Posted in Church, Everyday Life, Faith

Welcoming the Unchurched

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What message are we communicating to our unchurched neighbors this Easter?

I hope it’s one of hope and love and acceptance, but when I read some of the church signs I’ve seen recently, I can’t help but wonder.

Signs that suggest that coming to church on Easter is a bad thing – if you don’t show up on other Sundays as well.

Those signs make my heart hurt for those who will read them and feel shamed by them. Perhaps they were thinking about attending church this Easter, but now feel unwelcome. I can’t say that I blame them.

When did we become a people who criticize others when their church attendance doesn’t match up with ours? When did we lose sight of the wonderful opportunity Resurrection Sunday brings? The opportunity to extend God’s love, grace, and compassion to those who aren’t sitting in our services regularly. What a tragic mistake on our part.

I suppose this matter resonates with me because there was a time when I also attended church only on special occasions. I have family members who still do this. I also have family and friends who never attend, not even on Easter. How thrilled I would be to have them join me at church sometime, anytime, even if it’s only once a year.

My challenge to you, my fellow church-goers, is this …

When you notice unfamiliar faces in church this Easter, give them a sincere welcome. Silently lift up a prayer on their behalf. Rejoice in your heart that they are there. Who knows, maybe your kindness will make them feel as if they belong, or at the very least, fill them with the hope of belonging. Maybe your hospitality will tear down the wall guarding their heart, enabling them to breathe easier and hear a fresh word from God.

Maybe they’ll experience enough goodness to bring them back. If not next week, maybe the week after. Or three months from now. Or next Easter. Regardless of when, or even if they return to a specific church or building, the love and truth shown to them on Easter Sunday will not be forgotten.

But before this message can be conveyed within the church, it must be conveyed outside the church. On the signs mounted in our parking lots. In our attitudes as we talk and do business within our communities. In our actions as we choose to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

Let’s work on creating a message that sounds something like this —

Yes, we are open on Sundays. Won’t you please come and join us?

Posted in Faith, Family

When More Is What We Need

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Gratitude turns what we have into enough.

I love that saying, and I believe in its message. So much so that I have it displayed on a shelf in my sitting area. As I glance at it each morning, I am reminded of the importance of being thankful.

When I am thankful, I am more aware of God’s love for me. The assurance of His love enables me to be more content in my relationships, more capable of carrying out my daily tasks, and better at handling life’s ups and downs.

But sometimes I need more.

Not necessarily more stuff. Although another cup of fancy coffee is always welcome. No, sometimes I simply need more of the best things in life.

More time with the man I love.
Another hug from my children- wow, they grow up fast!
Extra snuggles from my grand baby.
One more smile. One more good belly laugh.
A bonus visit with a dear friend.
A fresh heart connection with a loved one.
A moment to slow down, to notice those around me, to meet another’s need.
A minute longer to sit quietly with Jesus before stepping into my day.

Yes, sometimes I need a little more.

Perhaps you’ve had a longing in your heart lately, too. Perhaps something doesn’t seem quite right. Perhaps some adjustments need to be made.

Let’s be content, yes, but let’s not become so comfortable that we fail to notice when change is needed. When improvements are overdue. Let’s not fall into the trap of believing things are as good as they’ll ever be, or that there’s no point in fixing what has not yet broken. Let’s take the initiative instead.

Let’s bravely look into the fabric of our lives and take notice of the places where it’s beginning to rub raw, where tiny holes have already formed, where the seams are barely holding. And let’s do something about it.

Let’s take our need for more to Christ. That is key.

Let’s ask Him to show us what we need to do differently, who we need to extend his love and grace to, and in what ways we need to become more intentional with our time and in our relationships.

As we seek to experience God’s best in our lives, may we be the light that shines His goodness into the lives of those around us as well.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7

 

 

Posted in Faith

Acquainted with Chair Guys

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Although we may not think of them as such, we’re all acquainted with “chair guys”. 

You know, those precious people working behind the scenes.  Preparing meals, cleaning kitchens, running sound systems, sending cards, shopping for fundraisers, or perhaps actually setting up chairs prior to the big event. 

Yes, those who work hard for little or no recognition.  Those are the chair guys.  And without their contributions, the rest of us would not fair near as well. 

So what if you’re the chair guy, but you’re longing for a little spotlight?

What if you’re in the spotlight, but you find yourself -for whatever reason- searching for a chair to hide behind?

And what if you’re the chair guy who has always been a chair guy, who is quite comfortable being a chair guy, yet you feel God calling you – maybe even pushing you a bit – to step out from behind those chairs into the light? 

It’s difficult to step out of our comfortable areas.

Whether we’re most comfortable in the spotlight or behind the scenes doesn’t matter. When God calls us to tread into that unfamiliar place where our confidence and coziness are greatly lacking, He is actually inviting us to walk more closely with Him. To cross into a place which causes us to lean into Him a little more.  A place which challenges us to dig deeper, hold tighter, and linger longer.

Friends, regardless of where we fit into God’s plan, He sees us.  He loves us. We matter to Him.  We have a purpose. Every single one of us has a job to do, and every single job we do is noticed by Him.

The key is tuning in to Him well enough to know where we need to be, when we need to be there.  The beautiful thing is we don’t need all the answers up front.  We simply need to walk with Him one step at a time, even if those steps seem tiny and insignificant.

So whether you’re moving chairs or standing on stage, please realize your heavenly Father is watching closely, listening intently, and smiling oh so happily. Why? Because He sees you, and you’re making a difference.

Posted in Faith

Struggling to Trust

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I have no idea what to write today – where to start or what to say.  As I sit here staring at a blank screen, my words abandon me. Silence is all I hear and it is deafening.

In all honesty, I have been a bit withdrawn lately. From my husband. From friends. From God.  And for no obvious reason.  I’m not angry. I’m not hurt or disappointed. I’m not much of anything, except distant.  Hidden away in my thoughts. Stuck in my exhaustion. Lost in my weariness. I am present physically, but distant emotionally.

I dislike encountering myself in this place.  This place which threatens to hold me hostage in my fear and leaves me feeling lonely in the midst of my busyness.  This place where I wrestle with surrender and struggle to trust God fully with the many unknowns looming ahead. This place of overwhelming unrest. I don’t belong in this place, yet I slide into its crevices so easily and comfortably.

Maybe you, too, are familiar with this place.  That in-between point we find ourselves in when we’re aware of what we should be doing, but not yet brave enough to jump in and do it.  Or maybe for you it’s not a matter of bravery, but instead it’s an inability to relinquish control or unwillingness to step into unchartered territory. 

Whatever the case may be, we all end up here – in this same position – at one time or another.  On the brink of change. In the shadow of growth and maturity. So close to stepping into that life we desire … the kind of life which pours out an abundance of meaning and purpose everywhere it goes.  

The choice for this life is ours. It always has been. 

With that in mind, where will I go from here? Will I stay in this place of discontent a while longer, or will I choose to climb out even if it’s only one or two steps at a time?  Will I grab hold of my calling, embracing it through the good and the bad? Will I choose to trust Him regardless of the outcome and in spite of the what-ifs?

This is my greatest desire, yet it is far from easy for me. That’s why I’ve been hiding out as Jonah did in the belly of the fish.  Much like Jonah, my delayed “yes” has landed me in a not so happy place.  And much like Jonah, I will finally accept my assignment (as scary as it may seem) and move forward in obedience… writing one word at a time, one blog at a time, one book at a time. 

As I strive to do so, may God give me the words to speak, courage to be vulnerable, and an audience to hear.  And may He always be honored and glorified through it all.

God bless you all sweet friends, and thank you for embarking on this journey with me!

Posted in Faith

When the Answer is No

 

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I have a friend who has been anxiously awaiting news of a decision – someone else’s decision.  One out of her control, yet having the potential to greatly impact her and her family. She waited months for the outcome.  She needed a yes.  She prayed for a yes.  But the answer was no.

Another friend, expecting her first child, prayed fervently for a healthy baby.  But the answer was no.

Other friends have prayed non-stop to conceive a child, or to carry a child full-term without miscarrying.  But the answer was no.

Still other friends have prayed for healing after a cancer diagnosis. Despite aggressive treatments and much prayer, the battle seemed lost.  The answer was no.

Oh, friends, what do we do when the answer is no?  When our hearts ache and our disappointment threatens to smother us?

Do we stomp our feet and throw a fit like an unhappy toddler? Sometimes we sure feel like it.

Do we retreat behind closed doors, refusing to come out, unsure of what to do or say, intent on building a wall between our hurting heart and the rest of the world?

Do we become angry at God and those who represent Him?  Do we question how He could possibly love us yet not give us the “yes” we so desperately desired?

Do we give up? Throw in the towel? Consider ourselves done?

I have probably tried all these solutions at one time or another and not one of them proved to be helpful. None of them healed my broken heart or gave me strength to keep on living.  I piddled with some of them far too long, allowing them to tighten their grip on me, nearly rendering me helpless.

But then I remembered.  God was still there – even when the answer was no.

And He remains there today.

He still cares.

He still loves.

He still desires to bless us.

How do I know this, you ask?  I know this because I know God. He and I have a little history together.  And although I don’t have answers to the many why’s I’ve pondered, I have no doubt He will take all the no’s I’ve experienced and turn them into something good. Something lovely. Something which will someday bring me a blessing.

Why?  Because He is a God who loves us and promises to work all things together for good to those who love Him. And I sure love Him.  I’m praying you do too.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Posted in Faith, Family

Grandma Didn’t, and Neither Should We

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I remember vividly my grandma cradling me as we rocked back and forth, back and forth. I must have been only four or five at the time. While the words she spoke and the songs she sang escape me, I recall feeling loved.  Safe. As if I belonged there, in her lap.

I think back to when I first grasped the idea she was sick.  My cousins and I were sent upstairs while the adults awaited the arrival of paramedics.  We peered out the windows, hoping to spy the emergency vehicles as they pulled in front of the old house built years before by grandpa and his boys.

As they wheeled grandma out on a stretcher, I was one of the few children allowed to venture downstairs to see her.  They paused long enough for me to look into her eyes, into the heart of this woman who meant so much to me.  I wondered if I would ever see her again.

My grandmother only lived a short time after that day.  At my young age, I was unable to fully understand what death meant. So I just continued on, living in my own little six year old world.

It wasn’t until many years later that I began to see the role my grandmother played in my life.  You see, although I can’t tell you specifics, I believe with all my heart my grandma prayed over me as we sat in that old rocking chair.

I am certain her prayers were answered the day I started attending church as a young teenager.  They were answered again when a cute boy at that church took notice of me, eventually becoming my best friend and later my husband.

I had no idea God was using that boy to keep me in church. I had no clue I needed God, nor did I realize the path I was walking would lead me to Him.  Through God’s goodness, I believe grandma’s greatest prayer was answered on a beautiful Sunday morning when I committed my life to Christ.

Thank you, grandma, for loving me enough to pray. Your prayers have indeed made a difference in my life. And because my life is different, my children have also been impacted by your prayers, as will their children someday. There is no greater gift you could have given us.

Friends, what we pray today will benefit those we love for years to come.

May we not become so busy, so complacent, so satisfied that we fail to prayFor our husbands. For our children. For our friends and co-workers.  For our extended family.  And most of all, for those who have yet to know Christ. 

May we never stop praying.  Grandma didn’t, and neither should we.

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The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:16b

Posted in Faith

True Identity

 

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Have you missed me this past couple of weeks? If you haven’t noticed my absence of blog posts, it’s okay. I understand. We are all so busy. The days fly by. The weeks come and go almost as quickly. To be honest, it doesn’t seem like such a long time to me either.

You see, I’ve been preoccupied with finding myself.  Remember my last post?

I’ve been pondering some tough questions — and sharing my bunched up, confused ramblings with a few trusted friends.  Friends I felt were unlikely to write me off as crazy, even though that’s exactly how I’ve felt at times.

I’ve been searching the scriptures. Really searching, and studying, and searching some more.  Digging into God’s Word. Opening my heart up and allowing – more like begging-  God to pour His word deep into the crevices of my unsettled heart.

Much to my delight, that’s exactly what He has been doing.  Oh, how I love it when God shows up and shows out!

And do you know what I’ve found to be absolutely true?  My identity most certainly is defined in Him.

To this point in my life, I believe it has been – for the most part – wrapped up tightly in the labels I’ve worn.  Both those I’ve given myself and those imposed upon me by others.  But do you know what is great about labels?  They. Are. Simply. Labels.  They can be peeled off and thrown away.  Replaced with the truth, making room for me to become who it is God has called me to be.

How special is it that God does not place labels on us. Instead, He chooses to see us stripped of labels.  He notes our potential and expects us to accomplish the assignments laid before us. Just as He saw Gideon as a “mighty warrior” long before he became one, He also sees us in light of who we will become, not who we have been or who we are at the present time.

He will take what I believe about myself (those dreaded labels) and print me some new ones.  When I say, “I am too shy; I am lacking knowledge; I don’t speak well; or there are so many others who could do this better than me”, my precious God whispers to me, “You are enough. You can do this.”

He promises to equip me to do that which He has called me to do.  He reminds me that when I am weak, He is strong.  He declares I am more than a conqueror.  He proclaims I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

God knows me.  He sees me. He understands my struggles. He delights in my desire to follow Him, to obey Him, and to live for Him.

God calls me important, strong, smart and capable. Because I am His and He is mine, I can believe I am these things.  Because of Him…  I am enough because He has made me enough.   And therein lies my true identity.

Posted in Faith, Family

In Search of Me

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Somewhere along the way I’ve lost myself.

It seems my identity is deeply hidden beneath what I do and for whom I do it.

I proudly wear the title of friend, daughter, sister, wife, mother, and Mia to my first grandchild. I’m very comfortable in these roles.  I love being these things to my people. I am very much aware of the blessing of family God has gifted to me, and I wouldn’t desire life any other way.

Yet when asked who I truly am outside these roles, I find it extremely difficult to conjure up an intelligible response.  Truth be told, when the labels are stripped away, I am quite uncertain of who I am.  And that scares me.

So I’ve decided to take a little journey.

  • To peek into my past
  • To ponder where I’ve been and where I’m headed
  • To revisit the beautiful portions
  • To recall the heartaches, however painful – and the good I’ve known because of them
  • To identify my struggles – and to allow myself some grace as I work through them
  • To dive deep into God’s word as I uncover the camouflaged path set before me
  • To know my Creator more intimately
  • To understand more clearly what it is I mean to Him

All in hopes of finding myself again.

Perhaps you, too, are searching for your purpose, trying to find your way, or hoping to discover your worth.  If so, sweet friend, may I invite you to join me on this quest?  I don’t know exactly what it will look like, nor do I know how quickly the answers will come.  But this I know, when we seek solutions within God’s Word, we will never be disappointed.

So off I go, in search of me ….

 

Posted in Faith, Family

Little Miracles Matter Too

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At six months of age, my grandson has already endured two open heart surgeries, numerous tests and procedures, and countless doctor’s visits. He is often referred to as a miracle baby.

Because of this journey with Elijah, it is not unusual for family and strangers alike to assure us God is still in the business of performing miracles. And I agree whole-heartedly.  God is most definitely capable and eager to perform miracles, and we are so very thankful for the miracles He has worked in Elijah’s life. 

But I began to wonder … how often have we missed beautiful everyday miracles while waiting for the big ones to come along?

Have we lost sight of the fact that every single one of us is indeed a miracle?

Conceived and knit together in our mothers’ wombs.  Given complex bodies designed to function exactly as needed. Placed in an atmosphere perfectly suited to sustain life. Gifted with a sun rise each morning. Given the moon and stars to light our way each night. Oh what delightful, common miracles these are, and how often I’ve failed to see them as such.

Each day we breathe in the amazing miracles swirling around us, yet we are blind to their beauty, barely noticing them.

We trust we’ll awaken healthy and strong.

We expect our homes sufficiently cooled in the summer and comfortably heated in the winter. 

Water should flow when we turn on the faucet; lightbulbs should brighten the room when we flip the switch.

Our refrigerators should always hold our favorite foods; our closets should overflow with shoes and clothing.

We presume these blessings will be a part of life.  So much so we forget to think of them as miracles.  We overlook our very existence — and God’s faithfulness in meeting our needs — as some of the loveliest miracles.

Until the unexpected happens. 

Our health fails. Our security vanishes. Our homes are lost. Our marriages fizzle. Our babies are born in less than perfect health.

Oh friends, the unexpected sure has a way of grabbing our attention.  It causes us to reassess those things we’ve taken for granted. It moves us to seek relief, search out help, and pray, pray, pray for a big miracle.

And although there is nothing wrong with requesting a big miracle, let’s begin to call attention to those small miracles as well.  Let’s point out their value. Let’s intentionally share the joy of those miracles with others. Let’s ask God to open our eyes so we may see vividly the miracles fluttering about. 

Have you missed any miracles today, sweet friends?  If so, take a moment to reflect on them. Take note of them. Pay attention to them.  And do the same tomorrow.  And the next day.  Until you find yourself identifying miracles at every turn and in every situation, recognizing there really is no such thing as a little miracle.

Posted in Faith

Coping with Change

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At the time of this writing, it’s been ten days since my last post.  It seems like a lifetime.

The previous three or four weeks have been both breath-taking and heart-wrenching.  We faced our grandson’s second open heart surgery head-on.  We had no choice. It was time.  And, might I add, Praise God! Our little Elijah is doing well.

We also ran smack into our oldest son’s final high school basketball season.  Again, we had no choice. It was time.  This may seem insignificant to some, but for a family who so closely does life together, this -and what it represented- was a big deal.  Granted, it wasn’t the same caliber as our grandson’s surgery, but it still had its place, and our hearts still ached at its happening.

To be honest, I didn’t receive gladly these changes in my life. But unwelcome change is inevitable, whether we’re ready or not. It’s part of this journey we live.

So what happens when we are burdened by change?  When we have no choice but to encounter our fears. When regardless of how hard we’re attempting to brake, we cannot stop the train we’re riding.  It has one destination in mind, and we have no power of our own to alter its course or to even slow it down.  How do we cope during these times?

I can’t answer for everyone, but I will share with you what I have found to be helpful.

I pray, for there is power in prayer.  I ask for the peace, courage, strength, and wisdom I so desperately need.   And when I need help praying, I summon reliable prayer warriors to stand in the gap with me.

Then comes surrender and trust.

These are not easy, but there is nothing more freeing than truly surrendering your trouble to God and trusting Him with the end result. This is not a sign of weakness or defeat.  Rather, it is an intentional step toward victory.

Victory because I am choosing to lean on Him.  Because I can trust Him to handle whatever comes my way — despite the outcome, He is there and He is faithful.  Victory in knowing problems will one day be no more; one day all will be good again.  Victory simply because I am His.

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