Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye 2015

Year’s End

Thou art good when thou givest,
       when thou takest away,
       when the sun shines upon me,
       when night gathers over me.
Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world,
       and in love didst redeem my soul;
Thou dost love me still,
       in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.
Thy goodness has been with me another year,
       leading me through a twisting wilderness,
       in retreat helping me to advance,
       when beaten back making sure headway.
Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;
I hoist sail and draw up anchor,
With thee as the blessed pilot of my future as of my past.
I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead.
If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation,
       thou wilt be with me in them;
If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and tempation,
       I shall not drown;
If I am to die,
       I shall see thy face the sooner;
If a painful end is to be my lot,
       grant me grace that my faith fail not;
If I am to be cast aside from the service I love,
       I can make no stipulation;
Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial,
       as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use.
–From The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Strength Training

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world —John 16:33

God does not give us overcoming life— He gives us life as we overcome. The strain of life is what builds our strength. If there is no strain, there will be no strength. Are you asking God to give you life, liberty, and joy? He cannot, unless you are willing to accept the strain. And once you face the strain, you will immediately get the strength. 
Oswald Chambers~My Utmost for His Highest

I have a confession to make.  I am a big complainer. When I encounter tribulation, I am not of good cheer; I am of bad mood.  This is a choice I make, and continue to make every time something seems too hard or too unfair to me.  This needs to change. 

Oswald Chambers says that the strain of life is what builds our strength, but because I choose to complain about the strain, I stay weak.  I don’t want to be weak and I don’t want to complain.  Complaining shows the true state of my heart and teaches my children that when things get tough they can turn their eyes to themselves.  In reality, though, it’s especially when times get tough that we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.  When I complain, I have chosen to fix my eyes of Tori instead of Jesus.  This does not bring God glory and it doesn’t flatter me, so I’m not even sure why it is appealing. 

God doesn’t want me to complain.  He wants me to be grateful for the undeserved grace I receive from Him and He wants me to keep my mouth shut when I feel my life is just too hard.  Much sin can be avoided if I choose to stay silent.  So in 2016, when I feel tempted to play the victim and feel sorry for myself, I will remember what Jesus has done for me  (He did it without complaining) and I will choose to praise instead.

And all the people said “Amen!”

LORD, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips.   
Psalm 141:3

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Four Truths My Puppy Taught Me About God

So I got a new pup, y’all, and his name is Jet; partially because he is all black and partially because my husband is a pilot.  Clever, eh?  I know I said I WOULD NOT get a puppy again because puppies are SO MUCH WORK.  But I did.  And I like him even though he always bites me with his sharp little teeth. Jet and I have been taking long sunrise walks in the morning and he has been teaching me some things about God.  Let me share them with you this Christmas.

1.  When Jet and I starting walking together, he was unsure of his surroundings and when I would let him off leash, he would stay so close to me that when I looked around I couldn’t find him.  He would be so near my legs that he was almost an extension of myself. And I started to think that that’s how we should be in our own lives.  Lesson Learned:  We should walk so closely with our Father that we “hide in Him”.  Our steps should so closely match our Father’s that when people look at us, they see Him. "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."  Colossians 3:3

2.  When we first got Jet, he was so new and small that I was very protective of him and kept him inside, catering to his every need.  But as he has gotten older and more destructive, we have moved him to his outdoor kennel and he has adjusted well.  Sometimes, when I have to leave him for hours, I worry that he will be unhappy and say to himself, “I have been in this kennel for soooo long and no one has come to visit me!” But that thinking is not accurate because dogs are not people.  People can reason and worry.  Dogs mostly just chew and sleep. Dogs accept their situation and are happy when someone shows up.  They don’t wear watches nor think of the future because dogs are not people.  Often, I make this same mistake with God.  Lesson Learned: Sometimes I expect God to do things in a certain order, or work out situations the way that I believe best because I suspect that God thinks like a person.  But God is not a person and He does not get anxious or tired. His mind is limitless and infinite; and when I limit God to my intellectual understanding of how he “should” act, I perceive Him wrongly. "God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" Numbers 23:19

3.   Jet bites me—a bunch!—with his little razor sharp puppy teeth.  No matter what I do to tell him that this is a bad (and painful) action, he continues to bite and bite and bite.  He does this because he hasn’t learned to control himself or his impulses.  He also does it because he wants to do what he wants to do.  He thinks he is the Alpha. I make him submit to me every day, several times a day, and I hold his little furry snout shut and say, “You are not the Alpha.  I am the Alpha.”  And then when I let him go, he bites me again.  What Jet doesn’t seem to comprehend is that I am much bigger and stronger and powerful than he is—at least for now—and I feed him, or I don’t.  He has no idea of the power I actually wield and choose not to display.  Do we not show the same disrespect to God?  Lesson Learned:  God is the all-powerful Creator of the Universe, but often I forget His pre-eminence and “bite and nip” and complain about my life.  I do what I want to do, and I treat Him like a glorious vending machine.  God holds the power in his hands to sustain me or drop me, and yet, I keep on pretending that I am stronger.  How foolish to bite the hand that feeds me! "See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand."  Deuteronomy 32:39

4.  I really like Jet.  And Jet has made me so happy amidst my grief about losing Neo.  I find joy and purpose in taking care of him and having him trust me.  My life is better because I have a puppy.  I am truly fulfilled.  Lesson Learned:  What’s to say that Jet couldn’t disappear out of my life tomorrow unexpectedly just as my last dog did?  Nothing.  I have no guarantee of his existence.  My hope cannot be in this dog, or any dog, or any thing for that matter, except in Jesus Christ who chose to break through our time and space and be born as a baby at Christmas.  This same Lord is the one who surrendered Himself to a cross so my sins could be removed and grace could be given unabashedly. If I put my hope in Jet, I will be saddened, but my hope in my God will last. "This hope will not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."   Romans 5:5

Merry Christmas to all of you from Jet and all of us!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

5 Reasons Coffee Has Made Me a Better Person

Ok.  This has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas (other than the fact that I adore the white chocolate peppermint coffee blend that I purchased for myself as a pre-holiday treat), but seeing that I only wrote in my blog eight times this whole year, I thought I would do what any respectable blogger would do and write at least four more times before year’s end to make it look as if I had written at least once a month.  And, try as I might to come up with something poignant about the real meaning of Christmas, I kept getting stuck on things that sounded like they came from a 1980s Hallmark made-for-TV movie and not from the depths of my heart.  So…I decided to write about coffee.  Make sense?

First, the back-story:  I started drinking coffee a year and a half ago while in Spain.  Previous to that, the last coffee I had tasted was something my mom offered me in a Styrofoam cup with lipstick stains after we had helped some friends move when I was seven.  That experience left me with a disgusting aftertaste—actually and figuratively.  I never wanted to drink the demon liquid again; I couldn’t believe people actually craved it.  In fact, when I grocery shopped, I would often skip the coffee aisle because I hated the smell. 

But the summer before last, when we had traveled to Europe to hike the Camino de Santiago (wanna know more about that?  Start here), the rest of the family would hit up little coffee “bars” in the morning and order a café con leche and a giant chocolate croissant, and I would just sit, soberly, eating my giant chocolate croissant by itself.  I felt left out of the common experience.  And occasionally, I needed some unmentionable digestive processes to occur before I put in a 20 mile day of hiking and before civilized bathrooms were no longer available (I know what you are saying, “She never seemed to mind going in the woods before,” and you are right. But what you don’t understand about the Camino is that it is a very urban trail, highly traveled by other “pilgrims” who don’t take kindly to seeing someone squatting behind a building in the quaint villages along the way. In my ignorance, I didn’t know that coffee did that sort of thing, but, by golly, it does!) So, seeing that 40 years had passed since my last sip of Joe, and deciding that my taste buds had probably matured by now, I chose to be a certified grown-up and try it. On my first foray into the caffeinated world, I bravely loaded up my very own café con leche with lots of sugar and sipped…cautiously.  And because I had decided to change my mind about its abhorrence, it now seemed to have this mystical quality about it that made me feel mature and free and clean (if you know what I mean).  And I didn’t hate it…that much.  Now, upon ingestion, my chocolate croissant had a friend, my colon was rejoicing, and I had started to feel like part of the gang.  I even told my family, “ Coffee is going to transform my life!” That was just the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  And like any friendship of value, coffee has made me better.  Here are five reasons why:
5 Reasons Coffee Has Made Me a Better Person

1.  Coffee has made me more fun.  Because I am now a real adult, I can confidently walk into any coffee shop and order a Cappuccino or a Latte or an Americano with room for cream without fear.  I understand most of the lingo—the blends and beans and brewing methods and steamed milk and espresso—not EXpresso—and I can sit across from anyone, holding my warm drink in my cold hands and chat about light-hearted things instead of lamely drinking an iced tea in the dead of winter.  I now smile as I walk through the coffee aisle and I don’t plug my nose quite as much.  And I let myself get fun coffee drinks on Fridays because Fridays make me happy.  In general, I am less stuffy and more cheerful because I have found a warm, gentle friend in coffee.

2.  Coffee has allowed me to form an alliance with a new drink.  Diet Coke used to be my beverage of choice (read about my guilty conscience), but no longer does this tumor-enhancing drink—the name given it by my darling children—captivate me.  Now that I have discovered the miraculous qualities of this natural substance, the fake stuff doesn’t stand a chance.  Coffee seems to line up with the rest of my life since I can pronounce everything in the ingredients list: /ˈkɑː.fi/ bins/.

3.  Coffee has made me appreciate my morning-by-fireplace-posting-sunrise-pictures-on-Instagram routine.  I can now sit happily in my polka-dotted chair admiring my just-taken-that-morning pictures while sipping on a soul-warming beverage.  I look forward to my coffee/chocolate animal cracker routine daily.  It gives me joy.  Joy makes me more fun (see point #1 above). 

4.  Coffee has given me a fondness for beautiful, ergonomically correct mugs.  Lately, I have been sipping my morning brew out of a lovely, purple-flowered china cup that fits my hand perfectly.  Sometimes mugs are too heavy or too masculine, but this cup is like baby bear’s bed…it is just right.  I wash it out each morning and put it by the sink so I can look forward to the next morning when we can enjoy each other’s company.

5.  Coffee has allowed me to enter into a whole new subculture.  Although I still don’t love the taste of coffee, I really like the idea of coffee.  And a lot of half and half helps with that.  I delight in all of the names and cute little pictures on the coffee packages, and all the creative, very caloric ways one can dress up a decidedly boring drink. I think it is fun that I can make this little treat in the comfort of my own home at any time of the day.  Sometimes, when I make it at three in the afternoon, and I put a little chocolate syrup in the bottom, I feel like maybe I am getting away with something.  And sometimes feeling sneaky is good.  Sometimes feeling sneaky makes me more fun and less pragmatic.  Because, really, I am pretty boring.  But now, not so much because I have found a friend in coffee.  Can I hear an “Amen”?!

So that’s it folks.  Coffee has lots of perks. Here’s to the java for jump-starting my joy in the daily grind of life. 

No beans about it, the brew just makes me better. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Sting

I like animals.
I like sameness.

A few weeks ago, God decided to change things up for me and I got mad.

Three weeks ago yesterday, my beloved Neo, my big black dog, my daily walking companion, was hit by a car.  And he died.  I was so very sad.  And I cried nearly non-stop for three days because I wanted him back.  I didn’t want ANOTHER dog; I wanted THAT dog.  I wanted Neo. 

Let me back up a bit.  This summer was hard for me.  Truth be told, the last few years have been hard for me.  This whole “letting them go” part of parenting is no cakewalk; every two years, one of my clan becomes a “grown-up” and moves out.  And I put away another plate, and try to remember to buy less groceries, and post more pictures of my pets on Instagram. I guess I should have expected this.  I guess I should be pleased since it actually was the goal, but I have resisted because it means this era is coming to a close.  I want to stop time, or at least stall it a little, but I guess things don’t really work like that.  Bummer.

Neo wasn’t always my buddy.  We actually got much closer this February, when my boy decided to get married. And this summer, as my girls hiked the AT and were gone from May to August. And then again, the entire month of July when my hubby joined them on the trail. And when my baby, the only one home with me, thought he could work full time every day of summer break. And when I was alone on my birthday (insert funeral dirge here). In all these times of adjustment, Neo had been my constant; he was always glad to see me, greeting my car every time I drove in the driveway and giving me sloppy kisses that I didn’t like.  This summer Neo and I watched the corn grow together.  And I did like that.

Neo predictably slept on the front porch every night, predictably protected me from the UPS man, and predictably chased anything he thought he might be able to catch when we took our walks together. Did I mention that I also like predictability?

During these same three weeks of grief, I have been teaching a Bible study about the Character of God.  The first week, the morning of Neo’s death, I stood confidently in front of about 200 women and told them, “Sometimes life stings; and when it does, you need to believe that God is the same God as when you are nearest to Him.”  I truly thought that I believed these words that I was saying.

That same day—the day I talked about being stung by life—Neo left me.  Just like that.  He wasn’t supposed to leave.  I was devastated.

I immediately told God that He was wrong in allowing Neo to die. I told Him He had no right in taking my friend. I told Him I didn’t think He was good. This God—the God I spoke to in my rage—was NOT the same God I knew in my sweet and predictable times.  This God who took my Neo didn’t have my best in mind.

Or so, in my desperation, I thought.

But here’s what’s true. And it’s not what I felt.

My feelings were so mixed up inside of me that I had allowed the death of my dog to damage my faith in God’s characterHis omniscience, His wisdom, His faithfulness, His goodness.  My emotions, motivated by shock and grief, persuaded me to believe what I FELT to be true rather that what ACTUALLY was true.  I chose to do exactly opposite of what I had, just that morning, told the women to do.  I realized that I had been putting my security in my dog and my routine and not in the Eternal God (Who, in fact, does stay the same and has promised never to leave).  I had mistakenly, again, put my trust in created things rather than in the Creator. 

When I finally ceased telling God all of the things He had done wrong, I heard him speak softly through a quote I had copied from “My Utmost for His Highest” earlier this summer (during the time I had tried to trust in cell phones and photos and satellite trackers instead of God Himself…you can read about that here)—It said,

“There is a connection between the providential circumstances allowed by God and what we know of Him, and we have to learn to interpret the mysteries of life in light of our knowledge of God.  Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest facts of life without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know Him.” 

It was then that I realized who the wrong one was…and it was me.  It was my feelings.  It was my disbelief.  I had come face to face with something I couldn’t change, and instead of believing what I had learned to be true of God, I trusted in my finite understanding of reality.  I had allowed my pain to damage my view of God’s majesty and goodness; I was surprised at my fickleness.  Maybe that’s why God provides so many stories in the Bible about the forgetful Israelites.  Maybe I am supposed to see myself in them. 

So, now that I realize how very weak I am, how prone I am to fail in my view of my Savior, where do I go?  I go straight to Him. And He takes me in.  He runs to greet me in my folly and my struggle and my forgetfulness because He is right.  He is gracious.  He is fully in control of everything. He is good even when I FEEL bad.  He is TRUTH. 

As I grow in my knowledge of the Holy, I hope this circle of shock, anger, disbelief, struggle, and then once again, belief in the Truth, gets smaller and smaller and smaller, so that I may immediately recall His goodness instead of instantly suspecting deceit.  I pray my mind will be so overcome by His majesty that I can’t help but say, “The Lord gives; the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord”.   

May His name be praised.  Forever and ever.

Long ago You established the earth,
and the heavens are the work of Your hands.
 They will perish, but You will endure;
all of them will wear out like clothing.
You will change them like a garment,
and they will pass away.
 But You are the same,
and Your years will never end.
Psalm 102:25-27

In sweet memory of a sweet dog.  Missing you Neo!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Rest Time

I have not been resting lately.

I have been sleeping well at night, don’t get me wrong, in fact, I sleep more when I am stressed; I just haven’t been resting during my waking hours. 

And by resting, I don’t mean napping.

I mean resting in God’s Providence. Which is why I have been on my knees several times over the last few weeks, begging God to help me to be confident in His plans.  His perfect plans.

You see, my daughters, ages 19 and 21, have been hiking the Appalachian Trail ALL SUMMER LONG by themselves.  Did you get that?  BY THEMSELVES—meaning that they are on the trail ALONE.  Without a real adult who has a history of making good and wise choices.  And oh, has it been LONG (for me, and probably for them, but in a more physical way, I would guess).  If you aren’t familiar with the Appalachian Trail, it is a hiking trail along the eastern US that extends from Georgia to Maine, spanning 2,200 miles.  Because of time limitations, my girls are only completing the northern half of the trail (1,100 miles!). They started in Pennsylvania.

And I haven’t seen them since the third week in May.

And they are backpacking everyday.

And sleeping in a tent or AT trail shelters every night. In the wilderness.

With people they don’t know.  And more disturbingly, people I don’t know.

They have climbed mountains and traversed streams and walked around rattlesnakes, of which they said, “We think it was dead”.  They know me too well.

And I have been concerned about them on the mountains and in the streams and freaking out nervous when they don’t have cell service for three days straight, and not at all excited when they finally do get service and they call and happily tell me they just saw a black bear and two bear cubs, “But the bears just ran into the forest” they said.  “And they were really cute.”  And this of course calmed me. Because everyone knows that cute bears are not dangerous.

I am so worried that they might get sick or get kidnapped (they told me they hitchhiked but that it was only a few times and they were very careful to only get in the car with people who looked nice.  They said if the driver looked creepy, they were just going to act like they needed to answer their phone and wave them on.  “Don’t worry” they said, “We’ll be fine”) or attacked or lost.

I have made myself sick with worst-case scenarios that I have played and replayed in my head.  I have written news articles in my imagination about “those two poor girls from Iowa”.  I have watched them fall from sheer cliffs and into rapids in my unnerving daydreams.  I have imagined them scared and lonely and homesick.

But you know what?  None of these things has happened.  Not that it couldn’t still.  But it hasn’t, and I have spent precious time stewing when they have been having the adventure of a lifetime.

And you know what else?  They aren’t scared.  They are joyful. And they aren’t lonely.  They are building life-long friendships with other hikers they have met.  And they aren’t homesick because the trail has become their home after 11 weeks.  They are simply hiking and enjoying God’s beautiful creation and the simplicity of their present situation.  And they have learning about God’s character and His provision.

Why haven’t I been doing that in these last 11 weeks?  Why have I doubted that God is in control?  And even if I have been aware of His control, why have I doubted His goodness?  Why do I see myself as a better judge, a better guardian, a better story-writer of my daughter’s lives?  Why do I put more confidence in a cell phone call or a satellite tracker or a photo of my smiling girls on Facebook?  Why is it so very hard for me to trust that “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him” even as I continually repeat that verse to myself?

I am not resting because I am putting my hope in everything BUT God.  I tell God I want to trust Him, that I don’t want to feel fearful, that I want to freak out less, and I do trust…for a minute.  Then, I am back on my knees again, with tears in my eyes, wracked with fear.  I am so scared that something is going to happen to my babies.  So scared. So scared, that I don’t know what to do with the feelings.  I SO want to be in control.

But I’m not.

And that’s good.  Because God really is in control.  And His plans really are good.  And He really does love my daughters.  Even more than I do, if that is possible.  And He is watching out for them.  He has protected them from harm thus far.  But the truth is, if they were to be hurt or lost or worse, God would still be in control and I need to remember eternity; I know my daughters are eternally secure.  I know they trust in a loving Savior.  I know that nothing can remove them from God’s hands.  I must repeat these truths to myself.  I must value eternity more than I value my present comfort. "For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)

 All of my my present and future hope needs to be in God, who created the universe with His voice; who formed these precious children within my womb.  I must trust in God’s undeniable faithfulness and his promises to all of his children.  I must choose to believe that His way is the right way… even if it feels really uncomfortable to me.

So, today during my sunrise walk, I got down on my knees in the dewy grass and I told God the day was His and that He could keep writing the story of my daughter’s lives. I’m sure He appreciated my permission. 

And guess what? I felt peace. I felt trust. I felt free.

As a backpacker myself, I know how good it feels when the hike is done and the heavy pack is finally removed—you feel almost as if you could fly. 

So, with y’all as my witnesses, I am removing my burden of fear today and laying it at the feet of Jesus.  

And it feels so good to lay it down—almost as if I could fly. 

There is freedom in surrender.

There is joy in trust.

There is rest in dependence on Jesus.

But I will still be very glad when they're home.  I'm just like that.  And God is just like He is: always faithful; always good; always teaching; always so patient with my unbelief.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” Psalm 91:1

“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers him”
Psalm 34:7

Saturday, April 25, 2015

More Than You Can Imagine

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. According to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen!”
Ephesians 3:20-21

Last summer my family hiked the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.  (You can read about our adventures starting here).  Many of the cities we traversed had massive, old cathedrals at their centers.  These ornate, burgeoning structures were literally awe-inspiring.  It was not difficult to see what had captured the imaginations of these ancient artisans; on every available edifice you could find paintings of creation, biblical battles, and Mary the mother of Jesus.  And in numerous alcoves along these massive walls stood statues depicting the apostles, the prophets, and Jesus Himself in various scenes.  All one had to do was look upward towards the ceiling to see the entire story of the Bible unfolding before their eyes. It was if the brushstrokes of the painters purposed to draw your eyes heavenward in reverence.  The story of God captivated these devout people of old.  Does it still capture us today?

I don’t think so.

I think, today, that we are wowed by the glitz and the glare and the general glamour of everything that sparkles.  The story of God has been put on the shelf.

But, we get excited about CrossFit.

And March Madness.

And politics. Especially when an election year is approaching.

We are passionate about vaccinations. Or lack of them.

And GMOs.

And homeschooling.

And public schooling.

And grass fed beef.

We consume ourselves with perfect parties for our one year olds.

And social media.

And furniture from IKEA.


Does this seem strange to you?

The Westminster Catechism can assist us with this.  It asks the question, “What is chief end of man? (or in today's language, "What is our purpose?) And to help us, it also answers and tells us, “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

So…if we are supposed to be glorifying God, but yet we are fascinated with everything but God and, in fact, we think that God is outdated, archaic, even distant, then we are neither ENJOYING HIM nor GLORIFYING HIM.

That means we are not fulfilling our purpose.  Do you understand the problem here? The problem is that WE ARE WASTING OUR TIME!

In Romans 1:21, Paul says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  Do you see the irony?  This is like us.  We know God.  We don’t glorify him when our minds are occupied with everything but him.  We don’t give thanks to him because we don’t meditate on the grace he has given.

We need to stop.  We just need to STOP.  And we need to look long and lovingly on the majesty of God.  We become what we behold.  I don’t want my thinking to be futile or my heart to be darkened by distraction.  I want to behold the holiness of my Savior. And I want to become like him.

The focal point of our interests has become OURSELVES--selfie anyone?—but we need to focus on the One that actually is God, not on those things that have become our “gods”.  When we place anything in the spot that God should inhabit, that thing is our idol.  God commands we aren’t to have any of those…but I do, don’t you?  Because I get wrapped up in the here and now and forget that it’s only a vapor.  But what I really need to do is look up, like our fathers of old, and remember that the old, old story is not about me.


Friends, please listen.  I plead.  It’s foolish to run after other fulfillment.  God knows what is best for us.  It’s Himself.  And He’s already given everything we need.  Let’s be captivated by his lavish love and caught up in his grace. 

He is able to do more than we can ask or imagine.  He’s already done it.  It’s called salvation—when he took our sin and gave us his righteousness—remember? 

Think about it. Let it capture your imagination.

It’s awesome. And mind blowing.

He’s just that kind of God.


Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 
Colossians 3:2

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. 

Psalm 84:10

Friday, April 24, 2015


Guess what?  God loves you. And He loves you lavishly.

You need to believe this.

Why?  Because beliefs determine feelings.  It’s true.  #preachit

People throughout history have believed wrong things. These wrong beliefs, in turn, led to wrong feelings.  These wrong feelings produced dishonor, disunity, and disorder. Sincere feelings do not guarantee honorable activity:

Let’s start at the very beginning…
Think Eve. Or Hitler. Or Jim Jones.  How about Osama Bin Laden? #howboutyou

Or how about in literature?  Romeo and Juliet? Romeo believes that Juliet is dead, feels distraught and kills himself.

How about in everyday life?  Do you ever believe something that isn’t true?  Sometimes I believe my husband doesn’t care about me, so I feel like he’s not a good guy.  But that’s not true.  He is a good guy and has my best in mind.  I must believe the truth.  Because my beliefs determine my feelings. #feelingslie

It’s like that with God, you know.  You don’t feel his lavish love for you because you don’t truly believe He’s good.  You don’t fully trust He’s got your best in mind.  You can pin as many “Jesus thinks I’m a princess” memes on your Pinterest board as you want, but until you think rightly about God, you will not feel treasured.  #truth

So, what will change us?  What will help us believe what is actually true?  Choosing to use that transformed mind the Lord has so graciously given you (Romans 12:2) and making your feelings align with the powerful Truth of God.  When you say, “I have faith in you God,” you are saying, in essence, “My belief is based in what you say is true, God.”  That’s why it is so important to have a Biblically-based worldview.  Much of what you see, hear, even feel, in this world is a lie, but what you read in the Bible is truth. #allthetime

When you have solid theology, it primes your mind to think rightly.  Good books that challenge your thinking and make you have a broader view of God are belief-building.  When God gets bigger in your mind, you hunger for more of Him.  AW Tozer says “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  If you feed truth into your mind, your believing will be accurate and your feelings will follow. #itsscriptural

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  Luke 6:45

That’s why God makes such a big deal about faith in the Bible.  Faith defined is complete trust and confidence in someone or something.  That’s why, when Mary and Martha believed Jesus was too late to help their now-dead brother, Lazarus, they felt grief stricken and hopeless.  But Jesus showed up, said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God? (Matt 11:40)  God shows His glory to us when we surrender our wrong beliefs to Him. #hesamazing

Want to know HOW God loves you?  Read the Bible.
Want to know WHY God loves you?  Read the Bible. (Spoiler: It’s not because you’re so great)

God has no needs.  He doesn’t love us out of need.  People have needs.  People love out of need.  People have trouble loving other people when those people don’t meet their needs.  God is not a person. #hallelujah

Here’s the scoop guys; God is able to meet ALL your needs according to his riches in glory (Phil 4:9).  But, you don’t believe that do you?  You think someone with skin  here on the earth will be able to meet all of your needs. That is wrong thinking, and it is leading to wrong feeling.  If you believe rightly that God is your need-meeter, feelings of contentedness will follow.  Spiritual laws are no different than natural ones.  If something is true (gravity always pulls me downward), it is always true. It doesn’t matter if you believe it. #trusthim

What can you do to feel loved by God? 
1. Believe that God loves you #hediedinyourplace
2. Stop trying to prove your worth by what you do #youwillneverbegoodenough
3. Believe that you are saved by His grace #freegift
4.  Trust Him enough to give up control #yourlifeisnotyourown
5.  Surrender your identity. Your worth is not in what you do, but in what He has already done #itisfinished

Believe Him!  Enjoy Him!  Let Him Love you Lavishly!


 And I pray, that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17-19

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Broken Man (repost)

I originally published this in 2010, but thought it appropriate for Good Friday 2015 as well...

 "A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross." 
 Mark 15:21

“Abba! Abba! Take us to the city so that we can see all of the festival preparations!”

“And the people! Take us to see the people, too, please?”

“Yes, Alexander. Yes, Rufus. We will go soon. We will walk into the chaos of the Passover celebration! Have you some sandals to wear, Rufus? It is a long journey from Cyrene to Jerusalem.”

“Yes, I have them, Father, and I will not complain.”

“Let us go then, my sons, you must follow me closely. Stay by my side.”

It seems we have been walking for days. My legs are shorter than my brother’s and my father’s, so I must jog a little now and then to keep up with them. My sandals and my legs, covered with dust and dirt, look the same—gray. My mouth is so dry that I can’t spit; I wish I could spit since my mouth feels gray too. I want to ask my Abba when we will get there, but then I stop myself because I remember that I gave my word. I will not complain, and asking about getting there might sound like complaining. I want my Abba to be proud of me—to think I am a man.

Abba said to follow closely. I have not taken my eyes off of him. But now, I am distracted by the high voices I hear in the distance and I look farther ahead. I smell good smells too. I am hungry, but I will not complain. I think we are almost there.

Finally, we enter the village! Bright colors, strange sounds, dirty animals, rushing people! So much activity! But I will stay close. I must not take my eyes off of my father. He knows where we are going and I don’t want to get separated from him.

I see some soldiers with frowns on their faces. Beside them is a man. I think he is sick. Or maybe hurt. His clothes seem dirty and stiff—do they have blood on them? He is carrying a very big piece of timber, but it seems too heavy for him. He looks very tired. I think he has been beaten—see those gashes on his back? He is trying to carry the wood across his chest like he is carrying a baby. I guess it would probably hurt him to carry it on his bleeding shoulders. The log is so heavy, he is just shuffling along. He is not wearing sandals.

I cannot look away. I am supposed to keep my eyes on my father, but I must look at this man. I want to help him! Without asking, I rush into the road where he travels. The mean soldiers stop me and roughly push me aside. My father steps out to grab me, but the biggest soldier grabs him instead!

Alexander yells “Abba!” and starts to cry, but I watch in silence as they make my father take the big timber from the hurting man. I want my father to be proud of me and I do not cry. Now my father is carrying the heavy load. He carries it on his shoulders because they are not bleeding. The soldiers grab the broken man and they pull him quickly along. But he cannot move quickly. His head is down and he is moving slowly and sadly. My father cannot move quickly either and he is scared that he has lost us. I call out to him, “We are here! We will follow you!” and both of them look up—my Abba and the broken man. The broken man looks at me…he is crying… and now I cry.

There are so many people—throngs and throngs of people! Do they not see the broken man? Do they not see my Abba? I am still crying, but my brother is holding my hand. We make it to the top of the hill. It is ugly—this hill—it looks like a skull.

The soldiers take the log from my father and they lay it down beside the broken man who has fallen to the ground. Then, my father rushes back to us. I can smell his sweat as he pulls my brother and I into his scratchy cloak to shield us from the horror.

But I know what is happening. I can hear the hammer. They are pounding big nails into the broken man’s wrists. They are crucifying him. My father told me about crucifying—it is a punishment for criminals. But this broken man is not a criminal. I could tell this broken man was a good man because when he looked at me he cried.

My father is leading us away, but I look back. I see that the broken man has been put up on a cross—his wrists are still nailed to the log my father carried, and his feet are nailed to a post jutting from the ground. I know he is dying. The broken man is dying.

And I am sad. Somehow I know, my spirit has spoken, the broken man is dying for me.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:5