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Friends

Proverbs 18:24 – “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

Yesterday, our youth group completed our annual pizza date and collection of items for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. We had several teenagers join us on this excursion. And man, did they ever have fun!

I loved looking down the table at lunch and seeing all those glasses of soda hovering around plates of pizza. I enjoyed listening to them laugh and poke each other. I was grateful for their kindness and respect to those around them.

And then when we got to the store to collect our items, I was touched by their heart in gathering so many different items for their individual shoebox. They were concerned about this child’s hygiene, eating utensils, toys/entertainment items and other things that they could use around their home. 

And after the needs of the shoebox were met, that is when the laughing started. I could hear my son and several other boys just giggling and having a grand ole time. I went to search them out and what did I find? They had found the masks and was trying several on. It didn’t matter that the masks were too small. It didn’t matter that they were being stared at. All that mattered is that they were having a great time.

Then they went to the church house. After practicing for a puppet show and working on some music, they began playing spoons. It’s a card game that can get very intense, but they love it. It is a tradition for them. They laughed. They yelled. They were reaching over one another and knocking down chairs. They were having a great time. It was spectacular!

I tell you all of this to remind you of this – friends are important. Godly friends are even more important. It is needful for you to have fun with your friends. It is needful for you to serve with your friends. God has given us the opportunity for friendship and He wants us to enjoy it. Schedules are busy and life gets hectic, I know. I am right there with you. I wish I had more time for friends. I miss girls night out. It seems like I am so caught up with all the activities my kids are involved in that I forget to make time for my friends. 

So this week, let’s do something about it. Even if it is just sending a text or an email, reach out to a friend. Let them know that you are thinking of them. Let them know you are praying for them. 

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Live like you are loved

Jeremiah 31:3 – “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”

Think back with me for a moment to the time when the love you have with your spouse or significant other was new. Remember how wonderful it felt? Do you remember thinking that if you two stayed together that it felt like there was nothing that you couldn’t overcome? Do you remember your every thought was consumed by him/her? When you weren’t together, you wondered where they were and what they were doing. You could spend hours on the phone with them just talking about the day. Do you remember how the tiniest gesture of love sent you into a tailspin and you felt like one of those cartoon characters with hearts in your eyes? Yep, those were the good old days.

Now then, when was the last time you felt that way about the True Love of your life, Jesus Christ? Because, you know, that without Him, you would have no idea what that feeling was in your heart toward your spouse or significant other. You wouldn’t know how to love him/her. Jesus is the One that showed you what real love is. He is the One that keeps showing you how to love.

But that’s not what I want to focus on today. I want us to look at living like we are loved. I heard that phrase in a song yesterday and it has stuck with me and made me think – do I live like I’m loved or do I live like I’m not? 

When I first entered into my relationship with my husband, everything was bright and new and wonderful and fascinating. We could talk for hours on the phone when we were apart. We asked questions of one another and really got to know one another. Now, we have been married for 22 years. There’s not too much that I don’t know about him. Every now and again, I might learn something new, but for the most part, we are an open book to one another. Yet still, everything is still bright and new and wonderful and fascinating – but in a whole new way. We are learning to live each part of our life in love that is sustained because of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Some people have a tendency to live life defeated or downcast. They fail to see the newness of each and every day and they choose to turn their eyes from the promises of God. I’m not sure why or how they do this. But they live their life like they have no real love. And these are people who proclaim to be followers of God. Actually, I question the truth in that statement. 

So what does it mean to live like you are loved? 1) I think that it means you have a desire to grow your relationship with Jesus. You have the desire to get into His word and learn more and more about Him – even through the challenging and seemingly redundant parts – there is still something there for you to learn about Him. 2) I think that it means that you have the desire to spend more time with His people. You want to attend services. You want to have friends that believe like you do. 3) I think that it means that you want to talk to Him. You want that ongoing dialogue. It brings you peace and comfort. 4) I think that it means that you want to do as much for Him as you can. You want to show Him that you love Him too by serving Him and His people. 

Living like you are loved brings peace and real joy to your life. It lets you know that you are exactly where you need to be despite what may be going on around you. Life isn’t always going to cooperate. Dark days are going to come and the devil will throw darts at your heart. But living like you are loved makes those challenging days more bearable because you know that you don’t face them alone.

Extra Icing

John 10:27,28 – “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

I had an amazing experience yesterday.

I was seeing a client and this client told me, out of the blue, that they thought their death was close. This client has multiple medical issues but seems to be functioning fairly well. I probed a bit and found out more information but nothing that would necessarily substantiate the fears that were expressed. 

Yet, I felt the Holy Spirit impress upon my heart that I needed to confirm and/or present the plan of salvation to this person. And I did. It was amazing. I told my client very bluntly and candidly about what it takes to KNOW that death is not the end. And my client confirmed that they had the free gift of salvation in their heart. 

I’m a nobody. I love what I do. I love being in contact with people and helping them and walking through all sorts of situations and problems with them. But when I get the opportunity to speak to someone I have grown close to about Jesus and His free gift of salvation- well, that’s just extra icing on the cupcake. I don’t push it but I don’t hide it. And when God was speaking to my heart yesterday, for once, I listened. And it was beautiful!

So I want to encourage you to live it out. We never know how long we have or how long the person across from us has. Yesterday, I heard His voice and I followed and it was truly a blessing in my life. I encourage you to do the same. Happy Wednesday. 

Strong children

Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

It has been a long school year. But at the same time, it has flown. It has been a process of encouraging my children to succeed and guiding them through trying times. 

Yet through all of it, it has been the goal of our family to grow strong children. And I think we are. They face so many situations at school and in their “recreational” time that sometimes life seems overwhelming. 

My son is the strong, silent type. You know what a first child typically looks like? Flip it around, shake it up and cover it with a cloak and you have my son. My husband and I laugh that he is an enigma. But he is courageous. He always has been. His speech was delayed as a child and that made him shy. So overcoming is almost second nature to him. 

Now my daughter, on the other hand, well…there are very few words to accurately describe her. She is definitely strong. She is courageous – she rarely lets things keep her from speaking her mind. (Not sure where she gets that from!)   But she is joyful. She is fun. She is determined. She is mighty and fierce. 

They both are such strong and amazing children. I hear of other people worrying about their children and their future. Not me, I know God has placed these two on this planet for amazing things. I’m excited to see what it is!

But we need to encourage all of our children, whether we have them given birth to them or not, to thrive. Be successful. Be brave. Be courageous. They have a Mighty God who will NEVER leave them and He has something in store for them that we can’t imagine. 

Monday night, I heard a speaker challenge a group of students in this way – What was the promise that God made to the world when He brought you into it? Live every day with that in mind and see what God will do. 

Church family

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 – “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.”

When my family and I started going to our church, we were a bit puzzled. Everyone was identified as aunt or uncle so-and-so. How could all these people possibly be related? True, it has been around for 120+ years and dating someone in our church requires a careful analysis of both people’s family tree, but still..all of them related?

We quickly learned that these were terms of endearment. 

My church is far from perfect. We have problems. We have challenges. But above it all, we have love. 

And there is no better place to see love than at a funeral. Now, I know, that seems weird. But hear me out. 

One of our ladies passed away this week. She had fought long and hard against an illness that rarely gives up – cancer. It was sad. And it was a blessing. She had been ill for so long and endured so much. She was ready to see Jesus. 

And as we sat and listened to the pastor give his words of encouragement, the common theme was “amen”. He talked about her faith; her dedication when she was ill; her love for her family and her Jesus. Amen. She isn’t hurting. Amen. She wants her family to share in her joy. Amen. Her family was not only flesh and blood but also the blood of Jesus Christ. 

I have a plaque in my home that was given to us by one of our church family. It says “Friends are the family you choose.” 

And no truer words can be spoken when I think about my church family. 

I love my family dearly, blood of my relatives and blood of my Jesus. They are all precious to me. And yesterday, as we laid to rest one of our own, my heart was sad for the ones left behind but happy for her. It was bittersweet. 

So I would encourage you to go home to your church family this weekend. They would love to see you. They would love to hug you. They would love to tell you how much they have missed you, because they have. Don’t let the devil steal away the family that God has given you. Treasure it and thrive within it. 

No

Matthew 7:11 – “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

It’s the most dreaded word I know – “No.” And what makes it even more unbearable is when there is no explanation. When my kids get told “no”, what is the next word that follows – “why?”  My, oh, my. How many times has that scenario played out in my life!

Sometimes we ask God for things. We ask with the right heart, with the right motive and even with the right attitude. And God still says “no”. The problem is, we don’t always audibly hear Him say “no”. We may not even hear it in our heart. It just feels like God is ignoring us, that He doesn’t care. 

Well, let me reassure you this – if you are a child of God, He NEVER ignores you. You may walk away and do your own thing and chose to ignore Him, but He will never ignore you when you make the choice to repent and turn back to Him. 

You see, some people treat Christ like a genie in a bottle. We rub that “magic lamp” with the bright hopes that we have played the game right to win His favor. People, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t just run to God when you have drama in your life. Relationships are not built on drama alone. 

I think that when I treat Christ like that (and face it, we all do sometimes) He is hurt. It hurts Him for us to mistreat Him. But God is not out to get us when we mistreat Him. He only desires repentance. 

But until we do repent, He may say “no” to some things in our life. And He does this for our good. He wants us back on track and sometimes that means saying “no”. 

I have teenagers. I love them to pieces. But sometimes I have to say “no” and sometimes the only explanation I have is “no”. My kids laugh at and respect what I call my mommy alarms. When those mommy alarms go off, the answer is definitely “no”. Mommy alarms mean that no explanation is needed or will be given because mommy has no idea why I’m saying “no” but the answer is definitely “no”.  

God knows far better than us what we need and when we need it. Sometimes the answer to our request is “no” with no further explanation given. And that’s that. 

We dislike very strongly (hate is such an ugly word) the word “no”. It means we don’t get our way. And we dislike very strongly the fact that we may not get an explanation for the “no”. But here is where trusting comes in – God loves you enough to not give you everything you want and give you only what you need. He did that with Jesus. He does that every moment of every day. 

So the next time “no” comes on your radar, don’t get all bent out of shape. Look at why God might say “no”. See it from different angles and then go with it. Remember this – Father always knows best. 

What love is…

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

Yesterday, I visited a couple who has been married 56 years. He is vibrant and swam a 1/2 mile that morning in the pool. She, on the other hand, is failing. Her health is less than good and her mind wavers. Yet, as she needed attending for whatever reason, he did so without complaining, without harshness and with loads of compassion. He encouraged her when she successfully completed a 30 second stand without grasping her walker. 

People today don’t always understand and appreciate that kind of love and devotion. When things get tough and they feel their needs aren’t being met, they leave. 

This couple encouraged me with stories of their time apart when he was away doing his job. I can see him leaving home to get on a plane in the 60s while his wife stayed home with the children. I can see her opening the door with a smile on her face when she sees him walking up the front sidewalk. I can see him watching her cook dinner while the children run in and out the door and they talk of what all has gone on through the week. And as time passes, I can see him sitting by her bed holding her hand while she struggles to understand why she just can’t remember. 

Love. Love is something that is challenged every day. It is a choice we make every day. I choose to get up in the morning and love my husband no matter if he is beside me or on a trip for his job. I choose to stand by him when he is sick and when he is happy. I choose to love him when he carries out the trash and when he makes me madder than a wet hen. 

Love isn’t about warm fuzzy feelings and thinking like you are the center of his world. Love is knowing that when you just can’t remember, he will be there. Love is knowing that when you can’t stand by yourself, he will be there to hold you up. Love is a choice. 

I truly believe that we can’t love our spouse without loving Jesus first. You see, He is love. He shows us how to love. 

So this weekend, love. Choose love. Always, choose love. Happy Friday.