Saturday, November 2, 2013

no guilt treadmill of performance

I am so glad that my relationship with God is not based upon my performance! So I don't have to be worried or fearful that I may fall in and out of his favor.

It would grieve me to think that I would not choose to be a close friend and follower of Jesus, but just like my salvation was because of his grace and not my performance, my life here on earth is about his grace and not my performance.

Some, knowing heaven is a free gift, accept that gift and then, snap snap, jump on the treadmill of performance and guilt and a level of expectation to which they will never be able to live up to.

If we actually fell into God's favor because of our performance, we would be able to brag about it. Rather, like his free gift of salvation, it is Jesus' performance and his grace that we rest in and boast about!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

singing in the Nova

When I was little, my Grandma had a gold Nova with no airconditioning. She had to turn the steering wheel hard with no power steering. And those 1970's black vinyl seats were hot! I was six when Grandma took me school shopping for the first grade, and we rode in the Nova. I remember it vividly, like I remember the clothes she bought for me. A big girl shirt with little buttons and puffy sleeves and a cute plaid skirt to match. We had so much fun that day; and I felt like I was very grown up,  very loved. Later that year, very unexpectedly, she went to be with the Lord. Looking back, I know that day was a gift. I can even hear us singing together, "He's got the whole world in his hands."

Recently, I heard a modern worship song that reminded me of the Nova ride. "The whole world in his hands," we sang with great emotion, an old idea to match the new tune. I love new songs and old ones, new friends and old memories. And I relish the fact that through the last 39 years since our shopping day, God has remained faithful. Indeed he has kept the whole world in his hands! Times may change, and people we love may go on to heaven to wait for us there, but their contribution to our lives is vast. The truths from then continue to be true today. And God is still just as much holding the world together now as he was then, when we sang in the Nova.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I left my boy on top of a mountain.

We took our boy to college and we left him there. As parents, we are reminded that we have not walked this way before. It is an emotional surprise. Lots of excitement, coupled with a little grief, an era ended and a new road ahead for all of us.

Have I done enough, I asked myself? Have I taught and loved enough? Have our family values been instilled in this child, now a man? Will he call? Will he ever need me again?

As our truck climbed the mountain, I rambled my last ditch effort of instruction, "Be careful driving on this mountain. It is dangerous, you know! And those wild kids, those other drivers..." I was politely interrupted, "Mom, your speeches ring continuously in my ears."

I'm sure he was saying "be quiet" in a nice way, but somehow I felt comforted and relieved that not all of my speeches had gone unheard. He would be ok.

More than any speech, I remembered that God had directed Taylor's choices, that we all had asked God to make his will so clear that we could not miss it. And He had.

Alas, I am not the only parent giving advice. Proverbs 4 says, "Take hold of my instructions; don't let them go. Guard them, for they are the key to life...My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words...Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life."

I am forever thankful that our family loves so much that it hurts. May we always love big, and may the words of wisdom "continually ring in our ears."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

a little thought on parenting :)

I want to simply encourage those of you who have strong-willed, wild, crazy kids. Some parents think that their kids are calm and obedient because they are wonderful at parenting. Ha! We will humbly allow them to keep thinking that. But you and I, those of us who have super-determined, strong-willed kids-- we need to know this-- if our kids turn out well, we will never take credit for it because we know we have been desperate, and we are ready to give God all the glory!

One soap box I must stand on (for now)-- Do not let any book or blog (mine included) tell you how to raise your children. No one knows them like you do. No one knows your family dynamics like you do. Gleen from others, but parent your own kids. Do not be discouraged because your children will not do what the books say they should do. My kids would not sleep. They ate all the time, and they rarely obeyed the first time! Now, our stories are certainly not over yet, but my boys are growing to love God and be flexible. Yes, I love flexible!!

So gleen, gleen, my frustrated friend! But love on those babies, and snuggle them up, because mine is leaving now. He is a man, and I do not regret one single, unscheduled, precious day!!

Monday, June 24, 2013

And her numbers are.....way up!!

Mom had been working toward retirement, but this was different. This week, retirement did not look like beach trips and flights to see grandchildren. It did not feel like a well-deserved and anticipated vacation, fun times with Dad or coffee with friends. When "normal" platelet counts whisper 200-600 thousand, Mom's levels were a screaming 3 million. So the joy of her retirement "party"
 was coupled with concern, love, a few tears from friends, smiles and "everyone's complete attention."

The steller display of her giftedness as an educator had shown forth in her ability to summarize polycythemia, her complicated blood disorder, as if she were speaking to her usual third graders. "My body makes way too much blood," she explained. "and when your body knows to stop making blood, mine just keeps on making it; and I know it's not sunny in here, but I have this huge sty on my eye, so I'm wearing these crazy glasses!" she laughed, putting everyone at ease.

She continued by connecting with her fellow teachers through mentioning their shared disdain for the many achievement tests they were required to give throughout the year; and a humorous commonality of teacher woes filled the room. "But there is one Benchmark that we cannot get rid of," she announced. "That is the Benchmark of heaven, and we all have to make a 100%." She explained, with a huge smile, that none of us are perfect and that Jesus was the only perfect one. That is why his payment for our sin on the cross was enough to get us to heaven. There was nothing we could do but to trust him and believe him when he said, "I am the way."

I have never been more proud of my mother, a perfect example of being led by God's Spirit.....and preparation. For this was not a spur of the moment "oh ok, I will say a few words" speech. As a few transferring teachers had proceeded her with "a few words," the stage had obviously been set for her to share what had been on her heart for a long, long time. This two minute soliloquy was planned and met with much prayer.

I once heard a great person say, "It is not so much about how you start, but rather, how you finish." This indeed was a strong finish. "Nancy is our spiritual leader," one teacher said. Heads nodded in agreement. Eyes filled with tears and fellow teachers lingered to ask about this Benchmark--This free gift Mom spoke about.

I am so thankful I had the chance to be there, and I am thankful that my Mom had a great closure to a great career. She certainly will not retire from teaching, for she continues to teach us how to live and love and trust. And those numbers? They are going down! Now maybe Mom can think about that beach trip. She deserves it!!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Twenty-five years ago today, Brian moved to Pemberton, New Jersey to begin his work as a student pastor; and exactly sixteen years ago, today, he and I packed everything we owned into a U-Haul truck and moved to Georgia with our two-year old, Taylor.

The last twenty-five years have been a testament to the faithfulness of God. We have seen God do amazing things in the lives of students and adults. Brian has watched God take teenagers and grow them up, give them families of their own, and use them to continue the work of reaching people for Jesus Christ. To those who have influenced Brian over the last twenty five years, Thank you!

It has not always been easy. No impacting profession or life work is easy. But today, we celebrate twenty-five years of Brian's partnering with God to help people on their journey of trusting Christ as their Savior and becoming fully-devoted followers. How exciting is that?! Seeing life change for twenty-five years has got to be rewarding!

So as Brian's wife, I just have to say that I love his authenticity. What you see on stage is really who he is at home. I love the fact that he shares personal stories of his life, even his imperfections and struggles. I love that he puts great amounts of time and effort into passionately sharing truth; and that after his ministry growing to a significant size, he is still burdened for people--individuals. He really cares and, in fact, agonizes over hurting people. I have watched Brian grow in leadership and influence through these years, but most of all, I am thankful that his priority has been our family. He takes his day off and prioritizes our marriage and our boys. That, to me, is healthy.

Brian, we are still having fun! Thank you for being faithful. I can't wait to see what God has in store for the next twenty five!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Noah and Rapunzel

I love a good adventure story, don't you?! The man who was swallowed by the big fish. The charming brave prince who rescued the girl with the amazingly long hair. The little dwarfs. The wicked queens. The guy who built the boat and put all the animals in it!

Wait! Now pretend you are in kindergarden. Which of these stories are true, and which ones are make- believe?  I bet you know the answer... or maybe you don't. The stories from the Bible are true and the stories from the fairy tale book are make-believe. Noah really did build a big boat, and Jonah really was swallowed by a huge fish! And the girl with the long hair--well, she just exists on the pages of our adventurous minds!

A lot has changed since kindergarden! Some things will never change. In the all-grown-up world that we live in, it is comforting to know that "Every word of God proves true." Proverbs 30:5 Times may change, and people will certainly change, but "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Hebrews 13:8

We have changed. We have grown up, and our society is ever-changing! But the truth of God's Word will never ever change. We may have indeed grown backwards into the inability to decipher fairy tales from reality or truth from lies.

This is what you need to know: You must decide for yourself. Is God's Word, the Bible, true or not? If it is true, then we measure everything in life by that holy book, and if it is not, we should throw it away.
When we are confronted by life's situations, we hold to the truth of God's Word, if we are five or 50.

And in all we do--love. Because God is love, and that is not a fairy tale!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Because of Easter

Because of Easter, because Jesus died on the cross and actually came back to life, we can have life.
We can live forever in heaven, not because of anything we do, but because of what Jesus did for us.
Because of Easter, we can live here, in this world, with purpose, confidence and power.
Because of Easter, we can forgive the people who hurt us, even those who irritate us.
Because of Easter, we are accepted and loved. We are free to be ourselves.
Because of Easter, we don't have to worry and be confused and upset. We are secure.
Because of Easter, it doesn't have to be all about us. Our lives can point to Someone greater than ourselves, and we are free to give to others.
Because Jesus did what he said he was going to do at Easter, we can expect that he is going to continue to keep his promises.
Because of Easter, we are free from the burdens of impossible expectations, guilt and legalism. Because he was perfect, we don't have to be.
Because of Easter, that pivotal morning, when death was defeated and Life and Truth won, we have victory over grief, loss, depression, sickness and loneliness. We have a future. A hope. He is living and we can trust him!


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

shut up in my mind

Silence is often uncomfortable, isn't it?

Recently, I was reminded to not only communicate with God by praying, and to hear from God by reading the Bible; but to choose to be silent in his presence. Being silent means that we stop thinking about a million things, and we be still.

So I decided in the chaos of my day that I would read the Bible and pray for a few minutes and then, I would be totally quiet. I said, "God, is their anything that you are wanting to say to me?"

I tried to stop thinking about talking. I tried to shut up in my mind, and I realized I was uncomfortable. Maybe I was scared to hear what God would say to my heart. Maybe it weirded me out. Then, in my brief moments of calm, I felt loved. I felt like if God were in the room, he would have said, "You are doing a good job." And I guess I needed that because I got tears in my eyes.

Maybe God asks us to be still so he can love on us.

What about you? Take a few minutes to be quiet, and ask God what he is thinking. What is important to him? Somewhere in there, he wants you to know how much he loves you. I'm quite sure of that.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Bible story I didn't like

Have you ever felt like the story of the prodigal son was unfair? I've heard it over and over since I was a little girl, and I never liked it. Why? Because I felt terrible for the older, faithful son. Remember, the younger son asked for his father's inheritance early and then wasted it on foolish living. When his money ran out, and he fell on hard times, he returned to his father's house and a party was thrown in honor of his return. Of course, when the faithful brother heard of the party, he was upset.

I recently read this story again and, of course I can see that the father loved his foolish son. So what does that mean for us? God IS love. He throws a party when we want to be with him, no matter what we have done. We can always come back. I love that about God!

But what's in it for the faithful son, the one who did what was right all those years?  This is it: EVERYTHING.

In Luke 15:31 "His father said to him, Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and EVERYTHING I HAVE IS YOURS. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found."

The faithful son got it all. God has the perfect balance, one that we try to achieve; and this story is a beautiful picture of his love and his justice. He loves with his whole heart, and he rewards faithfulness. In Romans 8:17 we read "And since we are his children, we will share his treasures--for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours, too." The father threw a party because he loved his boy, and yet the faithful son received the whole inheritance.

So where are you? Are you the prodigal that needs to come home? God's arms are opened. He will throw a party for you and love you like you never left in the first place! Or, maybe you have been faithful all these years, and you are wondering what is in it for you? Everything. God's love also means that he rewards obedience and faithfulness. Maybe you are like me, and you are trying to figure out God. This is a good story for us. We can copy the Father. He is a good one.