The Only Option

I once had a dream in which a tornado was barreling toward our home. I remember thinking—my only option is to speak against it (use my God-given authority paid for by His Son to make it disappear).

Our house isn’t particularly safe. Living in Ohio we hardly ever have tornadoes large enough to level homes. There was no place to run and hide, death was coming, and if I didn’t take a stand we would surely die.

There was a peace that filled me once I realized that my only option was to trust God. I mean either the tornado would have to obey or I would meet Jesus. Either way it was a happy ending and I knew I was acting exactly as I should be. I was who I should be.

I raised my hand and called out firmly (defiantly), “STOP!” And just as the tornado touched my yard line, it dissipated into mere mist.

A visiting speaker during our ministry school once said, “consider it a gift when you hit a point in which God is your only option.”

We are so bent on doing things ourselves, striving and strategizing our own efforts and plans. Even as we face our giants we fight and struggle before relenting to a higher power.

And we go father still when, broken and defeated, we blame God for our state of being and begin to doubt in His Goodness. When all along He was ready and willing to fight our battles for us.

Miracles tend to happen (like tornadoes disappearing) when we don’t allow ourselves to think or feel and we just simply give it all to God. When we recognize that without Him we don’t stand a chance and that He works (desires to!) through us!

In marriage, Aaron and I had formed an agreement, a vow that divorce would never be an option. But we never made those same vows to God! Vows to never let doubt be an option, or fear/worry. That we would have no other option but to trust Him….this new perspective has given me a lot to think about.

We value our marriage so much that we set these vows in order to protect it. How much more should we value and protect our relationship with God??

I believe now is the time in history in which we need more men and women of God who are all out of options. That we would finally break free and become who we were made to be when we’re backed into a corner and have no other way out. That God would move and shine bright in those moments. And that we would never doubt Him again.

If you feel you’re in that place, if you feel your out of options….give in to His. Activate the gifting and authority Christ paid for that you’ve let collect dust. Recognize the Holy Spirit within you groaning to burst forth, and surrender it all to God, win or lose…He has the final say and to Him be the Glory.

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A Mighty Wind

Journal entry: July 7th, 2017

A storm is coming. As I write, I can hear the constant stream of thunder. I watch the dark blue clouds roll in from Upper Sandusky and feel the electric excitement and slight tinge of fear, even now.

This storm seems to be, so far, the worst looking this summer. Appearance is always more intimidating…but even the sparrow knows you hold tomorrow God. I’d add something else there—the sparrow knows you hold today, this moment and the next.

It’s almost too dark to write now. The clouds are almost overhead. The wind starts…strong gusts breaking every dying branch off of our oak trees and blowing away every bit of dead debris and discarded trash by the roadside.

I am reminded of the Holy Spirit. When people say He is like wind, I think the image they envision first is that of a gentle breeze on a hot summer day. The Holy Spirit is God in us—He is very much like the windy storm or even a whirlwind. He comes into our hearts and washes us. He blows away our trash and any obstacles between us and God.

He breaks off our dying branches with great and mighty gusts of His power. And yet, through it all, He shelters us in the palm of His hand. He comforts us and sets us back on our feet.

Praise be to God!

I pray that I will always meditate on God’s Word and revelations when I am afraid. The Lord is my refuge! The Word of God is like milk and honey. It sustains me, calms me, and reminds me of God’s everlasting love and goodness.

Thank you, God….for storms.

Marriage or Singleness?

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” -Genesis 2:24

I married Aaron straight out of high school and never looked back. Our choice went against worldly reason and many around us believed we would fall apart—like so many young couples in our society today.

They didn’t view us through the lens of Christ but through that of the world. We knew our vows were being spoken before God and man. We knew that God would be the head of our marriage. And we vowed that the word “divorce” would never reach our lips.

Feb. 22, we celebrated 8 years of marriage, which doesn’t include the years we spent building upon our friendship beforehand. Aaron is the only true God decision I’ve ever made. I know without a doubt that our marriage was destiny and God planned and Aaron would agree.

I suppose the reason for this post is to discuss the importance of singleness and marriage. That we should find completion and joy in both!

There is a push for young people to marry and have children, a romanticism in movies and tv shows surrounding marriage and a melancholy and impatience surrounding singleness. As if “I’m single” = “I’m lonely and desperate!”

The Apostle Paul, a man who was called to singleness, held some differing views on marriage. He talks about marriage almost pitying those who enter into the union. Why? Because he loves the freedom he experiences as a single man to pursue God. Marriage, in his eyes, is a distraction from wholehearted surrender. A concession for those who have no self control and would sin otherwise.

He says these things without commandment from God (1Corinthians 7:6). And so we are at liberty to either take his personal viewpoint or leave it. But I’m not saying that his words aren’t wisdom or Spirit led, only that what he says holds an undertone of emotion due to his experiences which are one-sided and non-objective.

His instructions for both married and single folk are important but his feelings should not make you feel ashamed for choosing marriage or particularly righteous for choosing singleness. The fact is, Paul stands for a small minority of people who do not struggle with passion or desire for physical intimacy. Paul was called to a life of sacrifice, suffering, constant travel, and unwavering focus.

I believe that through both Paul’s commitment and God’s design, he existed apart from this particular need/distraction. Otherwise, his heart would’ve been conflicted and he may not have been so selfless in his ministry.

In other words. Paul was made to be single so that he could do what only a single man could do. Not everyone has that call in which the only ministry focus is reaching the lost and not also ministering to our spouses and rearing children.

The Takeaway:

Pursuing singleness can be as disastrous as pursuing marriage if that is not what God has called you to.

So the core lesson here is what does God want for you and your life? What do you feel called to? What do you struggle with or have passions for? God isn’t looking for copycat Christians who want to be exactly like Paul, or Peter, or John…etc. He wants you to be _______ (insert your own name). No one else can be you!

And ultimately, He wants you to mirror Jesus. Not in every detail (for example, you don’t have to be a carpenter or travel on foot as a missionary), but He wants you to love like Him, obey like Him, and have a relationship like they share (Father and Son).

If you do these things you will please God and fulfill your unique call and destiny whether you are single or not.

In all honesty, I feel like Paul did a disservice to those who were married. No doubt because he had never experienced it for himself. Marriage, in many ways, is our design—from the moment Eve was created from Adam and they were joined because God said: “it’s not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

He created marriage that day and said it was good. The Bible is filled with marriage, the symbolic representation of Christ and the church (His bride). And how else are children born but through the union of man and woman?

I can personally attest that marriage has taught me to love better, has challenged me to grow as a Christian, has destroyed selfishness, and has broadened my spiritual impact because two oftentimes is better than one. (Even in singleness you need strong Christian companions/friends/family).

As for singleness, I’d like to say that I would’ve grown up far faster (worldly speaking) had I learned to be single for awhile before I married (I struggled to be independent on my own). Buying an apartment and facing life alone would have hardened and stretched me—I would have learned to first depend on God instead of meeting those needs in a spouse.

I found Aaron when I stopped searching and just followed after God. So gentleman and ladies—enjoy the single life, make sure your identity is in Christ and not in finding your “soul mate.”

Romance God. Chase after His heart first—because at the end of it all it really is just you and Him.

Earthly marriage is unto death, not eternity. Once we leave this life we are married and one with Christ. And so remember your first love and you will love everyone else all the more wholly. Including your spouse or future Mr./Mrs.

May God bless you wherever you are, and give you the righteous desires of your heart as you journey ever closer to His. Amen.

Conflicting Dreams

“The mark of humanity is in the looking up, the mark of the believer is in the looking in.”

The stars…

They make you dream of transformation, discovery, and mystery. A transcendence or release from the cages of what was and what is.

Humanity, since it’s beginning, has sought the stars. Charted, studied, and reached out in longing toward them, like so many bugs in a jar.

Star Trek and other science fiction works do well to capture our intrigue, sweeping us up in its progressive ideals and future outlook where mankind has fully matured as a species.

Matured or more specifically—“evolved” into something more. As if our existence and purpose were centered in our collective betterment. And as if we could ever hope to achieve such a feat by hard work and wits alone.

I’ve always loved Star Trek and the utopian future it painted, where humanity had overcome its evils and discovered new life amidst the sea of stars. But it’s merely a childhood fantasy to believe that we humans possess the ability to grow at all, apart from God. In other words, what we share in the outcome, we differ in the process.

While the rest of the world is looking up, we look within. While they are reaching and striving—we are kneeling. And therein the action lies the truth. As one seeks self transcendence the other acknowledges a power in which all transcendence flows.

The Tower of Babel is an interesting story of humanity striving for greatness apart from God. You see, we all want transcendence—but there is only one way to acquire it.

“I am the Way, the Truth, the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me (Jesus).” —John 14:6

To most of the world, transcendence is through the mind. Mental control, knowledge (science), or meditations—which conjures up this image I’m sure.

For the atheist it is all knowledge. To the spiritualist it is all God. To the Christian it is one God who created all.

As I read one of my many Star Trek novels, I realize that they represent our modern day secular world and it’s socialistic progressive ideology to the T.

They look at the story of Adam and Eve differently. Not just in that it is symbolic to them (not real), but also in its purpose. Christians see dependency on God as the “good”, and Adam and Eve’s decision as the “evil” which led to exile from the physical garden and God’s presence.

This understanding is the foundation of why the rest of the Bible is important and vital. It is the story of our redemption that could not be won through our humanity, only through the Son of God.

When the humanist reads this story, they paint a different picture. Of mankind elevating itself by choosing independence from God and His “cage”. That the garden was like a nursery that we had outgrown as a species. And God?….that we had outgrown Him most of all.

This is important to note because first, it is the very lie the devil had whispered in Eve’s ear.

“(The devil speaking)…For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” —Genesis 3:5

Second, it is a misconception of what freedom is. Progressives believe that things like morality and the law (whether Biblical or literal), are binding. As if they enslave us, when truthfully it is the lack thereof that binds us with many chains.

The devil cared not about Eve. He wasn’t handing her a gift but a curse!

Sin is enslavement just as the flesh, if undisciplined and loosed, is enslaving. It tells us what to do and rules our very existence. And sin is never satisfied until it has consumed its captives onto death.

In the garden we were free of the weight of sin and death and had authority and power that was stolen when we were cast out. We were made to rule the garden and expand it, to co-labor with God in vanquishing the evil on the Earth. That job is ours again, one that can only be accomplished if done together with God.

He is not a dictator, or some long bearded angry entity in the heavens, unconcerned by our souls. He is love—love that came down and became one of us for the sake of oneness.

We exist therefore to love and be loved. We aren’t slaves but servants, we aren’t chained but free, and we aren’t animals evolved but children adopted and grafted into God’s family.

And so, I’ll leave the stargazing to the dreamers. Instead I will look within myself, pursue God and Godly matters—and turn dreams into reality.

There is hope for humanity still…and it rests not in our limited abilities but in His unlimited love.

Maybe it’s time we stop looking up…and start looking in. So that we can then look out at the world that matters most in this sea of stars and do some real good through the lens of Christ.

Floating Fish

Lately, it seems like everyone is being attacked. The world and, more specifically, the church is being shaken down to its core, it’s foundation. People are being forced into taking a side and standing firm in their decisions. Evil is rampant and no longer concealed within the confines of the shadows.

The deepest, darkest fears, sins, spiritual failings, and doubts are floating to the surface.

Quite honestly, I’m tired of the endless trials that I’m being bombarded with from within and without. When will the shaking cease and the dust finally settle? What will happen next before it does?

As I’m typing this, I can see my dying fish floating to the top of its tank after I painstakingly tried to save it from ick only a few days ago. Sadly, a few other fish are also acting odd and I don’t know what or if I can do anything. (This is after I finally was able to finish my tank—after several weeks of waiting on guppies to hit the market again).

This feeling hits me so often these days you would think I’d be numb to it by now. But no, you’d best believe I will do what I can to salvage and protect, even if it’s in vain.

Will I see the fruits of my own efforts? Probably not. I haven’t exactly “done” life with God lately at the helm. I feel often like someone has unplugged me from the source…that “someone” is me of course, but I can’t seem to find the outlet again in the darkness.

I’ve had to choose God—quite possibly for the first time, without the “feeling” driving it. I’ve always wanted God in my life, always loved Jesus, always wanted to please Him more than anything or anyone else.

I know I still want those things, but life has hit us so hard that I’m just kind of numb to those wants right now. I set expectations on God that I shouldn’t have set (just like in marriage sometimes). I’ve doubted God for the first time, not His existence, but His Character…His willingness. An equally idiotic notion on my part, I know, but here we are.

It’s like I’m lost on the battlefield, shooting and running, unable to clearly see my Commander in the chaos. And man is it chaos!

Between the pandemic, the evil political agendas surrounding it, our presidential failure, the ensuing bloodbath in our country and in the world (some are still in the making), the constant lies and fear-mongering media, the stirring of hatred between races/genders/religions/classes/and parties, the death and depression hanging on everyone, and our own personal battles in the midst of it (being a new mother to a willful boy, health issues, relationship and financial struggles)…..

….yeah, I’m pretty spent. And feeling a lot like my floating fish, gasping for air.

I’m constantly chasing that breath of relief in between the chaos. Surviving but not exactly thriving….is this where the devil wants me? Does he think that if he keeps knocking my legs out from under me that I’ll never really stand up?

Aaron and I have made two conscious decisions amidst our shared feelings. One is that we would be more social at our church. Like make an effort to get to know others and be friends, join groups, etc.

For the past several years we’ve typically remained close to only a handful of people and haven’t exactly went out of our way to invite people over or anything. It’s been difficult for us as introverts to really branch out more. But now we see that we were just being selfish and really robbing ourselves and others of so much more.

In other words, now more than ever—-we all need each other. The church “body” must be a body again. We experience the love of God and meet our needs for connection only through each other.

This is huge for me considering that the reason I felt unloved by God was because I was denying His love that could’ve been mine if I had only reached out to my church family. They are a conduit in which His love reaches us!

Depression is really a demonic hold in that it tries to pull you away from what could heal you; friends and family.

Second, was that we had to make a decision. We had to count the costs of that decision or lack thereof. And that is, “will we continue believing what we believe despite what we see or feel?”

For once in my life, I choose God unconditionally, and to believe He is Good apart from what my eyes have seen, apart from what I feel, and apart from what I have yet to believe. Or perhaps, I do believe but it is without faith.

Nevertheless, I openly stand on what I know to be right, not easy. I see now that the Christian walk is not easy, that it paints a target on your back for every kind of spiritual attack…but I didn’t choose this path because it was easy, only because it was right.

God is God. I am not. This world is broken and evil. I must stand apart from it. I am not here to live for happiness. But to serve and grow and overcome. I do not live for myself but for others. I refuse to live this life for myself because it will only end in destruction and an eternal death. I seek eternal life.

I live for love. I stand for love. And maybe, someday I’ll die for love.

Maybe…it isn’t that everything is chaotic but finally clear. Maybe this is what it’s like when the dust has actually settled and we see things for what they are. The good and the bad and even the floating fish in our spiritual tanks.

What side will you choose to stand on? Come hell or high water, what do you believe?

“Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Note: Even when I am not.

Responsibility

As we grow, our list of responsibilities grow with us. From the teen being handed the car keys for the first time—to the mother holding a newborn babe—it is both a freedom (power) and a burden. A privilege and an undeserved gift that seems daunting.

Am I really qualified to raise a human being??

Our responsibilities and our ability to keep them are vital….marriage, jobs, upholding laws/rules, protecting our freedoms, caring for our children, paying our dues….

Saving the lost?

Knowledge is also a responsibility in that it requires a response from us. Every time we are made “aware” of some injustice we respond (make a choice).

Do we take responsibility? Or do we pass the baton to someone else? In many ways we are really choosing between either accepting the responsibility to change an injustice or accepting the injustice.

The church has shied from many such responsibilities, namely evangelism—quite forgetting (or denying) that there is no one else to fulfill the job title of reaching the lost. We were the only ones commissioned to do this task and carry this burden….

I say this from a point of conviction because most if not all of my ministry has been focused on those already saved and within our church body instead of the lost outside its walls.

In fact, I was relieved of the burden of evangelism when I was falsely taught that it was an ability, a spiritual gift, that some of us had and others didn’t.

Granted—there are those who are particularly called to an evangelical life (missionaries namely who serve in the very trenches of the darkest regions of the world). But that does not mean we aren’t also called to evangelize in our day-to-day lives.

The great commission was directed toward ALL believers, not a specific sect that has a natural knack for it.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

I’m not denying that ministry within the church body is vital as well. Raising up disciples must come hand-in-hand with salvation (baptism/reaching the lost), otherwise, we haven’t truly fulfilled the Lord’s commission.

Many who give their lives to God after hearing a fiery message at a revival, eventually fall away because they then had no one to show them how or what it means to follow Jesus. The devil quickly devours those young sheep who were left in the wilderness un-shepherded.

I no longer wish to deny that which is also my calling. I no longer wish to see people slip through my fingers that I could have shared the truth with. Our job isn’t to do the saving but to plant the seed in which the Lord could move in their lives. Because once they know the truth—they too must respond and take responsibility for it.

And so I ask myself…what am I responsible for? What responsibilities have I placed aside? What have I ignored or denied? And how can I begin to fulfill them again?

I’m not saying you have to be everyone’s hero. But God has placed things/issues/people on your heart throughout your life…what have you done with all of that? Those inner stirrings of the Holy Spirit…do you know you are responsible for them as well?

Truly…I’m convicted….truly, I have been irresponsible and must take up my cross again.

I am an evangelist. An ambassador of the Most High God.

Embrace the New Year

I remember the huge celebrations growing up as that clock ticked and the crowd counted down the remaining seconds before “Happy New Year!”

As a child I’d smile, watching the ball drop on TV at Time’s Square, fireworks exploding all around. As an adult I’d cheer and turn to my husband for the customary kiss to start the new year off right. Now…

Now, as a mother and as someone who very much feels the weight of time passing like sand through my fingers, my face is more somber. It’s like I’m saluting the year that passed by so swiftly, the pain and triumphs and milestones that it held, never to experience again.

I see a world that is almost hesitant now, if not just as somber. The joy and laughter are almost hollow in some ways, the crowds are gone, the ball drop? A silent affair.

Are we setting ourselves up to expect more hardship? Forgetting the new day(s) and it’s opportunity for joy and restoration? It’s time we throw our fears and woes back at the devil’s face and say, “this is going to be a great year!”

Instead of new year resolutions, why not try new year declarations:

1. This year I’m going to see miracles

2. This year I’m choosing joy!

3. This year, my family will be reunited.

4. This year, Is the year of revival!

(Insert your own)

Resolutions our what we say to ourselves, declarations is what we say to our spirit and perhaps those words carry more power?

Our minds are influenced by our thoughts and what we feed it daily. Are we feeding on Hope and surrounding ourselves with positivity? Your mental health with reflect what you are focused on and what you have trained your mind to do. The power to transform your life begins with transforming the way you think.

I highly recommend reading “Battlefield of the Mind,” by Joyce Meyer, and coupling that with reading/watching books/videos by Dr. Caroline Leaf, a pure genius of the mind who is also a Christian.

As for your own 2022 declarations, get out a sheet of paper and write down as many as the Lord places on your heart to write and hang them in a place you can speak them aloud daily. It can be a part of your morning routine—setting your mind and heart on joy and positivity before each new day.

And one day at a time…you’ll see God move through your words and they won’t return to you void. Only just remember this…every spoken word from you (and God) will be tested and tried.

You may find yourself experiencing opposition and possibly “the opposite” of what you declare at first. This is the devil trying to undermine truth. Hold fast and don’t stop declaring! This is a spiritual battle but you know who is victorious…your words have power or he wouldn’t be attacking them.

You will win. Trust in God. Keep straight the path ❤️

And Happy New Year…

A Reason To Sing

My husband, Aaron, leading worship in the face of a Covid outbreak at a neighboring church.

These past couple years have hurt. Deeply. Everywhere I turn it’s the same story, like a broken record. Pain—loss—fear. It’s more rampant than ever, and Hope? More scarce than ever.

The church (as a whole) made a grave error. Many turned their backs during a time when the world needed them most. In a lot of ways we collectively said, “Jesus isn’t enough,” and the world heard the message. And a bleak hopelessness set in…

We all carry scars now that we were never meant to carry, particularly alone. The devil has done what he set out to do, and now that Christmas is drawing near—he’s ever more dedicated to his cause. Is not Christmas and the coming Easter worth our final stand?

The two months that bring us Hope and remind us of the giver of Hope are under attack in ways we do not realize. I have friends who have turned from church and God, those who have lost so much these past years…and what kind of Hope can I give them?

Have I lost my Hope as well?

I’ve tasted depression and the void of loneliness that only comes in the absence of God in my life. There, my friends, is where you discover what hell is like. You see, we have a tendency to pull away from what would heal us when we are hurting. As “progressed” as we like to think of ourselves we are far from it!

Without God, we cease to have purpose and therefore begin to die. We can’t fully live without Him—we can’t go against the grain of our destinies.

Last night I read the story of Jonah and how he tried to flee from God and his destiny. As you know, he wasn’t given the choice to back down. After a fierce storm and time in the belly of a fish God had prepared to both discipline and protect him, he finally accepted his call to warn the people of Nineveh.

What happened after that? The people of Nineveh repented at Jonah’s warning and the city was saved. But Jonah again needed a lesson from God to remind him how valued each and every soul is to Him.

It reminded me of our own destinies. The church may have turned its back like Jonah on God’s call to save—but I believe, that also—like Jonah, they will be reminded of that call and either will repent and see a revival or completely fall away from their faith (pruned away like a rotting branch from the vine).

Those who turn from God will not find rest or Hope, they won’t even find contentment and wholeness because they’ve denied who they are and why they were created.

But those who heed the call and cling fast to Jesus during this time of trials, will find everything they need and more to withstand the storm yes, but also to heal and mend those who are hurting and point them to salvation. A gift that cannot be taken from you (unless you give it away).

And so I urge you brothers and sisters to turn your eyes back to God. It is very easy to get caught up in the things of this world but we can’t afford to lose sight of what matters most and sink beneath the waves like Peter. There is a reality that is unseen, that is more “real” than this plane of existence. Those who perish do not truly die, those who suffer now do so temporarily and are allowed to do so so that the love of Jesus can be demonstrated on this Earth.

We’re ambassadors from another place, representing the most High God in our words and by our actions.

This Christmas Eve, remember Jesus. Born in a disgusting manger, hiding from King Herod and his men. God on Earth—come to die at our hands, so that we could be with Him forever.

And that…is a reason to sing!

Not Covid, nor death, nor persecution, nor suffering, nor what powers govern our world—NOTHING can take this from you!

He is my reason to sing. Always and forever.

Even when I don’t feel joyful in the moment, or when I’m mourning…More of God is always the answer—not less.

https://youtu.be/UGhmvNGFENE

Creative Thankfulness

Hey everyone! How are you doing?

Life has been in the fast lane lately for me as the holidays roll in and my son grows more daring. In my sparse moments of pursuing Facebook, I came across this post from my friend, Jared.

For those of you who don’t know. He is the very one I wrote about in my previous post titled: A Thief in the Night. In a nutshell, Jared and his family (friends with our pastor for many years), felt called to move to Ohio and join our church.

They sold their home and came up, Jared, his wife, Rachel, and their, at the time, 2 year old son, Isaac. We were overjoyed to have them as part of our church family—but it was short-lived.

The devil, like a thief in the night, took Rachel from us suddenly. From there our church struggled through a time of grief and loss, while Jared and his son struggled all the more. He had to keep smiling for his son, pick up the pieces of their lives, and overcome the biggest hurdle of all…continue trusting in God.

His journey of healing and hope has inspired hundreds. And now, a-few years later—Jared and his family continue to inspire.

Here is his most recent post I really wanted to share with you:

Creative Thankfulness

My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can!

James 1:2 The Passion Translation

Yesterday, I went for a drive, the first in a while that I didn’t have to feel rushed or have my mind on the next task (it’s good when we get these moments). I started to pray with a request, then I remembered to bring out my thanks first. There’s a lot to be thankful for in this season of life, things have gotten to a place of normalcy for Isaac and I-to the point where you think after describing a week’s glance to a friend, “gee, that’s a little boring.” I know not to fall prey to that as a father, nothing is ever truly “normal” as a parent haha.

One afternoon this last week, Isaac and Jess stopped by my work after school was out and Isaac proceeds to walk through the parking lot like a cowboy. “Why you walking like that bud?”
“My pockets are full of cuh-kahns.” (Pecans…y’all can fight over the “proper” pronunciation amongst yourselves…I’m going with this one from now on lol).
No joke, he had cuh-kahns alright, two pockets full. A tree on the edge of the playground at school has been dropping them steadily and Isaac had been loading up while at recess.

A day or so later after dinner, he whips open a small box to reveal his new treasure, “daddy can we open these?”
Being in a new house (okay…it’s been 3 months, but it still feels new), the kitchen is so well organized (not my gift, but the wife’s), I can’t locate a nut cracker or remember if we even had one haha.
To the toolbox!


I give Jess a c-clamp and I get out the pliers. We proceed to launch cuh-cahn shrapnel all over the room. We hear a hull rickashay off some metal, isaac ducks, he pops up still smiling (Jedi reflexes), it’s our kind of chaos.
“I got one!” Jess mastered the c-clamp and got a perfectly cracked one. I had been pinching my fingers with pliers, but this wasn’t my first rodeo, as Isaac and I used to do this at my parents house; with Jess this was the first time . All that pain and torment of cracking things open was worth it for what was inside. When Isaac sees pecans again, you know his pockets will be loaded and our little cowboy will be leaking them as he gets in the car at school.

When I looked at the pecan in this scenario, the meat inside holds such a high value to us that we will invest our time, energy and resources into a single nut to gain what’s inside (or we will pay the $$ for them already shelled haha).
My pinched finger, the first few pecans that obliterated by the c-clamp, that all gets forgotten, in a sense we are thankful for what we go through to gain what’s inside. If sometimes we could only see what lies inside the pecan of our situations, troubles, fears and heartaches.


It says in Hebrews 12:2, for the joy beset Him, he endured the cross. Jesus saw the cross as that un-cracked pecan, and said to Himself, “for joy I embrace this torture, because I want them (us).” It took all that He was, and then some, to do what He did. It wasn’t just those three days, but the preparation, looking into the eyes of the ones He healed, enduring his trade as a carpenter and praying to His father and perfecting His daily faith. He did that for you and I. The cross is symbol for what was done, not a PTSD reminder of what he had been through.


This takes me back to one of His earlier
appearances in the book of Daniel.
In kids class at church, the funny sounding names of three believers, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego endured a great phenomenon called the fiery furnace. If you’re rusty on the story, it’s a great read in Daniel 3. We have a crazy king wanting everyone to bow to a statue of himself, and these three guys will only worship God and end up being thrown in a fiery furnace as a result. Only they didn’t burn…they walked right out and the king’s heart is changed as a result and he declares God as “the god.”


One day I read this story and scratched down like three pages of notes. There’s a lot of details in there, I don’t chew gum anymore because I overchew, and I think my mind runs the same way lol.
There’s a lot of credit to be mentioned to these guys (I mean they made the Bible), they were living in a Godless land, maintaining their relationship with God, but also being at peace and a good citizen. Their character was excellent enough, that the king hired them to work where they were, so obviously they were in a place of influence. Their belief in God was a asset for the king…until it became his liability.
We don’t ever see these guy’s faith deviate. The scriptures do not say, but I believe that they prayed for the kingdom that they lived in. They prayed for their king, on his behalf and as political climates go, they don’t just change overnight. As things would ever increase, this furnace gets thrown into the mix, and the leadership I’m sure got pretty fond of using it or at least threatening with it.
That had to wear on these guys minds daily. Yet they maintained.


One of my favorite quotes when they get brought before the king, “do not do this thing,” as if to warn the king out of a place of care. Who does that? Only someone who speaks from a place of confidence in their
God that they could potentially be persecuted for. They were tied up and thrown in (brute forces were ordered in just for fun). Once inside-surprisingly they are seen walking inside this fire with a fourth guy (Jesus). They were called back out of the fire by the king, and they walked right out, not even smelling of smoke and they get promoted in their work and God is made “the god.”
So much awesomeness.


There are so many great details here, keep in mind, this is pre-crucifixion, pre-day of Pentecost and the Bible is still on scrolls down at the temple someplace else. The spirit of Lord was still not upon believers (only in certain instances), Jesus was just a prophesy and the Bible wasn’t widely distributed. In spite of all of that, S. M. & O. (Yeah I’m not spelling them out haha) still expected God to show up in their situation and didn’t try to dodge duck or dive when they were tied up or talk their way out of it (other than issuing a warning). God had destroyed whole cities that were deemed evil, yet His goodness would save a whole city if He only found a few faithful. The furnace that was meant to consume, God used to disintegrate what bound them and display His power to a king. That king was given the ability to see the men in the fire, call out above the flames and be heard (big fires are loud) and for S. M. O. to exit.
S. M. O. were in the presence of God in that furnace.


God wants to use the furnace that you’re in. He’s just as present at your lowest low as your highest high, He’s in the step that you are on. The difference between us and S. M. & O. is that we carry God’s indwelling spirit within us. When we accepted Christ as our savior, our spirit became alive unto God. We carry that with us, but I believe when we come into those furnace situations, God’s comfort and grace are available to us, He doesn’t abandon us.


You may feel bound by your situation, without a next move, but He’s gonna give you a pivot. In basketball (I’m not good at it…I went to camp in high school and got most improved even though I was worse afterwards lol), the player with the ball can pivot one foot without a dribble and change directions. God wants to pivot your situation, whether past or present.
The same spirit that is upon us is the one upon Christ in Luke 4:18…we are given the ability to proclaim our liberty and the liberty of others.
What the enemy (John 10:10) sent to do harm for my family, I’ve allowed and expected God to turn for our better.


It wasn’t always easy.


Many days we spent trying to crack that pecan. We pinched fingers. We broke things. But we didn’t give up.
Now, I’m at a place in life where I’m blessed to be able to proclaim that there will be no smell of smoke upon me and my son’s life and that grief and trauma will not haunt our path
.
That gives me the ability to give thanks for what would normally harm me. I can give thanks for the sweet memories, for the 1997-2001 Honda CRV’s that I work on (my first wife’s was 1999).


I give thanks for her life. I give thanks for the opportunities that arose after her death. The hurting people I was able to share my grief with. The bond that was strengthened between my son and I.

We can do that because we possess creative thankfulness. We can be thankful for our furnace, for the cross.
That’s how death loses its sting
.

What are you thankful for?
Be creative.

Let your light shine bright, JesusBright

JesusBright

DeathWhereIsYourSting

Follow the Rules

I love being a mother, but 79% of the time I feel like a broken record. Repeating my commandments (rules), and divvying out proper punishments when they aren’t followed.

“No! We don’t play in the dog food, it’s yucky!”

“Please! Stop making a mess, you’ll have to clean it up!”

“No, we don’t hit, son, that isn’t kind!” ….

In the face of a child we see the very raw form of mankind. It’s rebellion and potential for both good and evil, even whilst we are innocent to what is good and bad. We learn very quickly how to lie and manipulate. As if it is second nature to us.

As parents, we have our jobs cut out for us to remove such nature, to restrain it and teach our children to do the same. In order to function as a society, rules and restraints are necessary. Upholding morality and the rights of others is in line with the Will of God and breeds peace and prosperity. And in fact, it also does the body, mind, and spirit good!

Without learning self control we would indulge in our every whim. Drinking what we wanted, eating what we wanted, spending what we wanted, never truly satisfied. Our bodies would suffer from such a selfish lifestyle, and those we love would also suffer for it. Our prisons are full of people who simply couldn’t control their primal urges, who placed their selfish wants above the welfare of others.

As Christians, we know the importance of rules, obedience, and submission most of all. The world views us as “enslaved”, “held back” by our self control. Ironically, they do not see that their selfish (undisciplined) life style is doing that exact thing.

They are chained down by sin, unable to break free of their addictions and selfish impulses, a slave to their flesh and its desires. Is that really freedom?

True freedom comes through self discipline, surrender to God, and following His commandments. When we fast, for example, we are forcing our flesh back into its proper place where it cannot rule us. As creatures of worship we WILL worship something, even if we are atheists! Something will always rule over us—but if God rules over us we will be truly free.

God merely wants a relationship with us, as His children. His commandments and His discipline are done so that we may be free of sin and live a full/prosperous life. As I discipline my son, I do so because I love him and want him to be free to make choices and be independent someday.

What is unpleasant for him today, will reap joy for him in abundance tomorrow as he begins to make the right choices automatically. As other parents struggle with their selfish teens, trying to force them to comply, my son will have already learned and “earned” the fruits of obedience which in turn would lead to freedom.

I see it all around me. People who need set free but do not see it. They come to church wanting a band-aide, someone to fix their problems (the outcomes of their life styles) but unwilling to submit to self discipline, thinking: where’s the fun in being good?, what do I gain by submission to God and His rules?

Such lost souls never really grew up. They hate authority and anyone telling them what they should do, just like children who despise rules, unable to see how they exist to protect them and their rights.

Today, churches are caving for the sake of filling their pews. They want their buildings full and their tithe boxes fuller. They’ve lost the way…they’ve cutaway all the aspects of God that convict the heart and soul to change. The Jesus who flipped tables now is the Jesus who doesn’t really get angry about anything.

We cannot forget our mission! Why we exist! It’s not to pat everyone on the back and say “you’re doing fine,” meanwhile they are not doing fine! They’re on a highway to hell! And if we cared about them at all we would risk telling them! We would give them a choice and let me tell you no matter how you put it to them it is a hard choice! It requires self death! A severing of what our flesh craves for the sake of Christ and redemption—eternal life!

Just as the parent who spares the rod HATES their children! So does the church who spares the rod of truth—HATES the children of God!

The church and many of us, care more about what others think of us more so than what God thinks. We’ve grown afraid and insecure, selfish even about our image and our identities (which are wrapped up in church and our positions more so than as children of God).

We worship the image of church, of modern Christianity. We’ve made it an idol—removing the true God from and replacing Him with something of our own liking.

If this makes you feel sick to your stomach good!! That is a feeling every Christian needs to feel again, that convicting spirit that discerns what is righteous and what needs cut away.

I say all of this because we are living in unprecedented times. Very soon we will all have to take a side. We can no longer sit on the fence (the grey area) between the world and God. As persecution rises the church will be pruned and many “churches” will fall away. We need to re-evaluate what we believe and to what extent we are willing to stand on those beliefs.

Would you be arrested for Jesus?

Would you be beaten for Him?

Martyred?

Would you stand on the whole truth (the Word of God from cover to cover)?

Will you clearly say to evil, “this is wrong!” Even as the world attacks you and labels you for it?

As I look at my sweet son, after an ornery episode, I think to myself, “I love you too much to let you stay in that place of disobedience. You’re so much more than that! You have a very good heart and future ahead of you.”

The same goes for all the children out there and adults, who are lost or struggling with their faith. I see them and, if you ask God He will show you what He sees when He looks at them. I see the image of God, I see all the amazing qualities that make them unique and loved, and it’s just all muddied over by sin and deception, like buried gold waiting to be found.

No one is truly whole. Their complete selves. We are only seeing a glimpse of who they are. And it’s God’s joy to help each of us become who He created us to be.

Submit to Him, let go of your “self” and you might actually find yourself.