Thursday, February 9

Proverbs 3: 5-6

If you read any of my posts during 2011, you've seen that my family clung to these verses in a very real and tangible way during that time. With marriage and family rocked by the confession of adultery, Scotty having resigned from full time ministry, and a for sale sign in our yard with NO plan if it sold, we'd hold regular family meetings in our den to recite these verses from Proverbs 3,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. 

I really wish I had these meetings recorded. The kids were 8, 6, and 4. Each of their little voices would recite with Scotty and me. I just have to wonder what they thought. Of course, they didn't know all of the details of our situation yet. But, I feel like they recited words with full confidence that they were true, because their parents seemed to believe they were true.
And, we did! If I'm honest, though, I really did believe God would make our path straight pretty quickly. At that moment in time, I thought my belief would open doors, part waters, heal brokenness, and right all wrongs. And, I believed it would happen pretty rapidly. 

The reality is that the past 51/2 years have crept along and included some of the most dark and crooked paths ones could imagine. God began healing our marriage relationship pretty quickly. But, everything else has taken a long time. Not only that, some of our circumstances got worse and worse over portions of the past few years. In some areas, we'd experience a glimpse of God's straightened path only for it to disappear from sight after a few steps. 

What I'm saying is that we've enjoyed God's goodness and trusted His sovereignty over the past 5 year like never before, but it hasn't been easy. Our prayers and pleadings for Him to lead us began in those first family meetings, but that trust was tested in the time that has passed since. Scotty and I both have journals filled with prayers to God for answers. On our knees and in our prayer circles, we'd thank Him for his rescue but plead with Him for more deliverance; from uncertainty, financial distress, and personal despair. We trust you, Lord. But, please show us your path. Soon!

In all of the confusion, we both felt God's gentle presence assuring us that He had a plan for us. Scotty and I couldn't imagine how, but we experienced God's nudge that He was going to use it all (nothing wasted) for our good and His glory. Last Spring, the gentle nudge became more like a shove that moved us from MS to FL in about 5 months time. Those months are marked by His presence. In all of my 41 years, I've never felt the assurance of God's plan as strongly. So, we moved! Then, the path became crooked again.
CrAzY! If I were brave, I'd post a few entries from my journal during that time. It's full of question after question after question. It didn't make sense. What was God doing? 

Why, God?


And, oh yeah, WHY...?

God is so good! So very quickly, He began to show Scotty and me WHY we are here and what He is up to. We don't have all of the answers. In fact, some of our questions are still pretty big. BUT, we are looking at possible "assignments" that have the handwriting of God all over them. In many ways, the specific darkness of some of our crooked paths seem to have been the perfect internships for our approaching ministries. 

This morning, I'm thanking God for His constant assurance in my life while praising Him for not giving up on me during my whining. (There's a good bit of that in my journals too.) I'm so grateful that He didn't show me what the path would look like when I was asking to see it. If I'd known in 2011 how we'd get to 2017, I would have run like the wind! There's no way I would have willingly signed up for the pain, uncertainty, and despair that would accompany our rebuilding after adultery. And, I would have missed the equipping, strengthening, and preparing. See, the difficulty in the crooked path seems to have been necessary preparation for the straightened path. 

So, where are you in the journey? If you're in devastation, I felt it in 2011, and it stinks. I'm sorry. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don't lean on your own understanding. It will FAIL you!

Maybe you're struggling with uncertainty that can lead to despair which I faced during 2014 and 2015. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Acknowledge Him in all of your ways. When the way is confusing and causes you to despair, be honest with Him about it. Don't be afraid to express your anger or frustration with the Lord. He can handle it. Wrestle with Him. I've found that wrestling is often where I come face to face with my Savior and take my minimal knowledge of Him to a new level.
Whatever you do, DO NOT GIVE UP. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. He will make your path straight. So, even when you can't see the way, trust Him in it. Hang on and follow through. I'm sure the payoff will be beautiful. There's more at stake than our temporary comfort. People need to know Jesus. Lives need to be transformed by His Gospel of redemption. Your difficult journey could be God's classroom to prepare you for a very special assignment some day. Won't it be worth it to cooperate with His plan and wait for His path.

I believe it will be!

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55: 8-9

Sunday, January 8

What Are We Missing?

Just before Christmas, Claire and I ran into Walmart for some last minute groceries. It was early morning, and the crowds were low. I wasn't prepared for our trip. But, going home to make a list would mean facing a much more crowded store. I couldn't bear the thought. So, we meandered through Walmart as quickly as we could and were so happy to reach the checkout to see no lines anywhere.

Even with no wait, though, our cashier was not happy at all! Halfway through our transaction, another employee got in line behind us and attempted a conversation with our grumpy checker. She asked a question that she may still regret asking to today,

Are you ready for Christmas?

To this simple question, the cashier rolled her eyes and answered with a tone of complete disgust,

No! I don't do this Santa stuff. We do JESUS at my house. We focus on the REAL meaning of Christmas. I ain't studying keeping up with everybody else. If my kids grow up and want to do all that crazy Santa stuff, fine. But, I am not!

I was completely shocked! She was missing the joy of Christmas and in a big way. I shuddered (literally) when she spoke the name of Jesus with hate in her tone. I did send Claire ahead while I whispered to her that I do celebrate the REAL meaning of Christmas. But, we also do Santa at our house. I simply asked her to keep in mind that it would be awful for a child to hear the truth of Santa's non-existence from a grumpy Walmart employee. As I walked away, I really, really wished I'd told her she might SMILE as she reflects on Jesus at Christmas time.

Since that moment, though, my true feelings towards that encounter are of complete sadness. Maybe she was just having a bad morning. But, she represents so many of us as we attempt to share Jesus with the world. We just miss the point!

I was reading in John 5 this morning, and it is a chapter FULL of humanity missing the point. The first part of the chapter tells the story of the man at Bethesda who spent much of his life sitting by a pool of water. Every once in a while, the water would stir. When that happened, the first one in would be healed of sickness/disease. This man couldn't walk, so he never made it into the pool first. One day, though, Jesus stepped onto the scene. He healed the man with only words and asked him to take up his mat and walk away. Hallelujah (right?)! He passed some Pharisees, though, that harassed him for carrying his mat on the Sabbath.

They missed the point!

The remainder of John 5 is red lettered. Jesus was talking to those Jews that were blinded by themselves and needed spiritual vision. He was explaining His relationship to the Father, but they'd already made up their minds. They were seeking to kill Jesus (verse 18). They called their way good. They felt they were protecting people from falsehood and deceit. They saw Jesus only through the lenses of their ignorance and unbelief. Then Jesus said something profound,

You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life.
John 5:39
That's a little scary to me. The Pharisees looked to something good (Scriptures) so heavily that they missed their Savior! The Scriptures were meant to point the way to Jesus; but, because they refused to take off the lenses through which they viewed all of life, they missed out on their redemption and rescue. Jesus healed a man from a lifetime of of paralysis on the spot. He stood up and walked, and they focused on the mat. 

Yesterday, I saw a blog posted on Facebook about worship becoming more about entertainment than praise. The post was directed at Passion 2017 and Carrie Underwood being brought in to sing. It was "judgey" and negative and a little preachy. As I read it, I could picture the author was wearing the same face as my Walmart cashier. I could hear disgust in the tone. And, I was sad. 

She missed the point!

Over 50,000 college students filled conference seats and heard the name of Jesus (probably through smiling lips) proclaimed for three days. Lives were changed in those three days! Students were called to ministry! Others determined to follow hard after Jesus from that day forward. Some were there for the entertainment, sure. But, I believe the Spirit even moved in the hearts of some who showed up for all the wrong reasons. He's a big God, and He can do that!

I serve a God that parts seas, raises the dead, heals the sick, and rescues the fallen. He will call people to Himself however He chooses. He's more creative than I am. He owns everything on this Earth and knows the hearts of every person that inhabits it. When Jesus walked here, many Jews missed Him. They missed out, because He did things differently than they expected. I'm afraid it's happening again. 

The Earth is the Lord's and all that it contains, The world and those who dwell in it.
Psalm 24:1
It's all His! He reserves the right to use the things of this world however He pleases to call His people to Himself. To compartmentalize times, events, people, things, etc. and say they are worldly and entertaining and can't be used to point the lost to Christ is to join forces with the Jews in John 5. That's equivalent to choosing to see the mat on the Sabbath rather than the miracle of Jesus' healing the sick. My God is smarter than I am. He's definitely more creative. And, He can do whatever He pleases. 

Besides, when Jesus ascended into heaven, He left the Holy Spirit that is living and active in every, single, believer (John 16:7). He is our Helper. If we'll look to Him to read scripture, make sense of difficulty, and deal with others, I believe we'll pray more and rant less. 

See, even at our best, we are a bunch of ragamuffins! We won't fully get it this side of Heaven. With the help of the Holy Spirit, though, we have the opportunity to see glimpses of Jesus in all things. He's here! He hasn't left us or forsaken us. He's our teacher. When we get it wrong, He can even use our mistakes to guide us back to His truth. When others get it wrong, He can and will do the same for them. 

All I know for sure is that My God reigns and rules whether I see it or not! I just don't want to miss it!

For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps. 
Psalm 135: 5-6

Sunday, January 1

Reflections for 2017

Happy New Year!

Like most of you, I've spent much of the past few days thinking over 2016. Actually, I reflect over the current year's events for most of December. Typically, I look for themes. I like to sum up the year with a word or a phrase. For the past five years, that's been hard to do. They've been full of all kinds of adventures.... most of which I wouldn't have asked for. But, all have served positive purposes.

So, I'm ending 2016 with the same thought I've had in summing up the past years, THIS has been the best year yet!

Even to me, though, that sounds a little absurd. Our last five years have been filled with trauma, change, questions, heartache, disappointment, stress, and much uncertainty. Yet, God has used it all to point us to Himself. He's allowed us (for 5 straight years!) to reach the end of ourselves so that we could find out He has no ending.

Our family received year passes to Busch Gardens in Tampa for Christmas this year, and we've been using them a lot! I absolutely love roller coasters. The boys are old enough that they'll try just about anything. But, Claire is still uncertain. We've been pushing her to get on the larger ones, because we can tell she wants so badly to ride. She's just scared. Her fear grows the longer we stand in a line; so, I've been saying the same things to her over and over....

You know you won't fall out!

The coaster is designed to hold you in! 

You'll only make it worse to stress over the whole ride!

Since you know you won't fall, you can relax and enjoy the ups and downs, curves and hills, plunges and speeds. 

It's all fun and pure enjoyment when you rest into the bars and straps that will keep you safe.

Suddenly, in one of our last visits, I realized that this understanding is why we've enjoyed the past five years so intensely. Yes, they've been tough and uncertain. But, they've ushered us into a deeper walk with Him. God has used all of our crazy events to demonstrate His power, so we get to rest in Him even in the roller coaster life.

Until 2011, we were riding the kiddie rides of life, because that felt safe! My version of safe was boring. God's version of safe is exciting! I'm not suggesting a lifestyle of throwing caution to the wind. I am talking about living life full of His Spirit and following wherever He leads. Trusting God and knowing that Jesus Christ is with us every step of the way can make even the wildest of rides enjoyable, exciting, and fun!

So, it's 2017! What will this year hold? The Rogers are ending a year that began with such joyful anticipation. God placed a desire for ministry in our hearts, opened a door, and moved us quickly. We coasted for a little while and treasured the peaceful feeling we received. God was faithful in leading us, and we trusted He'd led us right where He wanted us. Then came the plunge. Disappointment and discouragement loomed until our situation simply had to change. So, we end this year with even more questions and a lot of uncertainty.

But, we are enjoying this ride! Every single day, God is demonstrating His faithfulness to us. He's showing us that we are indeed exactly where He wants us. The next steps of His plan will be revealed, and I believe we will stand in awe AGAIN at His great care for us. 

Until then, we will not fear! I'm sure this year will be full of more ups and downs, twists and turns, and high speed plunges. It's called LIFE. But, we choose to rest in His arms.

That's an exciting place!

It's a hopeful place!

And, it's the safest place!

The eternal God is a dwelling place (refuge), and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Deuteronomy 33:27

Thursday, December 29

My Vision & An Invitation...

First of all, THANK YOU SO MUCH for the tremendous amount of support I've received for the book. The entire process has been CrAzY from start to finish. For sure, I wasn't prepared for the way you guys have loved and encouraged me by purchasing books. And, my sister has been overwhelmed by the adoption support!

With so many books out there, I've had an idea. I think it would be SO MUCH FUN to participate in a Move! Bible study together. See, this little book was born out of a desire I have to teach God's Word. The life God has given me has served as the backdrop for His lessons. As you read, He will teach you, and I want to be a part of it.

So, I'm just going for it! Here's my vision... Let's do a Bible study together!

When: Beginning January 9th (January/February)

What: Joshua through Move! Devotions

Where: The comforts of your very own home

How: Well, Facebook (of course)

If you haven't already joined the Facebook group @MoveDevoCommunity, please go and do that. We will work out more of the details as we get closer to January 9th. But, I think it would be so awesome to move through Joshua as a group and share what we learn as we go via that Facebook page. Let's use technology for something positive!

So many of you already have a book! Maybe you've begun your study, but we can begin again in January. TOGETHER! If we do 4 days of study each week, we can complete the book by the end of February. If you've never been part of a group study before, it's amazing! There's accountability in a group. But, there's also such JOY in experiencing God at work in the lives of others. 

If you need a book, please let me know. We can arrange that. I still have some available for purchase. And, if I run out, we can get some more. Maybe you know a couple of people close to you that you'd like to enter into Bible study with on a more personal level. Grab a book for them and make a plan to start. Your smaller group can join with our larger one on Facebook. It will be a marvelous thing. 

I pray you hear my heart, because I have so struggled with "selling" this book! I'm not proposing a group Bible study just to make money. I believe with all of my heart that God taught me so many things about HIMSELF through the pages of Joshua. I've got more to learn, though. I'll never ever get to the bottom of WHO He is. As I study again, I'd love to journey with YOU. I am convinced that this little book is one of the ways I am supposed to brag on my wonderful God and His Son, Jesus. 

So, let me know if you need a book. Grab a few people that you want to journey with through the pages of Joshua and Move! Then, head to the Facebook page and "like." That is where I'll make Bible study announcements. And, that's where (hopefully) we will all connect each week to share all that we learn about God through His Word.

I pray you'll consider joining me for this two month study. I believe there is much to be learned through the pages of scripture, and I believe the Lord delights when His children join together, unified in the learning process.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 
1 Peter 3:18

Wednesday, December 14

The Gift of Broken

This is weighing heavily on my heart today, and I have to write about it. On every side, I'm being bombarded by people (Christians) fighting to miss hurt, pain, and discomfort. We are a fearful lot! And, it seems we will jump through all kinds of hoops to protect ourselves and our families from being broken.

I have to ask, What is the cost?

Often, I've said that God's gift in the trauma of life is perspective. When "the worst" happens, life carries on. If the very ground beneath is shaken, the true foundation proves unshakeable. And, because nothing in this earthly life can be trusted during those times, God proves all the more trustworthy.

But, how will we ever learn these beautiful truths if we carefully orchestrate and organize life so that nothing bad could ever happen? If all of our decisions are made to protect ourselves and others from pain, will we ever come to really know our Savior?

See, in this week alone, I've heard at least three people say, That is my worst nightmare! (By the way, all three "nightmares" were pitifully silly and unworthy of nightmare status!) Granted, this is a common phrase, and many of us use it for the sake of drama rather than reality. I believe, though, that it's the true feeling of the heart in most cases. For most of us, we've determined what would be the worst possible experience, and we spend our days setting up safe lives that protect us from those negative experiences.

The gift of having my heart broken is that Christ proved more than able to piece it back together. The beauty of living a life marked by chaos is learning (through firsthand experience) that God is better at directing a peaceful life than I ever was.

I'm afraid we are protecting ourselves right out of God's best.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
 2 Corinthians 4:7

Jars of clay are fragile! Even the slightest fall could result in devastation. Picture it, because it is the worst nightmare. If we are the jars of clay, worst case scenarios of life threaten to leave us in pieces on the floor. It's ugly. It hurts; and, sometimes it's embarrassing. 

But, if the Bible is true, God will never leave us in those pieces. He will put us back together. Our outer covering might always reveal the brokenness. However, when His light shines through the cracks, the jar is brighter, more unique, and maybe even more beautiful. Could we miss this joy by setting up lives that protect us from a blessing?

I can't say that I live with excitement over life's challenges. But, I will say that I live with less fear about them. I want to experience as much of Jesus as I can. Without the bumps and bruises of life, I know I'd miss out on the glory that HE is. And, if I'm going to testify of His goodness to the world, I've got to have some firsthand experience with it for myself. 

But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:13

Wednesday, December 7

Love Fuels Real Ministry

I'm a little unsure how to share life and circumstances right now. For my entire life, I've been a rule follower. My desire, always, is to live within the confines of what is acceptable and well received by society. Yet, over the past few years, God has allowed me to be part of situations that are socially UNacceptable to speak about openly. And, He's asked me to talk about them,

In a public blog!

With a large group of people!

So, for a lot of years, I wrote about adultery, healing, and restoration while many (you know I'm talking about you) wondered WHY I was still discussing uncomfortable topics. I did it, because God asked me to. I believe He asked my to write, because He had many things to teach ME. That's why I'm always overwhelmed to the point of tears when I hear someone else has been instructed by God through my very personal writing.

Today, I find myself in another awkward situation. I can't focus on anything else! My thoughts are consumed, and that is always the confirmation I need to begin writing. God has something to teach ME in my struggle. Writing will help me process His instruction.

The short story is that Scotty resigned from his position at our church last week. It was announced during Worship on Sunday, and we were not allowed to be there. I will not go into the whole story here (because that really would be awkward). I'll just say that there were differences in ministry philosophies. Through 5 of the toughest months we've ever lived, Scotty has tried to find a way to fulfill his commitment to a group of people we care for deeply. But, we simply weren't allowed to minister as we feel God has called us to minister. Actually, "we" weren't allowed to be in ministry together period.

While I can't go into the details of the past five months, I do feel the need to share what I've learned, through experience, over the weekend. Truly, in Christ, love conquers all!

Five years ago, Scotty resigned from a church he was serving in. His resignation was required! He'd sinned GREATLY (I feel another GREATLY is warranted) against that church. In light of his confession, two pastors called us both in and laid out the plan for resignation. I'll never forget that meeting, because there was grief written on the faces of both of our leaders. Their sole interest was God's best for an entire church body. And, Scotty and I (along with our three children) were part of that Body. They weren't looking for a way to get rid of us quickly. They demonstrated great care for us. And, we did not deserve it! Scotty was asked to read his resignation publicly, and I was asked to be with him. On that Sunday morning, our pastor followed Scotty's resignation with a brief statement about the church's commitment to praying for us. Then, he called for the church to come down front and pray over us. A large group of people participated in that prayer, and an even larger group formed a line to hug us and speak encouragement over us as we left. The church acted as God's Church to us that day. Love was the motivation, and I'll never forget it.

Because of our history, I feel I have to say that Scotty has not committed any immoral sin to warrant his resignation. That is not the reason for our departure. There have been a few meetings leading to the resignation announcement. I wasn't invited to any; and, as far as I can tell, there's not been great grief displayed over the breaking of a relationship. But, do you know that God still shows Himself as sovereign and in control even in confusing circumstances? He does!

I've invited you into our messy, crazy, and often roller coaster life at every turn, so I knew this post had to be written. I've been so torn, though. To share means telling only our part of the story, and I hate that. However, an outlet to share both sides of the whole story was refused. I've prayed and prayed for the right words. This morning, God simply led me to 1 Corinthians 13,

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is PATIENT, love is KIND, and it is not JEALOUS; love DOES NOT BRAG and IS NOT ARROGANT, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, LOVE NEVER FAILS.
1 Corinthians 13: 1-8
Paul's words to the Corinthians have confirmed a lot of what God has been showing us through our situation during the past few months. In my heart, I feel we (Scotty AND our family) have been handled poorly in this process. However, if I couldn't choose to live a life motivated by love even in that disappointment I'd expose a heart that hasn't fully experienced God's great love. So, I can't live in anger. Sadness and grief are more appropriate responses.

We have been part of 5th Avenue Baptist Church for less than six months, but we've grown to LOVE those people. Our youth have taught us so much, and we've found great joy in watching them grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. They are the real deal, and we will miss them terribly. We've seen God do amazing things in every area of the family ministry there! We've seen Him do things we could never take credit for. We are eternally grateful that He did it and that we got to be part of it.

To love BIG is always a risk.Opening our hearts in such a vulnerable way leaves it wide open for excruciating pain. That is exactly what we are feeling. Still, love is worth that risk! Every! Single! Time!

Because Scotty and I have experienced God's love exponentially through His forgiveness of our sin and healing of our marriage, we can't help but love others. Christ's love compels us to seek Family Ministry still. So, we are not quitting. This temporary struggle has only highlighted the fact that we have a driving passion and vision to serve families by equipping them to seek Jesus with their whole heart in a very real and genuine way. He's the only Savior, and we want every family transformed by that truth! 

For now, we know that GOD called us to St. Pete. We are positive our kids are in the perfect school for them. So, we are staying here. Scotty has found some part-time work options while we pray and seek future decisions. God's people here have loved us and continue to love and support us. Even in a bit of a crisis, we feel very blessed. God is good! His love endures forever! So, we will not fear! 

He who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:24

Saturday, December 3

God With Us

"Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you."
Isaiah 43: 2-3
There are many Christmas themes that are meaningful to me, but none quite as much as "God With Us." Jesus left Heaven to join us in our broken world. Amazing! And, as brokenness multiplies and life gets even harder, I become increasingly grateful for Emmanuel. 

I've been pondering the Parable of the Lost Son a lot lately. The Lord has placed it on my mind often. Then, it has been the topic of everything I'm reading and listening to for a few weeks now. This morning, I flipped to Luke 15 to study it more carefully.

I've heard plenty of teaching on the younger son in the parable. He didn't appreciate his life with his father. Clearly, he was rotten, greedy, and focused on himself. Asking for his inheritance early only publicized what he already felt privately. He cared more about what his father could give than who his father was. It hit me this morning that his heart hadn't truly been changed when he made the decision to return home.He was broken and needed help. But, he was still searching for what his father could give him. He wanted food and a place to live. He'd take on the life of a servant to get it. 

However, his brokenness allowed him to see who his father was. As he approached home, his father was running towards him. No longer could rebellious pride hinder the son's vision. He saw that his father was loving, gracious, and merciful. He probably realized he'd been that way all along. This time, though, his father demonstrated his character in spite of the son's behavior. At that moment, being with his father became the gift. Food, clothing, shelter, and anything else his father provided were simply extras. 

But, there's another son, right? The Bible doesn't say much about him until there's a celebration for the returning prodigal. Then, the arrogant pride of the older brother rears its ugly head. The father responded in the same way he did with the brother. He went to him. But, the older son rejected his father's presence. That's NOT the gift he wanted. As I was reading this morning, it dawned on me that behavior modification and pseudo-righteous living actually hindered this son from seeing who his father was. The love, grace, and mercy that transformed the life of his brother never invaded the older brother's heart. Therefore, he was still focused on what his father could give. He expected more "stuff," because he felt he'd been more righteous. 

Legalism crushes freedom. The older brother was following Old Testament law and missing New Testament liberty. His heart had deceived him, and he was actually dying in the sins of anger, pride, and bitterness. Behavior modification never works, because it forces us to rely completely on ourselves and we never look to our Savior. Fear and pride actually force us to forgo abundant living for safe rituals and routines. But, we weren't made for safe living. We were made for freedom!

God sent Christ into humanity so that we could experience HIS PRESENCE on Earth. His death brought freedom, and His resurrection left His Spirit here to dwell with us forever. Sadly, rebellious pride and arrogant pride still keep many of us from experiencing the gift of His presence. We are too focused on what we want Him to give.

This Christmas, I'm praying for pride of all kinds to be exposed for the sake of healing. The younger son acted righteously when his pride was exposed. He celebrated! The older son acted arrogantly when his pride was exposed. He shared his resume of good deeds with his father and asked why he'd never gotten a party. 

Oh, we are a messed up bunch. We could ask our questions till we have no breath left to speak, but we will never get to the bottom of this idea of God's grace. But, when we truly know that we've received it, judgement has no place. Love conquers all and mercy rules. Then, we are free to enjoy the gift of God's presence through Jesus Christ, our Savior. And, I bet, more prodigals would join the party!

"Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift."
2 Corinthians 9:15

Thursday, December 1

A Pretty Big Announcement...

I have some exciting news to share, and I also have a huge request for many prayers. Earlier this year, the Lord prompted me to begin writing devotionals for a book. Actually, He began working in me through the prompting of others a couple of years ago. My exact response to them was, "You've lost your mind!"

At the beginning of this year, though, it became obvious that He was calling me to write. He even gave me a book of the Bible to get me started. As I began studying Joshua, I realized that much of the journey the Israelites made into the Promised Land had significance in my own journey during the past 5 years. The title I believe the Lord gave me for this little book of devotions is "MOVE!" Each day, as I sat down to read and to write, I came away with one imperative command for the journey towards healing and deliverance. That led me to my subtitle, "When God's Deliverance Requires Man's Obedience."

You see, life is hard, and we all have plenty of opportunity to live in captivity due to the circumstances we live in. I've been convicted that I sometimes pray for deliverance from life's obstacles without being willing to DO my part in obeying His commands for freedom.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1
Christ has set us free, but we have to stand firm. Do you see the imperative command? Although Christ has done it, we have to live lives that follow His necessary imperatives for holding the ground He's won!

So, I've done it. I've completed 31 devotions through the book of Joshua. I've gone through more edits than I want to think about. I've worked with the illustrator on the cover. And, the book has gone to print. 

Five years ago, I learned that God's grace is sufficient for life's trials. Over the past year, I've learned His grace is also sufficient for the difficult calling. I wrote the introduction, and the book sat for a while. I wrote days 1 through 5, and then tried to scrap the whole thing. We moved to Florida, and I completed some more of the writing. Then, life got hard in new and different ways, so I wrote nothing. The process goes on and on like this. And, my gracious God kept calling me back to His work. Finally, it was completed ONLY because He wouldn't let me quit. 

Please pray for this project with me. My story is written throughout the pages of this book, but it's HIS STORY that I so desperately want readers to know and understand. God is the Hero that brought Joshua and the Israelites out of the desert and into the Promised Land. Through Jesus Christ, God is also the Hero of my story. And, I'm convinced that He is the Hero of any life operating in Promised Land freedom. That's abundant life, and He's the only One that gives it. 

Also, please pray for my sister and her husband, Alyson and Jeremy. They are in the adoption process. Their call to adopt came around the same time as my call to write. So, I'm praying for a way to financially support their adoption through book sales.

I am proud of this book, but not because of anything I've done. The story I get to tell is not one that anyone would wish for. Yet, I'm honored. First, I'm honored to have been chosen to live it. Then, I'm honored to have been asked to write it. I believe with all of my heart that this is God's story. TO HIM BE ALL GLORY AND HONOR AND PRAISE. But, He allowed me to participate. I don't know why He did it. I'm just so grateful He did!

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

Monday, October 31

It's Time For a Win/Win!

I know you may be expecting a Halloween post today. Oh, I'd love to share some old pictures. Facebook has been posting my Halloween memories all week. They are precious to me. But, that's not what is on my heart.

I was jogging this morning and writing a blog post in my head. If I told you how many times I do that, you'd be amazed. God has used this blog space time and time again to help me process the thoughts and emotions in my head. I'm an internal processor. Talking things out only works for me when I've had plenty of time to think and plan and rethink and replan. My mind is always full, but I'd never let any of those thoughts out without careful consideration.

In a crazy way, this blog has given me the freedom to do just that. But, I haven't been doing that lately. What I've noticed is that all of my thinking over the past couple of weeks has been in the form of mental blog posts. It's crazy absurd! So, this morning during my jog I decided that maybe God is urging me to write again. And, maybe, just maybe, it's for my own good even if no one else reads it!

A couple of Sundays ago, our lesson was on Jonah. I've been attending an adult Sunday school class for a month or so while we determine where I will serve. It's going to be really hard to leave now, because I enjoy the discussion so much. Our teacher reminded us that Jonah was living in rebellion in a big and obvious way. But, he asked us to think about how we all (in seemingly small ways) live in rebellion on a daily basis. I have not been able to quit thinking about that question.

During every quiet time, I'm asking myself where rebellion shows up in my life regularly. I'm also digging deeper to see where I participate in corporate rebellion in areas where behavior doesn't line up with the message of the Gospel. Every! Single! Time! I'm aware of the same answer.... DIVISION!

I know my last post covered unity extensively. But, based on the Facebook posts I saw this week, it's worth mentioning again. I believe (with all that is within me) that any place where a Christian's actions serve to DIVIDE rather than UNIFY is rebellion!

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Corinthians 13:11
I'm in a hurry this morning, so I'm just going to be quick and to the point. Is there any way a writer sits down at the computer to TEAR APART a fellow believer for their leadership, writing, or ministry with unity or their mind? The obvious answer is, "no," so I believe it's rebellion against God's call to unity. When another believer takes that negativity and posts it to her Facebook wall and a firestorm of negativity ensues, division is created. It's rebellion against God's call to love.

I'm over it! Joel, Jen, Beth, and Max have taken hit after hit from their own believing family. I don't know any of them personally, but my own walk has been strengthened by their ministries at some point. I doubt very seriously I agree with every, single thing they believe. But, I know they've led countless to the Lord. There will be a large number of people (human beings that Jesus came to live and die for) in heaven, because one of these obeyed God into ministry.And, they can't write, speak, or share anything without being crucified for it.

Jesus left the perfection of heaven, came to this messy Earth, lived a perfect life, and died an awful death to UNIFY us to Him and the Father, and we REFUSE to be unified together. 
I believe it's REBELLION! 

I'm also confronted with the fact that a great number of people were divided because of Christ's message, too. They were called Pharisees! They didn't like what He said, who He said it to, or how He said it. They crucified Him and called it protecting truth. 
When I hear a message I don't quite agree with, my first reaction is to fight it. Fear fuels that desire, because I'm anxious those around me will be influenced in the wrong way. When it comes to my family, my Bible study, or small group, I will share my concerns. I feel responsible to them. But, I share with humility and caution, because I could be wrong! I know I will enter eternity and find out I was wrong on a number of topics, because I simply lack the ability to know all that God knows and see all that He sees. I believe that sin is sin and Jesus is the only way to complete forgiveness. But, I am not 100% sure HOW to respond to the sin or the lack of belief. I'm learning to lean more toward grace, love, and unity allowing the Holy Spirit to deal with the heart of the one I disagree with. 

On that note, the Bible states that there will be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days. What if we are experiencing it through the work of people who are sharing the Gospel in a more seeker friendly way? I'm NOT talking about people who are sharing a new way to salvation or a different Jesus than the one in the Bible. I AM talking about gifted writers and speakers that share the gospel in a way that many want to hear more and more. What if they are experiencing an outpouring of the Holy Spirit? What if God is using them to pour out His Holy Spirit into lives that NEVER would have listened to any other person? 

Do not quench the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 5:19

That's Old Testament, 10 Commandments language! I'm not afraid that someone will share a message I don't fully agree with, because I know the Holy Spirit is powerful! When the Holy Spirit lives within a person, God will lead that person on their journey in Him. I AM afraid of quenching that Spirit within myself. One translation says, "Don't put out the Spirit's fire." I'm terrified of being guilty of that. If Jesus came to unify, and I am participating in division, the Spirit is being quenched somewhere! It! Must! STOP!

Y'all, I know I sound like a broken record. I say it over and over! But, we could make a difference in our world if we could agree to disagree YET still love each other! We could cause the unbelieving world stop and wonder what is going on if we could figure out how to be unified with all who profess a belief in Jesus Christ. Maybe they are wrong! But, no person can truly change another person. Only God, through the Holy Spirit can do that. And, all of our bickering, back biting, and slander is quenching His Holy Spirit. 

My ultimate and number one prayer is that God would make JESUS so real and evident in the lives of His people that we would be unable to focus on anything else. When HE is high and lifted up, HE will draw all men to Himself. I believe Satan has won in causing us (in our relationships, in our homes, and in our churches) to FOCUS on minors! Division has been the outcome, and nothing makes me sadder. As believers we ARE a family. If one family member has to "lose" in order for another to "win", it's a LOSS for the family. Enough has been lost! Let's pray for unity!

But avoid foolish and ill-informed and stupid controversies and genealogies and dissensions and quarrels about the Law, for they are unprofitable and useless. After a first and second warning reject a divisive man (who promotes heresy and causes dissension -- ban him from your fellowship and have nothing more to do with him), well aware that such a person is twisted and is sinning; he is convicted and self-condemned (and is gratified by causing confusion among believers).
Titus 3: 9-12, Amplified Version


Tuesday, October 11

Finding Unity in Disagreement

Oh the posts that have been written in my head since the last time I journaled here. In my absence from the blogging world, we've ended a season of home-schooling, packed up our home and moved 11 hours away, set up house in beautiful Florida, begun ministry again, weathered 2 hurricane threats, and rearranged life a ton of different ways to adjust to all the changes. I've been working on a project that kept me from writing here about the miracle celebration we enjoyed on August 26th of this year. In so many ways, life can fly by in a blur. In other ways, memory suggests it has floated by in slow motion. A lot of the past 5 years feel that way.

Do you know that I'm grateful for each and every moment of those years? I am! I believe God gave me confidence early on that He would redeem and restore and that our family would grow stronger because of the crushing! There have been so many moments when I had to simply hang on to the promise, because there was no evidence to support my hope. Now, though, I look back and see God's faithful hand accomplishing the beautiful work. I'm grateful.

Now, I'm back.

I need to write again!

I need to process the thoughts in my head.

This morning, I'm considering the idea of unity. I love even the sound of the word. Doesn't it seem like something we should desire? It's an awesome word!

How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.
Psalm 133:1

It would be good and pleasant if we could live together in unity! When will we get there? Why does the idea puzzle us? How do we keep making steps towards it only to see it vanish into mid-air?

I believe it has something to do with disagreements. Well, it absolutely has something to do with disagreement! Somehow, we've come to the conclusion that living in unity with someone that holds different opinions is an impossibility. 

One of the reasons I'm so grateful for the story Scotty and I share is that our mess drove us to therapy. There was simply no other way to dig out of the rubble. And, in the safety of several counseling offices we found the freedom to ask questions, to hear answers, and to disagree. Now, Scotty and I agree much more often than we disagree, but the practice really opened our eyes to the reason so many relationships fall apart. No one feels the freedom to hold a differing opinion. 

The list of relationships hindered by division is long, but I'm most concerned with family relationships and church relationships. We are facing times when our families and our churches must be unified. I believe we must provide space for those we care deeply for (or those we should care deeply for) to disagree. 

Right now, I'm facing this test on a daily basis. There are two growing guys that live with me but no longer believe everything I say is the gospel truth. They have a brain, they know it, and they want to use it! Well, praise God! I do want them to learn how to think. But, often, we disagree! I can tell you that Scotty and I would have handled all disagreements with them differently if we'd not spent a good piece of 5 years on a therapist's couch holding a box of Kleenex. We don't do everything right. But, I'm proud of the times we've been able to really listen to their opinion and agree to disagree! The fact that they currently hold a different opinion than I do on a couple of matters doesn't change the fact that I'm unified with them by my love for them. 

In times of disagreement, we are confronted with two options; fight to be right or fight for the relationship. In fighting for the relationship, I've grown to listen more than I talk. Truly, Scotty and I still tie up. We still get frustrated. And, we still wish the other person would change to line up with our personal wants on occasion. But, no amount of talking will change a heart. Only God does that, and it's personal. So, I step back and allow Scotty to relate to His Savior, and I do the same. It feels like I've lost all control, and that's just not true. I never had any control to begin with!

God is sovereign! 

The end!

He knows it all, and only He really knows what's right or who's right in all situations. As my heart on the subject of disagreement has changed, God has been able to teach me more about Himself. I don't care about being right nearly as much as I used to. I care about being real, and sometimes that means admitting I've been wrong.

What an education it's been! Through disagreement, God has demonstrated the beauty of uniqueness in all of creation. Honestly, we don't want everyone to think exactly alike. That would be awful! Our families would be boring, and our churches would be dead! We need disagreements to remind us that we need a Savior! Left to ourselves, we just keep attempting to bully people into our way of thinking. On our own, we stifle creativity with a "my way or the highway" mentality. Refusing to give God our fear of disagreement, will ensure unity is never achieved. And, we will miss the most beautiful picture of Christ's purpose for His people. 

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:3
Let's give our opinions, our beliefs, our preferences, and our fear of being wrong to the Lord. Let's join Him in the process. Sure it would take less time to get from here to there if everyone just jumped on board with one person's ideas. But, there would be no unity. People need a voice! We need (I need) to know we're heard. Gifting our relationship with  freedom to share opinions without ridicule and rebuke, opens the door for learning, changing, and growing in the Lord. I hope I never feel too old or established to grow in the Lord through the relationships He's given!

We're called to relationships!. What a messy calling! All of our attempts to simplify the process have led to division, dissension, and God dishonoring conflict.

What if an attempt was made for unity? 

What if we each took one, baby step towards seeing another person's point of view? 

I'm most grateful for the people who've chosen to stay in and fight for a relationship with me. The relationships haven't always been easy, but fighting for unity is always worth it. Anything I've been forced to lay down (pride, my way, the desire to flee, my view of best, pseudo-control) have only been hindrances to my own unity with Christ. 

To me, unity means, "I'm in." It means there is a commitment that no matter how hard the road gets, I'm not going anywhere! Do the people in our homes know that? Do our fellow church members feel that security? The process could get messy. Pharisees won't be able to see it through. I want a Christ-like stamina that is willing to link arms, hold hands, and communicate in love with Christian brothers and sisters. Honestly, we just can't afford to do anything else.