What if God Isn’t…

What if God isn’t mad at you? What if He’s been held at arms length by your own guilt, waiting for you to let Him hold you close and whisper, “My love isn’t earned or bought. It’s forever. I’m here. Let’s try again. This time stay close to me. I’ve got you.”

What if God isn’t distant? What if He’s not absent when fires rage and guns steal innocent lives? What if He’s present when the man lays his own body over top of his wife to shield her from the tragedy? What if He’s moving through the guy heading towards the bullets instead of away from them? What if He’s the calm in the midst of the chaos?The enemy thinks he’s won by authoring anger turned to hatred turned to violence. But what if God has the last word and its called Justice? What if we are moments away from seeing the enemy finally and completely eradicated and every wrong made right through the Word of the One who gave His life to save ours? What if He’s never farther than our next thought, the one that cries, “Jesus, I need you.”

What if God isn’t silent? What if He is always speaking and the static of our lives gets in the way? What if all we need to do to hear God is break agreement with that static in order to be free to hear every beautiful syllable that comes from the Father’s heart? What if our thoughts became feelings and our feelings became actions that created noise deadeners called fear, pride, doubt, anger, lust, and all manner of unholy partners? What if all it takes to dialogue with God is confessing and claiming the name of Jesus over our mistakes and agreeing with His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? What if every bond of the enemy that we break and every turn around we make in Jesus name clears up a little more of the static, enabling our own spirits to host the voice of Heaven?!

What if God isn’t willing to risk us as collateral damage? What if He’s good. I mean really good? What if He’s endlessly kind? What if the Cross meant that He was willing to risk Himself instead.? What if we really believed that He has our best interest at heart and that is always to see us healthy and whole in His presence, partners with His Son and seated next to Him in an eternal bond of friendship?

What if God isn’t less valuable than family or relationships? What if being near Him is the pinnacle of life, the reason for our existence, the only thing really worth living for? What if we tasted and saw that He is good and actually believed that sacrificing a lesser good now would result in being more fulfilled than we ever could have dreamed? What if being close to Him here is actually tasting Heaven on Earth?

What if God isn’t like your father? What if He’s better? What if He’s perfectly in love with His kids? What if we believed that He is the everlasting Dad who comes to our games, dances with us, puts down His phone for us and delights in our childish attempts to show Him love? What if He’s pleased with us simply because we are His? What if He is endlessly patient with our messes and mistakes? What if being our Father made the sacrifice of the cross worth every drop of spilled blood?

What if God isn’t? Oh, but, friend, what if God IS! What if He IS everything He promises to be: the Giver of Life, the Author of Love, the Angel of Mercy, the Voice of Truth, The Arms of Protection, the Keeper of our Future, the Giver of Every Good Thing, the Healer, the Forever Father, the Faithful Friend, the Most Powerful Force in all of Time and Space…and what if this God is for you, on your side…waiting for you to let Him bring all that He is into your chaos and make you full and complete, lacking nothing, a conduit of His love to this world?! What if God isn’t moving away from you. He’s moving towards you. What would you do then?

“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” ~ Jeremiah 29:13

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What I Learned about Jesus from Poopy Diapers

In a span of four hours last night, I changed three poopy diapers, cleaned beans, rice, crushed Gerber veggie straws, Cheerios and mystery sludge off the floor twice, re-washed a mildewed load of laundry three times all while playing ball, peekaboo, replenishing cups and bottles, swapping out the crusty onesie for a new, only slightly stained, version, redirecting my fussy, semi-defiant three year old and watching Little Baby Bum on repeat. (Heaven help me.) As I sat down for half a second, (That’s all I am allowed before a new toddler crisis arrises.), I thought, “This is my life most of the time, and I don’t really think about how deplorable many of the tasks that make up my day really are.”

Motherhood is a 24 hour clean up job. Add to that the fact that for at least 40-50% of the time, (Percentage moves up drastically when a kid hits three.), I am being yelled at or cursed out in baby language while keeping said children alive, fed, entertained and loved. Motherhood could be considered insanity! Who does that? Who nurtures, cleans, snuggles and protects little beings who consistently fight against the very person who is making sure they thrive! Well….God does.

I don’t love my children perfectly. I wish I did. Sometimes, the poop is extra explosive and the screaming is to a glass breaking decibel, and I lose my junk. I haven’t hit deep sleep in months and I finally give myself permission to explode. Mommy eruption isn’t pretty. Then, on top of dying to myself on an all day every day basis, I feel guilty for yelling at my precious little blessings. It’s a recipe for an extra cup of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus. So, no, I don’t love my children perfectly. But God does. That’s what hit my heart last night.

How much of my poopy decisions has God had to clean up? How many times have I grabbed for the very thing that would destroy me and then screamed at God when He took it away. How often have I made the same messes again and again and watched Him scoop up the crumbs of my mistakes and make me new once more? Sometimes God gives me the desire of my heart, almost like a shiny new toy, and I want something else the moment I have it. Through it all, Jesus never stops telling me how much He delights in me, congratulating me for the new, sometimes tremulous, steps I have taken in the Spirit and holding me so close I can catch the scent of Heaven.

When my kids stop crying or pulling on me for a moment, long enough to look in my eyes and let me see their cute little faces, I think, “Wow! I couldn’t love a little human more than I love you. What a gift you are to my heart.” I want to give God as many of these moments as I can, where I stop and gaze at His face, lock eyes with His love and let Him see the adoration in my heart.

I know God never tires of cleaning me up, and I will not be able to say, “Thank you,” in a way that truly expresses the depth of my gratitude. But I will remember the way He loves me, and I will love Him back with all that I am. I will strive to love my kids the way He loves me. Hopefully, as I grow, I will throw less tantrums God’s way and give Him more reasons to laugh. I’ll make fewer messes and instead, fill Heaven’s floor with words of praise. No more poopy diapers. In their place, a sweet smelling savor. That’s my heart’s desire.

I know one day, my kids will be grown. They won’t need my time as they do now, but, Jesus, please let them know that every day of their life You have loved them perfectly, even when I didn’t. May they know I pleaded and prayed for their victories, even when I felt defeated, that I looked to you to make me a better mom, a wiser mom, a more loving mom. I don’t feel condemnation today. I simply feel thankful that at the end of my rope, my kids find a God that will never grow tired or weary and will never look on them with anything less than perfect love in His eyes. Jesus is the beginning and the end. He’s  holding my children at the beginning of every day and He’s there at the end of my patience. This love isn’t insanity, it’s revolutionary! This is the kind of love that saved the world! His mercies are new every morning, so, “Good morning!” I’m putting my love on. Take that, poopy diaper!

We Can be Right or Free, but We Cannot Often be Both.

I heard an incredible God story last week about a man who was miraculously saved from death and immediately heard the voice of God. It was a Saul to Paul moment. I love those stories. They are faith building, but sometimes I wonder why all people are not able to have such encounters with God. So I asked Jesus, “Why don’t you speak that way to everyone?” In my heart I heard Him reply. “Most people aren’t looking for answers. They are looking for excuses.” That man was searching with all of his heart for an answer. He was willing to be wrong. That thought has come up in my mind often since last week. Am I willing to be wrong?

Here’s the thing about being wrong. You can’t choose right until you know you’ve been wrong. And you cannot know you’re wrong unless someone tells you. If you don’t want someone to tell you you’re wrong, then you will never be right. I used to be so terrified of finding out I was doing something wrong that I ran from God’s answers. I was afraid to find out I’d failed, afraid to see the depth of my weakness for fear that it would undo me. That’s a major lie of the enemy. He wants us to believe that we could never bare up under our own inadequacy…that it would destroy us. So instead of embracing God’s invitation for change, we get offended and look for any way that we can save ourselves from admitting failure. Like normal, the enemy is only giving us a partial truth and twisting it. It’s true that we cannot stand up under the weight of our poor thinking. That’s the point. When we come to the end of our own efforts, we find Jesus. I eventually got tired of being right in my own eyes. I wanted to be free more than I wanted to be right. I made friends with humility, and that’s where Jesus captured my heart.

Paul teaches us in Romans that it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. If we really want the answers to why we are hurting, why we are struggling, why we are failing, why we are stuck, God will give them to us. It’s kindness in the form of correction. I don’t teach my daughter to share because I want her to feel like a mean and selfish girl when she doesn’t. I point out the times she chooses not to share, so that she will choose love. Love is the birthplace of freedom. Love begets healing. She will be full of joy when she grabs ahold of the higher call to love others as she loves herself. I want her to have the best life possible and that means she needs a life filled with God inspired, selfless love. God’s motive is much the same, only He is ALWAYS patient and  kind when he is challenging me. God corrects me to give me a life full of joy and peace.

Once I discovered that it was safe to be wrong, that God would walk me out of false truth and into real healing, I wanted His answers, His truth. And when I asked, God peppered me with answers. “Lauren, that motive was impure, self-driven. That won’t end well. Princess, your fear is coming from a lack of trust. Let me show you how good I am at protecting my kids. Daughter, your impatience is causing stress. Keep your thoughts on me. Sweet girl, pride is the reason you don’t want to lay down that desire. Surrender will bring victory.” Those are just a few of the “answers” that God dropped into my heart. His truth revealed the lies that I was basing my actions upon. Then, I was forced to make a choice.

That’s the second reason we often make excuses instead of wanting answers. We have to do something different if we find out that we’ve been living incorrectly. Doing something different is hard. If it was easy to do something different than we’ve always done, then we would probably not have always done it. We have to choose to continue in the lie or turn and face the truth. Here’s an example. God showed me through one of his loving “answers” that I was my own worst enemy when it came to friction with my husband. When my husband disappointed me, I was giving myself permission to attack him in my mind. I would never have verbally assaulted him, but in my head, I spiraled into all of the reasons why I was right and he was selfish. God showed me that I was not honoring him, that I was sinning in my anger. Instead, God asked me to do something different. When I am angry, I get to choose to villainize my husband or to go to God with my thoughts. I can share how I feel with God. Then, I speak on my husband’s behalf instead of against him. I tell God, “I feel very hurt right now and here’s why… But I know that my husband is a selfless warrior. His heart longs to sacrifice for me.” When I funnel my anger towards prayer, I no longer spiral and accuse my husband of things he isn’t doing. And peace returns.

The first time we do something different is usually the hardest because we are forming new patterns. The next time is a bit easier and on it on it goes. Eventually, we are FREE and lighter and the sky has puffier, brighter clouds than we remember. That all comes from being willing to be wrong and choosing to do something different. What if we looked at God’s corrective answers as the oxygen mask that saves us from drowning instead of the judge’s gavel that seals our doom. God wants his kids to live in constant peace and presence. God corrects those that He loves.

David must have understood this about God’s heart. He said, “Search me, O God! Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any evil in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” David’s life was marked by miraculous answers from God. He knew that it is out of God’s unmatched love for us that He pinpoints the root of our mistakes. Why wouldn’t we want every tentacle of the enemy out of our lives? I pray I never settle for comfortably wrong when I could be radically free. So, search me, O God. Because you love me. See if there is any lie operating in me and give me the strength to do something different every single time. I want Heaven to come in my life now. I want to be close to you. No excuses. I love your answers, Jesus.

She flew a Kite at the Start of the Storm

Hurricane Irma is the biggest bully I’ve ever laid eyes on. She shoved and pounded her way through several countries, leaving soggy rubble and years of cleanup in her wake. Two days ago, after watching a week’s worth of footage that documented so much wreckage that my mind couldn’t even begin to process, Irma headed our way. We were mere hours from the outskirts of Irma’s horrors. The wind was just beginning to whip the palm trees and the sun take shield behind a film of clouds. We were at a friend’s house having a “hurricane party”, and I looked out the window to check on my three year old daughter who was playing with some older friends. My smile grew as I watched her. She and her friends had plastic bags tied to strings and they were running, laughing and dancing with their homemade kites parading in the winds. My daughter giggled and raced back and forth with her kite for almost an hour, oblivious to the fact that those very winds she was using for enjoyment came from a demon of a hurricane. She didn’t sense the danger, she only knew to play and to dance.

Fast forward a few hours. The angry rain is pelting our city like an army of destructive bullets. I’m watching the trees take a beating while my phone is constantly bleating out tornado and flash flood warnings.  I stepped out on the back porch to asses the storm and I heard the noise. You know, that unmistakeable train-like roar everyone always associates with a tornado. Surely that wasn’t what I thought it was. Yep, it was. There it came again, the whooshing whir of what I wished with all my heart was the Polar Express. It wasn’t. I hurried inside and herded my kids into the hallway bathroom with pillows and toys. After a few minutes, my daughter asked me if we could get out. “No, honey,” I answered in my calmest voice. “There’s a storm outside so we are going to play in here for a bit.” She smiled, and we began a drawing game on her Mickey Mouse magna doodle. And she laughed.

Today as we move sandbags and check on our friends and family, I’m struck with the goodness and mercy of God, and I wish I could always be like my three year old daughter. She never questioned her safety. She danced in the wind. Tornado who? Just an opportunity to play in tighter boundaries, a perfect environment for someone with quality time as her love language. She never once doubted that I would take care of her. She trusts me. To her its simple. You play, eat, sleep, learn and trust.

Our God never promised us easy. In fact, He said, “In this world, you will have trouble.” There’s a mean, truly horrific enemy deliberately trying to destroy us. That makes for a constant, ever active war zone. Whatever he can use to take your eyes off of God and create fear, he will most defintely utilize . His weapon is doubt…self-doubt and God-doubt. He creates big and scary ordeals to try to dwarf God in our eyes. But if we could just pray, eat, sleep, learn and trust, we would see what God meant when He said, “Take heart. I have overcome the world.”

Here’s another promise. “I will keep him in perfect peace, who’s mind is stayed on me.” If I keep my mind off of the roof pounding winds and ferocious sky and on my Jesus, I feel safe, warm and home.  It’s hard. It’s not easy to ignore what’s loudest. But when I do, when I close my eyes against the fury and ask, “Jesus what are you saying right now?” I always hear the Comforter, the Helper, the Father, the Friend. And I remember, “He’s stronger than Irma could ever be. He loves me more than any enemy could ever hate me. What Satan destroys, He rebuilds. What evil steals, He gives back one-hundred fold. He’s for me, not against me. It’s gonna be ok. “I love you, daughter. Come to me. I’ll give you rest. Lean your head against my chest. You’ll hear the rhythm of my love over the eardrum shattering noise of the enemy. I’m a Fortress, a Protector. Not just some of the time, all of the time. Take my yoke upon you. My burden is easy and light. In fact, princess, let’s go fly a kite.”

What storm is chasing you today? What rubble has the enemy left in his attempt to destroy you? Let’s all be three today. What a beautiful thing to know that no matter how violent the enemy has been, God will put it all back together again, if only we let Him. He’s desperate to pick up the pieces. It’s why He sent Jesus. What splendor to be so loved! If you’re looking for me, I’ll be in the safest room in my Father’s house, playing pictionary on His magical magna doodle.

Our Story

Anger found the man….defenseless, unable to resist him. Anger smiled to himself as he dug his red hot pincers into the softest part of the man’s flesh. The burned man howled in rage. And rage became him. Lured by the sounds of anguish and the smell of charred emotions, Self-Pity crawled up to the embroiled man and grasped both sides of  his tight, whiskered face in a vice grip of self-deprecation and bitterness. The man’s cheeks sagged beneath the strain of Self-Pity’s weight, heavier than concrete. As the man struggled to put one foot in front of the other, Intimidation stealthily snuck up behind him, eclipsing the man’s shadow under the black outline of his enormous being. Terrified, the man grabbed  ahold of Self-Pity in an attempt to ease his burden and ran with all of his might. The more he ran, the more exhausted he became, constantly looking behind him to gauge how far the dark shadow was from his weakened frame. He gasped in fear, tripped and ran headlong into the humid, dank form of Depression. He breathed in Depression’s dusky, heavy air, coughing and sputtering, trying desperately to clear his aching lungs. If he could just get a gulp of clean air, he knew he would be alright. Depression played with him, pulling his dust cloud back for a moment, only to fall upon the man again just as he imagined he had reached a point of triumph. On and on the man trudged, sinking lower and lower with every step. All he wanted was something to comfort him, something to make him feel whole again. He wreaked of desperation. Lust and Addiction could taste it on the air from miles away. They hungrily pursued him like fiendish hounds and lapped at the air around him before each grabbed one of the man’s seemingly lifeless arms and clawed their initials into his pallid skin. Still, the man pushed on, heaving and straining…his mind replaying the message, “Just one more step…one more step.” The man began to look to the right and left. Surely someone would come to his rescue. There had to be a way out. Didn’t there? Maybe there wasn’t. He moved forward another inch. “This isn’t my fault,” he argued. “I don’t deserve this. I’m a good man. I’m better than this.” Just as he began to drag himself one step further, Self-Righteousness threw his ugly frame right in front of the man’s feet. The man flailed his bleeding arms and tumbled over and over on hard, unforgiving ground. Finally, he landed….in a heap, barely able to breathe. Barely able to move.

That’s when we met him. We couldn’t see the evil leeches that were pinning him to the ground. We only saw his tired eyes…his stained shirt and his deadpan expression. Judgment banged his gavel right on top of the man’s head and all we could think was, “What’s wrong with this guy? He needs to get it together.” Then, the man spoke. He wanted to cry for help, but instead his voice attacked us. He meant to apologize, but could only come off whiny and rude. Offense, robed in pretentious piety, locked eyes with us and pointed out each and every one of the man’s flaws. We leapt back from the man as if the stink of his life had smacked us in the face. We thanked the Lord that we weren’t like him. We filed his inappropriate actions away inside our cabinet of grudges, and vowed to no more than endure his presence in the future. We couldn’t stand him. We didn’t want him. We wouldn’t love him. Who could?

Then, just as we were turning to walk away, to leave this stupid man to the lonely fate he deserved, we heard the Voice. “Look closely,” He said. So we turned back, reluctantly and with more than a little impatience. What are we looking for? “Don’t look with your eyes,” the Voice whispered. Offense shrieked in pain and covered his hideous ears with his hairy, oafish hands. “You don’t wrestle against flesh and blood,” the Voice echoed. Judgment furiously swatted the air with his gavel in every conceivable direction, vainly attempting to silence the Voice. “Your quarrel isn’t with this man,” the Voice reiterated. Our minds were stretching, aching to understand but violently opposed to this message. If our quarrel isn’t with this angry, pitiful excuse of a man, than who are we supposed to oppose? “Look closely,” the Voice gently urged. So we looked at the man, but this time, we closed our eyes. We took a calming breath and responded to the Voice. “What do you want me to see?” In that instant, our eyes reopened; wind rushed in from the left and carried with it the faulty sands of mortality, leaving behind it all that is eternal. We looked around us uncertainly until our new eyes settled on the poor, writhing creature before us. Could that be the same man? We took it all in within the span of a heartbeat, Anger, with his weapon of terror, Self-Pity, his gluttonous fists clenching the man’s face. We saw Intimidation looming over the terrified figure of the man, and we put our hand over our face to block out the nauseating, suffocating smell of Depression. We felt our throat’s constrict with compassion as our eyes locked onto the bleeding, scratched up remnants of Lust and Addiction. Tears streaked down our faces when our gaze was drawn to the defeated man’s broken feet, bones exposed and ankles turned in agonizing directions from the effects of Self-Righteousness. Who could endure such torture and live? Then, unable to stand from the weight of our sorrow, we knelt. We impeached the Voice, “Do Something!”

“I have,” the Voice, answered, and we could almost hear Him smile. “I brought you.”

So we stood. Empowered by the Voice, we commanded Self-Righteousness to submit to the power of grace. We watched, spell bound as the man’s swollen ankles snapped back into place and his toes found their home beneath the protective safety of healthy skin. Emboldened by the victory, we held the man in our arms and gently, oh so gently, we urged him, “Can you hear the Voice?” Barely breathing, the man muttered a reply. We placed our ear next to his mouth, ignoring the stinking, putrid odor of Self-Pity’s rank breath. “Can you hear the Voice?” we asked again.

“I can.” He leaned into us. “It’s so kind,” the man meekly ventured, “so kind.”

“Yes. Yes it is, we cried, as our tears washed the man’s dirty, crusted hair.

“I wish He would come, ” the man managed between haggard breaths.

“He did,” we answered, as love floated in waves from our eyes. “He’s here. And He’s yours if you want Him.” Just at that moment, Anger dug his boiling pincers even further into the man’s mutilated flesh. Intimidation growled and bathed the man in the hot breath of a thousand dangers. The man twisted in agony.

“Get back!” We screamed at the darkness. “Get away from him!” Our furious command echoed off of every surface, building in intensity until it silenced the sources of the struggling man’s pain. “Do you want him?” we asked the man again.

“I do,” he weakly answered. “I do,” he says again, more determination in his words. He took one painful desperate breath and forced out the cry, “I want the Voice!” His declaration produced the most glorious light we had ever seen. Intimidation evaporated under its intensity. Depression vanished as if sucked from the room. Anger couldn’t bear up under its splendor and skulked away like a whipped dog. Self-Pity fought to hang on to the man’s face but lost its grip in the tornado of illumination. Lust and Addiction lurked in the corner, trying desperately to stick around without being seen. The man could feel new strength coursing through him. He slowly sat up and took a few tentative breaths. Then he gulped the fresh air like a man deprived of water who had finally tasted its relief. The man looked at his arms and found not even a shadow of its former disfiguration. He patted himself down and couldn’t feel a single scratch. Then, he laughed. He actually laughed…and we laughed with him. “Look. Look what He did!” The man jumped to his feet and held out his arms so we could see who he had become.

“You’re magnificent,” we answered and shook our heads in awe and wonder. Lust and Addiction drew our attention by softly moaning in the corner. “Do you want to take care of that?” We asked and pointed to their detestable frames.

“Of course,” the man replied as he dusted himself off. He turned, locked eyes with Lust and Addiction and ever so calmly, with all the authority of a King, he commanded them, “Leave. I have the Voice now. I don’t need you. I’ve never needed you. Leave. Now.” And they left.

And we walked on together, with new eyes and purer hearts to find the next man who needed the power and life altering love of the Voice.

When God Presses Your Pause Button

I didn’t plan to write a blog post today. I haven’t written in quite some time. Lately, when I’ve longed to pen some thoughts, I have felt God saying, “Pause.” I’ve actually been in a “Pause,” season for a few years. I believe many of you may also find yourselves in a similar place, and I want to encourage you. God’s “Pause,” is a more beautiful place than all of the “Go Aheads” we could dream for ourselves.

As I sat down just to be with my Father this morning, God put this thought in my head. “It’s more important to communicate with God than about God.” There we have it. The reason for the pause. God knew that I was skipping a step in my zeal for purpose and identity. I so desperately wanted to accomplish something to prove to God that I was worth loving. He more desperately wanted me to know that He already accomplished everything because of His great love for me. I wanted to do. He wanted me to be. I longed to feel that my own hands were bettering my standing with God. He has shown me that it is His nail scarred hands that shattered the divide.

God took me to Romans 4 this morning, “What shall we say that Abraham discovered in this matter?” What did he discover, Jesus? What did he grasp that made him the Father of Faith? Vs. 3, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” In what condition do we find Abraham when He believed God? ” Vs. 10, “Under what circumstances was it (faith) credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before!” I know, circumcision is kind of an embarrassing topic, but it means something important in the Spirit. Circumcision represented the law. Abraham was uncircumcised when he believed God. He was not operating under rules and regulations, trying desperately to reach God on his own merit. He was just there, open to hearing from God. And God spoke. And he believed. And now here we are, thousands of years later with the same two options. Are we going to strive and strain for the prize that is already promised or are we going to give God access to our hearts and minds in the stillness of a moment?

If you are on “Pause,” today, be all there. It isn’t a punishment. It’s the grandest invitation of your life. There is no greater sense of belonging then when we are listening to the voice that spoke us into existence. Our hearts are most fully alive when we are aware of His heartbeat. The person and nature of Jesus eclipse every other form of grandeur. Skip the circumcision. It’s just as painful as it sounds. Peace is in the grace of Christ, in the simple act of being still, pressing in and believing. And once we know Him, then we are free to make Him known. Then we will not be communicating about a God that we are only dimly aware of. We will speak from a place of power and authority because we have been in the arms of Jesus, filled with His Words and fueled by His love. Go Ahead, then. “Go Ahead,” and “Pause,” and discover the beauty of His presence.

“What If I’m Not Enough?”

My eyes filled with tears yesterday while reading to my daughter from The Jesus Storybook Bible. I was feeling strongly that our student ministry leaders could use some encouragement and, as always, God found the perfect way to communicate His love.

When you are pouring into the next generation, it is very easy for the enemy to attack your mind with the question, “What if I’m not enough?” I’ve been working with kids and students for over a decade, and STILL this question echoes in my heart more often than it should. There are a lot of reasons why we may feel inadequate, but I believe there are three main reasons:

  1. Comparison: We look at others who are serving and leading young people and we wonder in our hearts if we can measure up to their “high” level of excellence. We think, “She’s so much holier than I am.” “He connects with the kids better than I ever could.” “I haven’t known Jesus for as long as she has. What if I don’t know enough?” “He looks like he stepped off of the pages of a magazine. I’m goofy looking? They probably won’t like me.” “What if she’s looking at me and judging me because I’m not as socially outgoing as she is?” “The Holy Spirit doesn’t seem to speak to me as much as He does to the other leaders in the room. I don’t want to mess up…”
  2. Age Insecurity: “Sometimes we think we are too young and possibly spiritually immature to really be able to make a difference or we feel we are too old to be accepted. We may wonder, “Can I relate with these kids? I wouldn’t know who Channing Hatum? No Tatum??? was if he bumped into me at Walmart? And what the heck is an Ariana Grande? Is that a new seasonal Starbucks drink? I don’t know if I can do this…”
  3. Good Old Fashioned Fear of Kids and Teenagers: It’s very normal for people to feel trepidation when it comes to being around kids and adolescents. They are definitely a breed all their own full of hormones, attitude, gas (boys cough cough), and unfortunately in today’s society they are usually already filled with a cacophony of traumatic experiences weighing on their spirits. We wonder, “Will they listen to me? I don’t think they will care what I have to say.” “I don’t believe I’m equipped to help them with their family problems.” “I’ve never worked with students before. I’ll probably be horrible at it.” “What if they laugh at me or refuse to listen? I”ll feel like I’m the loser in high school all over again….”

Whatever our reason for feeling insecure and inadequate, Jesus has a remedy. I was reading my daughter the story of the “Feeding of Five Thousand” and tears sprang into my eyes as God whispered into my heart. Here’s what the story says:

Disciples to Jesus: “Let’s send everyone home for dinner.”

Jesus: “They don’t need to go. You can give them something to eat.”

Disciples: “We don’t have enough money!”

Jesus: “What food do you have? Go and see.”

“Now there was a little boy in the crowd. He had brought a lunch. It wasn’t much–but it   was all he had.”

Boy: “I have some.”

Jesus’ friends laughed when they saw his little lunch.

Disciples: “That’s not nearly enough.”

“But they were wrong. Jesus knew it didn’t matter how much the little boy had. God would make it enough, more than enough.”

Jesus to the boy: “Bring me what you have.”

“And so the little boy gave Jesus his lunch. Jesus winked at the little boy and whispered in his ear, “Watch!”

“Jesus’ friends started to hand out food. It was the strangest thing; No matter how much they broke off–there was always more. Enough for 5,000! And still there were leftovers.”

(Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9)

It doesn’t matter how old or young, mature or immature we feel that we are. When it comes to Jesus, we will always be his kid coming to him with our loaves and fishes. Some of us may have gained wisdom over the years. Our lunch may have grown in its capacity and be filled with quinoa, grass fed beef sandwiches and an organic kale infused fruit smoothie. Still, on our own, it is not adequate for the “5,000” students and kids that we may encounter over our lifetime. Left to ourselves, we will never have enough spiritual food to feed the masses. That isn’t our job. It’s not up to us to save souls, rewrite history and bring healing to the hearts of the kids. That’s God’s business. He just wants what we have. Jesus is the one who multiplies our sacrifice and makes it more than enough.

You don’t need to be twenty, have the entire book of Matthew memorized, be in the know about pop culture or have lived your entire life nose deep in the Bible. You just need to be a humble heart offering Jesus what you have. What you have is a beautiful gift to God. Your story….your victories in Christ….are EXACTLY what Jesus wants to use to punch Satan off of the backs of our kids and students. You may talk a lot or a little. You may be athletic or vertically challenged. You may be nervous or new to student ministry. It doesn’t matter. If you love God, love His kids and give Him your lunch, He will impact countless young lives through you, and there will still be more left inside of your heart for you to continue to give.

God is obsessed with loving the next generation and bringing them from freedom to freedom. Let’s not rely on our own “lunch” to be the answer. Let’s rely on His heart and His Spirit to fill us to capacity so that in every interaction we have with a student, we know that God is the one feeding their hearts. That may not always look like what we expect it to. Some days that might just be playing basketball with a student or showing up to a flute recital. It may be giving a hug or sharing makeup tips. Other days it might be an hour long, Spirit infused counseling session where God visibly shifts the spiritual atmosphere of a life through His Words coming out of your mouth.

Through Christ, what you have is perfect for the young person He sends your way. Leaders, don’t downplay your surrendered heart. In the hands of Jesus, your five loaves and two fish will ALWAYS be enough.

 

“We the People of the United States…”

I’ve been thinking a lot about “We the People” in the last few days. The Preamble to the Constitution was written to dictate the heart and soul behind the Constitution…why it was necessary and what it stood for. As I’ve listened to the influx of news reports about shootings and hate crimes and read bitter attacks on Presidential candidates on social media, I am struck by the significance of the phrase, “We the People.”

Consider the definition of the word, “we.” “We”: “used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself and one or more other people considered together.” (Oxford dictionary) “We,” the very first word in the Preamble to the Constitution, was a word that stood for togetherness.  It didn’t say, “A bunch of people, in order to form a more perfect union….” It said, “We, the people.” When did we stop being “We the people?” When did it turn into us vs. them? Aren’t we still fighting for the same freedom? Isn’t there still a common goal, to worship as we choose, to raise our children in safety, to live in peace, to work and earn a future for our families? If we stop being “We the people,” we become a disorganized mass quantity of humans fighting each other instead of injustice….instead of the true enemy of freedom. We enslave ourselves in the long run by fighting against each other instead of for each other.

And what does the word “people” imply? If the Preamble said “We the robots,” or “We the animals,” it would carry a very different message. But we are not robots or animals; we are people who breath and have hearts, emotions and souls. However, when “people” become desensitized to suffering, caring more about getting their point across then hurting others, carrying more about supporting a cause than protecting the sanctity of human life, we become no better than animals who rip the flesh off of each other’s bones in an attempt to feed off the weak. In an effort to feel powerful we become powerless, oppressed by the harsh rulers of hate, racism and dissention. Are we still people, or are we numb to pain? Do we self-protect our minds and hearts to the point where we no longer feel? Giving up our  humanity will result in the destruction of this beautiful Country.

Allow me to paraphrase, “Together, the hearts and souls of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union….” In the beginning, it was all about unity. What can we fight for today? How can we support each other? We don’t have to agree on who the President should be or how tax dollars should be spent, but let’s find the commonality and fight FOR that. We all still want freedom! Together, we can choose love over hate! Together, we can fight for unity. To begin to heal, we must stop focusing on what angers us and begin to look for what unites us. We must honor and respect each other’s right to speak and vote. Honestly, we just need to honor and respect each other. A revival of a culture of honor would change our future. We have seen a beautiful example of this through the USA Olympic team. These incredible athletes rally around each other and fight for each even while competing against each other. Why? Because they have a common goal, to demonstrate the greatness of the United States of America! Let’s follow their example. America stands united when “We the People” stand together.

 

How I Stopped “I Am-ing” Myself to Death

 “With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satisfied with the product of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:20-21)

Confession: I was a death speaker. (Not a death eater. Those guys are way more creepy and much worse dressers.) In my defense, I didn’t know I was a death speaker. I thought I was speaking truth. I felt that humility required me to make self-deprecating remarks about myself. I also had no clue who I really was. In my past, I made a lot of verbal contracts with the father of lies. In essence, I was “I am-ing” myself to death.

How we perceive who God is and how we grasp our own identity in Christ are crucial foundations to the abundant life that God has for us. If we misinterpret God, we will live in fear. If we misinterpret ourselves, we will live in failure.

That being said, we must also realize that God is all about words. In fact, Jesus, Himself, is referred to as the Word! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) God could have created the world with a thought or a breath. He could have double tapped His “foot” or danced the world into existence. Instead, He, the Word, spoke. And it was. “…as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” (Romans 4:17) It is also important to realize that the enemy broke humanity by speaking. The serpent opened his mouth and words of lies came from his lips. “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) God’s rescue plan involved the sacrifice of His Son, our faith and our words. “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”(Romans 10:9)

Words matter. It was with words that a perfect world was formed, with words (and agreement with words) that it was destroyed. The sacrificial death of the Word overcame the curse, and our faith and agreement with the risen Word brought back life. What we say either partners with Heaven or with Hell. The Bible has a lot of advice to give us on how we should speak”

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” James 3:10)

If life and death are in the power of the tongue, then we better take our thoughts captive. For what is in our hearts, does come out of our mouths. I was a serial negative “I am-er.” I used to say things like, “I am broken;” I am screwed up;” I am a sickly person;” “I am stupid;” “I am terrified of everything;” “I am never getting married;” “I am a hopeless mess.” Sound familiar? Here’s the thing. When God adopted me, everything that I was, I wasn’t anymore. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 “And the voice came to him again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.'” (Acts 10:15)

Now, we can choose whether or not to live like we are new and clean. We can agree with who God says we are and walk out that new us by agreeing with His Word, renewing our mind and going from freedom to freedom. OR, we can stay in bondage and agree with the words of the enemy. The prison door has been opened. It is our choice whether we walk forward or stay in a place of despair. “Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:7-10)

We absolutely must understand that God does not view us as a conglomeration of flaws! Yes, He sees our struggles and our sin, but He has already overcome them. We are not His rescue mission anymore. He already rescued us. When we choose Him, we become His friends. “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)  Our journey is learning to agree with what God sees in us…(In essence, He sees Jesus…) and learn how to live like friends of God.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t let anyone talk smack about my friends. And we can take it a step further. We aren’t only friends, we are adopted children of God. “He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” Ephesians 1:5 Seriously, have you ever met a parent that is okay with someone saying horrible things about their kid? Never! We have to stop tearing down God’s kid. Speaking life means agreeing with the Life-Giver. Speaking death means agreeing with the author of death. This doesn’t mean that we are blind to our flaws. It means we working out our salvation with fear and trembling. Instead of making verbal contracts that bind us to a past we have been delivered from, let’s choose to speak differently.

Instead of, “I am unlovable,” We say, “I feel unloved. But God loves me with an everlasting love.”

Instead of, “I’m irreversibly screwed up,” We say, “I’ve been through a lot of traumatic things, and I am learning how to let God rewrite my past and heal my heart.”

Instead of, “I’m an alcoholic,” We say, “I struggle with an addiction to alcohol. But I know the King that sets captives free.”

Instead of, “I’m afraid of everything,” We say, “I battle fear. Perfect love casts out fear. Jesus is that Perfect love.”

The list could go on and on. Our mission in this life is to speak truth in spite of what we feel. Let’s break the verbal agreements we’ve made with the enemy and start agreeing with who God says we are. The Word of God (the Bible) tells us what to agree with and the Spirit of God speaks His words into our spirit and asks us to partner with truth! If you really want to know the power in the voice of the Lord, check out Psalm 29. It’s astounding to realize that the God of all Creation, speaks on my behalf and I have only to agree with Him and walk in faith.

I have experienced an incredible amount of healing from learning to agree with what God says and to speak His Word out loud, even when I have trouble believing it. The Word of the Lord will not return void. Let’s use it! Believe me, The Great I AM knows who you are, and He loves who He made you to be. We have the right as sons and daughters to use our Father’s Words, bear our Father’s name and walk freely as children of royalty. I AM A CHILD OF GOD! Let’s do this!

 

 

My Toddler Is Obsessed with Me

The soundtrack of my every day includes the following:

-Nursery Rhymes from Little Baby Bum.

-Worship Songs from Hillsong Kids Mix.

-“Fwinkle, Fwinkle, Little Star.”

-“ABC song.”

-Fwinkle, Fwinkle, Little Star.”

-“ABC song.”

-“Fwinkle, Fwinkle, Little Star.”

-“Fwinkle, Fwinkle, Little Star.”

But mostly:

-“Mommy, where are you?” (I’m right next to her.)

-“Mommy, come here.”

-“Hug? Hug?” (Almost always while I’m eating.)

-“Sit in Mommy’s lap?” (While I’m comatose in the bed.)

-“Mommy, let’s play.” (And that is why this blog is not as consistent as it could be.)

-“Read book, Mommy.” (The 50th book.)

-“Sing a song, Mommy.” (Same song, 30 mins later.)

-“Sit down, Mommy.”

-“Hungry, Mommy.” (She doesn’t actually want the cheese. She just wants me to get the cheese.)

-“Mommy, where cup is?”

-“Mommy, wait!” ( I took one step.)

-“Look, mommy!” (Unidentifiable object somewhere in her field of vision.)

-“I lub you, Mommy.” (Be still my heart.)

-“Mommy, sing Fwinkle Fwinkle.” (Sigh. And sing.)

or when my husband is home:

-“Dadda, sing!”

-“Dadda, dance!” (Notice this was not in my list. She knows better than to ask me to dance.)

-“Dadda, play bubbles?” (It’s 9,000 degrees outside. But he does it.)

-“Dadda, come here.”

-“Play with Dadda?”

-“Dadda, worship time?”

-“Show, Dadda?” (Usually after putting on a pretty dress.)

-“Huggie? Huggie?”

My two year old is OBSESSED with me and her father. She has to be on my lap or touching me or jumping on me or reaching for me or petting my hair. She calls out to me in her sleep and runs to me when she gets hurt. She refuses to play alone for more than five minutes and God forbid I have to pee.

Sure, there are moments when, for my sanity, I need a minute to process some adult thoughts and feelings, but for the most part, I adore her adoration. I love that she needs me. It is the joy of my heart. I understand that I am her world right now.

This morning, I heard God ask, “Are you obsessed with me like your daughter is obsessed with you?”

Am I? Do I run to Him when I’m hurt? Does my heart cry:

-“Father, play with me!”

-“Dance with me, Jesus.”

-“Feed me, Father.”

-“Hug! Hug!”

-“Can I sit in your lap, Father?”

-“Sing over me, Father.”

-“Do you see my beautiful dress, Father? Do I look like a Princess?”

-“Look, God! Look what just happened.”

-“Talk to me, Holy Spirit.”

-“Let’s read your Book, Father.”

-“I lub you, God.”

Our Creator designed us to require His presence. He IS literally our everything. We can’t exist without Him. We can’t move or grow without Him, and we can’t find health or healing without Him. If He isn’t our world. Our world is broken.

The wonderfully special thing about my Heavenly Father is that He doesn’t require any time away from me to process His own thoughts and feelings. He wants to be with me ALL THE TIME!

Psalm 139: 7″Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”

Deuteronomy 31:8 “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

We are obsessed with the things we feel we cannot live without. We cultivate this need by consuming ourselves with the object or objects we desire. What if we consumed ourselves with the Presence of God. Why not dive head first into who Jesus is…what He says….what He thinks…how He loves…how He lived….how He died….how He lives again….what He thinks of me…..how He moves in my life….how He invades my mundane with His miraculous….

My toddler gets crazy time anxious when she feels isolated. It’s no wonder we do the same when we remove ourselves from the presence of the Father who alone can bring us peace. God hasn’t moved. He’s a heart-first leap away from being our gloriously fulfilling obsession.