Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Love Expressed

Today is the 6th year my mom is celebrating her birthday in heaven.  I miss my mom like crazy for so many reasons.  I know I’ll see her again, but sometimes I’d just like to pick up the phone and ask her a question, or stop by the house and tell her good morning.   I’d like to tell her a joke and make her laugh until she cried, because it always made me laugh too.

When I think of my mom, I think of several things – I think about heaven.  How amazing it must be and wonder what she thinks of it.  Being in the presence of God, in the presence of the One she lived her life for.

I wonder what she’s doing – You know, in heaven there isn’t any fear.  How many things have we not done because fear was present.  Things that might have been exhilarating – things like flying, diving to the depths of the ocean.  Things that are adventurous but also live a bit on the edge.
I certainly don’t think that heaven involves just sitting around.  God created us to live, to live an adventurous, abundant life!

The other thing I think about is the kind of life my mom did live here.  It was one of love – one of expressed love.  You know how people say that “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all?”  Well, that was my mom’s philosophy and she followed it wholeheartedly.

My mom reached out to people where they lived.  You know the story of the good Samaritan – that would have been my mom.  You know how Jesus said to let the little ones come to Him?  She always brought the kids from our neighborhood into our home, even after all of her own children were grown.  She loved them, she gave all that she could to them.  Mostly, she really talked to them.  She just let them spend time, giving them snacks and really encouraging them.  She shared herself with them.  She shared the Truth of Jesus with them and how He could make a difference in their lives.

I love it when I see her heart in that of my brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews.  When I see it in the kids who are now adults, but making choices out of love because they were loved.  My mom loved the Lord and allowed His love to be expressed through her.  She loved without expectation, without looking for return.  She just wanted others to know the love Christ has for them.

I can think of so many situations where she didn’t think of her own self.  Loving without looking at the wrongs of a person’s situation, but only of how she could love them, and in that express the love of Christ.

Mom didn’t do this by herself though; she took her family with her. I can’t count the times our days consisted of serving others because they had a need – a ride to the grocery store, spending time with someone who couldn’t get out, gathering food or clothing for a family in need.

Mom taught me to see people through the eyes of Jesus. She knew that if they would only surrender to His love, their lives would be transformed. Mom knew life could be hard. She had seen the effects of alcohol and drug abuse on a life, on a family. But she had also encountered the life-changing, heart healing power of Jesus Christ.  She wanted to express that Love to everyone she could.

Love expressed.  A love that changes lives.  Living out the greatest commandments – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind.  Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-38)  Those are the things I think about when I remember my mom.

Happy birthday Mom!!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Don't Quit

Sometimes life seems to be going nowhere fast. The goals and dreams you have, the promises you’ve been holding on to and working for feel farther away than ever. Nothing is happening. Nothing is moving. There’s not a finish line in site. Discouragement can set in.

These times can be the most difficult to keep going, or to even stand your ground and not fall back.  I’ve felt that.  I’ve been there.  If I’m honest, I’m there right now.  Sometimes it seems the things in our lives we believe God has called us to are never going to come.  We keep waiting.

The questions swirl around – We begin to question if we are really called.  We begin to question whether we are on the right track, if we’ve veered off the road.  We wait.  We begin to question whether God will truly bring us to the place of fulfillment of the promise.  Yet we continue to wait.

As we wait to see the promises of God fulfilled in our lives, we have to remember that the One who has promised us is not a man. In the waiting I often find myself thinking of God and associate human shortfalls with Him. Is God mad at me because I didn’t do something? Did I fall short? Don’t little things people do make me mad at times and my reaction can be to withhold things from people?  Is God doing that?

Then I’m reminded by the simplicity of His sweet Spirit – that He’s not a man that He should lie, that He is faithful to fulfill all that He has promised. As I wait, there is a journey. Even when things don’t look like I thought they would, He is faithful in the journey.

Many times there are twists and turns we didn’t foresee that can discourage us, hills and valleys that contain illness, heartache, or waiting, not knowing or understanding why.  Those are the times we must not quit.

Hebrews 10:23 tells us – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful.” 
Psalm 37:23 tells us that “The Lord directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives.”
When we walk in the things that God has gifted us in, there is hope wrapped in it.  Sometimes those things seem like faraway desires and we are tempted to settle for less instead of raising our expectations of fulfillment.  One of my favorite quotes is from C.S. Lewis in “The Weight of Glory”:
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” -C.S. Lewis
We can’t quit and settle for less.  I don’t want to live my life half-hearted when so much more is offered.

Many times what we are waiting for is just around the corner.  If we don’t quit, if we just take that next step, we win.

God tells us about winning in His word – In Hebrews 11:6 we are told that “He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  In 2 Chronicles 15:7 we are told to “be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”  And in Luke 21:19 we are told to “stand firm, and you will win life.”

So don’t quit.  Keep moving forward.  When you feel like things are stagnant, take time to be in God’s presence.  Continue to learn, continue to love.  Be encouraged, even in the waiting.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Restoration – it is a word that has been bouncing around in my head and heart for a while now.  So many people are into restoration in our culture.  Restoring old furniture.  Restoring old homes, old cars.  Restoring entire sections of cities that have become dilapidated.  Many look at things and see ways to restore them.  They find ways to bring them back to their former glory and sometimes even to improve on them.

I love to watch stories on TV about this.  I love to watch shows that take a building from being a run-down, lonely place to a beautiful, fully restored, family home.  Or those that unearth what is seemingly junk and remake it into beautiful, functioning, useful pieces.  They even have a term for this now – repurposing.

I love seeing the vision people have for things that are hidden, and the process they go through in revealing that vision.  They have a gift to see the beauty in something while it is still in an un-restored state.

There is so much in this world that needs restoration, having the vision to see possibilities that inanimate objects hold.  It takes vision, it takes work, but we can usually see the feasibility of restoring things, even if we need a bit of guidance from an expert.

When it comes to people, the world doesn’t usually see the same possibilities.  How many times are people overlooked because they have become run down, gone through tragedy, hit by disease, passed a certain age?  They are seen as broken, finished, and unsalvageable.

If you have a relationship with God, this is where we should be different.  This is where we need to stop looking at things from our limited perspective, looking at things in light of our own abilities, and ask to see what God has in store.  He is the great restorer of all things, and His possibilities are endless.

Restoration is one reason that I love the book of Ruth.  Almost immediately in this book we find Ruth destitute.  She is in a foreign country, her husband and sons have died.  She is a widow, who has been left with two widowed daughters-in-law.  Ruth sees no future in her current situation and decides to return to her own nation of Israel.  She encourages her two daughters-in-law to return to their own families where they can have a future.  Naomi refuses and not only stands by Ruth, but stands with the God of Israel who Ruth and her family serve.

Both women return to Israel and are basically homeless and destitute.  They are gathering left-overs from the grain harvesters for food.  Naomi is gathering from the field of Boaz, who is a distant relative, and he shows her favor.  As the story plays out, we see that Boaz is to be Naomi (and Ruth’s) redeemer.  He will redeem their rights to land and become Naomi’s husband, giving both Ruth and Naomi descendants.
“Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age…” -Ruth 4:14-15
Boaz is sensitive to God’s nature.  He sees Naomi through God’s eyes, not as a women who is homeless and destitute, but someone with a hope and a future.  He sees what God’s possibility for her is- a wife, mother to his children.  Ultimately Boaz and Naomi are part of the lineage of the Redeemer of all mankind.

Boaz had much in terms of earthly wealth, but he took time to look and listen to what and who was around him.  He realized the richness that can be found in a person, not just in things.  He took time to trust God in the path that was laid before him, and in walking that path found a rich blessing.

Allowing God to use us to bring restoration in people’s lives takes bravery.  It takes trust.  It forces us to step out toward a goal we can’t really see, walking a path without a map. It’s working on a canvas that cannot be seen on the surface.

Bringing restoration in people’s lives, in their hearts, forces us to walk in true love.

Every person is different.  Each one will have a different path that leads to restoration.  The beauty that will be revealed will always be different.  What is the same is our ability to make room for the restoration process in our lives.  In allowing ourselves to be restored, we are able to help others along their path.

The great thing about this type of restoration, the restoration of people’s lives, is that you don’t have to obtain special skills.  You just have to be available.  Because this kind of restoration is about walking in love.  This kind is about connecting the one that needs to be restored to the One who is the restorer of all things.
I love this quote by Ann Voskamp, “Don’t ever love by halves, because that’s not how anyone becomes whole.”
God gave all of Himself so that we could be whole.  He never loves in halves, and neither should we.

Restoration of lives is real. God is a restorer of hope, a restorer of vision, a restorer of relationships, a restorer of life where we thought there was only death. Today let’s look at lives with a vision for restoration.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


There are those moments when we are sitting with friends and laughing until we can't breathe.  Or when we are sitting with someone we love and just enjoying their presence and the peace that permeates.  It's in those moments, where we let go of disappointments, let go of disillusionments - that we find ourselves looking outside of our own needs and wants.

Joy in our life can be something that we stumble across randomly, or it can be something that flows from our lives.

When we have Holy Spirit in our lives, when we allow Him to dwell in every area, this is what comes freely.
It's Holy Spirit that causes this to come.  It's not through our own efforts or our own striving, but rather something that will flow out of us. 
The love, joy, peace....

When I allow room for Holy Spirit, I can become a beacon of hope for others and they see a difference in my life.  When I don't, the picture I get reminds me of the lighthouse at the end of my street where I grew up.  I love this lighthouse and was always intrigued by it.  I wanted to climb its steps and see what caused it to work.  I wanted to know if it even had the hardware that was needed to still shine.  This used to be a functioning lighthouse.  It now sits on a naval base, behind barbwire fence, giving off no light.  It is no longer a beacon for those lost at sea, no longer a signal for those who feel like they are being overcome by the waves.

There is a sadness about this structure.  It is inaccessible and lifeless.  That's what I feel like when I don't allow room for Holy Spirit.  Instead of being someone who's life allows joy and love to flourish, I become introspective and discount who I am.  I discount the promises of God and His faithfulness because I am looking at my abilities instead of God's ability.

One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 27:13.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
This verse speaks to the waiting.  It speaks to the times when things seem dark.  When things seem without redemption.  But it is only by dwelling in Holy Spirit, allowing Him access to our lives, that we walk in hope during these times.
It is like night and day.  When I allow room for Holy Spirit to work in my life, to speak into my life, I see the things that He produces in my life, and my life produces so much more.  My heart's focus isn't on myself, but on others.  It's not on myself, but on God. 
The goodness of the Lord is like the sunrise of a beautiful day. His warm rays break through the darkness that tries to stifle our life and our hope.
I love the freedom in realizing this.  When we truly give our life to Christ, we can rest in the work He has done.  As long as I am making room for Holy Spirit to work in my life, as long as I am spending time in His presence, I can trust that He is working in my life.  I can trust in the path He is taking me on.  I can trust that He is leading and is right there with me. 
Even if I don't feel joy, I can rest in peace and know that the joy is coming.  True joy.  Real joy.  The kind of joy that fills our lives and flows over so that others see it too.