Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bridge to Peace

A day at the beach before a thunderstorm rolled in, opened my eyes to how the church could be when we live in unity. 

The clouds hung low, dark and threatening. But, a light burned bright. Right in the middle of the beach.  

Families side-by-side with different hues of skin. Enjoying the handiwork of our Creator God who makes all things new.

Prayer changes things.

And some things need changing.

We tend to congregate with the brothers and sisters who look like us. Worship like us. Do church like us.

But living like this, we've been separated from the greater community of the church. 

We are broken, fragmented. 

We need to realize our unity in Christ.

All of us who call ourselves Christians have been united together in Christ. By His sacrifice on the cross, the great divide has been filled in. 

Whatever keeps us apart. Be it by language, ethnicity, nationality or gender. We are all one in Christ Jesus.

As we cling to Him, we can connect to each other.

And love our neighbors.

In these tumultuous days, may we turn our eyes to Him who makes all things new and experience heartfelt repentance and real revival in the church.

For in unity, His light shines brightest for all to see the salvation of God in Christ Jesus.

"As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'" 
Luke 3:4-6 

The crossing of the Ravenel Bridge, the "Bridge to Peace"
Charleston, SC 6-21-15, by 843 Productions

"This Little Light of Mine" Charleston, S.C.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

8 Ways My Son With Autism Helped Me Grow

Miracles happen every day when we least expect them. And this summer has been no exception.
Out on the soccer field, my boy kicked around the ball with his friends, as they all tried to follow the coach’s directions...cllick on this link to read more...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Rainbow of Solidarity in the Church

For 28 years my grandpa, a Vietnam veteran, was a certified Scuba diver. All suited up, with air tank on his back, he plunged into the great blue deep. With heavy weights, he sunk down to the edge of the coral reefs of the Carribean.

Futher out, at a depth of about 90 feet, the blue became gray where no light could penetrate at that depth. Grandpa switched on his dive light  and shined bright on the gray, restoring all the natural colors of the yellow and blue tangs or striped lionfish and clownfish.

He caught and brought them home, plopping them into his salt water aquarium. Keeping a little homemade ocean habitat was healing for his heart for all that he'd been through in Vietnam and in life.

With all that's going on in the world today, what can heal our fearful hearts?

How can we help create a little slice of heaven here on earth?

May our tears for our country, for the lost, for the broken be a prism for the light of Christ to reveal the rainbow of God's redemption in this part of His Story.

May our love replace the hate that is stealing the dignity, killing the joy and destroying the lives of people made in His image.

We don't have to be afraid or ashamed. But, we do need to keep on loving in the gray. Shining His light in the darkness. Being the hands that hold all our brothers and sisters close who reflect a rainbow of hues in the color of their skin.

"Nothing can separate us from the love of God
 that is in Christ Jesus." ~Romans 8:27

No depth of uncertainty in these times can keep us from His love. Christ is always with us because He lives in our hearts.

"God is love
And whoever abides in love
 Abides in God
 And God abides in Him."
~1 John 4:16

Nothing, absolutely nothing can change that.

And the darker the world gets, the brighter His love, if we let Him, will shine.

The only thing that we have to fear is fear itself.

Fear blinds us. Keeps us from loving anyone other than ourselves.

Love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

May we be knit together in love and unity with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, creating a rainbow of solidarity, a little picture of heaven, where every tribe, every tongue, every nation bows down and worships Jesus.

"And they sang a new song, saying,

     'Worthy are you to take the scroll
         and to open its seals,
      for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed 
         people for God
     from every tribe and language and people and nation, 
        and you have made them a kingdom and priests to 
    our God,
       and they shall reign on the earth.'" ~ Revelation 5: 8-10

"We All Bow Down" by Matt Leblanc 


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When it Seems Like You'll Forever Be Holding the Hand of Your Struggling Learner

Mustering up all the excitement I could, I tapped my little guy on the shoulder. "Ready for swim lessons?" 

As he lounged on my bed, he crossed his arms over his legs and scowled. "I don't wanna go." No surprise here. It was his typical response for trying something new.

"Well, I already paid for it, so you're going." And that was my typical response.

He's smart enough to know there was no point arguing. Mama's got her plans, so he better go along with it or he might pay the price in loss of video game time. 

Thankfully, his swim instructor was super patient and he eventually had a blast and became a stronger swimmer.

Soccer was harder. Even though all the other kids had gathered around the coach, he refused to go out on the field. I hadn't planned on this.

Holding his hand, I padded out on the field and as soon as he was distracted, I backed away and hurried to the bleachers. He was fine after that and ended up loving it.

Then it was time for the club meeting. I was prepared for a similar scenario. But, the dynamics of the room proved to cause sensory overload for him. 

He clung to me like a bear cub on a pine tree. This mama bear wanted him to participate, but I had to let it go. Our kids' hearts are more important than how well they perform. 

All oaks from acorns grow, right? This little acorn, he has autism. Will he still grow up into an oak, able to stand on his own? Cause I know he can't hold my hand forever. 

How do us parents with struggling learners move from frustration and disappointment to hope?

We need to keep the bigger picture in mind.

Success in the Kingdom of the Son doesn't lie in college diplomas, a six figure job and grand accolades. It's being like Jesus.

Not only did Jesus level with us all by becoming a man, He lowered himself even further, by becoming a servant and washing his disciples' mud-encrusted feet.

If we want our kids to be like Jesus, we need to be like Him first and let go of our plans and our pride.

We must be willing to stoop down low and hold our children's hands until they can stand on their own. But also taking a step further and showing them the nail-scarred hand of the one who will never let them go.

It's making disciples of the least of these.

So they can bring His light into a dark world.

My boy loves John Bunyan's allegory The Pilgrim's Progress

Christian, the main character in the story embarks on a journey to somehow remove the heavy burden on his back (his sin). 

Along the way, he comes face-to-face with Jesus on the cross and the burden comes rolling off never to be seen again. 

But, that's not the end of the story. 

He is given a new coat of armor to protect himself (the armor of God) and a little scroll to help him along the way (the Bible). 

The journey takes many twists and turns and Christian has to fight, endure and press on. Until he reaches that Celestial City where his earthly journey ends and his heavenly one begins.

Our kids need Jesus. For salvation, protection and life instructions.

Let's not just focus on self-sufficiency, but God-sufficiency. May our children not only walk the stage to get a diploma, but walk the path to the cross, where every self-centered dream must die in order for dreams eternal to live.

In whatever weaknesses our children have, God is strong. And, He is more glorified in those who need Him most.

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:1-4

"Hosanna" by Paul Baloche

Saturday, May 23, 2015

When Fear Overwhelms Us: {Stay in the Light}

Nothing makes me lose more sleep than worry. All the 'what ifs' come crashing into my consciousness, flooding my mind with the worst imaginable scenarios. Imagination is a good thing, but sometimes it can take us down a path of doubt and mistrust.

When this is how my morning started out, it was hard to go back. And rest. It didn't help that I got lost on the way to meeting some friends. With no GPS, I had no other alternative, but to try to figure out how to get there.

Sometimes church signs can be a little cheesy, but lately they've have been pretty spot on. To my right was a brick church with white steeple and in big block letters, the sign read,

Are you lost? Jesus is the way.

Yeah. I sure was lost. 

Being caught behind a train, I had time to call my husband to Google Map my location for me.

Sure enough, I was heading in the right direction, but it was too late to meet my friends.

Was I being protected from something like a car accident or was this some sort of discipline for my wayward mind? I didn't know. All I knew was that I felt so far from God. Like an orphan, just trying to survive.

I could have spent the rest of the day feeling sorry for myself or wallowing in disappointment, but in the back of my mind there was a song. Waiting for me to be still. And listen.   

"The Stand" by Hillsong

In the confines of my own vehicle, the song kept playing on and on, not on the radio, but in my heart. And, the moment my mouth opened, and I sang along and praised God in the midst of my disappointment, sunlight literally shot through the clouds and landed on my upturned hand. The fingers of God. The rest of the way home, I felt its warmth. His warmth.

Jesus is the way. To peace.

Peace with God. Peace with ourselves. Peace with others. Peace in all our circumstances. 

It didn't matter to me anymore that I missed my meeting. God loves me. No matter what. And for that I will sing forevermore.

"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

I returned to the church a few days later to snap this photo. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

{True Beauty}: When a Girl Feels She Doesn't Measure Up

Magazines. You see them everywhere you go. Even in the bathroom. Then there's billboards. Internet ads. Movies. T.V. All with flawless people.

These are the people our society holds up as the golden standard of beauty. And, none of us are able to attain it perfectly.

Sure, we try. But, in the end. When the make-up is off and the shower is on, we see our flaws. 

Living in a culture focused on disproportionate figures and airbrushed faces how can we ever measure up? We are on an infinite quest to find beauty products to quell our insecurities. And it's never enough. Does that mean we're never enough?

When I was a teen, it seemed like my nose grew before the rest of my body. I longed to be like the girls on the talk shows who would tell their story of woe. Not fitting in because their noses were too big and getting a free nose job in return. Sounds shallow I know, but I felt awful because my face was far from perfect. 

Looking at pictures from that time, I don't even see it anymore. But, I sure felt it then. 

Being middle-aged is not much easier. It's a temptation to try to turn back the hands of time (if that were possible). And, erase the lines that tell our age. Or keep up an endless exercise regimen tirelessly trying to lower our BMI and give us that figure we desire.

 If we look good on the outside does that mean everything is okay on the inside?

The times I've struggled the most with my self-image are the times I was trying hardest to look my best. 

This is the world I am raising daughters in.

How I wish I could shield them from the onslaught of insecurity that will come at them as they become women. 

All I can do is pray for grace and be an example of what it means to rest in who I am. Not that I've done this perfectly, but I am learning.

Learning to rest.

To abide.

To know I am loved.

And, by God's grace, I am flawless.

How is this possible? Not only do I have blemishes on the outside, but I still sin. I do the things I don't want to do and don't do the things I know I should do (Romans 7:15).

Because of Christ, I am not condemned (Romans 8:1-4). Because Jesus took my place, being condemned as a sinner on the cross, He took all my sin and gave me His flawless record and His Holy Spirit now dwells in me. 

I'm not only okay to God, but I've been raised up to the level of His Son in righteousness.

He's given me a beauty no amount of make-up could ever attain to. When I am resting in Him, I am loving, joyful, at peace. 

I have His beauty.

In a culture that is figure focused and infinitely insecure, what part of us should we really desire to be flawless?

Our hearts.

Not neglecting to take care of the body, but also not making it the inordinate focus of our lives. We already have a myriad of idols begging for our attention, our focus.

Christ raised the bar for true beauty. The crossbeam. By submitting to the rescue plan that would save us.

Why not focus on Him. His sacrificial love for us. And loving Him in return by sacrificial loving the world. Putting others' needs before our own. Doing the hard, right things in the divine power that comes from seeking, focusing on Christ.

Change may not come right away. But, it will come. And, one day when we look in the mirror, we won't just see ourselves. In those gentled eyes and caring smile, we'll see His beauty.

"You are altogether beautiful, my love;

    there is no flaw in you."

Song of Solomon 4:7

 "Restless" by Audrey Assad


Thursday, May 7, 2015

When We Don't Know What to Do: {Prayer Works}

Thinking I'd write a post about Sarah's finger, I snapped this photo

Not again [flashback to the Wal-Mart incident]. This cannot be happening again. Standing near the door frame during Bright Girl's choir practice, my peanut-of-a-three-year-old slides her finger right in the crack near the hinge and before I can reach her, the door shuts and her finger is stuck. Pinched. Squished. 

In a flash, I open the door and pull her finger out, but it's already swelling and so is her voice. Not knowing what to do, I take her outside for a walk to console the child and check for damage. 

Finger seemed intact, but she would not console. Then the most unlikely thing happened. A little Flopsy of a bunny hopped across the walkway into the hedgerow. A little distraction for my Little Bit of girl. To take her mind off the pain. At least for a moment. Before she started up again.

A well-meaning man asked what is the matter.

"My baby shut her finger in the door, and I don't know what to do." I balanced her on my hip and held her close.

He looked sympathetic, but didn't have any answers. Which is sometimes the best thing when there are no clear answers.

Bright Girl came out in the nick of time to find us, and I packed the child and all the rest into the van and headed for home.

Fingers clutching the steering wheel for dear life, I could barely breathe for the stress of listening to my suffering baby girl. 

Passing a church sign along the way, I saw two words.

I took this photo on another trip

 Sometimes church signs can be used by God to point me back to grace... 

True. It surely does. And that is one thing I forgot to do. So, in the midst of driving, with eyes wide open, I said a prayer. 

Our Father in heaven wants us to come to Him when we're scared or hurt and don't know what to do.

Big sister comforted my little one and her crying ceases for a bit. I can breathe again.

Home seemed to be the best destination to at least drop off the other children and maybe try a walk-in-clinic from there. 

Mentioned going to the doctor and voila! My little one stops crying and says, "All better."

Finger looked less swollen the next day, so I decided to not go to the doctor.

Well, that's not the end of the story for this precocious little preschooler.

All of my children have climbed on furniture and fallen down. Sometimes there's been a few tears, but nothing broken.

Just two days after her finger was squished in the door, same baby girl climbed on our ottoman and fell forward, face-first onto the carpet. Billy rushed to pick her up and tried to console her. Her cries were of extreme pain, so we checked if she could stand. Her legs worked all right, but her left arm hung limp.

Again, my first reaction to her pain was feeling helpless and it took me awhile to see the light and come to God in prayer.

After pacing around the house and having an argument with Billy about what to do (not our finest hour in marriage), I headed out to the car to take her to an urgent care clinic.

The car was nearly out of gas, so I just sat in the parked car, fuming at Billy for his lack of compassion at a distraught mother.

Then it dawned on me. "I'm not acting right either, am I God?"

At this realization, I bowed the head and had a good talk with my Father in heaven.

Billy came to the car to reconcile. We then hugged and prayed together, asking the Lord for the best plan of action.  

From there, I took our Little Bit to urgent care, who then referred her to our pediatrician, who referred again to an orthopedic doctor, where it was discovered she had a fractured humorous.  

And we were all smiles when she ended up with a pink cast. Her favorite color.

This turned into a post about more than a finger injury

Seeing our children in pain has a way of filling us with worry and confusion. But, only one thing is needed (Luke 10:38-42) before all else.

I know I'd rather pray then fret and worry. Maybe I'll remember that the next time I don't know what to do.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV

"I Need You (As the Deer)" by Nicole C. Mullen