Sunday, August 16, 2015

The One Place to Lay My Head

Throughout my life, I've felt this restlessness. Like there was no where for me to be still and lay the full weight of my being upon to experience full acceptance, comfort and relief.

Jesus felt the same way when He walked upon the earth. He was far from heaven where He dwelt in perfect unity with the Father. 

If you look at the four gospels (Matthew 26:36, Mark 1:35, Luke 9:18, and John 17:1), you'll see that Jesus spent a plentitude of time in prayer. Like He was getting some face-to-face time with His heavenly Father to remind Him who He was, why He was here and where He was going.

Who He Was:

Jesus knew He was the Son of God. As the Son, He has always existed in perfect unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. 

He has no beginning and no end (Revelation 1:8). From the breath of His mouth the universe was made (Psalm 33:6). 
Even though He knew this about Himself, He didn't strut around demanding that all people bow at His feet and pay Him homage. No, He was completely humble. That is what makes Him so approachable. He fully accepts those who come to Him. 

He says to each one of us:

"Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden 
and I will give you rest..."
Matthew 11:28-30

Why He was here:

Jesus once commented to His disciples that He had "no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58)."

This of course was figurative. Meaning that He could never settle here. Not that He was restless, but He chose to come to this world for a reason. This crazy, messy, beautifully-broken place that was not His home. 

The King of the universe, who dwelt in inapproachable light in heaven came to this often dark world to complete a mission.

That mission was for us.

To save us.

It may not seem apparent at times, but we are drowning in sin. We only get to live one life and then the judgement (Hebrews 9:27). 

Do we really think we deserve to go to heaven, to be with God forever? To the place where His glory dwells? Where there is no sin?

Unless we are living in denial, none of us can claim to be without sin. And that means none of us deserves heaven.

There is only one way for us to have eternal life.

And that is in the person of Jesus Christ (1 John 5:12).

He lived a perfect, sinless life, enduring poverty and suffering. Many became His followers, but by the ruling religious leaders, He was rejected and ultimately this lead to His death on the cross.

He died. God. Died. For us. Can you let that sink in. It is a profound life-changing truth.

But, death could not hold Him...

Where He was going:

Three days later, the stone was rolled away. And in the full glory of resurrection, He appeared to His disciples and to over 500 people (1 Cor. 15:6) before returning to heaven. His home. Where He is waiting for us.

For now, in prayer, He is the place where we can truly rest our head. 

He is for us and not against us (Rom. 8: 31-32) and accepts us with all our flaws. He comforts us in our afflictions and gives us relief from trying to live in this crazy world on our own. 

Because He lives, by faith, His Holy Spirit lives in us and gives us power, the same power that raised Him from Jesus dead (Rom. 8:11) to overcome sin and become more and more like Him. 

And wherever He is, that is where I belong.

"But He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed."

Isaiah 53:5

"Jesus I Come" by Indelible Grace

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