Monday, July 10

Like a Child

Earlier this year, I accepted a new title and position at Keswick Christian School and became the Preschool Director. I could go on and on about how wonderful the school is and how blessed I am to have this opportunity, but that might be a post for another day. Today, I'm considering what God has shown me through the children I get to serve.

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 18: 3-4
I've read that verse a million times. I've heard it in sermons and stories more times than I could even count. But, until I began spending my days watching, listening to, loving on, and planning for children, I haven't given Christ's specific and shocking words any depth of consideration. 

Honestly, most days, I'm convicted, because I did not appreciate and enjoy the preschool days of my own children enough. At Keswick, we have infants through 4-year-olds in the preschool department. Of course, I can't help but remember my own children at these ages. By the time Caleb was 4, we had two more babies in our home. Collin was 2, Claire was newly born, and I was a crazy person. Truly! It's hard to really enjoy the gifts God has given when you're completely consumed with making everyone think life is wonderful.When it feels like the most important things are keeping a clean house, creating perfect schedules for little people, and making everyone look like we do all of those things with complete ease, it's extremely difficult to rest and receive children as the gift they are.

So, when Jesus says that we are supposed to "come to Him as children," I can't really be sure what that looks like. I want to know, though, because I want to "enter the kingdom of heaven." Actually, I want to experience that on a daily basis. So, I've been thinking about His words and realizing that children (all children) do some pretty amazing things.

Children learn by making mistakes. In fact, they make mistakes pretty regularly and without apology. Rolling over, walking, talking, reading, making friends, and so much more aren't done beautifully during the preschool years. Attempts are made. Success isn't achieved in the first, second, fiftieth try. But, these precious children, don't quit. They keep going. Each day, they start again, attempting all of the things they failed at the day before. Then, at some point, it clicks, it works, and they experience success after multiple (hundreds of) failures. 

Children express emotions freely. I began this year as an after-care worker in a one-year-old class. What a year! I had completely forgotten how much children change from one to two. As they change, though, so much emotion is involved. They're happy and joy-filled, sad and heart-sick, as well as frustrated and angry. It would never occur to a child to cover those emotions. Never! And, it would never occur to a reasonable adult to ask them to. Their emotions are necessary for their appropriate development.

Children seek the adventure. Always! I'm smiling as I write, because some children seek the less adventurous adventure. I was the cautious child, and I have two similar to me. Even the most cautious children, though, will push for a little more than they're actually ready for. If they easily sit, they're ready to stand. If they walk with ease, they'll begin to try running. And, when they've completely figured out the little ride-on toy, they want to make it a skate board instead. It's natural, and it's how they progress. If children were completely satisfied with their level of living at any stage, adulthood would never be an option. The adventure is what pushes them into the next stage.

Children quickly return for help when they've made a mistake, gotten hurt, or don't know what else to do. And, that's our favorite part of care-giving, right? As the adults, we live for those moments of clinging hugs. It doesn't matter how many times we've told them not to do whatever has ultimately caused them pain, we, as the parent, never tire of loving our children when pain and discomfort has led them back to us for compassion.

So, my question today is, "When does this kind of childish behavior become unacceptable?"

Fortunately, I've also had the great pleasure of raising two middle school boys this year. "Great pleasure" is a bit of a stretch. But, honestly, the conviction of watching preschoolers each day and knowing that I missed much of the beauty of that stage when mine were younger birthed a determination in me to enjoy these middle school years even if I had to search high and low for something (anything) enjoyable. 

What I found has been a little alarming. See, I believe the difficulty of the middle school years is the fact that our young children begin fighting the urge to come to Christ as children. Maybe we, their adult and believing parents, begin demanding less childlike behavior. But, what if that's not actually God's intended way? What if we're stunting the spiritual growth of our children by encouraging them to skip steps in the process of spiritual maturity.

I don't have any answers! I'm only finally verbalizing the many questions I've had during the past year. In this one, single year of middle school, I believe my boys have done many things well. But, I've seen them make poor choices, focus on the wrong things, and hurt themselves and others in the process of it all. After countless prayers for discernment, I believe God has shown me clearly that IF they're going to love Him like I want them to love Him, failure will be part of the process.

So, I have a choice. I can insist that they DO exactly what I've taught them is right simply because I said it was right. (By the way, I only have one child that I could even hope would live this way, and she hasn't hit middle school yet.) OR, I can expect the mess ups and encourage them to find the lesson in the living. That path will be the messier path. It will be more filled with bruises, hurts, and emotion. But, isn't that the picture of a child? 

Will my children ever look fully to their Heavenly Father in sincerity and truth without failing miserably in order to learn that His life is just better?

And, when that happens, isn't failure the victory?

Life really is an adventure. In fact, it's the kind of adventure that should never grow old. There are mistakes to be made (we failed our way to walking and every other necessary life lesson). Those mistakes will most likely lead to some emotions that shouldn't be hidden. And, all of it should bring about a humility that leads us to our sovereign, Heavenly Father. 

The messes don't seem so gigantic when I know the One who can clean them up. 

And, I'm not afraid of failure when I trust the One who has already won. 

I'm so grateful that our first year of middle school hasn't been easy. There are a number of lessons we would have missed if that path had been simple. I've asked the Lord to give my children a genuine love for Him and His ways. And, I've discovered that true and genuine desire for the Lord comes through trial and error. If I want them to have a real relationship with God, I've got to allow them to have real encounters with Him.... even if (especially if) they're a little child-like.

I ask -- ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory -- to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him -- endless energy, boundless strength!
Ephesians 1: 17-19, Message Version

Monday, April 10

Holy Monday

Yesterday, we recalled Palm Sunday at churches all across the world. In scripture, Jesus entered Jerusalem while people waved palm branches singing, "Hosanna!" It signifies the beginning of Holy Week.

I love Easter! I do. This is our BIG celebration as believers. Easter marks the JOY of our salvation. Christ's death and resurrection are our redemption, the only hope of salvation, promise of being made whole. Jesus IS the only way! This week, we get to acknowledge that truth freely.

So, Palm Sunday's events unfold as I'd expect. Of course droves of people would line the streets to worship and praise Jesus, their Savior! What else would they do? How else could they respond?
Then, something happened between Sunday and Friday. The crowd that worshiped on Sunday became the the crowd that crucified on Friday.



Scotty and I try to have a short devotion time with the kids each morning. They have scripture to read. At 7:00, when we all sit down for breakfast, we have a rushed discussion of our reading.  

(If for any reason you are feeling guilt while reading about this breakfast practice of ours, please know that it rarely goes as I would like it. More times than not, it's a train-wreck, and I end up having to apologize for losing my temper over their lack of interest. But, we are committed to carry on. One day, I'm certain Scotty and I will be met at the table with Jesus loving kids excited about diving into scripture as a family. From my keys to your ears, Lord. Let it be!)

Anyway, this week we've decided to study the scriptures that correlate with Jesus' life during Holy Week. On Monday, Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple. First, I DID NOT realize this event happened during Holy Week. I'm sure I've heard the timeline before. This morning, though, it was fresh revelation for me. Jesus entered the Temple and became angry, because people were selling doves. Scotty explained to the kids that believers couldn't enter the Temple without a sacrifice. During this yearly event, God's people were able to bring their sacrifice to atone for sin. Some of the people traveled long distances. So, rather than travel with their sacrifice, they opted to purchase it once they'd arrived at the Temple. Apparently these money changers were taking advantage and charging extremely unreasonable amounts of money for these doves.

I digress, but I'm thinking about ball parks that do not allow outside food and drinks during steamy July and then charge $15 for a bottle of water and $25 for a hotdog. OK, so that's extreme, but we're getting there.

This practice was wrong, and Jesus handled it. I've never really paid attention to what happens afterward. In Matthew's account, he tells us that the sick immediately rush to him and ask for healing. His response? He heals them. And, the religious become indignant. So, we're on our way to Friday's crucifixion, because Pharisees always seem to respond to the multitudes calling on Jesus with fury!

Mark's account has an  interesting verse,

And the chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for all the multitude was astonished at His teaching.
Mark 11:18
Afraid? So they sought to destroy?

Is that the answer?

Did fear lead the religious Jews to kill the Savior of the world?

And, if so, what were they afraid of?

This is speculation, because I'm truly on a mission to find full freedom in Christ. In that, I'm asking a lot of questions. Here's one, were the chief priests afraid that Jesus was taking away their special status by correcting them and healing sick in the crowd?

See, in the Old Testament, the chief priests were the ultimate authority. Now, it was authority given by God, but they led their people in spiritual matters. Then, Jesus came and seemed to change the order of things.
The sick were getting attention before the well.

The young and immature were being taught and healed even though they hadn't followed the steps those more knowledgeable in the scripture knew to follow.

The religious process that had been extremely difficult for God's chosen people to follow was being simplified, and multitudes of people were joyfully receiving the gift of Christ's presence freely.

Is it possible that the religious elite were afraid Jesus was taking away their stature, their position, their importance? Were they scared Jesus was making everything too easy? And, if so, does their fear expose the fact that they'd not really come to know the power of their God? Did the religious lose sight of the law's purpose to drive us to our Savior?
The Christian life isn't actually easy. It's hard! However, in coming face to face with Jesus, I've realized the greatest difficulty is in the letting go. He wants to change our hearts, to transform us into His image. But, we've got to lay down our ways, because they lead to captivity and to death. His ways lead to freedom and life. But, we've got to choose trust even when the way looks different.

Every single person in the Temple on that Holy Monday needed a Savior. All of them were blinded by sin. For some, the sin was religion. The process given to bring them into an awareness of their brokenness had become their idol causing them to miss their real-deal Redeemer. For others, all manner of sin left them sick and broken. They didn't look like much next to their religious leaders, but they recognized their Savior.

Today, I'm spending time with Jesus and asking Him to show me where I am on this Monday. Is my heart prepared to receive the genuine truth of His salvation? Have I fully received the Easter story? Are there any areas where religion still keep me from the full experience of freedom? I'm thinking that the religious elite really believed they were doing what was right. But, they missed it! They missed Jesus. I really, really don't want to miss Him.

How about you? I'm praying for every, single person that reads this entry today. Let's spend our week doing what my pastor encourages us to do every week, "Go & Be" (Christ's love, freedom, and joy), so that others want to "Come & See" (Christ's love, freedom, and joy)." He did what was impossible for us, so we get to REST in Him.

Happy Easter Week!

Monday, March 20

Tale as Old as Time

On Saturday evening, despite the warnings against it, I took Claire to see Beauty and The Beast. I've already read several posts from friends that the uproar and controversy was a bit of an exaggeration, and I'll agree. Still, my sarcasm can't help but scream here,  

"Really? It's possible that believers blew a warning out of proportion? How strange! I've never known that to have happened before!"

Actually, I did walk in with a little anxiety. I wondered how obvious the scenes would be. I was curious about what Claire would actually notice. The moments were briefer than brief. And, Claire did notice one thing... the criticism. When we walked out of the movie, Claire looked at me and questioned, "My friend said the Beast was gay and she wasn't going to see it. But, how does she know?"

OK, I can't help it,

"Really? It's possible that believers' exaggerations of sin flaunting in this movie were even misinterpreted and misrepresented? Weird! I've never known that to happen before!"  (Please forgive me! I tell Scotty I have the spiritual gift of sarcasm.)

So, I was warned about the flaunting of the sin of homosexuality in the movie. I chose to buy a ticket and go anyway. For the entirety of the movie, though, I kept noticing sin that I wasn't warned about.

There was lying and deceit. Pride and arrogance were flaunted regularly. There were obvious and lengthy scenes of attempted murder. Human lives were belittled and mocked repeatedly and to the tunes of catchy little songs. Simply put, sin was rampant. Brokenness was everywhere. But, no blog writer warned me about that.

Why? It's an honest question. I'm not eager to minimize sin. Sin is sin is sin, and it breaks the heart of God while injuring us, His children. But, truly, I'm wondering why we say all sin is the same but live and respond like we believe quite the opposite.

Here's the thing.... Humanity's sin problem is the result of us, God's loved and perfectly cared for children, fearing that He can't or won't take care of us properly. We worry that He's holding out on us. In our brokenness, we look for answers to our pain outside the realm of what He says is good and helpful for us. We respond to others in the consequence of our sinful choices. The mess becomes bigger, and it sometimes feels like our time to right the wrongs is running out. Sadly, our emotions force us to focus on the Beast when Beauty came to restore.

The answer to our sin problem (all sin) has come, and He has paid sin's required price. It is finished! No sin is bigger than Christ's sacrifice. But, all of us have to choose forgiveness and enter into  a relationship with our Savior. Everyone has to lay down pride and admit that we need His transformation daily. Even though our lives are rescued for eternity at the moment of salvation, the transformation of hearts to seek Jesus above our sin is an ongoing process.

Tale as old as time
Tune as old as song
Bitter sweet and strange
Finding you can change
Learning you were wrong 

And, there it is! The answer to our sin problem is Jesus. But, to fully embrace Him, we must receive the bitter sweet pill that we've been wrong. We must cooperate with Him and invite change. See, I don't think Jesus' death was necessary only for the "big" sins. I'm positive we'd be missing something if we weren't willing to confess that each of us, every single day, need to repent of harmful sin.

Choosing to focus all of my major effort on sins I don't struggle with could cause me to miss the piece of sanctification God wants to do in me. I want to forever view the sin that so easily entangles me, lay it before the Lord, and invite Him to change me. Again and again!

Humanity's brokenness is literally a tale as old as time. But, where sin runs deep, His grace runs deeper. Light overcame the darkness, so Christ is our Beauty. He's transforming His Bride as we move closer and closer to the day we seem Him face to face. I don't want to miss any part of my own personal transformation!

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 
2 Corinthians 4: 16-18

Friday, March 10

Lessons Learned About Religion Through Depression

Several years ago, I wrote a series of blogs titled, "Lessons Learned through Adultery." We'd been in our new home in North MS for a year. A few people knew what our family was healing from, but not many. I'd come to realize that we were at a crossroad. It was time to decide if we'd continue talking about our marriage/family crisis or move on in silence. I understood that most sane people would have gladly accepted the fresh start! It seemed natural to desire to move on. The problem, though, was that I'd learned too much in the failure. Those lessons were part of my life, and to silence them would mean trying to be a different person.

So, I did what only INsane people do. I wrote about those lessons on this public blog. I shared the story of Scotty's unfaithfulness, our healing journey, and the beautiful lessons we'd learned with anyone willing to read. I remember getting messages of gratitude, but I mostly remember how it made ME feel to write those posts.

Putting my lessons in written form gave me freedom to step into the next phase of life's journey with God. I remember feeling a sense of freedom knowing that I'd completed what He asked me to do.

But, the exciting next step was actually depression. I didn't know to call it that during the process, and I'm glad I didn't. What I experienced from 2014 until the very end of 2015 was a heavy burden that I don't even have the words to describe. It wasn't debilitating. Life still carried on, and I have some beautiful memories from those years. But, nothing was easy, and I felt (all the time) like I was operating under a heavy fog.

It wouldn't lift!

I couldn't get a break.

And, some days, I thought it would suffocate every bit of life from me.

I've been reflecting on that time period for months now trying to figure out HOW God drug me out of it. There isn't any real marker pointing to the place or the time that I felt the fog lift. Suddenly, it was just gone. As I've prayed, journaled, prayed, studied His Word, and prayed some more, I believe I've found the answer. Religion had taken me as far as it could, and it wasn't enough. My soul wanted more.

There's no easy way for this lifetime Southern Baptist girl to say this, so I'm just going to rip the band-aid, say it, and hope you continue reading. I reached the point in my Christian walk that surface level discussion about the Bible, questions with answers everyone already knew, and simple Bible verses weren't enough for me. I needed more! I was hard on myself for that. It felt sinful to be unsatisfied with God.He'd been faithful through a number of trials. I loved Him as much as I could possibly love Him. But, I still felt dry, worn out, and maybe bored with life. The theology that I spoke of God's power, might, grace, and love in the life of the believer wasn't my reality in the everyday moments.

I'm so glad God left me in that place of darkness and despair as long as He did. Because I was spiritually bankrupt in every way that mattered, I had to search for something more. I had to wrestle with Him in my frustration. I had to do things differently than I'd ever done before. I was forced to go on mission to find more of the Jesus the Bible teaches about even if I had to do it differently than I'd been taught to do it. 

Now, this is a bit of a spoiler, but I want to go ahead and share the good news that I did find Him to be all the more I needed. But, in order for Him to become greater, my preferences had to become smaller. The "box" that I'd always used to handle my Christianity was too confining. Simply put, everything about religion failed me in my greatest need, and that was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Religion said there is one path to follow. Freedom showed me there is one PERSON to follow. My path to wholeness and healing looked different than the path of others. I had to follow wherever Jesus led me. I couldn't worry about what others might say about it.

Religion demanded blind obedience. Freedom allowed me to wrestle into a faith that led to submission. The religious world is very vocal about what is right and what is wrong. There was a time in my darkness, though, that I didn't care. I was frustrated with God about circumstances that wouldn't change, and I told Him. I told Him from a position of dependence on Him for clarity. But, I needed Him to know He'd disappointed me. Do you know what surprised me? He didn't mind at all. For two years, we wrestled. He won of course! But, I did too. I won a more honest faith in Him. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Religion criticized my position. Freedom corrected my unbelief. I won't even go into detail here. Religion always criticizes! Religion throws stones. But, my gentle Savior gently corrected over time. He didn't insist I get on board with His plan immediately. Like a gentleman, He guided me to His answers and His way for me. I certainly needed correction. But, criticism had no place.

Because of fear, religion didn't allow my questions. In freedom's confidence, I was invited into a conversation to deal honestly with my confusion. God is sovereign, and He is so, so powerful. We MUST stop relating to the world in fear. We are so afraid our words, our songs, and our movies are going to lead people astray that we spend every moment of our time trying to poke holes in every message. But, our God can use ANYONE and ANYTHING to draw a person to Himself. He did that with me, but if I shared those methods, a Pharisee would be so quick to critique. Religion stands guard looking for reasons to accuse. And, we can always find exactly what our eyes are set to notice.

The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely, to see if He healed on the Sabbath, in order that they might find reason to accuse Him.
Luke 6:7

Religion said, "Play it safe." Freedom caused me to chase the adventure no matter the cost. And, here's where I land today. The lessons God taught me in a two year time period have changed my life. I was afraid to venture out and ask for more from God, because religion told me to be content. I was afraid to share what I'd learned, because religion was always correcting. I was afraid to think differently from other believers, because I'd always been the one to go with the flow and not cause friction. I can't do it anymore, though. I've got to follow Jesus no matter the cost!

I let go of religion and found freedom. The heaviness has lifted. I can't go back. I won't allow myself to listen to teachers/speakers/pastors that only teach messages of, "No." In my despair, I felt the freedom of God's Spirit tell me to go deeper, ask questions, struggle with the status quo, and to be brave in believing Him for more than is safe.

I've found an adventure that's worth spending a lifetime enjoying. Now, I have to live carefully to protect it. We truly are given the mandate to be on guard against false prophets. Who are they? Where are they? What are they teaching? In Jesus' days, they were the religious. In their zeal to be good Christians, they actually missed Christ. They cared for the mask on the outside and neglected the reality of despair on the inside. Ouch! I've been there before, and I'd like to never live there again.

 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.
Matthew 23: 24-25

Friday, March 3

Freedom From Despair

Over the past couple of months, I've been walking through the book of Joshua via my book, Move!, with a small group of ladies. It's been pretty surreal. It's also been surprising.

How ironic is it that I was surprised by my own story and words! God has done such a work in my heart through the story of Joshua. Their journey and their battles have provided a visual, for me, of God's call to freedom and abundant life.

About halfway through this small group study, though, God began to show me how He called me out of a depression that began during the summer of 2014 and didn't let up until the beginning of 2016. In the middle of that darkness, I felt so strange. It didn't seem appropriate that I'd begin to feel despair after God had already proven He would save our marriage and family from destruction. My depression didn't care about timing! It hit with determination and pressed in with fight for a year and a half.

These past couple of months have given me the opportunity to peek back into the darkness with enlightened vision. I've realized that the road God used to renew my strength and empower my resolve was a path I wouldn't have taken had I not been desperate for Him. If despair hadn't bullied me into a corner and threatened to suffocate on a daily basis, I may not have been willing to do whatever it took to find His victory in spite of my feelings of defeat.

See, having grown up in the Christian world, I knew all the right scripture to speak over my depression. I understood who we do and do not listen to for help and assistance in times of need. I was completely aware that there is a right and a wrong way to present myself to the Lord and plead for help. The problem, however, was that the familiar scriptures didn't lift the depression. The acceptable teachers and speakers didn't provide my greatest help. And, all of the right presentations fell flat in my great need.

With fear and anxiety, I went before the Lord in an honest way. I shared all of my frustration with my situation and with Him. I filled journals with questions while speaking disgust that my questions continued to be unanswered and our circumstances never changed.

Then, I began to listen to different speakers and teachers. I read books that some of my Christian brothers and sisters had labeled heresy and false teaching. I was careful. I wrote out prayers in each book telling God that I was pretty sure I couldn't believe in the things they were writing and teaching. I asked Him to guard my heart and my mind as I studied. I emptied myself at His feet and acknowledge my pain. In it, I asked to see as much of Him as I could possibly handle. Slowly but surely, He began to reveal Himself to me in clarity. 

The list of God's people that helped to lift me from my lowly state is long. My Bible and my journal were consistently the first stop in my search for more. But, Beth Moore, Steven Furtick, Priscilla Shirer, Levi Lusko, and Carl Lentz are a few of the speakers God used to open my eyes to believe Him for abundance in every circumstance. Books like 1,000 Gifts, The Circle Maker, and Forty Days of Prayer stretched my heart and my prayer life. They gave me the freedom to fully expose my heart and mind in prayer time with the Lord.

Here's the thing, though. For a little over a year, I didn't tell many in my Christian circle what I was learning and who I was learning from. I knew what they'd say and how they'd warn. It seemed that everywhere I turned, the people who had faithfully led me to the foot of the cross and to a Jesus that convicts, saves, and restores were being blasted as false teachers. Books filled with stories of a giant God that had moved in mighty ways despite trials, depression, and heartache had lifted my eyes from despair in my pain to hope in my Redeemer, but they were being blacklisted by my religious family.
I felt such anger about it all. But, then I remembered times when I'd done the same. God showed me that I have also been guilty of judging pieces of someone else' story without knowing the entirety.

I won't do it again, because I'd grown to see that these people God used to lead me into His light love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. After studying their work, I see the whole picture rather than scrutinized sentences taken out of context. And, what I found was that they are free. What I began to see is that they also had times in their lives when God allowed them to reach the end of themselves emotionally. In those times, they too found that they needed more from God than the Christian world said was safe and appropriate. And, like me, they found God to be all the more they needed!

Here's the thing.... No believer would argue with this statement, "God is bigger than we can even imagine." We all know the scripture in Isaiah that says, "His ways are higher than our ways." In other words, even the smartest, brightest, most knowledgeable person in the world doesn't hold a candle to the wisdom and sovereignty of our God. We will never fully figure Him out. And, if someone tells you they know everything there is to know about God, I can promise that you want nothing to do with their god. That god is too small.

So, why are we, Christians, still wasting our time picking apart Christian authors? Why do we still feel the need to pull out every little phrase that sounds incorrect among Christian speakers and vomit hate and disgust over social media about it? Should we ever stop and think that possibly another believer found great comfort in the way in which that author, that speaker, that whoever chose to share the Gospel? Is it possible we, religious Christians, are doing more harm than good with our attacks on what we're against instead of simply sharing THE CHRIST that saved our lives from the depths?

I hope I don't sound angry. I'm not. There is nothing about my position today that holds onto anger over this subject. Sadness is what I feel. I feel sadness for the years I missed out on going deeper with God, in Christ, because I was afraid I'd do or say something wrong. I will, from now on, go to God full of child-like faith knowing that if I do get something wrong, He will lovingly and Fatherly show me my mistake.

I'm grieved for other Christians who are stuck in depression, despair, or boredom because they need more from God, but they are scared to admit it and ask for it. I know there are others who live where I lived. They love God, and they want to know more of Him. But, they've fallen for religion's lie that says, "there's a right and wrong way to do this thing. And, who knows what will happen if you choose wrongly."

And, I'm terribly, terribly sad that a lost world in need of the Gospel we have is missing it because we can't agree on how to share it?

Can we agree on the fact that Christ died and was raised to life so that we could each have a personal relationship with Him? Can we put our differences aside long enough to acknowledge that it's possible God, in His sovereign wisdom, leads us all on individual pathways to know Him more and more as we grow and mature in Christ (the only way to salvation). And, can we set our fear aside and replace it with trust in our God. He is willing and able to teach and correct. The Holy Spirit lives in each of us. Through the Spirit, God will redirect our wayward paths. He's powerful! Let's not just say it. How about we actually believe that He will complete the good work He began in each individual Christian!

Today, I'm sitting in Starbucks writing this post. Over the past year, life's circumstances have remained scary and uncertain for me. But, I've not stepped back into the darkness of despair. I'm grateful I had to drop to new lows with God. Because I needed Him for more, I was able to see He is more. I don't want to go back! I still ask Him to correct me when I'm wrong. If I'm going to err, I want to err on the side of believing for too much. Maybe that sounds risky. But, my God is worth the risk. I want to know every, single bit of Him I can know this side of Heaven.

So, I'll seek and question. I'll read and listen. I'll test everything I hear against the wisdom of scripture and call on the Spirit that lives in me to help me interpret. But, I will not, will not, will not argue with a Pharisee. Legalism picks apart every statement and looks for a, "NO," which builds a wall between God and me. Relationship gives me the freedom to pursue God with my questions, wrestle with Him over my frustrations, and ask for more of His revelation. All of these send me towards Him, because I know He will love me even if I'm wrong. And, in His love He will correct me when needed allowing me to move one step closer to Him in the process of sanctification. Then, I'm better equipped to lead others towards Him where He will be the author and perfecter of their personal faith story.

Ahhhh.... What a relief!

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don't follow their example. For they don't practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden."

Matthew 23: 1-4

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