Today was one of those days that didn’t got the way I planned. Ever have one of those? I should be used to this by now. I should. But I’m not.
Some days I wake up with my day all planned out. Then circumstances come up and take me in a completely different direction. Other days, I have everything aligned, scheduled, and laid out. Then God shuts down my plans to either open my heart and eyes to the people around me or to make me aware of a change in direction.
Today He needed me to slow down. To drink in the blessings He has given me. To just love and allow myself to be loved. Sometimes I am really good at the loving part I forget to accept the love offered to me. So today He opened my heart to appreciate the world and people around me. My day was full of precious friends, family, football, and my girls.
I didn’t get all the things crossed of my to do list. I didn’t get my panned #write31days post for today finished. I didn’t rotate all the laundry. And you know, I’m okay with that. Becasue today I let myself slow down. I accepted God’s simple blessings and allowed them to fill me up. Today I was blessed beyond words—my day was full is so many ways.
One of those ways was answering questions about my writing journey—particularly during the time I was wrestling with God. When He was calling me to do this, and I was telling Him He had the wrong girl. My girls wanted to know more about why I wrestled and how I knew when I was transitioning to surrender and obedience. I shared the poem with them. I wrote it at this point. It was more of a prayer, a plea—and an answer God spoke to my heart. As several of them are in this stage they encouraged me to share it as my post today.
So this is for you My precious Girls*! Remember, God’s got your back. Trust Him with your future.
Love, Mama Bear
* My Girls are my small group girls in our church youth group.
Where would you have me go?
What would you have me do?
I know you have a purpose for my life–
Lord, all I want is to honor you.
I feel like my map
is a blank, empty page
And I don’t have a compass
to help point the way.
Where do you want me to go?
Jesus, I want to follow your lead
I have no clue where I am going
so I am here on my knees.
You have been my shelter,
my fortress, my shield
But now you want me to move–
Jesus, it is only to you I yield.
Where do you want me to go?
What are you calling me to do?
My feet are willing and able
But I honestly don’t have a clue.
“Come!” you call out,
as you extend your arms open wide
“Trust me, Child, just start moving
I will be your guide.
“You don’t need to know where you’re going
just know that I’m in the lead.
“You have no need to despair
I will satisfy all your needs.
“Your faith will be made stronger
and your light will shine!
“All who see you will know
that you are mine!
“I will bless you and change you
into the likeness of me;
“Even if some things remain unknown
on this side of eternity.”
But I don’t have the resources
“I will supply all your needs.”
I don’t have the finances for them
“Ask me, I will supply all your needs.”
I don’t have the understanding or wisdom
“I do, I will supply all your needs.”
I don’t have the right degree
“Neither did I, I will supply all your needs.”
I don’t have the time
“I will supply your need.”
I am afraid–
“Take my hand and let me lead.”
“Child, my purpose will come to be pass
whether you participate or not
Either stay where you are or move–
but make the excuses stop!
“When you completely surrender
and move in obedience to me
I will bless you beyond
what you can fathom or dream
“I will use you to bless others
and glorify My Name;
I will use you to change lives
and yours, Child, will also never be the same.”
Jesus, I trust you
my confidence is in you alone
You are my shelter, my guide;
my Savior–my only hope.
Take my life, I surrender it to you,
it is yours to use as you desire.
Lord, I just have one request,
fill me with courage and your consuming fire.
In Part 1 I asked you two questions. Do you remember what they were?
Wait for it…
What do you think it means to abide in Christ? And how does that affect how we ask for anything we want?
I would love to know what your responses were.
Today I want to focus on this word ‘abide’ and Jesus’s command to “Abide/remain in me.”
This portion of God’s Word is so dear to me because it’s the first piece that became Vibrantly Relevant in my life—forever changing the way I approach The Bible. Don’t get me wrong, I had long been a student of Scripture. I loved it, devoured it, studied it, and taught it. But while I sat in my Propagation class on a warm September day, these verses became alive!
Allow me to explain. In 2010 I went back to school to earn a BS in Horticulture. My original purpose was to feed my inner plant nerd, but God had so much more in mind when He led me back into the classroom as a non-traditional student. My Prop class was one of my first classes in the program, and it was the gateway to a deeper understanding of God’s Word I never knew possible. Portions I had read, loved, and appreciated now were alive, vibrant, tangible…and my faith exploded.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:1-11 NLT (Emphasis mine)
Jesus was the master of word pictures. He skillfully used the known to explain the unknown. In this case, He used pruning and grafting to illustrate what abiding in Him looks like. I can’t wait to dig into those themes with you in Part 3.
A little background: This analogy was shared with all those following Him shortly before His death. He knew He had two kinds of followers:
Not much has changed has it?
Jesus is aware this second group follows Him for the entertainment value. They pursue Him for His miracles, free lunches, and to fulfill their other selfish ambitions. And yet He loves them deeply. This is why He tells us this analogy; to give us another opportunity to repent of our unbelief and choose to put out fullest and deepest faith in Him.
But He also uses this analogy to encourage those of us who have put our faith in Him—to remain there in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. He encourages us to endure even when things get difficult, when circumstances are less than desirable, and when we are persecuted like He was (Mt. 5:10-12; 2 Tim 3:12).
Jesus calls Himself the vine, talks about bearing fruit, pruning, and staying connected to Him. And nestled in these profound statements, we have today’s focus verse:
“But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” (Vs 7, emphasis mine).
Beloved remaining/abiding in Jesus means we choose to be connected to Him. Yes, it’s our choice. He extends the invitation to connect, but we have to choose to link up. And when we do, His life force flows into us, sustaining us, and giving us what we need to thrive. His ways become our ways and His thoughts our thoughts.
So when we abide in Jesus and ask for something there are several assumptions made:
1. We are asking for something in His Name (John 14:13-14; 16:23-24),
2. Our faith is genuine and true
3. Jesus’s Words abide in us
Beloved, every verse I looked up that mentions God giving us the desires of our heart (Ps 37:4) in both the Old Testament and New, each promise start with our devotion to God first: following Him, delighting in Him, obeying Him, etc.
When we abide in Christ, our wants, needs, and desires align with His. Yes, there are going to be times we want something that doesn’t directly affect our purpose, but HOW we ask for it changes when we’re permanently united with our Savior. Because our focus is not on our selfish desire, but on Him. And when that happens, God is no longer seen as the vending machine in the sky, there to serve our purposes. We are here to serve Him BECAUSE of the sacrifice of His Son and because He loved us first. So abide in Him, Precious One, and then tell Him what you desire.
Your stomach is demanding food but there aren’t many options around so you walk up to a vending machine, dollar bill in hand. After pursuing the options you make your selection and insert the bill. The machine sucks in it and then spits it out. So you drag it across the corner of the machine a few times hoping to smooth it out, and try again. PETUY! Out it comes. You try putting it in upside-down, backwards, anything. But over and over again the machine rejects your money.
In your frustration you dig for some change—amazed you could come up with enough. You slam the coins into the slot, daring the machine to reject those too. When the display illuminates the proper amount, you punch in your selection with more force than necessary. At a snail’s pace the machine groans to life and slowly drops your selection into the receptacle area. Impatiently you snatch your food and turn to storm away.
As you start walking, a friend comes in and asks to borrow a dollar. You tell him your challenges with the only one you have, but offer it to him anyway. You watch as he inserts the money—silently anticipating his failure. The machine sucks it in—and the display illuminates! He makes his selection and it pops into the receptacle a second later. He grabs his food, shrugs, and says thanks as he walks past smiling and snacking.
What are you feeling right now? Are you laughing at the situation, happy for your friend, and go on your way? Or are you wishing you got what he got? Or are you filled with Disbelief? Anger? Shock? Jealousy? Annoyance?
Are you thinking or saying unholy words at the vending machine or your friend’s back? Are you wondering why it rejected the dollar in your hand, but in your friend’s hand, it was acceptable?
Are you asking: Why didn’t the machine give me what I wanted when I wanted it with the way I wanted to get it? Why did it make me go through the extra effort to get what I wanted? Is bitterness starting to invade you heart and mind?
Beloved, the sad truth is, we often treat God like He’s a vending machine. Somehow we get it in our mind that His sole purpose is to give us what we want, when we want it, and how we want it.
I’ve talked with several heartbroken and disillusioned people over the years who were angry at God because He didn’t deliver what they thought He should. What they thought He promised. Through tears, they paraphrase verses like John 15:7: Ask and you shall receive! “Cheyenne, I did ask. I did. I prayed earnestly over and over again; I went to church; I even read my Bible! And nothing. I got nothing! Yet everyone around me is getting what I want! I don’t understand.”
Oh how this hurts my heart. I can almost hear the coins dropping, can’t you? I prayed—plink; I went to church—plink; I read my Bible—plink. Now to make the selection and wait for it to drop. Please understand, I’m not making fun, nor am I trivializing their pain. The truth is, I’ve been in their shoes.
What breaks my heart is these precious people missed it, as did I. We missed what it really means to follow Jesus and what faith is all about. Some of us simply missed the whole verse: We either grasped onto the part that satisfied our desire and ignored the rest or we had never learned the whole verse in the first place. For me, it was a combination of both.
Here is John 15:7 in its entirety:
“But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” (NLT, Emphasis mine)
Beloved, before we ask for anything, we first must remain in Christ! But what does that mean?
‘Remain’ is translated from the Greek word used ‘menō,’ but I believe a better translation is the word ‘abide.’ Abide has a more powerful meaning because it conjures up the ideas of permanence, remaining in a fixed state, continuing, staying put, and enduring. In a culture that’s constantly shifting and moving about, there’s not much that endures anymore, is there? Yet, we as humans crave permanence. We yearn for something that endures.
With that in mind, read John 15:7 in its original context.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:1-11 NLT
What do you think it means to abide in Christ? And how does that affect how we ask for anything we want?
Tomorrow, in Part 2, I will provide some answers those questions as I show you how to abide in Christ. Then in part 3, I will talk about the necessity of pruning and the beauty of grafting in relation to our faith as I share when this portion of Scripture became Vibrantly Relevant to me and changed my life forever. Finally in part 4, I will share how this Scripture influenced how I asked for a few things from God—some He gave, other He didn’t—in hopes to encourage you as you ask for things you want in accordance with His will, no matter what the answer is.
If I haven’t told you lately, I love that you’re here!
Fog hovers over the surface of the lake;
spreading its arms, quieting its wake.
A hush comes over the forest that is not the norm.
The world is subdued–waiting for the storm.
No loons call out, bidding goodbye to the day.
The choruses of crickets and frogs are silent–instead, they pray.
Beneath the heaviness of the fog the lake doesn’t even reach for shore;
For now, it is submissive and vigilant–waiting for the rain to pour.
The night is oppressive, the dark absolute–
Thick clouds shroud the stars and cover the moon.
The beat of my heart is the only sound I hear.
It echoes off the trees and the earth, increasing my fear.
Even the wind has stilled–biding its time, holding its breath.
And the animals hunker down to escape death.
The silence is eerie, but the calm is strangely charged.
Whatever it is, I sense it too–this storm is going to be large.
Far off in the distance, on the other side of the lake,
Thunder begins to rumble causing the earth to shake.
I feel the roar deep within my chest.
In the crowns of trees, birds cling to their nests.
Lightening slices through the night, bright as the noonday sun
signaling to all around–the storm has begun.
Giant raindrops gather and begin to assault the ground
Driven by an angry wind–pound, pound, pound.
The lake is now free, having thrown off the fog’s heavy weight
The waves build and breathe, demonstrating their strength.
Whitecaps fill the expanse as waves explode on the shore
Clawing, reaching, taking — ravenous for more.
The wind races unfettered–exuberant and wild
It howls and screams like an unruly child.
Gleefully it tears off limbs, throwing them to the ground
But it is the uprooting of lofty trees that make it truly proud.
The rain is relentless, saturating everything in sight
Riding the velocity of the wind, it bears its teeth ready to bite.
Its tenacious hands bind me in an unbreakable hold;
their icy chill sinks deep, introducing me to a new and debilitating cold.
There is no place to run, no shelter to be had.
As the storm rages around me, I wonder if I had been damned.
I am cut, bruised, and battered–desperate for an escape
I am cold, broken, and alone–reeling from the pain.
O Lord, I am afraid, help me endure to the end.
Give me the strength to stand; and these wounds, please mend.
I have no idea how long this storm will rage
But, Lord, I trust you and seek your face.
The wind and the waves are threatening all that is secure
Tearing up all that is good and just–all that is pure.
Lord, I am having a hard time finding which way is up
But when I look, I see You–please come and fill my cup.
Lord, You promised Your grace is sufficient for me!
Please walk on the water and clam this raging sea!
Lord Jesus, I believe You, I believe that You can.
Oh precious Savior, speak the Word, speak it now, Son of Man!
Ever been there? Me too. I wrote this a few years ago when I thought my world was falling apart. It felt like I was going to lose everything I held dear. It took all I had to cling to my Savior, and even then I felt like my grip was slipping. But you know what? His grip on me didn’t falter, weaken, or slip. He held me fast—and guided me through.
When that storm passed, I realized everything was still here–my world didn’t blow away. However, there was some damage that needed to be cleaned up.
Or was it damage?
Beloved, there are times we’re in a storm, and seems like limbs are mercilessly ripped from their trees and thrown to the ground. And stately trees are knocked over like wooden toy blocks. It’s scary and disconcerting–
BUT maybe it’s for your benefit.
Sometimes branches need to fall because they’re deadwood. And their very presence invites insects and diseases that will threaten the vitality of the whole tree. Dear One, those branches must come down! And sometimes the only way to shake them loose is a storm.
Same with trees. Sometimes good ones fall, but more often than not, it’s those that are harboring a disease or have been damaged by insects. Their removal is unbelievably beneficial to the remaining trees for two main reasons:
In both cases, the “damage” wasn’t really damage at all.
Storms can be for our benefit. God uses them to grow our faith. But He also uses them to remove anything not honoring to Him so we can flourish, become more vital in our calling; and, most importantly, so we can follow Him better.
Two little girls
Sat together in the same row,
Because there was no one with the last name
Beginning with M, N, or O
Two little girls
Became the best of friends;
Vowing to be by each other’s side
Until the very end.
Two little girls
Holding hands on the swing;
While they walk, skip, and sing.
Two little girls
Giggling into the night;
Trying to defeat sleep
And welcome the morning’s light.
Two little girls
Walk into church on a Wednesday night;
Laughing and whispering secrets,
Hands held tight.
One little girl races to her friend’s house
Another day’s adventure awaits!
But as she approaches the door
Something doesn’t feel the same.
The door is locked
The windows are dark…
But not as dark as the dread
Eclipsing her heart.
One little girl peers through the glass
The room is empty, nothing remained–
But her tear-stained reflection
Looking back at her through the pane.
I grew in the quiet small town of Cloquet, Minnesota; about 30 miles southwest of Duluth. It’s one of those towns where it’s small enough to recognize everyone but big enough you don’t know all of their names.
When I was in first grade, I sat behind a little girl I hadn’t met. Because of our proximity to each other we were often paired up for projects. She quickly became my “very bestest friend.”
As little girls will do, we shared secrets, giggles, stories, and sleepovers. She joined me at our church’s kids’ club on Wednesday nights, and her name was always first on my birthday invitation list. I loved her, and she loved me. The bond we shared was real and true, and we vowed to be friends forever.
Then the summer before third grade, I went on vacation with my family. I didn’t want to go because I couldn’t take my friend with me. I was confident two weeks of separation was going to be torture! I didn’t want to forget anything I saw and did while I was gone, so I wrote her notes every day. (You know, the kind written on paper with a pencil, the kind we got in trouble for passing in class.) No matter how much I enjoyed what I was doing, I couldn’t wait to get home and have fun with my friend for the rest of the summer.
When I got home, I raced to her house as soon as I could to deliver her notes and pick up where we left off. I was also excited because my mom allowed me to get her a small gift in one of the little towns we drove through. My eight-year-old hands did a poor job wrapping the box, but I didn’t care, I knew she would love what was inside.
Once I arrived, I dumped my bike by the tree in the front yard, as usual; but when I looked at her house, something didn’t feel right. There are no words to express the emotions that tumbled through me at that moment, but something felt off. For the first time, I was afraid to go to the door.
When I knocked, no one answered. The windows were dark, and the door was locked—all I could think was, no one locks their door in this town. But I couldn’t deny the house was locked. And after I looked in the windows, I realized the house was empty–she was gone. While I was on vacation, she moved away. I had no idea why or where. All I knew was she was gone.
It felt like someone had gutted me. I was devastated. I tore up her notes as I sobbed. In my hurt and anger, I smashed the hand blown horse I bought her before I ran home, leaving my bike behind.
Fast forward 32 years. I was scrolling through Facebook and saw her name! I couldn’t believe it! My friend had an unusual name, like me. But hers is one I never expected to see ever again. And here it was on the screen before me, beckoning so many memories that had long been dormant.
My friend’s name was connected to several of my friends from church. How odd. But after a few clicks, I realized she was friends with many of my friends! And she goes to my church! Could it be her?
Then I clicked on her photos. She looked like my friend…Could this be Her? Do I dare hope? Could this be my friend? If it is, would she even remember me? I hesitated to contact her. I was afraid she wouldn’t recognize me. So I asked Jesus to show me what to do.
Then tragedy struck. Her son, who was the same age as my oldest son, was killed in a horrible car accident. I still desired to confirm it was her, and now I desperately wanted to reach out and offer comfort, but God told me to wait.
I was crushed. But I obeyed and chose to love her through prayer until the time was right.
And I waited—not well, but I waited.
A year later, while scrolling Facebook, God said, “Now is a good time.” I only hesitated long enough to pray and sent her a message.
Recognizes a name.
Facebook is a funny thing—
Could She be the same?
Memoires of two little girls
Flood her mind—
Is it possible? Will she remember me?
Lord, give me a sign!
Jesus guide my words
Help me know what to say!
Her heart hoping beyond measure
Typed a few words
Praying she found a long lost treasure.
Sent a reply
Yes, this is me, of course, I remember you
“Best friends ‘til the day we die!”
Talked late into the night
Catching up and filling in each other
On their crazy, busy lives.
Reunited at last.
Will it be the same?
Did the affection last?
Laughed and giggled all day
And discovered the love they shared as children
Had not changed!
These last 12 months have been an adventure.
Two years ago we purchased fixer-upper house because we loved the location, large yard, and lake access. However, to make our new home more functional for our large family and entertaining style, we needed to put on an addition and redo absolutely everything inside and out. And anyone who has ever endured any remolding or construction project knows “adventure” is said more tongue-in-cheek.
So as we’re winding down on Phase 1: The Addition, I decided to look back at what I journaled during this past year. Some of the things I’ve written during this season are between myself and the Lord Jesus, but I would like to share this piece of the journey with you today.
As I write this, the addition is coming off the paper and into the reality of our lives. Outside our kitchen window, we have an excavation crew digging a massive hole for its foundation. As each bucket of soil is removed and placed safely to the side, I can’t help but think of the excavation I’ve asked God to perform in my heart. As the hole gets bigger and deeper, I feel more and more exposed and vulnerable. I know I’m safe in His care, but I’m still afraid. Like Adam and Eve, I want to cover myself with fig leaves to hide my nakedness and shame. But God wants to take my shame and cover me with grace, forgiveness, and love. He wants to heal my brokenness, make me new, and build my faith. I know it must be done, despite my pain and fear. I’m confident when He’s finished; the results will be worth it. Like completely redoing our new home, the task is daunting and overwhelming. But I trust Him.
As the excavator tirelessly works, I’m mesmerized by the vast amount of sand deep in our soil. Although this is ideal for drainage, it’s not ideal for stability on top of the mounds. I’m afraid of the soil falling back into the hole hurting one of the crew members or the excavator sliding in on top of one of them. But thanks to the operator’s well-practiced hand, that doesn’t happen! Reassured I walk away and go back to work.
The excavation is going well. The thrum of the machinery provides the perfect white noise for working; I’m elbow deep in writing this Bible study…
Frantic, I race to the window, imagining the excavator at the bottom of the pit while trying not to visualize broken bodies and blood. I’ve already dialed 911, and just as I’m about to hit send I stand at the window—frozen. Unable to move.
Finally, my eyes begin communicating with my brain. The excavator is where he needs to be! All the workers are safe and secure. No broken bodies. No blood. All is well. Relief washes over me.
Later, I learned the jarring crunch was the bucket of the excavator hitting the foundation of a house that once dominated our property. Fire destroyed it almost a century ago; and instead of being cleared away correctly, it was bulldozed in on itself and covered with soil to be forgotten. And it was forgotten…for a long time. Life went on and the memory of the house faded. Another house was added to the property by a new family who moved in and then out again; then another family moved in and out again. Now it is our turn to live here. We had no idea that house ever existed, and would still be clueless had we not decided to add on.
Interestingly, that old house and its foundation didn’t go away. The materials were much the same as when they were bulldozed into the hole and covered up. They didn’t disintegrate. They didn’t disappear. It was all still there to be unearthed several decades later.
Now, the only way to remove the old foundation is to pulverize it with a jackhammer and remove it piece-by-piece along with several bucket loads of the remaining old bricks and house debris. This is much more difficult to remove than soil and takes much longer—extending the time of the excavation. However, it’s critical to remove all the old debris to lay a solid foundation for the addition. Without that, the structure would be unstable and would soon collapse in on itself.
I have a strong faith, but God is adding onto it to equip me to accomplish the tass He’s given me: writing Bible studies and devotionals and speaking. I’m thankful for this addition, because, quite honestly, these tasks terrify me! So in preparation, I’ve asked Him to excavate everything not honoring to Him and to rebuild me with the skills and characteristics necessary to do what He’s called me to do.
As He removes each bucket of soil and debris, He’s exposing things I didn’t even realize were there. Some of those things will require a jackhammer to excavate—which is terrifying in itself . However, I know once it’s all cleared, the stage will be set to build the faith needed to fulfill the task before me.
Beloved, it’s the same with your heart. You can’t build a lasting structure of faith without a solid foundation built on Jesus Christ. You may need to ask Him to perform an excavation of your heart as well. You may have things buried so deeply they’ve been forgotten, while other things will require the use of a jackhammer. That’s ok. I do too. It hurts, and it’s scary–but it’s worth it.
Just remember through it all, Jesus has your back. He’s with you each step of the way (Mt. 28:20). He won’t abandon us or forget us (Deut. 31:6).
Journal exercise: Journal through the excavation, because God reveals a little at a time rather than the whole mess at once. He exposes and heals; and exposes and heals until all is cleared for your new foundation to be laid.
Plus, when I write the things down, I ignore them anymore. I have to face them–in my own handwriting—and chose to bury them again and risk an unstable foundation or to declare victory over them and live in freedom.
Today I was able to look back at those old journal entries and see how my God has been faithful. And my faith grew, giving me hope, courage, and endurance to tackle future issues. Sweet One, I desperately want the same freedom for you!
The sun pierced through the clouds; and with the help of the wind, it pushed them away. As its rays glitter off the droplets clinging to the leaves, their warmth penetrates everything around you. Your once darkened world is now aglow, and the numbness that once held you captive is starting the leave your body. You take a deep breath, you survived.
The storm had ripped through, torturing apart everything in its path. The rain mercilessly assaulted your windows, taunting your sense of security. And the wind not only screamed around your home but threatened to lift it off its foundation. The terror that took up residence in your heart is still there, but its waning. Shakily you step outside to assess the damage.
Limbs litter the ground, leaves are scattered everywhere, and a small tree lays on its side, uprooted. But everything else seems to be intact. It’s quiet at first; then a bird starts to sing. And then another. Soon a joyful chorus is raining down, washing the last of the terror from your heart.
Then a bright light catches your eye, demanding your attention. You walk over to find the light is a reflecting off a puddle whose surface is perfectly still. A mirror, reflecting everything around it. You feel drawn to it, compelled to look in. What are you going to see?
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:29-33 NIV)
Peter coming out to Jesus on the water is a beautiful model for us as we endure the raging storms of life. One of my favorite parts is when Peter calls out for deliverance, and Jesus immediately reaches out His hand. He reaches out His hand to us as well. To comfort, to guide, to give peace, to heal, to ease the pain, and sometimes to remove us from a horrifying situation.
Interestingly, the storm didn’t stop until AFTER they got into the boat. Peter clung to Jesus as they walked through it together. He had to trust Jesus every step of the way, to lead him to where they needed to go because he couldn’t see past the waves or the through the blinding rain.
Once they climbed aboard and the sun came out, I imagine Peter standing transfixed by the growing puddle at his feet. As the lake water ran off his garments and mixed with the rainwater from the storm, I wonder what he saw reflected back at him. What did he reflect on within himself? What did he learn in that experience? What did he lose? How did his faith grow? What aspects of Jesus’s character and power were no longer something he knew about but were something he KNEW?
When Peter called out to Jesus, I think he expected the wind and waves to stop tossing him around. I think he envisioned the sun to bursting forth, dragging a rainbow behind it. I wonder if he imagined a chorus of birds heralding his salvation. However, I don’t think he expected to continue enduring the storm. He had seen Jesus calm storms before, with just a word. Why didn’t He this time?
I believe it’s because he would’ve been robbed of what he’d see reflected in his puddle:
What about your puddle? What do you see reflected on its surface? In your heart? What changed for you? How did you grow? What did you lose? How did your faith change and grow?
But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you walk through rivers of difficulty,
You will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
A little background: Our yard has a variety of huge mature trees, including a lot of burr oaks. In the fall, their dropping acorns beckon every squirrel in the county, and these innocent looking pirates torment my poor little girl. But I can’t lie, it’s kinda entertaining.
So yesterday morning, one darted across her path, and the chase was on! The squirrel zig-zagged all over the yard with Piper hot on its bushy little tail—until it shot up an oak tree. Then my poor girl sat at the base of the trunk, yipping “You cheated!” To which the squirrel chattered, “Pirate!”
She shot me an exasperated look, which made me laugh. However, she didn’t see the humor of the situation and gave me her best dirty look before continuing to circle the tree.
Finally, she came and sat down next to me. As I scratched behind her ears, I could feel the chase going out of her. She looked sad. While I kissed the top of her head, I wondered if she was remembering when she was younger—when she could catch those little pirates; when she was faster than they were. But at ten-years-old, she’s not a quick little young pup anymore.
I drew her into my lap and whispered, “I understand.”
When I was younger, I didn’t have to think much about what I ate. But now, it’s an entirely different story! For example, my dear friend Lora Bloomquist has a fun blog that’s like Country Living with a Christian influence. She posts how-to’s for repurposing old junk into uber cute things for the home and yard; inspirational tidbits; and recipes. OH, the recipes! Her recipe for Carmel Apple Cake is divine…I think I gained five pounds just reading it!
When I turned 40 in 2016, I felt like my life was over. I was ancient, old! My expiration date had passed. I kept asking: Why was God calling me to write now? And to students and young adults? I’m too old to make a difference. Then the Spirit whispered in my ear:
“But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:10-13, NLT)
It was then I realized I do have something to offer BECAUSE of my age: I have knowledge and wisdom gained through life experiences these students don’t yet have, and this knowledge can help them navigate these strange waters when it’s their turn to encounter them. I’m on the other side of the pit of depression after having gone through the healing process, and I can share my story and how Jesus help me out of that pit to help encourage them through their process. I’ve spent more time in Bible study than most of these students and can communicate these truths to them, helping to eliminate their biblical illiteracy.
I also realized I’ve put away my childish things and youthful passions and lists. I pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. And I truly enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. (2 Timothy 2:22, NLT)
We live in a culture that puts a premium on youth. We do all we can to look, act, and be young. However, we don’t glean the treasures of life when we’re young, it happens as we age—as we get older. When we’re young we’re so busy learning how to find our way in the world and trying to figure out how to do this adulting thing that we don’t take the time to gather the wisdom that comes with age. That’s where we “old people” come in. This is the passion God has put on my heart: to encourage, love, and mentor our youth and young adults so they too can pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. So they too will fall in love with Jesus follow Him.
I’m grateful for what God has taught me over my 40+ years. I’m grateful for the wisdom He has blessed me with. And I’m honored to be able to use it to edify others.
However, I will confess, I wouldn’t mind being young again if I could take my life experiences with me into my much younger body.
“But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. And I charge you before God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good testimony before Pontius Pilate, that you obey this command without wavering. Then no one can find fault with you from now until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.” (1 Timothy 6:11-14, NLT)
The other day I was picking up my son from football practice and had the privilege of coming behind this truck. I adore old trucks! My man loves old cars and street rods, so over the last 20+ years, I’ve had the opportunity to develop an appreciation for these beauties.
As I followed behind it, I noticed a sign in the back window. I assumed it was a “For Sale” sign, but when we stopped at the light I realized I was wrong. It read:
Built Ford Tough
With Chevy Parts
I busted out laughing! Then I quickly prayed the light wouldn’t change before I got a picture.
All evening that sign kept picking at my brain. It wasn’t until later that this sign’s underlying message dawned on me:
What you see on the outside doesn’t always reflect what’s on the inside.
Immediately I thought of a young lady I mentored for a season. When I met her, she was a stereotypical goth: all clad in black, dyed black hair, pale skin, heavy eye makeup, dark lipstick, piercings, tats, dog collars, and combat boots. But it was the angry set of her jaw and the distrustfulness in her eyes that drew me to her. Despite her mask of toughness and rebellion, the deep hurt from her shattered heart exposed her brokenness. Later, I learned she came from a very dysfunctional home where many forms of abuse abided. She was desperate to be loved and to love. And she was hungry for Jesus—she just didn’t realize what the hunger was yet.
But once she discovered Jesus’s love and decided to follow Him she became a whole new creation—on the inside. On the outside, she looked the same.
Those who didn’t know her story and what dramatic changes she made in her life in such a short time questioned the validity of her faith because of her black clothing. They questioned her love for Jesus because of her piercings. They assumed she was the same girl she was before because of her dark makeup.
But those of us who knew her saw a light in her eyes that wasn’t there before. Where anger hardened her face, joyful smiles now resided. Her brooding silence evaporated into laughter. She was changing before our eyes.
It was like watching a chrysalis waiting for the butterfly to emerge. On the outside, she was still goth. But on the inside, she was a beloved Child of God whom Jesus began to renew from the inside out.
She walked away from the friends who encouraged her past destructive behavior. She quit smoking pot, drinking, and partying. And she ended her long-term relationship with her boyfriend once she learned God’s plan for sex. These were painful decisions for her to make. But she realized they didn’t reflect her new Identity in Christ, and that became more important to her than her past.
If you saw this sweet woman today, she still wears black clothing, dog collars, and combat boots. Her makeup isn’t so dramatic and her expression isn’t so severe, but her appearance and knowledge of that subculture opens up opportunities to share her Jesus-story with these beautiful, lost, and broken people that I couldn’t dream to have.
Beloved, We are told over and over that we never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Though this is true, there’s a hidden danger in jumping to conclusions about a person. What you see on the outside often doesn’t reflect what is on the inside. Making snap decisions can be grievous because they only look at the surface, they don’t look at the heart.
Thankfully, we have a Savior who does.
We have a Savior who looks past the façade and into the heart of who we really are—on the inside where no one else can see. Jesus wants us to come as we are. No masks. No first impressions. Just us. No matter how messed up. No matter how broken. No matter what choices we’ve made in the past. He invites us to come.
He wants our hurts, brokenness, and doubts. He wants our questions, uncertainties, and insecurities. He wants our hopes, dreams, and aspirations. He wants everything. And He wants us to come.
And when we give Him everything, He starts reforming us from the inside out—He makes us into a new creation. He takes that brokenness and puts it back together, making us whole. He takes our pain and heals it, leaving behind the scars to bear witness to our testimony. He takes our dreams and reshapes them to be in accordance with His purpose for us.
To others, we may look the same. But to Jesus we’re—
Built Ford Tough
With Chevy Parts
The sun ran its fingers through the leaves of my favorite maple tree as I was walked up from my son’s bus stop yesterday morning. The beauty took my breath away. Usually, when this happens, I only pause long enough to say, “Oh isn’t that pretty” and move on.
But yesterday I didn’t.
Instead, I decided to stop and soak in the beautiful morning. I breathed deeply, inhaling the fragrances of fall. I watched a squirrel scamper across the branches of the nearby oak and listened to the loons call across the lake. Then I walked around the maple just to revel in its sun-soaked radiance.
I don’t do that enough. I don’t stop to appreciate what God has made as often as I should. I forget to give Him sincere, heartfelt thanks for what He’s lavished on me. And I don’t take the time to delight in His creation for no other reason than to praise Him for being who He is.
I’m not sure many of us do. We get too busy to notice and allow ourselves to be driven by our To-Do lists. If I had to guess, your life looks a lot like mine or maybe even a little more chaotic.
But yesterday I realized, my busy life is no excuse to neglect taking time to relish in God’s creation, to let its beauty soak into my soul, and to praise my Heavenly Father for being who He is.
So yesterday, I took the time. And I’m so thankful I did.
The funny thing is, it took less than 10 minutes! But that brief time had a profound effect on the rest of my day. It changed my perspective from thinking about me, myself, and I to focusing on Jesus. It transitioned my mood from overwhelmed and stressed to one of joyful anticipation. It opened my heart to hidden opportunities I would’ve missed otherwise. It enriched my Quiet Time and filled my heart with gratitude for all Jesus has done for me, those I care about, and the purpose He has for each of us.
And I fell In love with my Savior all over again.
Beloved, I encourage you to revel in God’s creation. To take a few minutes to give Him your complete focus and sincere, heartfelt praise. Give Him the opportunity to change your perspective and give you a mood of joyful anticipation. I’m confident you will be thankful you did.
It only takes a few minutes.
Psalm 19:1-14, NLT
“The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.
God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.
It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens
and follows its course to the other end.
Nothing can hide from its heat. The instructions of the LORD are perfect,
reviving the soul.
The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple. The commandments of the LORD are right,
bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are clear,
giving insight for living. Reverence for the LORD is pure,
The laws of the LORD are true;
each one is fair. They are more desirable than gold,
even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
even honey dripping from the comb. They are a warning to your servant,
a great reward for those who obey them. How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”
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