orphaned no more

When someone is described as being an orphan, the image of someone without parents, protection, a home, or security immediately comes to mind. A small child in tattered rags, no shoes, often in a third world country surrounded by squalor and filth. Someone without hope.

As I have grown, I have met people who for all purposes are orphans. They have no place to call home, no one to miss them when they are away, no sense of belonging, no sense of peace or hope. My heart pains to see them in this situation. But other than offering to walk along side them, I cannot meet their deepest need. Only God can do that.

God is the One who draws the lost and the lonely into relationship with Him. He may use someone to be a part of His plans, but ultimately, it is His Father’s heart that calls to them, Come to me, find peace. Find rest” (John 14:18). God longs to pull all His children, lost and alone to Him, giving them a place to belong. But it is up to the lost to hear His voice and respond.

Over the years, there have been some people who have been orphaned for so long by the people who are supposed to love them, that when they learn of Someone who wants to love them it is unacceptable. The lost push away the very Love their hearts crave, the Love their souls are starving to receive.

Precious child, are you one of the orphans? Do you cry inside while trying to stand strong on your own? Forcing yourself to remain aloof to the love around you? To the people who seem to have all that you lack?

Come to the Father, O Best Beloved. Listen for His voice, come to His waiting arms and let Him bring you into His family. Where you will find grace, mercy (Hosea 14:3c), hope, peace, and joy. He loves you with an everlasting love and longs to draw you to Him with loving-kindness (Jeremiah 31:3).

Come and be orphaned no more.

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dear heart

As an adult, I have found more comfort in the Narnia series by C.S.Lewis than I did as a child. When I first read the series, I found the adventures of Peter, Lucy, Edmond, Susan, and later Eustace and Jill fascinating. I would want to read more to learn what they were going to do next, would the White Witch win? Would Aslan show up in time? Such excitement was found in the pages.

Image result for images of lions

As an adult, I find myself paying more attention to the dialogue. Listening for clues of the world that always seemed out of my reach and yet just around the corner from me. Whenever Aslan speaks in the series I know his words will have depth, breadth, and wisdom in them.

In the book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Alsan does not show up immediately. He is spoken about by the characters, but his physical presence comes later in the story. So as Lucy stands on the deck of the Dawn Treader she experiences a quiet moment that is just for her.

“But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”

Each time I read these words, I feel my spirit exhale. My heart slows and my eyes close as I too, feel that breath on my face. Knowing that God is speaking to my soul, helping me remember that I am not without anything, when I have Him in my life.

Courage is something that helps soldiers step into the fray of battle, doctors perform surgeries that will save a life. It helps new parents take on the tasks and challenges of caring for their small child. Courage is what helps cancer patients continue through the difficult procedures and chemotherapy so they can be victor over the illness.

Courage is what we all need when we face what seems impossible, uncomfortable, or even scary. We cannot take the next steps unless we hold to the courage that Jesus gives us as He walks beside us. He told us we would face difficulty, but He also reminds us that we don’t have to fight the battle. Through Jesus it has already been won.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, bold mine).

What are you facing, Best Beloved, that would be best met with more courage? Where do you need Jesus to come and take your hand to remind you, you are not alone? He is with you and will not leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5b).

Let us both find the courage that we need in Him and continue on our Faith Journey together.

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blessings to you

It is the end of the school year and as students clean out their lockers, hand in their final papers and take their final tests, there is a need for something more. One more conversation with the students in our classrooms and small groups. It is time to speak into their lives, to speak truth to their hearts.

As I watch my senior prepare for his last finals and focus forward to college, I think of all the voices that are going to tell him what he is and what he isn’t. I want to make sure he knows Whose he is and what that means compared to the world’s view.

When I was teaching a few years ago, I had the sweet opportunity to write blessings over my students. The blessings were read on the last day of school with family and friends in attendance. It was the highlight of the year for the parents, to hear words of affirmation being spoken over their son or daughter. Words that may not be heard if Mom or Dad spoke them. Speaking over each student the characteristics and gifts I saw in them, the way I had watched them grow throughout the year, moved me to tears.

When it comes to my own sons, I feel the same way. Over the past semester my eldest has driven into town with me each morning. This week I told him how glad I was to have had this time with him and how much I appreciated it. He looked at me and said, “Why?” I laughed and responded with, “Well, first of all, you are my kid and I love you, that’s why.” But I didn’t stop there. I continued to tell him that I loved learning about the things he was doing in school, with his friends, the silly stories he shared about their antics. I enjoyed the way he described what he was fixing and tweaking on the truck he bought.

I also expressed the way he challenged me to be brave in ways I never would have been when I was his age. By the time he pulled up to the door at my work his body language told me that he had heard my words. His cup was filled and he understood once again, that he had value and immeasurable worth.

I only have a few weeks left until he leaves for college. He is looking at the list of “to-do” that continues to grow as he finalizes plans for August. My heart’s desire to make sure his heart is full of truths right from my heart and Scripture. His journey into the world will be hard enough. My job description as “mom” may be changing, but in some ways, it has become more important than ever before.

Dear Ones, who are the young men and women in your life who need words that are deep, rich, and true ? What words would have made the difference in your lives at that young age of adulthood? Please speak them to those around you. Share your heart. Your words may be the very words they need to try again when things fall apart.

A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples on a silver tray (Proverbs 25:11 HCSB). May your words be this precious to those who hear them.

 

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sticker burrs

My dogs and goats often go exploring in the wooded section of our property. During this time of year and especially in the fall, they come out of the woods with burrs stuck to their coats. If you think about it, it’s a creative way to spread the plants. The animals will often pull the burrs from their fur or coat and drop it where it lands, allowing the seeds to settle into the soil and take root.

Image result for sticker burrs

On our Faith Journey we have the opportunity to do the same thing. We can cling to Jesus, being tenacious in our pursuit of Him and His teaching. By clinging to Him, when we are eventually placed where He wants us to grow, we can share His great love for others.

When my husband and I were married our pastor spoke of the tenacity with which my husband pursued me. My husband loved me and sought after me, seeking to share his love for me. It took over three years for me to realize his love for me, but when I did, I was immersed in it. Jesus’ love for us is the same way. He pursues us, seeking us, longing to show us how precious we are, that He desires to have deep, meaningful relationship with us.

Sticker burrs cling to us when we walk through the fields and woods, to be prepared to spread the seeds they contain. My question is, Am I spreading God’s word, to take root and grow tall and strong?  Or am I spreading discontent, anger and dismay in the community around me? I long to spread God’s word, His love, His great grace and mercy. But when I haven’t had enough sleep, or am upset about something, what kind of seed do I sow?

Best Beloved, what are you spreading? Are you being a sticker burr, clinging to Jesus, seeking to spread His love to others? Are you tenaciously seeking God to grow in yourself? Are you remembering Lamentations 3:22-23? The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness O Lord.

Let us be steadfast as the Lord is steadfast to us.

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seventeen

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one. ~C. S. Lewis 

One of the sweetest parts of my life is that I can call someone “friend.” There are friends I have known for a year and friends I have known for over thirty-five years. We have stories full of laughter and tears, precious moments cherished by the participants, and secret looks that can only be understood by a few. These friendships have meant everything to me, have helped me celebrate, helped me mourn, helped me grow.

I met some of my dearest (oldest) friends when I was eleven. We played baseball, went swimming and bike riding, had sleep overs, talked about crushes, and built a foundation that has lasted over three decades. We have walked side-by-side through high school break ups and long-distance moves when others might have walked away. We have stood by each other’s sides as we have said, “I do” and when one of us has had to say good-bye to a parent. When we have welcomed our children and when we have felt the ache of divorce.

I met my husband more than twenty-five years ago and he quickly became a close friend. As we wrote letters during our college years we would often share Bible verses that we thought would encourage the other person. One that has always held special meaning to me is Proverbs 17:17, A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. At the time, the verse was a tender reminder of the brother and friend I had in my then-unknown-future husband. Our history helped our marriage have a strong foundation.

When I think of these dear people, I find myself overwhelmed with love and gratitude. I did not have to walk through the dark times of my life alone, I had someone with me. Someone who would listen to me as I explained my heart’s condition. Someone who would speak words of wisdom and encouragement to me (James 3:17-18) when I needed them. Our ability to walk with each other in our troubles and joys has made the difference in our lives again and again.

One of the blessings God has given us in this life are companions. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian had Faithful to walk with him, to encourage him on his journey. Their ability to pull the other up and encourage the next step impacts how we go through our lives. Proverbs 17:17 describes that so clearly, A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Faithful helped Christian through great adversity during their travels to the Celestial City. This is God’s design.

Are you a 17:17 kind of friend? What kind of friend are you? Would you be the one to answer the call in the middle of the night? Would you be the one who monopolizes all of the conversation, forgetting that the other person has a story to tell, too? What would it take for you to be that kind of friend? Make a call, send a text, write a letter, send a card. Listen, get together for coffee. Pray for your friends. Make time for them. Build new memories, take new adventures. Do life together.

You will be the richer for it.

 

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shining through

During the darkest times in life it is hard to find joy. Many times it feels like we are walking with the heavy burden on our back and in our hearts, pulling our bodies closer to the ground. We see our feet, the few steps in front of us, but we do not see the view to the side of our path as we shuffle along.

After a while we forget that we were meant to shine, that joy was supposed to be part of our lives. We become resigned to the life we are experiencing, only facing the ground, never looking up or looking at the creation around us. We miss so much of what God has prepared for us, when we choose to resign. What we need is an intimate moment with Jesus in the midst of the darkness.

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years.She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God (Luke 13:10-13).

While we may not have immediate relief from the burdens we carry, we will still be able to find ways to praise God in the midst of it all. We will still be able to celebrate that God is bigger than the hurt, the darkness, the weight on our backs and in our hearts. We can cry out to God, He will not be surprised by our voices. He is actually waiting and listening for them, straining His ears to hear our whimpers.

Precious Child of God, why are you not choosing to call out? Don’t you know, when we call out we acknowledge that we are not alone in the darkness? We call out to the Light of the World to be found. To have His presence fill us up again so that we can shine through the darkness for others. To help those around us know that they are not alone. We reach out to them, with God’s light in us shining out to help them find Him – just as we did.

Best Beloved, the burden you carry is not yours to struggle under. It belongs to God, to Jesus. He carried our burdens to the Cross and when He died He took them with Him. They are gone. Only the phantom weight remains. Jesus took it all, He paid it all. Don’t try to carry what is already gone. The darkness can be overwhelming, debilitating, but it is not the truth. Jesus overcame it all when He rose from the dead. The ultimate darkness was beaten by Jesus (John 1:5). Don’t let it fool you into thinking you are beaten.

The woman Jesus healed in Luke 13 had been bent over for eighteen years. Eighteen years! How long have you been carrying your burdens? A year? Five years? Most of your life? Isn’t it time to lay it down and lift your head for the first time in a long time?

Let us shine like it says in 2 Corinthians 4:6, For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Blessings.

 

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I don’t want to…

I don’t want to break promises. I go to great lengths to not even use the word promise when I tell someone I will do something. I fret that I will injure someone if I am not able to fulfill the agreement I have made.

I don’t want to be untrustworthy. I want to be known by those I love that what I am given I will care for and not lose, not break, not dismiss the value and worth of what has been placed in my hands.

I don’t want to be selfish. I don’t want to be looking at life as something that is just for me. I don’t want to live my life as I think it should be lived. I want to hand off the next breath I take to God and let Him direct each step. I want to give myself up to God and not take back the controls of what I want to do. It isn’t about me, if I listen to what God says about life.

I don’t want to disappoint those I love. I want them to see me and be pleased with me and what I do for them and with them. I want to have them tell me that I have made them happy- not sad.

What I do want is to be who I was made to be. I want to speak truth and be believed. To think deeply before speaking, to be trustworthy with even the smallest things. I want to be more than what I am. My heart hurts from causing hurt to others and I know I cannot fix anything I have broken on my own.

As I continue to work on my heart and mind, I find that there are days when it seems like a day full of joy. In just moments I find that I can also crash horribly, scraping my hands and knees, get a bloody nose and tear my shirt all at the same time. It’s the hard truth that I am not who I am longing to become. Just as someone who battles substance addiction, I must realize that it is a day-to-day journey. I will never fully make it until I stand before Jesus.

With this in mind, my prayer, Dear Ones, is that we will not strive, struggle, and fail to remember that each time we fall down we are to choose to get up. We can embrace who we are in Christ and know that we don’t have to live this life, do these tasks, love the people in our lives, all on our own. God walks with us and He wants to you to know we are not alone.

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not today

Years ago, I traveled with my grandmother to a family function. As we drove along she would see different advertisements for sight-seeing places and hint about going to check them out. Unfortunately, due to time constraints we were not able to visit these places so we would say, “That sounds like fun, but not today.” As the trip continued it became our inside joke, That sounds like fun, but not today. 

There are times when we, as believers, will need to say the same thing. There are things we will see, activities and ministries where we may want to be involved. After all, aren’t we supposed to be busy doing the work of the Lord? Aren’t we supposed to be serving in the children’s ministries, involved with Bible studies, helping all around our community, sharing Jesus?

Well, yes and no. We are not called to be everywhere, to strive to be Jesus all over. We are called to serve where He has led us to serve. Yes, we may sense the Holy Spirit prompting us to get involved with a Bible study. The reality is, there are seasons for these activities. There are times we are called to get involved, and times when we are to say, That sounds like fun, but not today. 

We need times of rest, not just activity. We were made to be filled and restored by God’s presence. We were not made to run from activity to activity all the time. Busyness does not equate quality. Quality in spirit, in relationship, in communion with others, cannot be found when all that I am offering is the left overs that were from days ago.

Best Beloved, allow your soul time to rest. Only when we are still, can we hear the Lord preparing us for the next thing, the next place. We may find ourselves saying no to activities we enjoy. Opportunities we would like to be a part of, but it isn’t the right time. It isn’t the right day. Not today.

Jesus is our example. He served, He ministered, He healed. And He also took time to get away to a quiet place to pray, to talk with His Father. To be still. To listen. To rest. To prepare for the next season. The only way we can hear His voice is to be still. Precious Child of God, let us go together to the quiet place where we can be quiet, where we can rest, where we can exhale. There will be days soon enough when the Lord tells us, Today is the day.

Until that day, let us all remember that we have a voice that can say, That sounds like fun, but not today. I am going to spend time with Jesus in the quiet. 

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Wishing and hoping

This month marks a lot of beginnings and endings. Graduations and new jobs, marriages and births fill the calendar, many overlapping the days. 

I watch my senior prepare for college and wonder what will his experiences be like when he is no longer under our roof? I watch others who are graduating and will be entering high school- what will they learn by the time they are eighteen? 

I wish for these young people joy, but I also hope they experience some sorrow. It will ground them in the day to day life and help them grow stronger in character. I pray they will see God’s hand moving in their lives as they go about their routines. I hope they will build strong friendships that will help them mature into the men and women God created them to become. 

I watch the young couples prepare for their ceremonies and pray they will know that the ceremony is a grand opening of sorts- not the beginning, middle, and end of their adventures together. I hope they know that their lives will never be the same. 

My wish for new parents is that they grow to know their marriage will speak into their parenting approach more than any class or book they have had or read. I hope they remember to love each other as husband and wife – not just as the tag team parent. 

So much of Scripture contains wisdom for life and the adventures we will have and my wish and my hope- and my prayer- is that each one of us will cling to the truth within those words. God created it all so that we will understand His heart more and recognize His love more easily.

May you know His joy, peace, love, and grace in the relationships you hold dear, Best Beloved. And never forget that what you feel is but a drop of water to what He feels for you. 

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peddling through the cycle

One of my favorite stories is called “This is the house that Jack built” by Mother Goose. The whole story is told in a circular narrative style, in other words, the first line is commonly the last line of the poem or story.

On the Faith Journey, it can often be the same thing. We can go through so many experiences, good and bad, and still feel like we have come back to where we started. Our restoration project at our house has days when we feel like we have accomplished so much. Other days, it feels like we just moved into the house and nothing is completed. It’s those moments when I feel like I am on a merry-go-round, it seems like an adventure, but really, I am just going in circles.

These are the times when it is crucial for me to keep peddling. As a believer, even if I am back at the beginning, it is actually not the beginning at all. I am not the same person I was when I started. I have gained insight, I may have scrapes, scars, and bruises that weren’t there before. I have learned that I am stronger, through God’s help, than I was before I started. My bike has more miles, I know the feel of it under my feet as I peddle, I can feel the strain on the gears as I go up hill. I know the freedom of going down a hill, feet out, letting the peddles speed around and around.

My legs are stronger, my back is stronger because I leaned into the wind as I pushed through the difficulties. My spirit has learned that it is more resilient as I battle the flat roads where peddling is all I can do to go to the next place.

When I find myself back in the same location as before, I may be disappointed to have the same view. I also am able to celebrate. I am different, I have grown. And maybe that is why I started in the first place.

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