October 16, 2019
Puppies, Training, and Surrender
This little white puppy!! For those of you who don’t know, we got a new puppy a few months ago. It’s been awhile since we had a puppy in the house! I honestly forgot about the training part, lol. Kayci is a fluffy white Bolognese, weighs merely 6 and a half pounds, and every pound of her has stolen our hearts! She’s playful and full of joy. She brings love and laughter wherever she goes. But boy can she be stubborn! This morning as I was walking her, I realized that she and I are being trained on the same thing….SURRENDER!
For our family, having dogs that are able to walk off-leash and come when they are called is important to our lifestyle and mission. I typically work on this with her in the mornings by simply walking around the perimeter of our house. (I use this time to pray circles around our house too – multi-tasking at its best!) I carry a pocketful of her favorite treats to reward her for staying close and for listening when she’s called. Sometimes she does great; other times, well…not so much. This particular morning, I’m struck by her defiance.
Bear with me! This illustration is a little disgusting, but it gives a great picture of how we often respond to God. We were walking along, and she came to a pile of throw-up that really intrigued her…after all, it had chunks of puppy food in it. No matter how many times I called her away from this leftover icky food, she was so drawn to it that she wouldn’t come. She completely forgot that what I had in my pocket for her was so much better than what she was distracted by. If only she would come to me, she would have real food, satisfying food…heart food that is the very best for her! But she kept returning to the pile, distracted by what she thought it offered.
How often do we do this to God? We are walking along, enjoying His presence, obeying His commands, living in the fullness He has for us and then we get distracted by something WE think is satisfying but ultimately foregoing His very best for us because we won’t SURRENDER to what He is calling us to do.
I’ve been stuck on Romans 12:1-2 for the past couple of weeks and I am just in awe of the invitation to SURRENDER!
Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, perfect will.”
There’s so much meat in these two verses alone, that I think I might tackle it in a few different blogs. But the point I want to leave you with today is this: God is inviting each and every one of us to surrender and it’s a beautiful invitation!
Check out the wording of verse 1:
- Paul is “urging” us to “offer”.
God will not force us to surrender, rather He invites us to surrender. And He’s not asking us to do anything He hasn’t already done!
- “In view of God’s mercy”
His love and mercy towards us is crazy!!! He literally thinks we are so valuable that He paid the price for our sin with His perfect Son! That’s a ridiculously high price!! Do we really believe that we are that valuable??? HE DOES!
- “living sacrifice”
Sometimes making a sacrifice is giving up what we think is best and surrendering to what He KNOWS is best. Other times, being a living sacrifice is simply making ourselves available for His purposes (Remember when Abraham took Isaac to the mountain to be sacrificed and God provided a ram to be sacrificed instead??)
- “This is your true and proper worship”
The ONLY proper response to His crazy love for us is to surrender our whole selves – body, soul, mind and spirit. (Remember the command given in Mark 12:30.) And when we surrender, we get to step into the adventure He has planned for us, which is BEST- NONE BETTER!!
I’ll tackle verse two sometime in the next day or two. (I’m personally working on surrendering my schedule so that I have more time to write as He directs! That’s one of many things He’s teaching me to surrender.)
Application: Spend time reading Romans 12 this week. Ask God to reveal to you any areas that He is inviting you to surrender to Him. Spend time in the Word, worship and prayer allowing Him to direct your “next step” in surrender. And then do it!
Abide, Obey, Love, Repeat! It’s a beautiful training process.
October 17, 2018
Restoration. Restoration is such a cool thing!! If you are anything like me, you love to see things restored. Admittedly, I am a Fixer Upper addict (and yes, I have been to the Magnolia store in Waco multiple times – one benefit of having a son at Baylor – Sic ‘Em Bears!) Anyway, I simply love watching old houses not only be fully restored but also be transformed into something even more beautiful than before! This is a perfect illustration of life with God.
I was at a retreat this past weekend and we looked at several passages on restoration. One of my favorites is found in Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 36:33-36 Thus says the Lord God, “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passes by. They will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste, desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left round about you will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted that which was desolate; I, the Lord, have spoken and will do it.”
Oh the beauty and the promise that lies in this scripture!! Take a minute and re-read it noticing the number of times the word “I” is used and the context of it. Do you see it??? Our God is a God of RESTORATION and is willing to do the work if we allow Him!! Yes, in order to be restored walls may need to be knocked down, new materials may need to be supplied, we may hit unexpected hurdles, and it may take longer than we hoped or anticipated. But if we stay with God and allow Him to lead the process and complete the work, we WILL experience full restoration.
Some of us need a major overhaul right now as we struggle with debilitating sin that we feel we can’t escape. Some may be sitting in a broken relationship that feels like it will never be restored. Some may be watching a child struggle and feel hopeless. Some may be walking alongside a parent or friend who is facing a daunting illness or breathing their final breaths. Some of us may simply be sitting in a pit of lies and hopelessness for a thousand other reasons. But there is good news! God is a God of restoration. He desires and is fully capable of restoring all that is lost and bringing new life! One of the most beautiful things about God as Restorer is that He works both side of the equation. He not only calls us unto Himself, but then as we lean in and abide with Him, He completes the restorative work in us. One thing to remember is that we do not get to define what restoration looks like….the Builder does!! We only need to abide with Him seeking His instruction, obey what He tells us the next step is (out of love for Him and for others), and then repeat the process as He leads every step of the way.
Wherever we are at, we are never too far from God to experience His full restoration! Although it is a process and will take time and leaning into Him, He is only one step of obedience away, waiting with open arms and simply asking “What about now?” His heart is for you and He’s waiting for you to step in, submit, and say “Let’s go!” The restoration and the adventure that await are truly beautiful!
Where do you need to experience God’s restoration today? Take time to ask Him to speak to you and begin the process. Abide, obey, love, repeat! Here are some more verses on restoration to get you started. Enjoy!
Sept 13, 2018
Some days the reality of living in a broken world simply leaves me heavy-hearted. Today was definitively one of those days….families (some of which we know) are evacuating ahead of Hurricane Florence, houses are spontaneously exploding in nearby towns in Massachusetts, close friends are in a relentless crisis, and the list goes on. As my head hit the pillow last night, my prayer was that God would remind me of His heartbeat for His people. Sometime in the night, He placed Psalm 23 on my heart, and when I awoke this was the first place I turned.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
The Lord is MY shepherd. Mine. He is for me. Sometimes we buy into Satan’s lie that He is for everyone else except us, that we are unworthy of His love, or that He simply is too big to be concerned with our daily struggles…..but this is a lie!! He is MY shepherd and He loves me dearly. He desires to lead me, guide me, discipline me as necessary, protect me, provide for me, speak to me, care for me, comfort me, and to tend to my heart as well as my physical needs. He is MY shepherd and He delights in this!
On days like this, I need the reminder of simply how good our God is!! And I’m betting someone else may need to be reminded of this today too.
I heard the most beautiful illustration the other day that I want to share with you. I may not get it exactly right, but I think you’ll get the idea. Remember when you brought your newborn baby home for the first time? (Or perhaps when you brought a new puppy home? Comically the illustration works either way!) There were times when that baby (or puppy) would cry incessantly and the only way to settle them was to put them on your chest. Close to your heart. Where they heard your heartbeat. You see, they had spent months inside the womb hearing their mother’s heartbeat and that had become their safe place. As soon as they heard the heartbeat again, they were able to settle down, feel secure, and rest. Oh what a perfect illustration of our need to connect to God and hear His heartbeat!! When we take the time to connect with our Heavenly Father and to be reminded of His heartbeat for us and for this lost and broken world, we are able to rest, feeling secure that He is in charge and can be trusted to take care of it all.
Psalm 23 is perhaps one of the most beautiful passages that demonstrates God’s heart for us and therefore a perfect place to reconnect with His heartbeat. For the next several days, I am going to take time to break this Psalm down and share some insights I have learned about this passage over the years. Hopefully, I will have the chance to post a little each day and you will find it as encouraging as I do.
I encourage you to read this Psalm in its entirety each day. Today, focus on the very first phrase and let it really sink in. What does it mean for God to be YOUR shepherd? What areas of your life do you need to let go of control and simply follow YOUR shepherd’s lead? How have you experienced the love, the provision, and/or the protection of YOUR shepherd in the past? Journal your thoughts and write Him a short love note thanking Him for being your shepherd!
Then rest well, knowing He is yours and He is for you!
September 8, 2018
The Obstacle Race
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
This morning, I was drawn to pick up an old journal and something in it caught my eye. I thought I’d share it with you all in case it speaks to someone else too! This particular journal entry recorded a dream that God gave me and the immediate illustration He spoke about it. In this dream, I was running an obstacle course race (which I used to love to do before aging knees set in, lol!) As I ran, every time an obstacle was completed I was given something for completing it – keys, a medal, a phone, a picture, etc. Rather than freeing me to run the race, I then had several cumbersome things in my way and it became more and more difficult to complete the race.
When I awoke, I immediately thought of Hebrews 12:1-2. How often do we hit an obstacle in life, make it through the obstacle, but carry something with us from it that ultimately slows us down?? Someone hurts us and we pick up bitterness, anger or unforgiveness. Things don’t go as planned or are so much harder than we imagined, and we pick up fear. We are ashamed of the truth, and we pick up deceit. We are afraid to trust, and we pick up control or manipulation. You get the idea – the list goes on and on.
But God has so much more for us!!! He has marked out a race for each of us and equips us for His plan every step of the way! When we face obstacles in life, we need to take a hard look at what we’ve learned or picked up at that obstacle. If it’s not a tool to help us with the next obstacle, then it is a hindrance to our race ahead.
Today, take some time to ask God if there’s anything you’ve picked up along the way that is slowing down what He desires to accomplish in and through you. And remember, He is the author and perfecter of our faith. That means we need only to abide with Him and obey what He says regarding the matter, surrendering our will to His. As we do, He will rid our hearts of the extra baggage. It’s a process that takes time and leaning into Him and His word, but He promises to keep refining us each step of the way if we allow Him. Our job is simply to abide, obey, love, and repeat….God will do the rest!
August 27, 2018
A mom’s prayer for the first day of school
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declare the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This verse is probably one of the most quoted scripture of all times. We see it on placards and pictures, it’s quoted in yearbooks, and rattled off easily in Christian circles as a word of encouragement. And it should be. There is beautiful hope and promise found in this verse. It reminds us of the goodness of God and His heart for us. I often find myself reminding my children of this…..and reminding them that God loves them even more than I do!!
This morning, as I watched my middle son (now a senior) drive off to school with my daughter (now a freshman), this verse played in my mind. But when it plays in my mind it doesn’t stop at verse 11 like most of the signs and pictures do. For me, verse 12-13 hold as much, if not more, value. Let’s keep reading:
Jeremiah 29:12-13 “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart.”
Wow!! Oh how I need this reminder as a mom. It puts into perspective what is truly important! Sometimes we want to hold back time, to protect our children from every potential hurt, to do everything within our power to give them a life of ease, comfort, happiness, productivity, and impact.
But God, who loves them more than we do, has even better plans for them. Those plans often don’t look exactly like our plans though. Look at the word “then” in verse 12. There is a promised result of His plans!! His perfect plans will result in our children learning to trust Him, seeking Him with their whole heart, praying to him, hearing and obeying His voice, and knowing the He also hears their voice! Rest assured, His plans for them are for good – but sometimes in order to step into the “good”, they will face struggles and hardships, things will not go as planned, someone or something may cause them pain, etc. Our role as moms is not always to protect them from these things, but rather to teach them how to lean into God during these times.
So, my prayer for this school year, is simply this:
Lord, I know that you have blessed me with these children and entrusted them to my care. I know you love them dearly and I know that I can fully trust YOUR plans for them. Help me, as their mom, not to be tempted to jump in and rescue or to try to control circumstances and outcomes. Help me instead to walk alongside them through each struggle, teaching them to seek you, teaching them to love you, and teaching them most of all to TRUST you!! Help me to model this well in my own life. You are a faithful and loving God. Thank you for giving me a front row seat to your mercy and grace in my children’s lives as you continue to capture their hearts and grow them into the shining lights you created them to be. Help me to always humbly submit my plans for them to yours, and to stay at your feet asking you for direction on how to lead them. Let this be a year that we all learn to trust you even more and that we see your hand on each of our lives! Let this be a year that we reflect more and more of your heart to the world around us! I sit at your feet and wait expectantly for you to unfold beautiful plans that only you can accomplish in my children’s lives! Amen!
August 22, 2018
Psalm 37:7a “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him..”
Growing up with three sisters, one of my favorite memories is of listening to Captain & Tenille and Shawn Cassidy, dancing on the bed, singing at the top of our lungs into a hairbrush, and spinning incessantly to the music! Oh how we loved to dance, and especially to spin! (In fact, there’s a great story involving one of my sisters, the wonder woman “spin”, a wall, and the fire department…..but I’ll save that for another time!) For now, I want to focus on the dance!
Although I am not always the most patient person, here’s my favorite part of this verse: “wait patiently for Him.” The Hebrew word for “wait” here is “chuwl”, which means to dance! Waiting on God is actually dancing with God! Dancing with God!!!!
Dancing can be such a beautiful thing, although it wasn’t always that beautiful when my sisters and I did it! I don’t believe any of us ever took dance lessons. We simply did whatever movement we enjoyed and felt was best in the moment. Honestly, it was probably a mixture of fun and disastrous at all times! Sound familiar?? All too often this is how we function in life. When life sends us spinning, we too often rely on our own judgment and ideas, and do what “feels best” or “makes the most sense.” Sometimes this works out fine; sometimes it’s disastrous.
But dancing with God looks different!! According to my friends who did take lessons, one of the most important things you learn when dancing is to find a fixed point. Focusing on that fixed point is crucial to a successful spin!! What a perfect image this is for us. So often the things going on around us in life cause us to spin. But when we fix our eyes on God, even the spin becomes purposeful and beautiful. We become grounded and ready to take the next step He calls us to take. Ready to follow His lead and dance the beautiful dance He intended us to dance.
Today, I want to dance with God.
August 16, 2018
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, FIXING OUR EYES ON JESUS, the author and perfector of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Fix your eyes on Jesus. Many of us have heard this phrase at least a thousand times. But let’s face it…..it’s a battle every day to keep our eyes fixed on Him, to align our thoughts and hearts with His.
It’s NOT a battle to focus on what’s around us or on our difficult circumstances. It’s NOT a battle to focus on who’s doing (or not doing) something. It’s NOT a battle to focus on what or who the world says is important. There’s no real struggle involved in loving the loveable, or in responding how the world says we “have a right to” respond to different situations. It’s not a battle to focus on those things at all. Those thoughts and actions are our default mode – the thoughts and actions we go to when we are distracted, when we don’t feel like fighting, when we are weary, when we don’t keep our eyes on Him and when we are trying to do things on our own strength.
Let’s be honest. In this world, the real battle is keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus!
If only we could understand that He has so much more for us as His beloved children!! Oh, how much more purposeful it is to live in the sweet spot of seeing what He sees, loving how He loves, and obeying what He commands!! Fixing our eyes on Him may take effort, but the battle is sooooooo worth it!! So how do we do it?? Keeping our eyes fixed on Him begins one day at a time. It starts with learning to abide with Him, daily sitting at His feet, asking Him questions, allowing Him to respond, listening to His voice, obeying His commands….and trusting that His will is best, none better! It starts by simply spending time with our Father…..our eyes fixed on the truth of His words each and every day, allowing them to become a part of our heart and soul, and surrendering our hearts to the author and finisher of our faith. There’s POWER in His Word. Don’t forget that. And don’t go into battle without it.
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”