heart ready.
God, do whatever it takes to make me a dwelling place for you. Show me the marks that need cleaning and let’s do this thing.
“And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” Ephesians 2:2 .
January 18, 2019
Beyond Exhausted: The Beauty of Friendship (preface)
Before you read this, I have to share how cool God is and how perfect His timing is…..I actually wrote this in May of 2017, but a precious friend reminded me of it today in a text. Apparently, God had placed me on her heart and she wanted to share this note she found. I had given it to the ladies in our group a couple of years ago! What she did NOT know was that as recent as yesterday, I was questioning God about whether He wants me to continue leading the ladies group that has been going now for over 7 years now with various people coming in and out. I was feeling a bit weary and needed confirmation from Him that this was still His desire and plan…and not just mine. For the record, I asked Him for confirmation and not only did He have a friend send this to me, but He also had another friend text me the verse 1 Peter 5:2 – which was the exact verse He gave me the last time I considered taking a break from leading the group….and neither of them even knew I was questioning it. Once again, I am reminded that we simply need to ask God and He will give us clear and definitive answers. See Jeremiah 33:3! . Anyway, here’s the entry. Enjoy!!
Beyond Exhausted: The Beauty of Friendship
How many times this morning did I debate whether or not to just cancel Bible Study with the ladies? Maybe go for a walk on the beach with my hubby, do yard word, go shopping – just have a day “free of responsibility”. But nagging in the back of my mind was this sense that there was something more that needed to be shared today. Something God wanted to speak. Even though I may be feeling a little empty today, a ‘”knowing sense” was present that God had no intention of leaving me feeling empty….He wanted to speak. He wanted to bring life. He wanted to refuel, to refresh, to inspire, to remind me of His calling, of His purposes, of His tender love and compassion. And He wanted to invite me to be a part of all of that today. And so, I pushed aside the thoughts of abandoning our group time this morning and sat down for some time alone with God, desiring to tune in to whatever He wanted to say.
And then I got this text from a friend, “Praying the ladies are full of stories and life this morning because I am beyond exhausted.” And there it is. The beauty of friendship centered on the heart of God. Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Oh how we need each other in this journey. And how wonderful that we have a God who not only knows this, but designed it!! You see, something special happens when we share authentic community based on Christ’s love. Our focus shifts off of ourselves and our struggles, busyness, demands, our desires, etc. We come back together and focus on HIM – on His bigger purposes, His calling on our lives, the ministry He has entrusted us with, and the blessing of walking side by side, hand in hand with the Creator of the world and the lover of our souls. We worship together. We pray together. We borrow each other’s faith, because sometimes our own is wearing thin. And then we watch as a beautiful thing happens. Christ pours out His presence through the very people that, truth be told, we might have considered avoiding that day just because we were beyond exhausted.
Today, God, I thank you for the friendships you specifically chose to place in my life. I thank you for growing each of these ladies, for their hearts for you, for the way you desire to speak and move in each of their lives, for the ripple effects that their faith and their walks are having on those around them, for the children they are raising up to have a heart for you and your purposes, for the laughter you bless us with when we are together, for the way you perfectly encourage us through each other, and for the way you equip us to truly love one another. We often hear friendships compared to gold…..not mine! Mine are made of IRON and I couldn’t be more grateful!
Invitation: If you are looking for a group of “iron-sharpens-iron” friends and hunger for getting to know God better, or even simply want to come see what the big deal is, YOU ARE INVITED. Our Wednesday Warriors meet weekly at my house at 9:00. Our circle is ever changing and growing, but we will stand arm in arm beside each other, encourage one another, and keep bringing each other back to the feet of God:-)! Feel free to join us!
August 22, 2019 (I actually wrote this several weeks ago, but it goes well with the Idol study, so I’m posting it today!)
Convenience, comfort and procrastination – yikes!!
Isaiah 30:21-23 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying “This is the way, walk in it.” Then you will desolate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you.” He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground and the food that comes form the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows.
This one may be a little rough and unrefined, but I’m writing out of obedience right now and trusting His words to flow. It’s been an interesting past few days…..the basement flooded (for the second time in a few months) and ruined nearly everything down there. On the positive side, other than our old yearbooks, nothing of great sentimental value was lost. But there was loss – significant loss. Not so much for us as for others. And our procrastination caused that. You see, when it comes to idols, they come in all forms. They are sometimes blatantly obvious and easy to see the fault in. Yet other times they are more easily disguised and we don’t really know we’ve got them until something happens or we ask God to reveal them. Well, this is where we sat and what was really at the root of the events of the past few days.
I guess I should back up to tell you the whole story. I do love how God speaks. I’m one who loves to hear His voice and His direction. I eagerly sit at His feet daily waiting to hear His voice, His instruction for the day. Sometimes, I immediately put it into action and oh how wonderful it is to see His hand at work and the blessings of obedience unfold. But then there are those other times. You know, the times I hear a word that challenges me or that I even recognize as a great thing, yet I tuck it away in my journal on a “to do” list that never really gets addressed. My intentions really are to obey. I mean, how many times has He told me that delayed obedience is disobedience???? But I go on about my day, not giving the instruction quite the weight He intended….therefore being disobedient. And this is where I find one of the many idols that I have placed above God. Convenience and comfort! Yep, that may not sound like something you typically think of when you think of idols. But God showed me in a very tangible way this week just how much of an idol this is in our household.
You see, there are phrases He has spoken to me that I hold dear (at least I say I do)….heart ready, house ready; go up, bring down, and build; spend yourself on the hungry. And so many specific instructions have been given me over the past couple of years in regards to these. One of these specific instructions was to clean out our basement. We have years worth of blessings down there that are not being used – old coats, clothing, furniture, household items, etc that have simply been collecting dust when someone else could be using them. We do take clothes to goodwill or planet aid every few months, we have had a few garage sales in the past (NOT my favorite!), and we try to weed things out. But in reality, when you have lived in the same house for 10 years, you accumulate a lot of stuff without even realizing it.
God laid on our hearts ideas for the re-homing the stuff – a “charity” garage sale where the proceeds were donated to a mission trip, taking the items to Salvation Army or another place that would benefit, simply having friends who might be able to use the stuff come choose things and take them, etc. Typical of us, we started the project but never finished it. We even went as far as to organize it all on one side of the basement, ready for a convenient day to do something with it. And months passed. The time was never quite right, weather wasn’t good for a garage sale, we didn’t want to put the effort into e-baying it, always talked about taking loads to Goodwill or something – but it didn’t quite fit into our schedules.
You would think that means our schedules are super busy. But they aren’t realistically. We have a lot of margin. The truth is that we love to fill our margin with things that are fun, convenient and comfortable – not really things that take a little elbow grease and hard work. In fact, we tend to hire out a lot of those sort of things in the name of convenience/comfort. Now, I’m not saying anything is wrong with hiring things out, but the real problem here comes in the fact that God had given us specific instruction and we had other things we wanted to do so we procrastinated. And like I said, He had already told me that delayed obedience is disobedience.
So there’s the background for this particular insight. And here’s the reality. God called us to clean out our basement and share it with others in need. We delayed in carrying this out. A few months ago, we had some flooding in the basement that ruined a few things and reminded us that we need to get these things out before they are ruined. We did what we had to do to clean up and then did nothing more. Without realizing it, at that point mold started to grow on some things. Funny how that happens – the smallest amount of moisture that isn’t supposed to be there can suddenly grow and destroy what was once beautiful if not caught and treated right away. But that’s a blog for another day. Anyway, fast forward past a few months of delayed obedience and we once again find ourselves with a basement full of water. This time it has so saturated everything that the entire basement needs to be cleaned out and thrown away. Thrown away. Yep, our delayed obedience just cost so many people the blessing of perfectly good furniture, clothing, coats, household items, etc. And it now cost us additional money to remediate the problem. So must waste and destruction that easily could have been avoided.
And why did we delay???? Convenience, comfort, spending time on things that are much more fun and enjoyable than digging in and doing the work. Things that even look noble on the surface, except that they are taking precedence over what God told us to do. And therein lies the IDOL. We put our convenience and comfort over His command. And our disobedience ultimately led to destruction and loss.
Funny….God actually warns us of this throughout the Bible. In fact, as I’ve begun studying about idols, that is really what I see everywhere!!! God’s desire is for our whole heart. He wants so much more for us and He knows the exact things we need to do in order to experience the abundance He has for us. Yet too often, we think we know better or simply push His instruction aside until it is convenient and comfortable. By delaying, we become disobedient and make our own plans an idol. And God does not take idolatry lightly!! (Check out Jeremiah 44 as one of many examples.)
But there is good news!! We have a loving and merciful God who is always waiting for us to turn around and choose Him! As soon as He reveals an idol in our hearts, He is also standing there with open arms saying “What about now? Now will you let me circumcise your heart and rid you of that idol?” You see, we don’t rid ourselves of anything – if we try, we will fail. Yet when we fully submit our heart to His leading, this is when He can have His way and He will lead us into actions that will ultimately remove the idol. (Isaiah 30:21-23). One step at a time, working in and through us as we abide, obey, love, repeat.
So how did this play out in our flood. Well, I can only tell you the first few steps so far but they are good. As I sat at His feet yesterday morning, I asked Him what He had to say about the flood and how we were to approach the clean up. Of course, with our idol of convenience and comfort, our first inclination was to hire someone to do the work for us. Yet, He clearly revealed this wasn’t His plan and proceeded to show us that the right choice was to simply order a dumpster and dig in and do the work – still costly, but not as costly as hiring it out. He blessed us with friends to help, able bodies to carry out the work, and had already given Dan a half day off which we were able to use to clean up. (Side note, we had planned a fun date day – switched it to a work filled afternoon and followed by an evening date….obedience first, then relaxation and fun – we are learning!) Step by step we will listen and do what He says to do in order to put this particular idol to death. It will take effort and obedience, but ultimately will result in greater reward for us and those around us.
August 16, 2018
(**I wrote this a while ago on a trip to California. As I was running along the beach, God instructed me to stop, go back to my room to get my journal and pen, and then to sit on the seaside wall, observe what He wanted to show me and write it out. This is what He He prompted me to write.)
Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.
What do you see? What do you see? These words echo in my heart as I’m drawn to walk along the oceanfront and simply open my eyes. As I turn, the first thing I see is a man lying still against the wall, sound asleep. Has he been there all night? What is his story? Am I supposed to go speak to him, to share God’s love with him, to pray for him? As I look more closely, I see a baseball cap placed carefully over his eyes – indicating to me that he has no desire to be disturbed. And so I keep walking. I turn back a little later, hoping maybe his position has changed and he will suddenly be open to conversation. But it hasn’t. And then I’m struck by watching the seagulls – dipping their feet, playing at the edge of the ocean, but too afraid of its power to go all the way in. So many of them. Just standing there at the edge of the water. Feeding off the smallest scraps left by the roll of the waves – but never seeing all that lies within the ocean. Then it hits me! What do you see? What do you see? These images are for me! Keep looking!! A sweet older couple walks along the beach, smiling, enjoying their time together with their dog, listening to the waves roll, seeing the beauty, experiencing blessing just by their proximity – but not by fully engaging. And then there’s the man walking along this beautiful beach, texting/emailing – maybe just playing on his phone, I’m really not sure. But he’s so distracted that he’s missing the beauty of it all. I want to go tell him. But God stops me and simply asks again – what do you see?
I see people – people in all different stages. Blinded and closed off – asleep to all you are doing God. I see people dipping their feet in all you have for them, but afraid to experience the fullness of your power or possibly not even aware of it. I see people walking along in life, enjoying the blessings completely unaware that the God of the universe created all this for them – oh how much more full their joy would be if they knew the source!! And I see people so distracted by the “urgent” that they are missing the beauty of what’s right in front of them.
And then there are the waves. There’s power in those waves. The waves rolling in one after the other. Calling. Inviting. Beckoning. Not slowing down just because some are oblivious to them. They keep rolling in, inviting people to jump in and play, to enjoy their power, to enjoy being swept away, to enjoy the full life that exists there that so often goes unseen.
What do I see? I see the opportunity to go all in – to play in the waves, to experience the fullness of His power in and through me. God is inviting me in. He is inviting you in. All in!!
Are you willing to go?