December 30th, 2013
In a world filled with so many different religious beliefs, spiritual convictions, and personal opinions about what is true, what is important, and what matters,
it’s no wonder more and more people are throwing in the towel and walking away from organized religion.
Andy Stanley has a powerful sermon series called “Starting Point” that deals with this very issue.
We have been listening to the series in our Sunday School class over the past couple of months, and my faith has been renewed and strengthened on so many different levels through each message.
to listen to all of these sermons and click on number seven “Don’t Stop” to hear the powerful sermon we heard yesterday.
Here is a short description of this sermon from North Point’s website:
The ability to believe is the most powerful force at mankind’s disposal.
Everything that has been done, for good or bad, was done because someone believed it could be or should be done.
Every problem that has been solved was solved because someone believed it could be or should be solved.
We constantly look for evidence to support what we believe is true.
In the case of religious belief, that means if you believe deeply enough any religious system becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If that’s true, isn’t it possible that Christianity is just an example of groupthink on a massive scale?
If you or someone you love is struggling to understand why believing in Jesus matters,
this sermon may be the answer.
The whole series is worth your time, but this specific sermon spoke to me in a powerful way yesterday and I had to share it with you.
Have a wonderful last Monday of 2013!!
Don’t Stop Believing!
December 28th, 2013
I love quiet moments when I become a sponge and God the water.
I love peaceful places where His Presence rises above every noise, every movement around me.
As He rises up over my life’s chaos,
He catches my eye.
He draws me in.
He captivates me.
And nothing else matters.
I long for these quiet moments, because I know that without them I am nothing.
I know that without the peace and quiet He longs for me to seek, I cannot really seek Him.
And without Him, I am nothing but a whirlwind of crazy; and God doesn’t have a lot of use for whirlwinds.
He definitely didn’t choose to speak to Elijah through one even though He could have.
No, God wanted Elijah to lean in and listen closely.
He didn’t want to take any chance on Elijah missing what He had to say.
His words mattered, and Elijah needed to hear them.
So, God chose whispering.
He chose a still, small voice to ask Elijah a great, big question.
“What are you doing here, Elijah?”
That was the question Elijah needed to answer on that day as he found himself hiding in a cave.
Are you hiding from anything today?
Maybe it’s your past.
Maybe it’s your present.
Maybe it’s your future.
Maybe it’s your pain.
Maybe it’s your calling.
God longs for you to lean in and listen.
Maybe He has the same question for you today,
“What are you doing here?”
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
He couldn’t be more clear.
Be still and know.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and I will be exalted among the nations.
Be still and I will be exalted in the earth.
When I sit in silence and allow my body to relax and my mind to focus on Him and Him alone,
Everything about this life seems to fade away.
As one of my dad’s favorite songs says,
“The things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
I’m learning more and more every year of my life that this world offers very few opportunities to hear His whisper unless we intentionally choose to get away and be still.
I hope in 2014 you will choose to be still and listen for Him often.
When you do,
you will know that He is God,
and He will be exalted among the nations and in all the earth through your testimony.
That’s why God says,
December 24th, 2013
Gazing at a Nativity Set, it’s hard for me to imagine anything less than a serene stable filled with the glory of God on the night Jesus was born.
Maybe that’s why my desire this morning to sort-of panic about all the last-minute things I’ve “put off” in an effort to not have a hustle-bustle-kind-of-holiday season seems so wrong.
It’s not like I’m getting ready to bring the Son of God to earth or anything.
It’s not like the whole world is waiting on me to deliver the Messiah.
I just need pictures printed at Rite-Aid.
And I wish I had one more gift for dad.
And I need to pack my suitcase.
And I’m wondering how little David is doing…he’s at the doctor’s with a fever.
And…….the list goes on and on.
So, this morning as I think of the calm, silent night that we sing about at church,
I find myself getting a little tickled at the thought of the pre-Christmas happenings that may have occurred before the image of the Nativity scene we hold close in our hearts actually happened.
Did Mary find herself a little overwhelmed with her surroundings?
Did Joseph feel like an inadequate husband as he fluffed the straw around Mary, wishing he had a more comfortable bed to offer his young wife?
Did Mary ever glance up at him and think,
“Seriously, an angel told you I was going to give birth to the Son of God and this is the best you could do?!?”
Did the shepherds feel empty-handed as they stood in the Presence of the One who had caused the sky to fill with angels announcing his arrival?
The wise men did show up bearing amazing gifts, but if you read the story all the way through you learn that they didn’t appear in the Christmas story until Jesus was a toddler.
They really shouldn’t put any pressure on us as we prepare for the Christmas season.
After all, even though their gifts were great, they were very late for the celebration.
If you think about it, the true picture of Jesus’ birth really only holds four things:
a dirty stable,
a young, inexperienced couple,
some stinky animals,
and some gift-less shepherds.
This morning, as I sit here in need of a shower, ordering last-minute pictures from Rite-Aid while realizing I have about ten more things to do before leaving for my parents,
I’m going to take a deep breath and laugh because God’s Story of redemption began in the same way my Christmas Eve is beginning…….
Nothing planned (by the characters in the story).
I’m embracing the real picture of the first Christmas today,
and I’m allowing myself to believe that maybe, just maybe,
Mary felt a little edgy and a little ill-prepared as she prepared for Jesus’ arrival.
And it was okay.
Laugh today in spite of your last-minute feelings of inadequacy.
Soak up the moments, no matter how imperfect, unplanned, or simple.
And have a very merry Christmas!
I love you all so much!!!
December 23rd, 2013
As she entered the room dressed in orange scrubs matching every other girl in the line of inmates,
her dark brown eyes, hollow and empty, drew me in; but it was when she spoke that my heart melted.
As she put her arms around me, she whispered, “My name is Angel.”
I hugged her, overwhelmed at the thought of hugging an “angel” in jail.
Little did I know as our time with the girls ended that evening,
Angel would be the one to say she wanted to be baptized.
Frail, sad, and broken,
Angel knew she needed more.
Life without God hadn’t worked out too well.
She’d lost a lot along the way, and
she knew she couldn’t face another day on her own.
Where do we turn when every direction we’ve tried turns out to be a dead end?
Who can we trust when we’ve been hurt by so many we love?
There’s only one place to turn that changes everything about today and tomorrow and the next day.
There’s only one Person we can trust with every little part of our past, present, and future.
It’s in the turning and the trusting that we meet Him who has been waiting patiently for us through every wrong turn and every bad choice.
The Grace-Giver, the Unconditional Savior, the Constant Comforter, the Eternity-Promiser, the Joy-Sustainer…..He longs for all of us to turn and trust.
He’ll never force His way into our lives.
He’ll never demand more than we can give.
No amount of money can buy what He offers.
But the grace we receive when we surrender to Him frees us from everything this world may see as prison bars.
Angel had it all, and she was ready to lay it all at His feet.
She was ready to show Him that He was hers.
The only thing she had to offer was herself,
and the only thing He wanted was her.
Worth more than the most extravagant gift under any Christmas tree this year,
grace was waiting to be unwrapped by Angel.
It’s waiting to be unwrapped by you.
Over 2,000 years ago, a host of angels sang as the Grace-Giver arrived in a wooden manger.
Last night, the angels sang as the Grace-Giver washed away every ounce of Angel’s past in a plastic trough.
Baptizing a Christmas Angel.
Seeing His grace wash over her precious face.
It still amazes me.
I hope His gift of grace amazes you this Christmas.
Accept His gift today.
You’ll never receive anything better.
(Click the song title above to listen to one of my favorite songs.)
December 19th, 2013
I don’t think I truly understood what it meant to “give everything” to God until I finished writing Facing Dawn.
I remember several years ago promising God half of any money made from this book when it was completed.
I knew the strength I needed to survive the deep pain of losing Nick came from Him and Him alone.
When the book released, I began receiving emails and Facebook messages from readers who were being strengthened and encouraged in their own grief journeys.
I suddenly knew this book was God’s not my own.
Not one word of Facing Dawn was penned without His Word
inspiring my thoughts,
comforting my pain,
answering my questions,
relieving my doubts,
assuring me that my struggle to find peace and purpose in my pain was acceptable to and understood by Him.
Because I feel so strongly that this book is God’s testimony to His faithfulness even in the deepest heartaches of life,
I told my husband I want all the money received from the sales of this book to go back to Him.
This book is my widow’s mite dropped into the treasury.
This book is my gift laid down at the feet of Jesus.
It is my offering.
Because of this book, others who are brokenhearted are being led closer to the heart of God.
At the same time, the orphanage for disabled orphans in Damoh, India, will receive much-needed funding and Todd’s journey to work with Good News International, http://www.gnpi.org/ will be made possible.
(Good News International exists
“To fill the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14))
As you think about your own life and your own pain, ask God to show you how He wants to use your heartache to reach others with His love and the story of His Son’s ultimate sacrifice for mankind.
God never wastes our pain.
God never allows a tear to fall from our eye that does not become a shower of blessing in the future.
He works in ways we cannot see or understand.
Would I trade my heartache and sadness for a different kind of life?
A life where all my kids were living and my home did not know brokenness?
But, my life is not my own.
My journey is not my own.
So, what do I do with all my grief?
I have to give it back to Him.
I have to let Him use it.
I cling to His promises every single day.
My strength comes from His Word and His Word alone.
Psalm 126:5-6 promises,
“Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.”
Luke 6:38 says,
“Give, and it will be given to you.
A good measure, pressed down,
shaken together and running over,
will be poured into your lap.
For with the measure you use, it will be
measured to you.”
Today, give Him your heartache.
Give Him your questions, your struggles, your doubts, your pain, and your fears.
Then watch Him work.
I have laid my sorrow at His feet day after day for so many years, and I can testify to His faithfulness.
His love is never ending.
His compassion never fails.
Even in your deepest places of pain,
He has not abandoned you.
Give Him your grief.
Trust Him today with your pain.
December 18th, 2013
It’s December 18th.
Six more days until Christmas Eve.
Part of me wants to panic as I realize I haven’t wrapped the first gift.
I haven’t even finished shopping.
But what would that change about today?
When does anxiety ever change reality?
When does worry ever bring peace?
I’m trying to embrace the holiday season this year.
Soak up every minute.
Cherish every shared laugh with family and friends.
I sometimes slip, inviting stress to join me on my journey toward Christmas.
When I do slip, I remind myself of just how silly I become when I allow “me” to replace “Him” in my actions and words.
Alone, I focus on my needs, my expectations, my “to do” lists.
I fill my time with “me-centered” activities.
But when I choose to be quiet,
I hear His voice in the laughter around me.
I feel His love in the hugs of my friends.
I see Him in the twinkling lights,
longing to brighten and make beautiful not just the holiday season but every single day of every single year.
As I venture to work today,
I want to be quiet and listen.
I want the craziness of the countdown to Christmas to be replaced with a serene sense of the season’s significance.
Today, take a deep breath.
Soak up every conversation, every shared moment with those around you.
a silent and holy night is nearing.
Don’t rush it.
Don’t stress over it.
Be thankful for it.
Make this choice today and see what happens –
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
December 17th, 2013
Thanksgiving has become a bittersweet holiday for our family.
A swirling of gratitude with grief.
A kaleidoscope of happy memories mixed with sad ones.
A day of family togetherness, aching with the reality that some we love no longer sit around the table.
It never fails, though.
Somehow Love shows up and warms a room when we least expect it.
And isn’t it just like God to show up through a child?
As we stood around the kitchen, visiting, my mom held David.
Normally a busy little guy checking out the world around him,
David spotted something that caught his eye.
With the gentleness of an adult,
he lifted the necklace hanging around my mom’s neck.
The necklace holding Nick’s thumbprint.
Tuning all of us out, he studied every detail of the tiny heart that holds a piece of Nick’s heart.
Nick’s last gift to us.
Mom and I wondered in that moment if maybe, must maybe,
David knew more than an ordinary eleven-month-old little guy should know.
Did the eyes of this child see beyond what we can see?
I sort-of think they did.
I think somehow he realized in that moment just how much Mamaw needs his love.
As he carefully clung to the necklace, he reached up and reached out to her face.
In that moment, I saw…….
The love of David for Mamaw.
The love of Mamaw for David.
The hanging on to Nick’s memory while reaching out for Mamaw’s presence.
David’s little hands talked to me on Thanksgiving Day.
“Hang on gently to what you’ve lost, but don’t miss what you have.”
God speaks in the most unusual and unexpected ways,
and for a few moments on Thanksgiving Day He chose to speak to us through the hands of a child.
God longs to speak to you today.
No hands are too small to deliver His message.
No moment too insignificant for Him to speak.
Open your eyes.
Open your ears.
Don’t let His message for you slip by unnoticed.
Long ago, Jesus entered this world in a manger.
Many missed His arrival because of the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
The shepherds looked up and saw the angels,
the wise men looked up and saw the star.
Slow down today.
Look up today.
Expect Him today.
He may even speak through a child.
He’s done it before!
And there were shepherds living out
in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
An angel of the Lord appeared to
them, and the glory of the Lord
shone around them, and they were
But the angel said to them, “Do not
be afraid. I bring you good news that
will cause great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior
has been born to you; he is the
Messiah, the Lord.
This will be a sign to you: You will
find a baby wrapped in cloths and
lying in a manger.”
December 16th, 2013
I sat with an ink pen this morning and a piece of decorative paper,
attempting to write a note to one of my friend’s co-worker who recently lost his daughter.
I found myself fully aware that there are no right words worth sharing in a time of such deep sorrow.
Absolutely nothing that came into my head that seemed fitting.
The truth is there are no words in the human language that can soften the sharp pain of a tragic loss.
What do we do when we find ourselves wordless?
We make a choice.
We either fill the air with empty words and risk saying the wrong thing
admit that we are wordless and let God speak.
This morning, I am thankful that God knew from the very beginning that we would often find ourselves wordless,
so He chose to begin creation with the one Word that could fill all of our wordlessness with meaning.
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
Jesus is the only Word that stands the test of time.
He is in the midst of all of our joy and all of our pain.
He walked a road of pain and suffering so we would know we are not alone in ours.
He conquered death so that we could somehow face our grief.
He promises eternal life so we can face temporary separation from those we love.
When someone is grieving, they do not need a lot of words.
They really just need one.
If you find yourself at a loss of words today as you face your own pain or the pain of someone you love,
look to Him who is enough.
El Shaddai – The God That Is More Than Enough
He who keeps His Word and who has the final word is the only Word we need today.
Turn to Him, the Living Word, today.
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus is one of the songs we shared at Adrienne’s funeral.
Dad helped us chose this song because of its powerful message, and I am forever thankful.
This is where I turn when I am struggling to face the pain of this life.
The Only Word with the power to change everything.
The Only Word worth sharing.
December 13th, 2013
When my friend Anita and I ventured to Pittsburgh in the summer of 2009
to attend a Beth Moore conference,
we had no idea how life-changing this weekend would be for both of us.
We’ve both been through some pretty big storms in life.
We’ve both clung to God when the strength to hold on was the only strength we had left.
We’ve both wondered, “Why?”
We’ve both come up short with answers.
So, as we sat in the audience and the lights lowered and a video began to play showing a clip from the trailer of the movie,
“A Perfect Storm,”
we were curious.
Was Beth Moore promoting a movie?
Why were watching a scene of a ship tossed around at sea?
This just didn’t feel like the beginning of a regular Beth Moore conference.
And it wasn’t.
This conference was link none other I had ever attended.
Anytime I get to attend a Beth Moore event, my life is changed.
But this Pittsburgh weekend may have been the most significant event in my grief journey.
I had been a smaller event of Beth’s, a minister’s wives’ retreat just a few months before and Beth had actually prayed over me and told me that she prophesied that one day “I would be whole.”
I shared about that memory in a couple of posts in the spring of 2009.
But I had no idea that just months later,
I would once again have the unexpected opportunity to sit and learn from Beth again and in her message I would receive words that have not only strengthened me and changed me but also given me words to share with others who face terrible storms in life.
I was reminded of this message this morning as my Bible reading was from the very same part of the Bible from which Beth spoke in the summer of 2009.
In Acts 27, Paul and other prisoners are being taken from city to another to appeal to Caesar.
On the way, a storm overtakes their ship and the 276 men on board are certain this is the end.
Paul receives a visit from an angel who promises that they will all survive and he shares these words with the terrified sailors.
There’s powerful lessons throughout the time the ship is tossed at sea, and I’ll share those lessons on another day;
but for today, I want to share what happens after the ship is destroyed as it runs into the rocks near the coast of an unknown island.
First, everyone survives just as Paul promised.
Then the men all make it safely to land either by swimming or being pulled in on pieces of the capsized ship.
But what happens next is my most favorite part of the shipwreck story.
Paul finds himself immediately in the midst of island natives and begins helping them gather wood for a fire.
Beth talked about the fact that after we survive a perfect storm we often find ourselves doing very mundane, everyday kind-of tasks very quickly.
She shared about how it is important to keep on keeping on even when we feel that what we have survived was enough to make us stop doing everything out of exhaustion.
Picking up sticks.
I wonder if Paul thought to himself, “I have nearly died. I have been visited by an angel of the Lord. I have kept 275 men calm, and now I am picking up sticks???? REALLY???”
That’s the first lesson that hit me between the eyes.
Life isn’t about big, glamorous victory stories.
Life isn’t about fame and glory.
Life is about picking up sticks.
Keeping the fire going wherever we find ourselves.
Doing what needs to be done next…..over and over again.
That’s what we do after we have survived a perfect storm.
The second lesson is incredible.
As Paul is doing what needs to be done,
a poisonous snake leaps from the fire and grabs hold of his arm, biting him.
The island people are certain that he is a wicked man and that because he somehow survived the shipwreck he is now going to be killed by the snake.
But Paul shakes the snake from his arm and shows no signs of being affected by the poison that has entered his body.
The island people immediately think he is a god because of his ability to survive this moment.
Beth makes this statement about that part of the story:
“After you have survived the perfect storm, the devil is all bite. No venom.”
And that statement has changed me ever since.
She went on to talk about the fact that even though we have survived the perfect storm the devil will still try to bring us down.
He never stops trying.
He often tries over and over again as we struggle to just do the next simple thing in life.
Even in the picking up of sticks, the devil will try to find a way to get us.
But because we have survived something greater, something huge,
we have the power to shake him off into the fire.
He cannot destroy us anymore.
His venom has no strength.
So many times since Nick has died,
I have felt the bite of satan.
I have been discouraged, attacked, and overwhelmed,
but I remember Paul’s story and Beth’s words and I suddenly know that I have a choice in every difficult situation.
I can shake the devil off into the fire.
After you have survived the perfect storm,
you can too.
And I’m here to tell you that YOU CAN SURVIVE THE PERFECT STORM.
God will bring you through the toughest, darkest days,
and one day you will find yourself picking up sticks for a fire.
Then you will learn that even in the regular, everyday kind-of life we must life,
the devil is there too.
Trying to bring you down in little ways over and over again.
But he can’t.
You have survived the perfect storm and nothing can stop you now.
Today, you may be in the storm or you may be picking up sticks.
No matter where you find yourself today,
be encouraged and strengthened.
GOD IS WITH YOU IN BOTH PLACES,
and the devil has no power.
You are a survivor of storms and snakebites!
Smile today as you walk with Him who promises victory not once but for eternity!!
December 12th, 2013
Today is 12/12/13.
Possibly an important date in your life.
Maybe a day you will celebrate for some reason or another.
But, statistically, this day is more than likely just another day on the calendar for most of you.
The second Thursday in December.
Twelve days before Christmas Eve.
For our family, today is significant.
Today marks the celebration of David’s first birthday.
Remember, our 12/12/12 baby??
Here is my post the day after his very special arrival into our lives – CLICK HERE to read about that special day.
David arrived as a gift to our hurting family.
He revived the spirit of Christmas and he brought a new reason for love and laughter to all of our hearts.
For us, December 12th will forever be significant because it is a reminder of this little gift to our family.
So, today, we say “Happy First Birthday!” to our little bundle of joy!
Here he is now!
As I think about how much we love this little guy and how he has changed everything about our family’s life,
I realize that all of you have people in your lives who hold special places.
All of you have family members and friends whose birthdays you celebrate.
Your life has been made better by the appearance of someone.
Maybe it’s a new baby.
Maybe it’s a new co-worker.
Maybe it’s a new neighbor.
Maybe it’s a new “special someone” who brightens every day.
Whoever it is, when you think of them you know your life improved because of their presence.
To you, their birthday or the day you met or the day you decided to commit to a more serious relationship is a day worth celebrating.
That’s what we do.
We celebrate life with significant people.
We commemorate special days.
We throw parties.
We send cards.
We bring gifts.
We give thanks.
We share life.
So, how can we question just how significant Jesus is to the entire world?
Who else has a birthday that is celebrated by people who don’t even acknowledge Him as that special?
Who else has a birthday that causes everyone to give?
Honestly, many people who put up trees, hang lights, buy presents, throw parties, and enjoy time off work don’t really understand or care about the One for whom the season holds value.
WHO IS THIS JESUS WHO CAUSES THE WHOLE WORLD TO WONDER?
WHO IS THIS MAN WHO CAUSED OUR CALENDAR TO CHANGE FROM B.C. to A.D.?
Talk about a birthday NOONE can forget.
Imagine if the day you were born began a new way of measuring time.
Yes, today is special to our family.
We celebrate and give thanks for our little gift.
He probably didn’t change your world, but He did change ours.
Jesus, on the other hand, longs to change all of our lives.
In many ways, He has changed all of our lives even if we try to deny Him.
Most celebrations are limited to close friends and family,
but Jesus’ invitation is open to all mankind.
The greatest gift of all longs to give to you.
He doesn’t just offer a gift.
He doesn’t just offer a party.
He offers peace.
He offers rest.
He offers life.
For God so loved the world that he
gave his one and only Son, that
whoever believes in him shall not
perish but have eternal life.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I
give you. I do not give to you as the
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.
Come to me, all you who are weary
and burdened, and I will give you
Then Jesus declared,
“I am the bread of life.
Whoever comes to me will never go
and whoever believes in me will
never be thirsty.”
Today, as our family celebrates the gift of David who entered our life on 12/12/12,
I hope you’ll take time to reflect on just how special the gift of a tiny baby born in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago is to you.
Today is significant in all of our lives,
because we all have a reason