Tuesday, November 24

FIGHT to the LIFE!

I'm on my own in God's Word right now. Our Bible study has ended, and I'm without a curriculum. My plan was to read through Paul's letters. Studying his letters to the Thessalonians really made me want to read through the others (so many others) to find his purposes in writing to each group of people.

I hope to do that at some point. But, this week, I've felt led to study JESUS. One thing Children of the Day highlighted for me is that NEW TESTAMENT LIVING isn't easy. It just isn't! Living life as a Christ follower in this world means that I'm constantly faced with difficult problems that don't have easy solutions. What makes these situations even harder is that I'm also surrounded by religion wanting to cover every difficulty with easy answers. For the life of me, I can't figure out WHY! I don't think I'll quickly answer that question. So, before I look at Paul's letters to New Testament believers, I decided I should head back to the Gospels and study this Jesus I want to follow. JOHN -- that's where I'm starting.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (1:4)

OK... So, there's nothing crazy and new about that verse. I've read it a million times. There isn't a thing that sounds earth shattering about any one of the individual words. They're all simple words, really. I decided to look them up anyway. The word light (phos) comes from the Greek root meaning to shine or to make manifest/known. In this verse, "light" speaks to the purpose of life that was found in Him (Jesus). Strong's says, "By metonymy, light is spoken of Jesus as the great Teacher and Saviour of the world who brought life and immortality to light in His gospel."

Maybe I'm reading too much into it. But, it struck me that this seemingly small definition DOES bring something crazy and new... something earth shattering... to my understanding of who Jesus is and what His coming accomplished. The Gospel does not begin with Christ's incarnation. It BEGINS in Genesis, chapter 1. I love reading the Old Testament, and the Gospel is VERY PRESENT in its story line. God chose us. From the very beginning, His relationship with mankind was HIS idea. The Old Testament is FULL of testimony demonstrating God's faithfulness to the covenant He made with His people. Humanity consistently chose to separate themselves from the One, TRUE God, but HE continuously pursued. In the Old Testament, though, Gospel relationship required DEATH. Every visit to the Tabernacle to meet with God required the death of an animal. Blood repeatedly poured out so that Gospel relationship between God and man could take place. 

Jesus stepped into the New Testament bringing life and immortality (eternal life) to light in the Gospel. Sin is still a big deal. Death IS required for relationship restoration. But, in Him, THE death occurred, THE blood spilled, and THE life won. This life IS the light of men. This life is what John says will shine, enlighten, and make the Gospel known. Can you even imagine how hard it must have been to break away from the mindset of DEATH to LIFE in Gospel relationship for those whose lives were driven by sacrifice?

John 1:4 expresses Jesus' call to LIVE. He overcame death SO we get to live! I do not think that means life in Him will be easy. I don't think answers are laid out perfectly for every situation. But, I DO believe LIFE should be what we're pursuing since LIFE is what Christ brought to light in His Gospel. But, we seem way too eager to kill....

That marriage that isn't exactly what we thought it would be? Kill it! I'm sure there's a legitimate reason why it's in your best interest to quit.

The job that's requiring too much time and energy investment EVEN THOUGH God opened the door and has shown His purposes in it? Move on... There are other jobs!

The plans to teach children in the mindset of Deuteronomy 6 that continue to fail because of a busy schedule? Those plans can die, because no one is helping to accomplish them anyway.

The controversy in the church over (insert hot topic of choice) that has the entire congregation divided? Death to the group! Two churches are better than one, right?

Maybe I'm being dramatic. But, this seems to be the world we live in. It's so easy to believe THE LIFE Christ gave should be simple or at least have some simple answers. It's tempting to assume any continued difficulty means a wrong choice has been made; therefore, the only solution is change the situation...KILL the problem, so life can be easier.  We may work at fixing the complication, but investing in the LIFE of that situation has a time limit. If it's taking too long or the answers don't become clear; then, it's DEATH! The ONLY answer is to kill it, remove it, and move on to what God's really calling us to. Surely, HIS WILL won't require so much energy!

This morning, though, I've been confronted with Jesus who came into the darkness, the death, the difficult and was LIFE... IN the darkness, IN the death, and IN the difficult. I'm enlightened that John chose to introduce Christ as the One who brought LIFE... not only death and sacrifice.... to His gospel. And, I'm challenged that John went on to say, And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overpower it. The darkness HAD to cause difficulty, but it lacked the power to kill the LIGHT.

So, maybe we're killing the wrong things. Maybe our war is against the wrong enemy; therefore, we speak death over relationships, situations, and opportunities that, through Christ and in His power, were intended to bring HIS LIFE to light.
What if someone in that difficult marriage chose to kill the pride and misconceived expectation and let the relationship LIVE?

Is it possible to stick with the calling IN the difficult work environment to bring death to the part of the flesh always needing something from others that only God can give SO THAT the positive influence in the negative atmosphere LIVES?

I'd love to see more dreams about the way parenting is SUPPOSED TO BE die while the determination to teach and instill true value LIVES on for generations to come.

And, Lord Jesus, can we GET A GRIP  in our churches in such a way that love and unity LIVE while personal preference and division DIE?

We are fast approaching the time of year to celebrate the Word becoming flesh to dwell among us. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is life changing and life giving. He brought LIFE to light in the Gospel, so let's seek THAT life. In the difficult drama (and we ALL have it), seek to KILL what needs to die and LIVE (in and through Him) where He's called for LIFE. 

THAT'S the transforming living of the Gospel. And, I know a world that would LOVE to see a little of THAT LIFE!

Friday, November 6

Grief & Loss to Joy & Fullness

Since my last post, life has taken on a new level of difficult. That's a refreshing way to begin your reading, I know! Truly, I don't have another way to say it.

...we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9
The beginning of the school year is CRAZY busy for us due to the kick off of TOT, homeschool, and all of the normal things required for getting back to a daily schedule. It's also an emotional time for us as we remember Scotty's confession as well as celebrate repentance and healing. Truly, after having done this season 3 times, THAT combination of events is enough to stretch me emotionally, spiritually, and physically beyond what I can handle.

This year, though, we faced EVEN MORE trauma during our already pressure-filled Fall; and, for a solid two months, I COULD NOT get a grip. It felt as if I'd take a couple of steps in a positive direction only to fall headfirst in the opposite direction. Over. And over. And OVER!

I'm going to be very vague in details out of respect for all involved. But, I NEED to write. I need to unload. And, I need to share, ONCE AGAIN, of God's faithfulness in my confusion.

In many ways, if feels like I am living through ANOTHER betrayal. This betrayal has NOTHING to do with my husband. And, this situation is not in any way similar to the betrayal I experienced 4 years ago with people close to me. But, in SO MANY WAYS, this hurts EVEN MORE. Is that even possible?

By definition, betrayal is a disappointment, a loss of hope, an act that disregards relationship. It causes pain; but, in this case, it's caused confusion more than anything else. Judgements and criticisms were made about Scotty and me and how we do life. We didn't understand them or know what to do with them. After begging for clarification as to what it all meant and given no explanation, we have no other choice but to move on. We move on SADLY and with a gaping hole where there was once sweet relationship.

I can move on. I WILL move on. But, you KNOW I have to analyze first. I have to LEARN SOMETHING from the pressure. If God allowed it, there's something to be gained. I believe we will be learning from this for many years to come. I believe God will restore and heal for the sake of unity! For now, I believe God wants me to learn how to receive judgement in relationship well. 

Relationships provide accountability. One of the great things about living in relationship is that all of our "yuck" is exposed. If we stick it out (and don't run away), that "yuck" comes to the surface often and can be scraped off. Sanctification. When people REALLY KNOW US and are given permission to speak into our lives, we can USE THEIR CRITICISMS to produce more holiness. David did that with Nathan in First Samuel. It has just dawned on me that  David could have responded very differently to Nathan's accusation. If he'd REFUSED to see his sin, his heart would have hardened, bitterness and defensiveness would have taken over, and the outcome of David's life would be very different. 

So, when the judgement was first handed to us, Scotty and I wanted to use it for even more sanctification. We've studied. We've prayed. We've asked for input from Godly men and women that know us and know our history. We continue to seek counsel. We DID NOT want to disregard the complaint just because we didn't agree. "Taking stock" and changing perspective is necessary. Part of the struggle of the last two months has been a beautiful thing as we've used what hurt to cooperate with God to bring EVEN MORE healing to our family.

All accountability must be tested. This one is hard for me, but not all criticism is to be received EVEN IF it comes from someone you love and look up to. This is where we are. We've taken the concern to heart, and we haven't found validity. Therefore, we must carry on in the life God has for us. My emotions have been in a tail spin, because (from the beginning) I felt the judgements made of my little family were WRONG, but they came from a person I've always thought was RIGHT. Maybe that's why I dug so hard and long to make sure I wasn't missing something. The truth is, there will always be people who disagree with choices we make. The truth is, we will always come up short in doing this life perfectly. But, at the end of the day, we have to do what God has called us to do. Period

I don't think it's any coincidence that I'm in the middle of Beth Moor's, Children of the Day, during this MAJOR relational fall out. This Bible study is ALL ABOUT relationships. We are called to them, and we are called to do them well. I feel like I could live such a holy life if all I did each day was go to Bible study, read my Bible, and journal my studies. If I never had to actually practice what I learn in long term relationship, I could really be CHRIST-LIKE. No! There's NO running away from relationships if we want to live the Christian life with any impact on this world. Our relationships are the place we get to practice our learning.

So, while I can currently record the last couple of months as the HARDEST MONTHS OF MY FORTY YEAR OLD LIFE. I know that they'll also be a spiritual marker in my personal timeline. Grief and loss have driven me to JOY and the pursuit of MORE WHOLENESS. I will continue toward the next marker with a much larger GRATITUDE for God's people that know me (good and bad) and still choose to actively love me. And, I have a renewed desire to make that kind of commitment to the people God has placed in my life. 

God, your way is hard! So often, I want to lash out. I want to plead my case. I want to run and hide when my case isn't heard. In Christ, YOU didn't do any of that. So, I confess that I'm taking this thing one step at a time. Lead me in YOUR WAY and carry me when that way is too difficult for me. Thank you for giving me the courage to fulfill the commitments I've made in relationship. Thank you for those that make that same commitment to me. We know all of these gifts come straight from you, so help us to steward them WELL. 

Saturday, August 29

Don't Do Life Alone!

We were created for relationships! God said it, and I agree.

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him."
Genesis 2:18
So, then, WHY are relationships so hard? Why is it that our helpers sometimes DON'T seem suitable for us? I'm just being honest; but, even with my helper, my natural tendency is STILL to isolate. I much prefer HIDING the less attractive and showing only what I think is appropriate. And, can I REALLY have a suitable helper if he doesn't really KNOW me?

Over the past few years, I've uncovered this difficulty about me. I'm a "stuffer." We all know the HUGE complications that come from NOT sharing thoughts, emotions, and feelings. But, I have a really 'KIND' reason for not wanting to share. If I feel like MY feelings about a situation will hurt SOMEONE ELSE'S feelings, it's not worth it to me. I'd rather STUFF my emotions in order to save another's. 

For starters, there's this guy....

  You better believe there have been some feelings over the years that I DID NOT want to share with him. They were tough emotions, and he'd caused some of them, and we'd been making so much progress, and I thought it would just stir it all up again to share? Wasn't that correct thinking?

The simple answer is, "YES!" BUT... Scotty along with my really good therapist have taught me that it's STILL worth it to share. It's always the best, most healthy option to speak openly with your significant other even when the content is UGLY!

Now, I don't have to share the full extent of that ugly content here. What I do want to share is THE GIFT I've been given by Scotty's desire to enter in to this honest relationship with me. 

Full Acceptance. In a world where ALL OF US are putting only our best onto social media, something is happening that is extremely ironic. The world has more access to our lives than ever, BUT no one SEES any reality at all. Then, we can get so caught up in all of the 'likes' and positive comments that we believe we need that acceptance and wouldn't get it if ANYONE knew the less attractive parts of our lives. See, the Facebook version of me is many times different than the home version of me. Everyone doesn't have to know all of my JUNK. But if I didn't feel comfortable sharing the yuck with SOMEONE I'd be tempted to believe that the less attractive parts of me make ME less than. I tell Scotty all the time, "I'm just a mess!" Letting someone see that and feeling his commitment to being WITH me IN that mess expresses complete acceptance to me. 

A Tool for Sanctification. Oh yeah... if you're married you are nodding in agreement now. A person is sanctified when he or she is used for the purpose God intended. I WANT THAT! Living with someone day in and day out is tricky. Living with and raising kids with someone that is so very different can create an IMPOSSIBLE environment to live out the Godly life well. Maybe it's just me, but sometimes I'm convinced I could do this life better on my own. Here's why that's a big, fat, LIE.... On my own, I'd have no one to call me out on my hypocrisy. Now, don't take that the wrong way. My husband doesn't keep a running list of all of the ways my words and actions don't match up. However, it's in the difficulties of our communication that God is able to show me how I'm FIGHTING against HIS best for me. The impurity bubbles to the surface; and, if I'll cooperate with it, God can use these uncomfortable interactions with Scotty to burn it away!  There are some things about Amy that MUST BE burned up in order for me to fulfill the purposes God has for me. Many, many times, God uses Scotty to expose those things. 

Safety. This may seem like an odd one! In previous posts, I've written about the fact that Scotty has always had this deep down conviction that if anyone REALLY knew him they'd run from him QUICKLY. There's depth there I won't go into. But, over the past couple of years, I've come to realize I have this same FALSE belief, but it plays out a little differently. In my case, somehow I created this belief that to struggle outwardly may make it TOO HARD for others to be in relationship with me. In other words, I've felt that struggling outwardly in relationship would send those I love running AWAY FROM me. It's fear, and it's unfounded, but it's been real. So, for a couple of years, relating to me has been BEYOND difficult for Scotty. And, HE'S STILL HERE.... every day.... asking for more (maybe he's crazy).... and committing to stay the course no matter what. Man, he must want to run sometimes. He doesn't! And, in that "stick and stay" mentality, I'm gaining a confidence and certainty that is new for me. 

So, we miss something BEAUTIFUL in the pretty world of Facebook and Instagram. Truly knowing and being truly known EVEN WHEN the content is messy IS the BEAUTY that is relational living. None of us will HIGH JUMP to wellness in our relationships. 

Celebrations require accomplishments.

Victory requires a fight.

And, worthwhile relationships require true communication.

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
 Ephesians 4: 1-3

Tuesday, August 25

Just Thoughts...

As most of you know, my world was ROCKED by sin a few years ago. The sin was adultery, and it was devastating. There aren't really any words that can explain the pain I experienced when I discovered my little family was changing... that life would never again be as simple as it had been so far. No! words!

There's really no way for me to share with you the fear involved in NOT knowing what the next moments would look like. Even years into recovery, the difficulties still caused questions and uncertainty. For me, when parts of the pain were still present a year or two after confession, I'd be struck by this question... Can I do this forever? 

 P.S. -- The enemy is REALLY good at making us think the good is temporary but the difficult is forever.

It would be impossible to tell you how unbearable it was to PUBLICLY experience the pain, the suffering, the uncertainty, the devastation, and the shock WHILE those around us gloated, schemed, and cast judgement over our future.  

It would be IMPOSSIBLE, because THAT wasn't our  experience!

Now, I'm not so naive that I believe there weren't those people. But, they aren't who I remember. Scotty and I were fortunate! We were surrounded by an ARMY of believers warring on our behalf and encouraging us to do the same. What a blessing! (By the way, THANK YOU again to SO MANY.) 

Today, another believing family is facing similar emotions. I realize the situation is different. These are FAMOUS believers. The sin has more history and more depth. Regardless, they are in a MESS. And, I'm telling you, it's a SCARY mess. I can't weigh in on the situation any more than that... Life is HARD, and the choices of this well known husband/father has made his family's life EVEN HARDER. For that, I pray GRACE AND MERCY. I pray HEALTH AND HEALING. And, I pray JESUS, COME QUICKLY. 

My thoughts today have less to do with this family and more to do with this question, Why is it our NATURAL tendency, as believers, to rejoice (a little or a lot) over the BIG sins of those around us? Why does that seem to PUFF UP our egos? And, the big question,  

Why don't we realize the SIN in that???

God has done this AMAZING thing for me, and it began a few years ago. It's amazing EVEN THOUGH it kind of made me mad for a while! He's been showing me MY SINS every time I try to focus only on Scotty's. Isn't THAT crazy? Can you even imagine? Each and every time I want to focus on this HUGE sin my husband committed... betrayal to our family... God points out the sin that is my very own. 

Does that sound mean? Sometimes, it FELT mean! But, it might be the thing I'm most grateful for in our story. Now, please don't hear me say that God has shown me sin that CAUSED my husband to fail. You ARE NOT hearing that! Sin doesn't work like that. I could say more! I won't. :)!

But, over the years, God has shown me MY OWN WAYS that are detrimental to living the life I SAY I want to live. In other words, what I WANT out of life and what I GIVE to life don't always match.

I'll just give you one example...

In my home, with the people I love most, I have this GREAT difficulty LIVING OUT what I'm learning from God. I get up early in the morning. I spend time with God and His Word; and, most mornings, I feel like He's done a work in my heart. Then, I walk out of my room and into the kitchen where my husband and three precious children are readying for the day. Many days (not every day), I'm quickly overtaken by this irritation, simple moodiness, or an absurd frustration. And, by gosh, I want them to KNOW IT! So, these emotions will be seen on my face and heard in my actions. There you have it, selfishness, moodiness, ungratefulness, and distrust all wrapped up in one scenario.

Now, I'm not being too hard on myself. I'm not going to wallow in disgust over my moodiness and ungratefulness. But, I AM going to acknowledge that it is SIN. Left untreated, it COULD create pain in my marriage and family JUST AS DAMAGING AS Scotty's sin of adultery. And, every time my human reasoning tries to say, "You are NOT going to liken moodiness to adultery," I'm staring in the face of another relationship-destroying sin... PRIDE!

Can you see the arrogance? What would cause me to DESIRE to focus on the pain caused by a "larger" sin in another person when I KNOW words hurt, unreasonable voice tones can be alarming, and (oh my goodness) unusually tense or rough body language is downright confusing? I'll tell you...

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18

This has been an ongoing work within me... God is CONSTANTLY pushing and prodding. He's forcing me to truly FEEL the depth of my own sin. He's allowing me to see the ways my own life history has created these distancing tendencies. And, while the PROCESS has been grueling, it's been extremely rewarding. It's brought me to a greater dependence on HIM. It's caused me to recognize that my WORDS don't matter a bit if I can't WALK THEM OUT on a daily basis, with the people I love, in the relationships He's given. It's HARD! But, it's BEAUTIFUL!

So, when the news hit that ANOTHER believing brother had fallen to sexual immorality, I cringed. I was momentarily tempted to cast stones. I wanted to put myself beside him in comparison (yucky pride!) and sigh a bit of relief that I don't have THAT sin to repent of. But, I can't! My own human-ness is too exhausting to focus on another's. The ground is COMPLETELY LEVEL at the throne of grace. And, thank goodness, because I NEED my fair share.

Sunday, June 21

But.... Even If

I've listened to TWO sermons this week on prayer. I was convicted by each one; and, after having some time to think about them, I have a couple of questions.

Question 1 -- If I really believed in the power of God Paul wrote about in Ephesians, wouldn't I ask God for more? Couldn't I pray BIGGER?

For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all t hat we ask or think according to the power that works within us.... to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever." 3: 14-21

I think we're willing to ask God for BIG things when those things have to do with the spiritual, but I've been watching an ever growing assumption that to ask for anything big in other areas of life is quite nearly heresy. There's this phrase floating around Christian circles that is treated like a four letter word.... we almost have to whisper it.... and the pastors that seem to be preaching in line with this horrendous phrase might as well be printed on "WANTED" posters. Yes! You know it, prosperity gospel

I said it! And, I said it without a look of disgust on my face OR venom spewing from my mouth. If you know me at all, you now that I DO NOT believe God blesses financially or in any other way just because we are living a certain way. I CAN'T believe His reward to the extremely faithful is abundance and monetary prosperity. I'm not sure I really believe that those who've been slandered for teaching a prosperity gospel actually believe that either. (Disclaimer... I don't choose to listen to the pastors associated with the prosperity gospel... just not the style I prefer... but I've listened enough to believe that the public lynching may be slanderous and equally dangerous.)

Is it possible that we've taken God's call to contentment and traded it for complacency? Has this RAGE against the "prosperity gospel" given us an excuse to settle for LESS THAN? Could we be giving up on experiences with God we could only have in pursuing MORE WITH HIM than we currently have?

More intimacy in marriage,

More favor at work,

More stability in our finances, 

The Bible is full of scripture encouraging us to ASK big things in HIS name. Until this week, though, I've not heard the guidance to ask God for abundance.... in relationship, in work, or in finances. Why? There's probably a really good reason.


It's ugly. It can cause a person to miss God for the pursuit of more. And, it smothers gratitude. So, I have another question.

Question 2 -- How can I pray BIG prayers... prayers asking for God's abundance in all areas of my life.... and still live in the contentment and rest He calls me to? How can I seek MORE without allowing that MORE to steal gratitude and contentment?

I've found what I believe is the answer to that question...

Three kids in Babylon had, what I believe to be, the right idea about praying BIG and expecting God to answer. You know the story.... Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to bow down to the King's idol, and they were to be thrown into the fiery furnace. Just prior to being tossed in, the king gave them one, final opportunity to bow.

They could have responded in FEAR, bowing to the idol, and given up the opportunity to participate with God in the miracle.

They could have responded in COMPLACENCY, simply accepting death, and given up the opportunity to see God in the miracle.

They chose to respond BOLDLY. They didn't just ASK God for the miracle, they announced what God WOULD do for them. They prayed believing and God acted on their behalf. But, listen to their words. It seems the key to praying boldly WITH contentment is found here....

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire, and HE will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But, even if HE does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.
 Daniel 3: 17 & 18

There it is! I don't think living contently means we don't push for more. It can't mean that we take everything 'as is' and live complacently. No! Paul says we serve a God of POWER, a God able to do more than I could even imagine. Jesus Himself said to ask anything in HIS name and it will be given. So, we ask for the BIG thing! And, we ask BELIEVING. We also ask TRUSTING that the goodness of God is goodness REGARDLESS of the answer.

So, participate with God in prayer. Be bold in your requests! Be specific and be honest. He KNOWS your heart's desires. Don't discount certain requests because you've labeled them as too big, too shallow, too (fill in the blank.) Just ask!

Believe in God's power to answer that request in a HUGE way. Ask Him to answer in a way that demonstrates HIMSELF and changes you for the better.

Trust that if God chooses not to answer big, HE IS still BIG, and POWERFUL, and GOOD! He knows best, and my acknowledgment of that fact allows me to live in contentment with HIS process. 

Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he is going to happen, it shall be granted to him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted to you.
Mark 11: 23 & 24

Monday, June 15

Lessons Learned on a Baseball Field

Today, I had a conversation with my oldest. It was a conversation we've had before. For a couple of different reasons, though, we had it again today.

We had a conversation about baseball.....

"We play ball on Sundays and sometimes miss church, and MANY people don't think that's ok. Do you know why your dad and I have made this decision?"

Bless him.... His mom is a "talker outter." He's not! That's alright, because I wasn't either when I was twelve. After our short discussion driving to the ball fields, I had long thoughts about more than I said to him. Our baseball adventure has been A tool God has used to solidify a number of lessons He's taught me about Himself.

It ALL belongs to God! EveryTHING is His. Every MOMENT is His. Prior to Christ coming, God's people had the Sabbath day to enter into His HOLY rest.... to enter into His presence. They had strict times for this meeting with God, and they had strict ways to do it. Their Sabbath Law went way beyond remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Leviticus is FULL of heavy law that was to be obeyed. In Christ, EVERY day is a Sabbath. As a believer, I have the privilege of calling EVERY, SINGLE day Sabbath. I have the great honor to enter into HIS, HOLY REST every moment of every day. Praise Jesus! I can do this in my church, and I can do this on a ball field. I can meet with God right here during my morning quiet time, and I can chat with him as I stroll through the grocery store.

I'm humbled by this realization.

Freedom is freedom and captivity is captivity. Simple, right? Jesus spoke REPEATEDLY about freedom in the New Testament. It seems like He wouldn't have had to tell captives they are FREE more than once. I would think that prisoners would need ONLY ONE mention of freedom to run with it and never look back. But, Jesus kept reminding people they were free. Paul went on to remind US as well. I wonder why they kept forgetting? Why do I keep forgetting? I have a sneaky suspicion it has something to do with another word the Bible says MUCH about.... FEAR! In my own life, I've had times of fearing the opinions of others SO MUCH that I walked right back into my cell of LAW. It's neat and clean and nobody asks questions. The problem is this....

"Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the WHOLE law." Galatians 5: 2,3

Obeying the WHOLE law has proven to be an impossibility. Christ came because the Law had done it's job in showing us that we are incapable of COMPLETE obedience. So, on Sunday, I could refuse to let Caleb play at the times set up for him. We could let his team down every time there's a game scheduled prior to noon on a Sunday. ((And, let me be clear, If the Lord pressed upon Scotty or me to do that, WE WOULD!!)) Or, we could recognize that singling out that ONE law concerning the Sabbath would place me under obligation to keep the WHOLE law. And, THAT is not my calling.

I'm grateful for this lesson.

No matter where I am, JESUS is the point. Church is not. I LOVE church. I believe church membership is important. I do NOT believe a person can claim to be a GROWING, gospel centered Christian and NOT be part of a community of believers. But, I want to fall more and more in love with JESUS than my church. I want the same thing for my children. So, as long as my children are living with us, we will place importance on being in church on Sundays. When we aren't, though, we will outwardly express gratitude to a God that can be found wherever we are; in a car traveling on vacation, visiting relatives, or playing ball. To do ANYTHING else would be teaching them to love religion. John Eldridge says,

"Francis of Assisi was called “the second Christ” because his life was so totally given over to expressing the life of Jesus. What can we learn from this man devoted like no other? “As Saint Francis did not love humanity but men, so he did not love Christianity but Christ,” wrote Chesterton. Wow. Just let that sink in. Francis didn’t fall in love with church; he fell in love with Jesus. “His religion was not a thing like a theory but a thing like a love-affair.

Who even remembers him for that? If people know him now it’s only as the statue in the garden of the friar with the birds and bunnies. He’s been made a cartoon by the religious fog, just as it happened to Jesus. Which brings us back to something essential for loving Jesus, for making your faith more like a love affair—you are going to have to break with the religious. If you want Jesus, you’re going to have to end the relationship with the religious glaze."

I can't think of anything that would make me more sad that my children falling into a relationship with the religious glaze. I want them to LOVE God with their whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. During a few months out of the year, we get to celebrate a God that placed a love of ball  and a talent for the sport within Caleb ON THE VERY FIELD he gets to play. We do this on weekdays, on Saturdays, and , yes, on Sundays. 

I'm blessed by these experiences.

Yesterday, Caleb and I had our "talk" on the way to ball fields where we'd play no games. We gathered with other teams to pray for, support monetarily, and honor a family that lost a son Saturday. He was a ball player too. A summer storm blew in during his game, and he was struck by a falling limb getting off the field. Before going in, our coaches joined our boys together and spoke TRUTH to them.... truth about life and hardship, THE truth that BEING the gospel to the people God places in life is vitally important. We never know when our earthly time is over. But, when you are close enough to experience another person's end, you realize what matters. 

Having a relationship with Christ matters.

Lifting up HIS GREAT NAME in every area of life matters.

And, people matter!

I've been transformed by this tragedy.

I pray I never again second guess the life we've been given in THIS season God has called us to. Wherever I am and whatever I'm doing, I don't want to miss out on opportunities to love and serve God OR to be the recipient of that love and support.

What a HUGE price Jesus paid so that I could experience this at all times, in all places.... He did what the LAW could never do.

And, I am relieved.

Sunday, May 10

Help Needed....

This is probably one of the hardest blog posts I've ever sat down to write. It's not tough because of any yucky news to share. Today, I'm asking for help, and that's NO FUN for me. I'd much rather tell a funny story, brag on the Lord, or just share a lesson I've learned.

I've felt the need to ask for help via this blog for a while now. I haven't made time to sit down and write.... Possibly because I haven't really WANTED to do it. I woke up this morning with a determination to be obedient and see where it leads.

Scotty and I are coming out of a THREE YEAR time period where the Lord very clearly told us to focus on us; our marriage and our family. We've said "NO" to ministry possibilities, and we've turned down things we really WANTED to do, because God told us to work on US! In the beginning, that was hard to do. We've always been pretty active in church, community, and elsewhere. However, the inward, family focus is our normal. So.... on God's calendar, that's a perfect time for a new normal.

We are restless! We feel it's time to share, time to minister, and time to build up the Body using all the Lord has taught us. That's why I'm asking you for help. I'm asking you to pray for us as we try and determine what that is.... what this will look like for us.
  • Ministry -- I want to be VERY CLEAR here. Our ministry COULD BE walking one, single couple through the process of healing from adultery. It could be facilitating a small group of couples within our church. We ARE NOT seeking fame and fortune and a worldwide speaking career. I'm even hesitant to call it "ministry" 3 short years after our chaos. I'm grateful that we felt HIS leading to heal quietly FIRST. I'm always amazed at those that immediately begin ministering to others. We needed to time to RE-build in a healthy way, and God gave it to us. We've been able to pray with and encourage a few couples that have been sent our way. But, overall, our 'ministry' was to each other. And, now God is saying, "there's more." Will you pray that we follow HIS leading and live obediently?
  • Book -- Ahhhh...... My fingers are shaking as I type book. I've shared with a FEW people that Scotty has written a book. Actually, he started it 2 years ago, finished it quickly, and then it was kind of put aside for a while. He pulled it back out last year and added some personal stories to it. Then, he went back through THIS BLOG (as far back as 2008) and pulled posts from me. I didn't know all that he was going through or the sins that he was hiding as I wrote each entry. But, he's been able to put my experiences with his story to show how deceptive Satan can be, how feeble man is, and how God STILL works it all out for good when we are willing to cooperate. Then, he asked me to write at the end of a few chapters. It's FINISHED mostly. We are editing a bit and have NO IDEA what to do after that. We'd love to have copies to be able to give to couples when they approach us. It's our story, and it provides a place to start when someone asks us for help. Even though that will be small scale publishing, the financial aspect will be a stretch. So, please pray for the entire process.... our willingness to share as we need to, funding, and God's use of the material as He see fit. 
  • Our family -- I can't go any further without asking you to pray for our family. We LOVE sharing our story with people that need to hear it. Nothing brings a greater sense of REDEMPTION than being able to brag on our MIGHTY God that SAVED our marriage and continues to pour out HIS mercy on us. But, it's emotional. Sometimes, the stories are so similar to ours that listening makes me feel like I've been punched in the stomach. Other times, the stories are very different, and it's just hard to know what to say. Please pray protection over our family as the Enemy will surely attempt to tear us down as we seek to build others up.
During our last year in Clinton, life was so uncertain! We didn't know ANYTHING. I can't remember much detail about life at that time. But, I remember with great clarity sitting in our den and TRYING to reassure our children. We had a "FOR SALE" sign in our yard but NO IDEA where we were going if/when the house sold. And, we lived this way for a WHILE. Because we couldn't give them answers, we memorized Proverbs 3: 5-6; Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path. Any time we had a question with no answer, we'd just recite our verse. 

He DID direct our path. True to His Word, the Lord has been FAITHFUL in showing us where to go and what to do. Because He's given us this feeling of restlessness and desire to use our experience for His good, I KNOW He will direct our path again. I just want to OBEY Him no matter what it looks like.

Thank you in advance for your prayers. And, I'd like to ask one more thing. As you pray, if you have a message of encouragement or advice, if God lays something on your heart during your prayer time, I'd ask that you share it with us. My email is listed above. If you'd rather send a message to Scotty, I can give you his email. Just as Aaron and Hur held up Moses' arms in the desert when he struggled to follow through with God's instruction, many of YOU have shared words that have lifted me up at just the right time in my journey. I believe God will continue to encourage us through other people.

Show US Your ways, O LORD; Teach US Your paths. Lead US in Your truth and teach US,
For You are the God of OUR salvation; On You WE wait all the day.
Psalm 25: 4-5

Monday, April 6

safe living ISN'T resurrected living!

In recent years, Easter weekend has been much more meaningful to me. I've always been grateful for the work of the cross. It's the symbol of my Christianity. It's the basis for ALL I believe. As a young adult, the cross became more than security for my eternity. The resurrection gave hope that LIFE here on earth could be victorious.

If I'm honest, though, I've typically pursued that victorious living in the BIG things. The Easter story is HUGE, and when I think about THAT kind of victory, I usually associate and attempt to apply it to BIGGER THAN BIG circumstances. Certainly, Christ's resurrected life DOES mean that all seemingly hopeless situations can be conquered.... terminal diagnoses CAN be overturned, prodigal children CAN miraculously choose to return and repent, and marriages destroyed by carelessness CAN be healed and rebuilt. The beauty of the cross and resurrection is that what SEEMED dead and buried CAN live. I've experienced that miracle FIRST HAND, and I am SO! VERY! GRATEFUL!

What about our daily, mundane lives, though?

Since Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose to LIFE again on the third day, shouldn't I live every moment of every day differently? Boldly? Courageously? And, without FEAR?!?!

Here's what I mean... Often, I hear Christians professing the POWER of the cross and the MIRACLE of Christ's resurrected life. Then, I'll notice a theme of DEFEATED LIVING in that believer. Who am I kidding? I'VE been that believer. And, this is what it must look like to the non-believer....

"OK... So, you believe in a Savior that died and rose to LIFE? He gives YOU new life? But, He can't help you OVERCOME your moodiness? Your short temper with your children? Your OVER spending, OVER eating, OVER (fill in the blank)? So, you say this Jesus wants you to live ABUNDANTLY, but you can't find a way to live a more enjoyable life.... there's work, there's a busy home life, and there's frustration at every turn? I don't really see any difference between YOUR life and mine!"

In the moment that I am about to BLOW UP at one of my children, the resurrected life of Christ CAN supply all the power I need to rise above that situation and respond differently.

When I find myself just going through motions, the work of Easter CAN reignite the flame of my calling OR give me the courage to MOVE ON to a new work. Only FEAR causes us to say things like, "I could never do that," or "that's just not me." What if it ISN'T you, but it IS your new calling and you're missing out on the blessing of seeing God create something BRAND NEW within you?"

Life is just so hard, but the fact that the stone was rolled away, and Jesus Christ lives CHANGES EVERYTHING!

VICTORY over defeat!

COURAGE & BOLD LIVING replace fear!

CHAMPION not victim!

Easter happened! Jesus Christ lives! Reality is DEATH was OVERTAKEN by LIFE! That's it.... That's the point. One day, He will return and His children will reign with Him for eternity. Spoiler... WE WIN!!! And, we win BIG!

So, the question is, "Why wait?" In too many cases, we remain STUCK IN A RUT (in work, in relationships, etc.), because of FEAR.... fear of failure, fear of humiliation, fear of not being good enough.....

I'd rather enter heaven bruised, battered, humiliated, heartbroken, and worn out KNOWING that I'd pursued EVERY, SINGLE BIT of the LIFE Christ called me to in His Resurrection than to leave this life unscathed, because I played it SAFE.

I pray that they eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.... Ephesians 1: 18 - 20

If I'm issued a life's calling that requires the same strength of His might which raised Christ from the dead, I imagine it's going to be hard. Resurrected living ISN'T safe, because our all powerful God isn't necessarily safe. But, He IS good! The life He calls me to may not always be pretty or easy. But, in Him, it's GOOD. He's ALWAYS been faithful to DO what He said He would do. 

Tuesday, March 17

Gifts! All Gifts!!

I am SO, EXTREMELY grateful for this weather. The beautiful sunshine came in on Sunday, and it was AMAZING! Spring is such a great reminder of the gift of NEW.... And, to the Christian, the picture of newness of life is evident all around.

Therefore if any man is IN CHRIST he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. II Corinthians 5:17

Friday afternoon, we got news that Caleb's first baseball tournament for the Spring season was cancelled because of RAIN! We were SO, VERY SICK of the rain. So, this cancellation only fueled the fire.

At the last minute, we decided to just GET AWAY! Our Spring Break is this week. So, rather than sit in the house all weekend and sulk, we took off to Memphis. We aren't very familiar with Memphis activity, but we decided to give it a try.

The funny thing is that we were under the EXACT SAME weather in Memphis! We walked around Beale Street dodging rain. We visited the zoo IN scattered sprinkling. The kids swam.... INDOOR. The drab, yucky, dark, rainy weather was ALL around us. BUT, we weren't focused on THAT.

We were focused on each other and our OWN change of scenery. Then, God gave us a beautiful, SUNNY view for our journey home.

In other words, every day is a CHOICE. Every attitude is a CHOICE! And, rich or poor, rain or shine, New Albany or Memphis, I have a CHOICE! These are my BLESSINGS, and I WILL CHOOSE gratitude and joy.

"Praise HIM for the unexpected and the unlikely, for the daily and the difficult. The more you count, the more gifts you will see." 
Ann Voskamp

Wednesday, March 11

Bring on FORTY!

Man, have I had the "blahs"!

I haven't wanted to do much of anything. I've been cutting back, making space, prioritizing, etc. But, most of all, with everything I have, I've tried to pinpoint where this is all coming from!

I have a couple of ideas. But, I honestly believe the majority of it comes from one thing....

I NEED THE SUN! Why does winter last so much longer and look so much darker here in North MS? When my body does without the elements the sun provides, I begin to settle into irritation over less than meaningful issues. For instance, WHY is there not a TARGET within 20 miles to at least give me THAT as a little bright spot in a couple of my DARK days? It's been long enough, right? Target stores have been around a WHILE.... Even long enough to make it to Mayberry? And, yet there truly isn't a sign with giant red letters anywhere around me.

So, yeah... I have been in a rut. Maybe this rut isn't any bigger than past ruts. It's just that I feel as if I've come alive over the past few years in so many areas. Attacking life and it's challenges is so much more appealing than going through the motions to me now. This makes me much more aware of the rut. Even just the winter 'blahs' aren't acceptable. I need answers. And, I need to move on! In other words, I'm experiencing BURNOUT, and I need a BREAKTHROUGH!

At some point last week, I thought about this blog (literally for the FIRST time in forever), and I knew I'd feel better if I could just write out some thoughts. But here's the thing... No organized thought comes to me in a funk. It's all RANDOM! If you're up for completely random thoughts, carry on. If not, you may need to close your computer and find something else to do. Maybe, you could go and visit your local Target store in my honor. :)

In LESS THAN A MONTH, I will be 40 years old! What?!?!? How can this be? I'm not depressed about it. I've never been one to be bothered by my birthday. I LOVE to celebrate them! FORTY isn't depressing or scary, but it is WEIRD! It just doesn't see possible. And, this strange feeling has led me to evaluate life.... my life and how I've changed. Yeah, yeah.... I'm older, I'm slower, and all the other natural things. But, the majority of changes I notice are less likely to be noticed by anyone on the outside.

Let's start with the fact that, in my older age, I have WAY MORE questions than answers to just about everything. And, most of my questions have to do with things for which I ONCE thought I had PERFECT answers. Strangely, many of my questions have to do with spiritual things. For instance, knowing that the Gospel of Christ is HUGE and covers all people, all sin.... is full of mercy and grace, WHY are Christians much more comfortable splashing social media with EVERYTHING we are AGAINST when the PERSON we know says, "If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto Me?" And, if I believe the Holy Spirit is the only One that can change a heart, wouldn't I be much more likely to share Christ while cultivating a soft heart in RELATIONSHIP rather than SCREAMING my beliefs through a giant megaphone on the other side of a computer screen? Maybe I'm missing the point somewhere. Remember, I AM experiencing the 'blahs', but it just seems there's a better way. When I begin having these kinds of questions, I typically head to the Gospels and read about Christ's walk here on Earth. Strangely, I see such different responses. Oh... He held people to a HIGH standard, He boldly spoke AGAINST sin and FOR repentance. It's just that He was speaking to the RELIGIOUS and not the LOST. To those caught in the snare of sin and the world, He spoke kindness and love, He visited, He went out of His way to DEMONSTRATE the love of His father. I want to know how to do this and do it WELL. How? Questions.... Only questions.

Since I began with the spiritual, I'll stay there. My feelings on CHURCH are much different than they used to be. Stick with me here. I still LOVE the Church. LOVE! THE! CHURCH!!! I owe many churches and pastors a great deal of gratitude. I'm not about to LEAVE a local church or decide my family is better off doing this Christian walk alone. I just want so much more from the Church. I want REAL! I want DEPTH! I want to lock arms with a group of people who understand we have an ENEMY. Scripture says "our adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion LOOKING for someone to devour." We've been given all of the tools to fight him! In the end, we win the war. But, he's winning daily battles in the lives of believers, and we don't talk about them in our churches, because they aren't pretty! We dress up, go to church, sit and stand when we're supposed to and go right back home to the MESS! I'm OVER pretty.... I want BEAUTIFUL. We may just have to trudge through a lot of UGLY (with others) to get to BEAUTIFUL! But, wouldn't it be worth it?!?!?

Then, there's marriage and romance.... Yeah! This one's pretty HUGE. Once upon a time, I  thought romance in marriage was all date nights and flowers, anniversary trips and sweet gifts. Those are alright. But, at almost 40, I am much more moved by the reality that I'm married to someone who desires DOING the hard work to leave behind a legacy of marriage God's way. Believe me, there's a number of things that could have been swept under the rug. We could grin and bear it and move on. However, that wouldn't get us anywhere. Some days, there are TOUGH talks. And, we are navigating our own way, because intimacy in marriage is not something we've been taught. But, we share a common goals for this life we're living together. At the top of that list is EXPECTING GREATNESS in our marriage and REFUSING to settle for less. There's just no easy way to do it. So, romance now includes difficulty. Hmmm.... I didn't see THAT coming almost 20 years ago.

Parenting our children has shifted TREMENDOUSLY.  I care a LOT less about Caleb, Collin, and Claire LOOKING like a million bucks everywhere we go. I'm even getting over the desire for them to be the "good kids" in every situation. Now, don't get me wrong! I'm not wishing for my children to be problematic, constantly in trouble, or outright REBELS. However, my BIG dream for them is that they each have hearts CAPTURED by God. And, I've come to realize that kind of devotion doesn't come naturally. We have to be DRIVEN to it. Our mistakes are excellent drivers, because they demonstrate our great need for a loving Savior. There have been a couple of instances just this week where one of our children has made some TERRIBLE choices. It breaks my heart. But, I'm not at all concerned with the external, what this LOOKS like. All of our discussions with him have been related to his HEART and relationship. I could (and we did) enforce some consequences and stricter rules. Hopefully, those will serve to drive him to the end of Himself. But, ultimately, only God can change his heart. Only God can show him that HIS BEST is the goal. Otherwise, this Christian life will ALWAYS feel like RULES and MISSING OUT! I want our children to trust that God's heart is FOR their happiness (YES! I said "happy")! His way is the BEST way and the ONLY true road to happiness, freedom, and joy. Humanity typically learns this lesson the hard way. So, I'm less likely, at 40, to shield my kids from all of their mistakes and failures. They just might come face to face with their Savior there.

I could go on and on.... I really could! Life is interesting! Honestly, these are only a FEW of the things that have changed for me over the years. Internally, I'd say I'm a COMPLETELY different person. Forty years from now, I'll have changed EVEN MORE. I hope so, at least! Life would have been so boring if things had panned out just exactly like I'd thought they would when my adult life began.

So, bring on 40! I'm ready! I've never really been able to back down from a challenge. As great as the past few decades have been, I'm planning for the next one to be the best yet. The internal/external shift in God's design is interesting. As a younger woman, I was physically stronger than I was mentally and emotionally. Here, I find myself SO MUCH STRONGER internally, and physically (big sigh), I'm getting weaker. YUCK! "Best yet" may be a HIGH goal, but I'm not giving in yet....

Ear buds in, praise music on, and maybe I'll run some stairs. However much life I have left here, I WILL make the most it. This means, I'll continue learning, changing, FIGHTING, loving, teaching, serving, PRAISING, and anything else the LORD calls me to. Because.... There's a LOT of LIVING left to do!

Praise God! And, although I don't know what kind of living will come, I'm comforted by Joshua's leading of the Israelites into Canaan. He says, "Do not come near it (ark), that you may know the way by which you should go, FOR YOU HAVE NOT PASSED THIS WAY BEFORE."

Then Joshua said to the people, 'Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.' Joshua 2:5

Tomorrow..... I'm ready! Do it, Lord!  :)