who’s in charge?

“If you have trouble with authority here on earth, you can bet you have trouble with the authority of Heaven,” –Bryan Clark, pastor.

These words have echoed inside of me deeply.  I often think of myself as compliant, obedient, respectful of those who are in authority over me.  But as I have let the statement steep inside, I realize my quiet defiance has been building inside for years.

I may have chosen to abide by the rules of my parents growing up.  Even staying off the phone (when they weren’t home to know the difference) because I had been restricted from it for whatever reason.  Now, I think I stayed off out of compliance to their rules, but my heart may not have been obedient. Truly obedient.

I am seeing that true obedience, wholly and completely surrendered, means not allowing my wants and needs to impact my actions to get what I want.

I think of the times when I have been told– as an adult– recently– of a decision made that I will need to follow, only to hear my inner voices start to look for alternate solutions.  Alternate ways to get what I want and still make it seem like I have obeyed their decision.

My reality is a lot uglier than I thought.

As I looked back at the times when God had prompted me to do something, or when a situation had completely different outcomes from my plan I see a child throwing a tantrum for not get her way.


Time and time again, I am reminded of conversations, arguments, and silent treatments I have had or given because I have not been able to get what I want. And what I want hasn’t always been a bad thing like too much candy or no nap.  It’s been as simple as approaching something from a different view than the person whose decision I need to honor.

It’s a control thing.

Double uggh.

If I am to be obedient, honoring the directions and decisions of people in authority over me– and ultimately, my Father in Heaven, then I have work to do.  I don’t have a simple answer, a switch to flip, or a simple act to make.  This is going to take time.  It took time to get into this and it will take time to get out.

Heaven help me. Thank you that all I need to do is ask and You will meet me where I am at and guide me to my next steps.  I pray for an honest heart, even when it isn’t pretty, to grow and be stretched.  To repent, to acknowledge, and ask for forgiveness from those I have been defiant against again and again. I know all things are possible through You and I pray I will lean into You for Your wisdom.  Which is always true and perfect. Amen.

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loss, love, and the other side

As our house renovation/restoration is underway we have not connected our television or had Internet connected.  I have gone without the images of newest “must have items” and the “blockbuster” movies of the summer.  I don’t feel like I have any gaping holes or a sense of being left out.  I have learned to be more content with what I have and enjoy it more.

I haven’t watched all of the political commentaries for our upcoming Presidential election-more than a year away.  My heart and mind are quieter for it.  I know what matters to me and I can do without the bluster and finger pointing.  I have found I am at peace and content with my life more without this noise.

My time has been filled with time with my sons, time with my husband.  Our relationships have been found again.  Conversations, laughter, honesty, healing, forgiveness, and growth have happened in the hours that were once spent with computers and television.

Our days are spent constantly on the go with school, work, or activities and every moment I get to spend with the loves in my life is a treasure to my heart.  I cannot get enough time it seems, with these men in my life.  My sons will leave soon, too soon for my liking.

I think of the families with the empty place at the table, the candle lit in remembrance of the treasured person who is missing from the laughter.  I think of the children who are missing a parent, the parent who is missing a child.  And my heart hurts.  I want to hug my husband, my sons, and never let them go.

We often talk of Heaven as being “the other side” of this world. Yesterday, nearly a dozen people stood on the other side of this world because of another shooting in the United States.  I didn’t watch the television footage of people gathered in groups crying and hugging, or people speaking through tears at the television camera asking “why” knowing an answer will never satisfy their sorrow.

I have no answers.  I could give the “pat” answer that God’s plans are not our plans.  But that is not a pat answer.  It is truth, it is reality.  God’s plans are not our plans, but His plans are to give us a hope and a future.  He is not the author of destruction and death.

I can only pray.  Pray for those who are left behind, those who are in need of physical healing and emotional healing.  For a nation, once again, in the throes of pain and searching for someone/something to blame.

I can only pray for God’s amazing love to be experienced by those who need to know that amazing love and healing that can only come from the other side.

Oh Lord Father God, Jesus meet us in our brokenness.  Our neediness.  Our pain and bewilderment.  Meet us and lead us to find the peace only you can provide.  We may never be fully whole here on Earth, but may we find comfort in the promise that one day we will know all that comes from being on the other side. Amen. 


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promises, promises

During my life I have heard so many people “promise” something to me.  I have promised to accomplish a task in a timely manner, change a habit, break a habit, forgive someone for something. I am sure you can create your own list of promises you have made.

The question is, how many have you broken?  How many times have you failed to keep the promises?  I am not throwing rocks, I have a long list of times when I have failed to keep a promise.  Friends, family, my sons, and my husband if asked, could speak of the times I didn’t hold up my end of the deal.

I could hang my head in shame, criticize myself, shake my head and call myself names; worthless, failure, good-for-nothing, stupid, etc.  But instead, I turn to my Heavenly Father.

My Heavenly Father who promises in Lamentations 3:22-24 (HCSB);

Because of the Lord’s faithful love

we do not perish,
for His mercies never end.
23 They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness!
24 I say: The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in Him.

My Heavenly Father says, Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5 HCSB).

Isaiah 43:1-4 says He will not abandon us in difficult times:

Now this is what the Lord says—
the One who created you, Jacob,
and the One who formed you, Israel—
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name; you are Mine.
I will be with you
when you pass through the waters,
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not overwhelm you.
You will not be scorched
when you walk through the fire,
and the flame will not burn you.
For I Yahweh your God,
the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior,
give Egypt as a ransom for you,
Cush and Seba in your place.
Because you are precious in My sight
and honored, and I love you…(HCSB)

Psalm 91 reminds us that He is with us and will empower us to face trials:

Because you have made the Lord—my refuge,
the Most High—your dwelling place,
10 no harm will come to you;
no plague will come near your tent.
11 For He will give His angels orders concerning you,
to protect you in all your ways.
12 They will support you with their hands
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the young lion and the serpent.

14 Because he is lovingly devoted to Me,
I will deliver him;
I will protect him because he knows My name.
15 When he calls out to Me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble.
I will rescue him and give him honor.
16 I will satisfy him with a long life
and show him My salvation  (HCSB).

We may fail, in fact- we will fail.  We are finite, wrong-side of Heaven’s gate human beings. We may make elaborate promises, with pinky-swears, blood oaths, and marriage licenses.  The reality is without God in Heaven by our side we will never succeed.  We need Him.

His promises are true, His promises are time-tested, Faith approved, and eternal.  These are the promises I turn to, the promises I lean on, I stand on, and I kneel on daily.

May you find the same comfort and rest that come from these promises today.

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free for the taking, free for the giving

There was once a farmer who had a bumper crop of sweet corn.  He decided to go to the nearest crossroads and sell them a dozen ears of corn per bag.  After he loaded up twenty bags, he drove to the crossroads, set up the bags on the tailgate of his truck and waited for customers.  One hour became two, two became three, and not one person came to buy the corn. Not a dozen, not an ear.  He saw car after car, but not one stopped.

So he loaded the corn back up, drove the truck back home, put away all twenty bags in the cellar refrigerator and decided to try again the next day.  So back up the cellar stairs he carried each bag, loading them into the truck, back to the crossroads.  This time, he set up in the late afternoon, thinking people might be more willing to buy corn on the way home for supper that night.  One hour became two, two became three, and not one person came to buy the corn.  Not a dozen, not an ear.

So he loaded the corn again, drove back home, putting all the bags back into the cellar refrigerator, to try again the next day.

The third day he changed locations, thinking maybe this would change his luck.  One hour became two, two became three, and not one person came to buy the corn. Not a dozen, not an ear. A third time, he loaded the corn, drove back home, putting all the bags back into the cellar refrigerator.

He felt discouraged.  He couldn’t sell the corn.  He was only one person, he couldn’t eat all of the corn.  What would he do with it?

The he heard of a gathering friends were having soon.  He called the hosts and offered them the corn, for free, just because he wanted to share what he had. It didn’t cost him any more than the corn he had already harvested and eaten.  It was extra, it was a bonus.  To the host, it was a blessing.

This farmer realized, it filled his heart more to give away the surplus, the extra, than it would ever fill his wallet.  So, he changed his tactics.  He no longer sells his corn. Now, to whomever he meets, he offers the bounty of his garden.  A tomato or two, a five-gallon bucket of cucumbers, bags of spinach and romaine lettuce.  Whatever he has, he offers. Which blesses both the giver and the receiver.

Isn’t that just like Grace? Grace is offered- for free- no fees, no charges, the payment was “Paid in Full” on the Cross and we get to benefit from blessings and bounty of Heaven.

Our Heavenly Farmer is offering abundant life, eternal life, everlasting joy, never-ending love, and mercies upon mercies to us all.  We just have to choose to receive the gift.

Have you chosen to receive the bountiful life?  Have you shared this bountiful life with others who are hungry?

It is free for the taking, it is free for the giving.  So give. Share. Bless others with the bounty of Heaven, just like someone else blessed you.

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listening to the Spirit

“Never, ever, ever, ever blow off a prompting from the Holy Spirit.” ~~Bill Hybels

God has shown Himself to be the kind of God Who does not stomp, pout, bellow, or shake us as His followers.  He is a jealous God, that is true (Exodus 20:5), but He is also a God Who whispers.

God whispered to little Samuel, asleep on his mat (1 Samuel 3) and when Samuel answered, God moved mightily through him.

How many of us have had a thought that was not our own, a thought that seemed so wild, yet grounded in Scripture, and we have found a reason to dismiss it? We were too busy, we didn’t know how we would start the idea, we didn’t know who to talk with about the idea.

So we dismissed it.

What would happen if we listened and responded to the Holy Spirit?  What would our marriages look like, our relationships with our children, family, our friends, look like when we stopped to pray for someone that God brought to mind “out of the blue” during the day?

What would our purpose here on this earth look like?

As I listen to the ways God has moved through the Church in the past 2000 years, I see that He moved because people responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

How will you respond to the “still, small voice” of the Holy Spirit today?

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The God of old is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms
(Deuteronomy 33:27).

During my early walk with God I used to listen to Elisabeth Elliot speak on her radio program, Gateway to Joy.  I didn’t know what she meant when she spoke of the “everlasting arms” of God.  It was foreign, kind of “out there” for a new believer, but I knew she was a strong believer and spoke with wisdom and truth grounded in Scripture.  So I listened.

The concept of everlasting is not an easy one to grasp in today’s society.  I think that is what makes this character trait of God so hard to embrace.  We live in a culture where things are expected to break down, fall apart, get tossed out after a few uses.  Nothing seems to be created to last-let alone last forever.

Marriages last only when things are going well.  Then somewhere around year four or five, things get tough and one or both spouses decide this isn’t what they signed up for and so they sign their name on the line and end the marriage.

Relationships are treated more like handi-wipes.  Use once and done.  Toss it out, there is always another one available when it’s needed.

Parents become estranged from their children.  Instead of fighting for reconciliation, they fight against the child that doesn’t conform to the way they think their child should behave.

And yet, at these very experiences God must weep.  He designed us for forever.  We each have these ever-living-never-dying-souls that will stand before Him one day.  Will we each know the joy of hearing Him call to us, My child, come, enter into the Everlasting with Me?  Or will we know the true sorrow of being told, Go away from me, I never knew you?

May this verse below be the Truth we each know…

I will give them, in My house and within My walls, a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give each of them an everlasting name that will never be cut off  (Isaiah 56:5).

Such a promise for us from the Everlasting God (Isaiah 40:28) Who poured out His love for us at Calvary.  This kind of Love, this kind of Grace, Mercy, Joy, and Covenant can only come from a God Who will truly be there for all Eternity.

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every day

The Lord will send His faithful love by day;
His song will be with me in the night—
a prayer to the God of my life (Psalm 42:8 HCSB).

Thank you, God, for a new day.  For the brief sunshine before the clouds came over again.  Father God, thank you that this day is new to me, full of opportunities to show your love and mercy to those around me and to myself.

Father, I pray for the hearts of those who are so far from You, I pray today they will take steps toward You that draw them closer to eternity with You.

Jesus, you are the One who has lived life here, with all the hurts and pains, troubles and joys we experience.  I pray You will remind us that You do understand what we are going through.

Holy Spirit whisper to our hearts.  Remind us that every person we meet matters to God, no matter their journey, their situation, or their decisions, none of that will keep them from the Love of God–so freely offered.

Triune God, I pray for the Persecuted Church to remain strong under oppression, to remain faithful to the God who is faithful to them.  I pray for those in chains who seek Your face and not the flattery of person’s of state which may change on a whim.  I pray that their families will seek You and know You hold them in the palm of Your hand.

I pray for those who struggle with addiction. I pray that today will be the day the addiction begins to loosen its grip on their lives.  I pray today will be the day they seek help in their pain.

I pray for families divided over petty things, misunderstandings, and wounded pride.  I pray for reconciliation, mercy, and grace to be poured over their homes, covering each part the doors, the windows, the walls, the foundation.  May their families be rebuilt by Your hands today.

For those who struggle with illnesses of all kinds. I pray today will be a day of rest for their weary souls. I pray You will meet them in a way they can see You to know they have not been forgotten.  That they matter to You, the Creator of all the Universe.

I pray for the Church to know You deeper, closer, and more richly than they knew You yesterday.  I pray for the pastors preparing their messages, thinking of their congregants and the situations in their towns and cities.  I pray Your Word will be taught– clear, precise, celebrating Your love for us, calling us out into deeper waters to serve and grow in Your name.

Father, You and You alone can do things we cannot.  I pray we will remember the Faith we claim is stronger than any stronghold we face.  Is built on the foundation of the Cross.  That the Faith we claim is because the God we cry out to is eternal, faithful, never-changing, true.  You are always willing to hear our heart, our cry, collect our tears, and draw us to the healing You alone can offer.

Meet us here today, God.  Meet us here every day, Jesus.


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what comes first?

Recently my “new” church in Nebraska and my “home” church in Illinois have been speaking about the way people come to Christ and how the Church impacts this event.

My home church pastor shared about the “radical” idea they had when their church was just beginning, to welcome everyone regardless of their salvation status.  My new church pastor has expressed the same desire.  It matters more to have someone come as they are, than to keep them outside the doors until he or she cleans up their act.

I love this heart of my churches- but I also know it wasn’t and isn’t always so.  Growing up my family attended many different churches, seeking the one that best matched the Church lived out by Christ and the Disciples.  During our search I remember churches where the people were more focused on the make and model of the car in the parking lot and the style of their clothing than what God might want to do in their hearts.

I remember services where the fire and brimstone was so real I could feel the heat and smell the sulfur.  I was petrified to step outside of God’s rules — there was no grace spoken from the pulpit.

One of the last churches we attended was more country club than church.  If you didn’t have the membership card you weren’t welcome.  There were those inside that church who sought to bring in the Holy Spirit and be led by Him, but they were quickly silenced.

Then I became a Christian in the summer of 1990.  I knew I had a list of all manner of sins committed and worried that I wouldn’t fit into the previous churches I attended.  I was in my 20’s and it was time to seek a church for me, not because the family attended.

I found my home church. The messages were relevant to my life, instructive, powerful for a new believer’s heart.  The music, skits, and drama used to bring the message home fit my creative wiring.  I was home.  I quickly became involved with ministries, leading small groups, and I was growing, growing, growing.

Fast forward twenty-five years later and I live in a different state.  The church I attend now is on the same plane as my home church.  I am growing and so are our sons.  A new generation learning how God can be a part of their lives.  It is incredible to see.

Which leads me back to my question.  What comes first?  Many would believe the Cross–with repentance, redemption, and a strict discipleship program are required before the church doors will be opened to the “former” sinner.

Others know from personal experience, that the Love God offers is what will draw the “sinners” to the Cross.  It takes the Love first, then the Cross.

My heart breaks at the reality that there are people dying outside those “locked” church doors.  People with ever-living-never-dying souls. People who desperately want to know that they are valued, precious, prized, treasured above all things, and most of all, loved. Even if their car is the wrong model, their clothes are from the discount store, and they don’t have their lives all cleaned up.

Jesus said it best, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed  and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so the outside of it  may also become clean… (Matthew 23:24-26). 

Jesus was scolding the Pharisees for being pretty on the outside but corrupt on the inside. Jesus knew that if the heart was clean, then the outside would follow.  So to is it with us, with me.  My faith is shown on the outside by what is happening on my inside.

What came first? Not what, but Who. Jesus and His Love for you and for me.

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owning it

One of the hardest parts about taking a new direction in life is owning what went wrong in the past.

I remember the moment during a counseling session, when all of the broken parts of me were spread out like puzzle pieces on the floor. It was time to claim the pieces that I put there or allowed to be put there. It was time to be honest about my part in my mess.

While it would have been great in some ways to have the counselor say, “You poor thing, look at all these sad/bad things that happened to you.  You have the right to be so messed up.” It would have actually been more harmful than the events on the floor.  I cannot heal, I cannot learn to recognize the things that trigger my reactions if I act like it isn’t my fault.

So, it comes back to owning my part.  Being honest, even when it hurts me to remember the part I played.  The words I said.  The way I acted.  Part of the “owning it” includes asking forgiveness, if needed, from the other person involved.  Sometimes I cannot tell the person my actions were wrong.  I ask God at that point to forgive me of those actions.

I have learned that when I take control of my part it takes away some of the power the event/person held over me.  Owning it allows me to see I have the power to change.

And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4).

God is good all the time.  Even in the hurts, pain, sorrow, and ugliness we all have in our past.  God is good.  He wants me to see I don’t have to face the ugliness alone and through His grace and amazing redemption He will make that ugly thing into something beautiful. He does it all the time

….to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify Him (Isaiah 61:3).

I own my mess, but I also am bringing it to Jesus. Allowing Him to redeem it, restore it, and make it into something beautiful.

Beautiful Things by Gungor

All this pain

I wonder if I’ll ever find my way?
I wonder if my life could really change at all?
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come up from this ground at all?

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

Oh, you make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new
Making me new

You make beautiful things
(You make me new)
You make beautiful things out of the dust
(You are making me new, making me new)

You make beautiful things
(You make me new)
You make beautiful things out of us
(You are making me new, making me new)

Oh, you make beautiful things
(You make me new)
You make beautiful things out of the dust
(You are making me new, making me new)

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

Michael Gungor; Lisa Gungor

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on why, how and Who

Seeking to find the “why” in events, experiences, and emotions seems to be how many spend their past time, myself included.  If I could just find the why I would at least have the reason, and with reason comes logic, a plan and a purpose.  It explains, it answers the questions, concerns, worries, and cares we have each day.

But there are times when why doesn’t get answered. My friends, S. and T. had less than 24 hours with their little boy, a precious baby, before he passed away.  The emotions are raw, deep, and painful.  My heart aches for them as I watch my two sons, strong and healthy, doing everyday things.  All of the loss, the hopes, plans, and ideas were buried with baby J.

How do I find the reasons for this? How can I answer the why? 

I look around the world, the news-feeds that share the destruction, the division, the hurt, the despair, or have seen in the eyes of the displaced, the abused, abandoned, the orphaned, or the homeless that look that says how will I ever find what I am missing? I know we cannot help them all, but I know I can reach those in my circle.  But I sometimes wonder, How can God allow this to happen?

Every time I allow my heart to be still in these moments, when pain, hurt, questions without answers, and events without clear reasons fill my mind, I look to God and wait.  Sometimes, I shake my head, sometimes my fist, wondering what God is doing.

Then I remember Isaiah 55:8-9,

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
 “For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.

I am not in charge. I don’t get to have the answers, I don’t get to know the whys and the hows in this life. But each day I choose to seek the God Who is in charge of this world and Who loves each one of us and knows us each by name.

I long to hold all of those who are hurting, those who feel lost, who are lost, who need to know the God in Heaven Who longs to have an intimate relationship with them.  I believe my heart aches for them because God has built in me the desires of His heart.  To love us, to have relationship with us, to comfort us, direct us, and grow us into the men and women He created us to become.

The whys and hows of this world may never make sense this side of Heaven.  I cannot see it all today, but I will one day.  As Paul said, For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).


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