Deposit Your Praise Here, Please

John 11:40 Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?

When I went to college, my dad went to seminary. An excellent student, my father's efforts were rewarded when he received the acknowledgement as "Most Outstanding Graduate Student" of Mississippi. To honor my dad's accomplishment I chose to attend the awards banquet with him. Since I was closer to the age of the other recipients, person after person congratulated me on my achievement. It would have been so easy to take my dad's deserved praise. As a loving father, he would have been happy to pass the praise on to me and it would have prevented many awkward moments as I explained time and again that, "No, I had not received an award. My father was the one being honored." To take the credit for something I had not accomplished would not have diminished in anyway what my dad had done but it would have prevented others from crediting and celebrating the one to whom credit was due.

This morning I am finishing up the account of Lazarus' miraculous resurrection from the dead in John 11:24-57. This story is a touching reminder of God's love for each of us. Jesus cried right alongside those who mourned and very soon later faced the cross and grave so that each of us might experience a resurrected life, today and for all eternity. Today, however, this story is speaking to my heart more about God's glory than God's love. Jesus deeply loved Lazarus and his family but Lazarus' healing was not motivated by that love, it was motivated by God receiving His rightful glory. Before Jesus ever set out for the town of Bethany, he said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." If I read this account closely though it seems that no one shared Jesus' objective.
  • The disciples (Verses 7-8) - The disciples outright opposed Jesus going to Bethany and had no qualms about verbalizing their concern.
  • Martha (Verse 39) - Martha, Lazarus own sister, had just confessed that Jesus was the Messiah (Verse 27) but even still tried to reason Jesus out of his actions.

What about me? Am I willing to become less so that He may become great (John 3:30) or do I allow worry and reason prevent me from giving God the glory He's due?

  • When one of my kids is complimented, do I credit my gene pool or God's goodness?
  • When my home is admired, do I credit my husband's financial wisdom or God's provision?
  • When my gifts are praised, do I credit my good fortune or God's unmerited grace?

Oh dear Jesus, I don't want to oppose Your plan in any area of my life. I am reminded that everything I have is for Your glory alone. I could never diminish what You have done, but I could prevent others from seeing Your gracious work in my life. Today, may this resurrected life be a vessel through which no one but You is seen or praised.

Power to the People

Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

There are two types of movie viewers - those who must get there long before the scheduled start time to ensure that even the previews aren't missed and those who actually plan to arrive later than the start time in hopes of skipping the previews and going straight for the main event. I am squarely in the first group. Sometimes I enjoy the previews almost as much as the movie itself. Previews are tantalizing tidbits that wet your appetite and prepare you to later take in a feast of moview viewing.

This morning I am in John 11:1-23. This is the well-known story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, only the section we're reading is only the preview. "The event" won't actually happen until tomorrow. Because this is God's Word though, we don't have to wait for the full-blown movie, He has a great word for us even in the trailer.

For the last two days we've looked at recognizing God's voice and then listening to God's voice. Today, God is expounding in my heart on the theme of prayer through this passage by teaching me about praying for others. Let's take a look.

  1. Prayer Powered by Love - When Martha and Mary realize that Lazarus is gravely ill, they send word immediately to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick" (Verses 1-3). My heart is pierced with those words. Do I cry out to God bathed in His love for the one who's sick, hurting or needy or is my prayer for others even really focused on myself?
  2. Prayer Powered by Persistence - Even though Jesus deeply loved Lazarus and his sisters, he waited two days to come to them (Verses 5-6). Does my prayers for others have staying power? Do I pray just one time, maybe when I first find out about something or do I persist even when Jesus doesn't "come to them" right away.
  3. Prayer Powered by Faith - When Jesus arrives, Martha comes out to greet Him and imediately affirms that 1) she knows if He'd been there, Lazarus would not have died and 2) she knows that God will give Jesus whatever He asks (Verses 21-22). Do I pray out of what I know or out of a flimsy hope or wish? Do I approach Jesus confidently like Martha or do I pray from a distance like Mary (she didn't come out to greet Jesus)?

Oh, Jesus, I desperately need your power behind my prayer for others. Today, I will pray with Your love, persistently when I don't hear from you right away and in the confidence that comes from having true faith in You.

Is Anybody Listening?

Psalm 45:10a Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear.

I didn't hear you. It's a phrase that wafts to my ears many times a day. The speaker could be my kids, my husband, a friend or even an acquaintance. Whether delivered in the polite form, "I'm so sorry but I didn't hear you" to the irritated, "You never told me that", what's really being communicated is, "I wasn't listening!"

Today my passage is John 10:24-42. Here, Jesus continues to expound the parable of us being the sheep and He being the Shepherd. Yesterday, our focus was "my sheep hear my voice" (Verse 4). Today we will look intently at Verse 27, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."

When I first attempted to truly begin praying, I found it awkward to talk to God. In the fullness of time, however, I have realized that listening to God can be far more challenging than talking to God. So, I decided to look up the word translated "listen" in its' original language of Greek. It means:
  1. Not deaf
  2. To understand what has been said
  3. To consider what has been said

Let's take a closer look at each of these definitions:

  1. Not deaf - This seems so obvious. The difference between spiritual and physical deafness, is that the former is often a choice. Just as my children have a choice to hear me say, "Clean up your room", I have a choice to hear God say, "Clean up your ______."
  2. To understand what has been said - Many of us have been exposed the skill of active listening. When developing this skill, one of the basic techniques is to repeat back what you've just heard someone say. This gives the other person the opportunity to clarify if necessary or affirm what you've said. Not surprisingly, the technique of active listening can be very effective with God. Here's an example of a conversation, I would have with God from this verse. God: My sheep follow me. Shannon: Yes but when you said follow, you didn't really mean like always follow, everytime follow, right? (Clicking of computer as Shannon pulls up to see what follow means in the Greek). God: The Greek word here means to follow one who preceds, be his attendant, accompany him. Shannon: Okay I get it, I can't really attend to or accompany someone I'm not with, so I must need to follow every time, all the time.
  3. To consider what has been said - As silly as my conversation with God may sound, it is necessary to prepare me for this next step. Once I "agree" with God that His Word says what it says, I'm ready to consider it. In my example, I might ask myself, "What does it mean to follow? What does it look like to follow? Is there any part of my behavior or attitude that looks 'wander-y' instead of 'follow-y'?" Once I have identified the action(s) I need to take, and then actually take it, I have really heard God.

Oh Jesus, please help me have a heart that truly listens to you today. Today I will unstop my ears, take the time to understand what You've said and then consider it. May my life be a reflection of my listening skills.

Excuse Me Mam, But Your Phone is Ringing

John 10:10 I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

My cell phone rings. The number is not programmed into my phone so I have no idea who's calling. When I say, "Hello", the caller responds with the casual, "Hey". They are assuming I know who they are, that I know their voice but I have no earthly idea how upon a "Hey" I'm going to figure out who's calling. I begin to sweat. If I don't say something soon, I'll look like an idiot. I mumble, "How are you?", all the while wondering who in the heck "you" is. My perspiration turns into a full-on panic as seconds stretch to hours in my mind. Finally something in the conversation registers and I can deduce who is calling. Immediately after the call, I program the number into the phone while obsessing over whether they could "tell" I didn't recognize them on the phone.

Today I am reading John 10:1-23. In the section of scripture, Jesus uses the analogy of sheep and shepherd to teach about His relationship to His people. Jesus makes some beautiful statements about the sheep: He calls them by name, His sheep know His voice and He came to give his sheep a full life. I'm wondering if I can't recognize a human when they call, how will I ever recognize the voice of God? I believe there's some helpful clues in this passage.
  1. Admit You Don't Recognize the Voice - How much simpler would be if when I don't recognize the caller's voice, I had the humility to just say so? Then all that mind-reeling figuring would be avoided. If I am having trouble discerning Jesus' voice, I need to admit it and ask for His help.
  2. Commit to Calling More Often - I recognize someone's voice on the phone because of the frequency of our conversations. The little clues such as their greeting, the pitch of their voice, their accent, etc. all draw a permanent picture of their voice which I can recall easily. If I am having difficulty hearing from God, I need to commit to "calling" more often. That means spending more time in prayer just talking with Him about what's going on in my life.
  3. Stop Screening His Calls - If I have taken the time to enter someone's number in my phone then I permanently avoid the embarrassment of not knowing who they are. The problem is though that now I can screen their calls and just choose not to talk to them at all. I may know their name, but that doesn't mean I know anything else about them. Jesus knows me by name (Verse 3). He will never screen my calls. The question is, do I screen His? When I am awoken an hour early and know God is nudging me to roll out of bed and spend time with Him, do I take His call? When I have a difficult decision to make and I feel urged to take the path that's not logical, do I take His call?

This passage contains an often quoted verse, John 10:10. "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (or abundantly)." This morning Jesus is saying to me that He came not for me to have a sweaty, anxiety-riddled life but for one overflowing with peace and joy. Philippians 4:6-7 tell us that He pours out that peace into our hearts when we pick up the phone and call out to him in prayer. Jesus, today don't let me have even one missed call.

Seminary Training Not Required*

Psalm 15:1-2 Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart.

There is nothing like the honesty of a child. Each of my children have said some things in a moment of utter transparency that make me laugh. I've noticed the car or the bathroom seems to be particularly stimulating to honest conversation. After my 2nd C-Section, one of my older kids attempted to encourage me about my post-pregnancy body by remarking, "Mom, I wouldn't worry a bit about that scar on your stomach, because that big flap of skin covers it right up". If I could have crawled into the floor of the shower at that moment I would have. Still, I had to appreciate her honest assessment of the situation.

This morning I am studying John 9:24-41. This section of scripture further details what occurred after the blind man was healed earlier in the chapter. We don't know many details about this blind man but I'm willing to presume that as a blind beggar (Verse 8) that he had not received an Ivy League education. Yet in this passage, he presents some of the most profound statements of faith presented in scripture.
  • I was blind but now I see - How many of us have great fondness for the hymn "Amazing Grace"? Those words, "I once was blind but now I see", made famous in the hymn were penned by this blind beggar (Verse 25). When the religious leaders continued to press him about how his healing had been made possible, he didn't try to answer with some deep theological argument but instead spoke irrefutable truth. If we belong to Jesus, we too have irrefutable truth of which to speak. I once was a liar but now I'm honest. I once was a cheat but now I'm faithful. I once was a pretender but now I'm genuine. God has given each of us a unique story to share without embellishment.
  • God listens to the godly man who does his will - How greatly I desire a powerful prayer life. Here this simple man acutely recognizes God's truth (Verse 31). In this simple formula of being godly and acting godly lies the secret to answered prayer. Long before James wrote that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful (James 5:16), this fact was acknowledged by an unschooled blind man.
  • Lord, I believe - There is no greater statement of faith then simply mouthing, "I believe" (Verse 38). Those two words establish a relationship with God through Jesus, fuel growth during the trials of life and usher us into the presence of God for an eternity with him.

Jesus, today may I not complicate my faith but instead rely on the simplicity of your truth. You love me. You died for me. You hear me. You have great plans for me. Lord, I believe.

*This blog entry is written today in honor of my husband whose profound but simple faith inspires me every day to love Jesus like he does.

What's Your This?

Romans 8:28a And we know that in all things God works

One of my close relatives was recently diagnosed with a condition that over the long-term will have a debilitating impact on her life. When her diagnosis was received, it was unwelcomed by me and seemed egregiously unfair to anyone who knew her. I longed to be able to "right" things, to take her diagnosis on myself or to rewind the hands of time and sway the outcome. None of these are options which leaves me with only one. To love her, pray for her and believe God with her is a premier privilege in my life right now.

This morning I am reading John 9:1-23. Here I find another of Jesus' amazing miracles. As Jesus and his disciples walked along the road, they encountered a blind man. The belief among Jews at this time in history was that physical illness was the result of some vast sin in one's life and God's just punishment thereof. Regarding this blind man, His disciples inquired who had sinned, the man or his parents, that God would allow this tragedy into his life (Verse 2). Jesus' reply is truth resplendent with grace, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." (Verse 3)

"This" happened. It wasn't because of any wrong I committed. It is because God greatly desires to work in my life. The "this" could be many things in my life - some painful childhood memories, divorce, Scott's cancer last year or this latest diagnosis. Whatever the "this" is, Jesus tells me it happened so that the work of God might be displayed in my life. I desperately want God to work in my life, so I'm eager to read on and find out how this is possible.
  • Participation Required - Verses 6 and 7 outline the method Jesus used to heal this man. First Jesus used his spit to form some mud that he placed on his eyes (yuck!). Then Jesus gave specific instructions to him to go a certain pool and wash his eyes. Could Jesus have spoken a word and brought healing? Absolutely, he could! Jesus, however, wanted him to participate in the process. Jesus also wants me to join in the healing process in my life. While I don't believe every illness will be miraculously cured, I do believe the emotional wounds in my life will be. There is two distinct qualities of the blind man I need to emulate in my life to stimulate healing. 1) Willingness - He allowed Jesus to use whatever method He deemed necessary. Personally, I'm not a big fan of spit or mud but if I have to get dirty to get clean, it's entirely worth it. 2) Obedience - He followed Jesus instructions. He didn't ask, "why" or "how come". He didn't politely suggest several feasible alternatives. He simply did what was asked. Often the hardest part of healing is simply walking in faith and obedience.
  • Testimony Essential - Immediately his neighbors began wondering how this healing had happened. He could have regaled them with the power of his positive attitude, his exercise and diet routine or referenced the self-help scroll he'd recently acquired but instead he credited the only One worthy - Jesus (Verses 8-11). Getting every source of assistance is important, but the only essential is remembering Who is actually producing my healing. When I tell others about God's work in my life, it extends the healing beyond myself and shares it with others. That is indeed a great gift!
  • Fear Rejected - This passage ends tragically with his parents being called to the temple to explain how their son was healed and them allowing fear to author their response (Verses 18-23). In the midst of my "this", I can allow fear to dictate my path or I can stand firm, believing God to fulfill every one of His promises to me. I either choose fear or faith.

Jesus, I desire you to work in my life today. So, I will choose to participate with you in my healing, tell others of your amazing work in my life and walk in faith not fear.

Seeing the World in God's Colors

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

When Hayleigh (11) first started drawing pictures of our family, I smiled when I noticed she used the "peach" crayon for her older sister and dad and the "brown" crayon for herself and me. She and I are indeed much more well-pigmented than many European Americans. Our heritage is English/Irish, yet she colored our skin how she saw it and not according to any "box" we might be in. As parents, we have carefully, intentionally raised our children to see similarities in people and not differences and to celebrate God's unique gifts given to each person. To this day, I proudly hang the self-portrait she did in early elementary that has blond hair and very brown skin. That picture means she learned to just see people, not categories of people.

Today I am reading John 8:28-59. The predominant theme is a back and forth discourse between Jesus and His listeners in which Jesus reveals His identity as God's Son. After to listening to Jesus for a bit, the audience dull as a knife last sharpened in the 19th century, asks Jesus, "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?" (Verse 48)

These were the worst two insults they could think of - Samaritan and demon-possessed. Jesus immediately responds to the charge of demon-possession but entirely ignores the comment about being a Samaritan (Verse 49). I believe this has less to do with his earthly heritage as a Jew and more to do with His heavenly heritage. To insinuate that one person is somehow less than another because of their God-given heritage is so not a part of who Jesus is that He won't even dignify the remark with a response. That kind of thinking should be equally repulsive to me.

What about me? Do I expect less or more of someone because of their nation of origin? Do I extend my trust freely regardless of someone's zip code? Do I express the same measure of love regardless of how well packaged a person may appear?

Today, Jesus, I will not be a barrier to others seeing you in me. I will set my expectations aside, extend my trust and express Your love. I will color my world with every crayon You've given.

Neglected Cleaning

Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Invariably when I pray I find myself stuck at the "Confession" step. I am certain this is not because I have nothing to confess, but rather I can think of nothing to confess. Could it be that the sin patterns that remain in my life are so familiar to me they no longer seem like sin? Or do I choose to ignore areas of my life I'd rather not have to deal with? Whatever the reason, 2 Timothy 2:21 tells me that when I am clean from sin, I will be used by God. I desperately want to be used by God so I guess I'd better get to cleanin'.

This morning I am in John 8:1-11. Here I find the story of a woman who was caught in the act of adultery and brought before Jesus to see how he would handle the situation. Let's pick up the story in Verse 5.
  • Those who bring her before Jesus are aware that the Old Testament provides that a women in her situation receive the penalty of death by stoning and bring her to Him to ask Him what to do. They are just using her though to attempt to trap Jesus, a detail of which He's obviously aware. (Verses 5-6)
  • At this point, Jesus begins to write on the ground with his finger. I have heard more speculation over the course of my life about what He wrote than I care to recount. What I am certain He didn't write is much more important to me than what He actually did. Jesus doesn't pen words like "Alone in Your Sin", "Unforgivable" or "Unredeemable". (Verses 7-8)
  • Instead of responding to their inquiry directly, He simply says that anyone of them without sin is welcome to throw the first stone. One by one they filed away knowing they did not meet that criteria. (Verse 9)
  • Finally, Jesus finds himself alone with the woman and asks her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?". She responds, "No one, sir." Jesus glorious reply is, "Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin". (Verses 10-11)

This is one of the most beautiful stories in the New Testament and a true picture of God's grace. Today I am lasered on the fact that Jesus did not tell her to go and no longer commit adultery. Instead, He says, "Go now and leave your life of sin". My heart is pierced, because isn't it the life of sin that gets me? It's easy to see big, glaring mistakes I've made but much more difficult to recognize a lifestyle pattern of sin that is just "part of who I am". Like unwanted, unnecessary baggage, Jesus says to leave it. I need to lay it down so I can continue on my life journey with Him free of its' burden.

Jesus, there is no corner where you can't sweep out the cobwebs, no light fixture too high for you to dust. I give you free reign to show me that dust bunny that's been sitting under my bed far too long. You are the Master Janitor. What you clean will never be dirty again.

Interrupted by a Thankful Heart

Psalm 119:62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks

Sometimes when I reflect on my life as a mom, it seems like it is one big interruption. Thoughts interrupted by questions, schedules interrupted with impromptu errands and plans interrupted with unexpected illnesses, litter my memories of parenthood. I have also noted though that when my schedule, thoughts or plans are interrupted by the words, hugs and kisses of a grateful child, these interruptions do not give way to irritation or frustration. There is never a wrong time to tell your mom she's loved and appreciated.

This morning I am reading John 7:1-27. This passage takes place during one of the significant Jewish celebrations called the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus' brothers are encouraging him to attend the festival and demonstrate His miraculous power there (Verses 1-9). Jesus ends up attending the festival secretly but begins to teach in the temple while He is there (Verses 10-14). Immediately those listening recognize His command of the Jewish scriptures and are amazed at His ability to teach them without any formal training (Verse 15). This leads to remarks about His representation of the Father in word and action and leaves the crowd pondering if He could be God's Son (Verses 16-27).

Near the beginning of this section (Verse 6) is Jesus response to His brothers. This is the verse my heart is keying on this morning. When urged to attend the celebration, Jesus responds, "The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right". This very moment is the right time to worship God. There is no wrong time to praise Him for who He is and how He works in our lives. Paul even goes on in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 to tell us that having a thankful heart under every circumstance, good or bad, is God's will for each one of us.

All day long, Jesus, may my heart overflow with gratitude. May I stand at your side, tugging your sleeve, eager to express my love for you. I want to "interrupt" your day again and again with my thankful heart.


John 6:51b This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

From as far back as I can remember I have loved to read. As a child I would become the main character of any novel, with the world around me immediately ceasing to exist. My only reality would be that book. I recall many times in school that I would be so engrossed in what I was reading that a teacher or fellow student would have to speak my name repeatedly before I could even begin to come back to the reality around me. Like awakening from a dream, even then I would float around in a semi-conscious state for quite some time before truly returning to my surroundings.

Today's passage, John 6:45-71, is one frankly that I would have preferred not to read. I find it a bit discouraging and even in bad taste to a degree. Some of those seeing this scene unfold live must agree because Verse 66 informs us that "from this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him". Knowing that not a single word was placed in the Bible without reason, I choose to place my trust in God's wisdom and open my heart to what He has to say to me this morning.

Having declared earlier in this chapter that He is the "bread of heaven", Jesus now expounds on this quite a bit.
  • I am enticed by the opening where wonderful promises are given. God draws me (Verse 44). God teaches me (Verse 45). God grants me life after death through Jesus (Verse 47).
  • Next Jesus explains in greater detail what it means that He is the bread of heaven: He is living bread, eternal bread and sacrificial bread (Verses 48-51). So far so good.
  • Now the passage turns downright icky because Jesus takes the bread analogy to the place of near cannibalism. This is where I begin to think this part is better suited for a horror film (Verses 53-58) and wish orange juice had the impact of carbonation in settling one's stomach. He declares His flesh and blood to be real food and drink and the source of life for each one of us, suggesting we eat it.

Jesus wants me to consume Him. What could that possibly mean? Then my college biology comes rushing back to me. There are three processes that food undergoes in our bodies:

  1. Digestion - This is the part where food gets from the outside to the inside. In order to begin my journey with Jesus, I first had to take Him in. I had to choose to believe in my heart that He died and was raised from the dead for my sin and be willing to give Him his rightful place as the boss of my life (Romans 10:9).
  2. Absorption - Next everything that is useful in food is separated from everything that is not. The useful parts are delivered microscopically to every cell in my body, energizing and empowering it to perform each function from beating my heart to wiggling my toes. As I begin to develop my relationship with Jesus by reading His word and talking to Him about every facet of my life, I begin to experience a changed life. My life is now energized and empowered in a way I never would have believed. I wake up excited and eager to see what God has in store for me that day.
  3. Elimination - Finally, all the non-useful parts of food pass right on out of the body. In my life there have been many behaviors, attitudes and thoughts that have had to go. Over time that parts of me that don't look like Jesus get eliminated and are replaced with much better parts that do.

In Verse 67, Jesus asks His disciples, "You do not want to leave too, do you?". I can answer that question with an absolute, resounding "No". Thank you for patiently teaching me even the "hard teachings" (Verse 60). My heart cries to be changed by You and my soul longs for Your life-giving energy. Today, may I consume you completely.

Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me?

John 14:27 I do not give to you as the world gives.

Long before Larry the Cucumber sang his first "Silly Song", I was composing silly songs about my sweet family and my love for them. There is now a whole repertoire of ditties that even includes cheers. My favorite chant is the one we use when the interior of the car isn't cooling off as quickly as we'd like. In it's original form it goes:

It's hot. It's hot. It's hot in here.
There must be a (Insert school mascot) in the

In its' Milholland form, we insert each family members' name in the blank for six rousing rounds. Not too long ago, I was just getting started on a journey out of the house when my youngest, Rynnie, Busted out with this cheer. Carynne majors in attributes like sweet and sensitive and minors in ones such as showie and attention-seeker so immediately I was captivated by this deviation from her typical personality. Bursting with confidence, she called, "It's hot. It's hot. It's hot in here. There must be a Daddy inside my ear." Having none so far, I anticipate having no success convincing her those aren't the words to the cheer.

Today I am in John 6:22-44. This section details the conversation Jesus has with the crowd of folks who had been miraculously fed the prior day. In this passage, Jesus makes profound statements such as, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." and "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry." The section that penetrates my heart today though is Verses 41-42. The Jews began to complain because additionally Jesus had proclaimed He was the bread that had come from heaven. Their response was to focus on the facts about Jesus they were sure of. 1) He was Joseph's son. 2) They knew Joseph's parents, so it would be impossible for Jesus to have come from heaven.

The fallacy our friends belief is presuming that they "knew it all". They could not conceive of a paradigm in which Jesus wasn't actually the son of Joseph. I wonder how often I place Jesus in a doubt box. I am often tempted to focus on what I think I know instead of what I know God can do. This kind of thinking doesn't limit His ability to work in someone else's life, but mine could be significantly stagnated.

  • When someone has unsuccessfully been through rehab a couple of times, do I choose to believe when they say this time they finally "kicked it" with God's help?
  • When a friend betrays me (again) and then asks my forgiveness, do I let her back into my heart or hold her at arm's length?
  • When a family member I've known since birth decides to change God's way, do I give him the freedom to do that or do I really just expect more of the same?

The ultimate reflection of God in me is when I extend grace as lavishly as He does. Yet grace is the one thing I'm most tempted not to give. At advice I'm great. A critical spirit I've got cold. Jesus, today may I operate out of your amazing grace instead of my limited mind and may Your grace be generous, abundant, bountiful.

Are You Sure You're 14, not 4?

Ephesians 5:16a Make the most of every opportunity

The realization hit me like a wall of bricks. Hannah (14) and Hayleigh (11) only have a few more days left in middle school and elementary school respectively. This thought burdens my heart and leaves it feeling heavy, as if it has been cemented by the mason's tool itself. High school. Middle school. This sounds so final like the end of my parenting career has attached itself to the wheel of a racecar and will approach at that speed.

When I turn to today's passage, John 6:1-22, I find two familiar stories. The first, in Verses 1-15, recounts how Jesus miraculously multiplied just five small loaves and two tiny fish into a banquet that satisfied the 5,000 men who had gathered to hear Jesus speak. The second, related in Verses 16-21, describes Jesus' journey across the surface of the water to meet up with his disciples in their boat. What do these seemingly unrelated stories have in common? They are both lessons to me concerning this season of parenting.

1) A Change of Perspective - In the first event, Jesus miraculously increases the available food to satisfy thousands of people. While I don't anticipate God slowing down the hands of time and inexplicably giving me more to rear my children, I do know that if I co-parent with Him, He will help me make the most of the time I have left. I am tempted to think in small terms such as I have one school left with Hannah or seven years left Hayleigh. Instead, I need to number each day, over 1,500 or 2,200 more respectively, and make every one count. That is thousands of days to teach them God's Word, reinforce our family's values and just enjoy the pleasure of their company.

2) A Change of Expectation - There is no doubt in my mind that when Jesus' disciples set out in their boat, they had no thought that Jesus would come strolling up on the lake's topside to greet them. Even then, they were likely more focused on rowing the boat amongst rising waves, then welcoming their Master into it. Many parents enter the teen years with dread and trepidation and focus their attention on their immediate perceived problems. I can, however, choose to expect something different. While I am under no illusion of a stress-free finish to my parenting, I can opt for anticipating Jesus to show up under every circumstance, in every situation and at all times. The more I am actively looking for Him, the greater chance my kids will see Him at work in our family, their schools and their friendships.

Jesus, change my perspective to focus on the abundance of days you've given me rather than the fleeting nature of them. Help redeem my day by focusing on teaching, training and loving my kids today. Change my expectation so I will look forward to Your incredible guidance and work in our lives today. I thank you for every single day you've blessed me with thusfar to be called Mom. Thank you for the thousands more that remain, each one ready to be "made the most of".

Warning: Dangerous Curve Ahead

Galatians 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

My test was returned and the grade on it may have reflected my level of knowledge but not my level of desire to see a better grade on my report card. This happened more times than I'd like during my academic career. Occasionally, my teacher would blow in on the wind of grace and offer to "scale the grades". What a glorious moment. Hope immediately sprang into my heart that a higher grade was possible. At other times, my instructor would shake his head and determine that someone had actually dared to learn the material and there was nowhere to curve the grades to for those of us living up to less than our potential. Do you ever feel like life is graded on the curve? It's as if there's a grand master grade sheet and as long as you can garner enough points to get an "A" or maybe even a "C", you're doing okay.

In this morning's passage, Jesus is addressing the ultimate curve-busters, the local religious leaders, who had gotten their feathers quite ruffled by Jesus choosing to heal someone on the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath was the day that Jews reserved for going to the temple and rest. This practice was given in the laws originally by Moses but had been expanded significantly with additional non-Scriptural requirements by various Jewish leadership over the course of time. Healing someone on the Sabbath certainly did not hold with their view of how a committed Jew should behave (Verses 8-16) and would not earn an "A" on any grading scale. When questioned why he had acted in this manner, Jesus responded with a lengthy explanation and earnest plea for the leader's hearts which is documented in Verses 19-47. The focus of my thoughts today is the 44th Verse. Here Jesus inquires, "How can you believe if you accept praise from one another (people), yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?"

This question pierces my heart because I know all-to-often I fall to the temptation to grade on the curve. When I begin comparing myself to others in any area of my life such as appearance, social status or spirituality, I take my focus off of God and place it squarely on myself. Thoughts such as if I were only as thin as ________ or I'm so glad my kids aren't like ________ flood my mind. Whether these assessments could be characterized as positive or negative is not the issue, it's the fact that under these assessments, the real question I'm asking myself is, "Do I meet with the approval of people?" Quietly, Jesus whispers to me that His approval is the one needed. It is not earned or dependent on any number from my weight to my IQ but rather His unending devotion to me. The cry of His heart today is simply to be with me. He's not embarrassed when my kids act crazy at the grocery store nor is He impressed when I shimmy into one dress size smaller. He just loves and awaits my love in return. Jesus, today may I seek only Your praise by letting my mind linger on you.

It's all About the Suit

Isaiah 40:31 Those who hope in the Lord...will walk and not be faint

When my oldest, Hannah, was a baby a fashion trend swept America from its' oldest to youngest members, the jogging suit. I would literally see senior citizens so decrepit they could barely walk, let alone jog, in these highly colorful ensembles. So of course I had to ensure my crawler had one. My husband and I immediately donned it the "walking" suit. As if aware of the "power" of the suit, the day of the initial wearing, she awkwardly struck out with her first steps. Nothing could have evoked greater delight. If those suits had the same impact on their more seasoned customers, the cane/walker business may have taken a serious economic hit.

This morning, the scripture reading is John 5:1-24. Here we find Jesus at a pool in Jerusalem where individuals with all manner of physical incapacities would lay hoping to find some relief from their suffering in the pool's water (Verses 1-4). Jesus singles out one person and boldly asks him, "Do you want to get well?" (Verses 5-6). Isn't that a rather obvious question? Wouldn't any person daily dealing with great physical torment want to be well? Clearly the invalid didn't know the power that was speaking to him because his response isn't affirmative. Instead he complains that he has no one to carry him into the water and receive relief (Verse 7). Jesus ignores his disagreeable response and gives him the key to his healing, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."

There was a time in my life when I sat donned in my jogging suit but refused the leave my cripple's mat. I knew the key to my healing was found in daily prayer and Bible reading but I refused to pick up my mat and walk, let alone jog. One day though, I purposed to begin so I started with the gospel of John. It only took a couple of readings before I was in this very passage and heard Jesus ask the question, "Do you want to get well?". I knew with certainty that He was asking me. My resounding "Yes!" was quickly followed with, "Then get up! Pick up your mat and walk." From that day forward, I have faithfully met with God each day and received miraculous healing from all that crippled my life.

Jesus, may I never sit back down on that mat. Just as this man was surrounded by the lame, blind and paralyzed (Verse 4), I will find myself again in their company if I sit back down. Instead, you've called me to walk with You and reveal to my crippled companions the way to a life filled with hope instead of despair. You've even given me a fancy colorful suit of your love, kindness and compassion to wear while I walk.

Incredible Credulity

Luke 1:45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.

It was this time of year nearly thirty-one years ago that I sat at a table with seven other girls, vehemently defending my family's honor. The girls at this gathering had made the most absurd accusation. "There is no such thing as the Easter Bunny", they naively claimed. I had been far better educated than they. I had two parents and three older siblings who had given me explanations in great detail as to the exact mechanism the Easter Bunny used during his deliveries. Foolishly, I had taken each of them at their word.

On the official schedule, I am to be moving on John 5:1-24 this morning, but God has me on a different timetable. There is a miracle at the end of the fourth chapter of John, where my heart longs to linger for just a few moments first. Here is a brief recounting of what happened:
  • Jesus finds his way back to Cana (where he turned the water into wine at the wedding). There he is approached by a royal official whose son was gravely ill in a town some distance away. He begs Jesus to come to that town and heal his son. Verses 46-49)
  • Instead, Jesus just gives this gentleman the assurance that his son will live. This man believes Jesus and procedes to return home. (Verse 50)
  • The next day as he is still traveling, he is greeted by some of his servants who report that his son is well. Not only that, but this man realizes that his son was healed at the exact moment that Jesus promised him that his son would live! (Verses 51-53)
  • He and all his family realize that Jesus is Son of God and choose to believe. (Verse 53)

In this story, the official "took Jesus at his word" (Verse 50) and then believed (Verse 53). For me and likely many reading this blog, I have already chosen to let Jesus have the wheel on the road of my life. The question for me is, have I taken Jesus at His word? What even should I be taking him at his word for, I ponder? There are thousands of promises in God's Word, but today I'm going to focus my heart on just nine of them.

  1. He will never leave or abandon me - Hebrews 13:5
  2. He will raise a harvest of righteousness, if I sow peace in my home - James 3:18
  3. He will exchange my anxiety for His peace if I'll just talk to Him - Philippians 4:6-7
  4. He will meet my all my needs (physical, emotional, social, spiritual) - Philippians 4:19
  5. He will forgive my sins when I admit them to Him - 1 John 1:9
  6. He will use the difficulties of today to make me more like Him tomorrow - Romans 8:28-29
  7. He will become more apparent in my life if I draw closer to Him - James 4:8
  8. He will finish what he starts in my life - Philippians 1:6
  9. He will equip me to do what he calls me to do - 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Unlike my family's extravagant explanations concerning Senor Rabbit, Jesus can be taken at His word. May my heart believe Your truth today and my life reflect the joy that comes from trusting even one of your promises.

Well Worth Looking Into

Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
This spring I attended a women's conference which focused on the story of Joseph's life. The theme of the gathering was "God is the Author of my Story" and the delightful speakers interwove elements of Joseph's story with the idea that God wants to author and develop every one of our stories for His glory and our good. A particularly inspiring aspect of this retreat was the prayer room that had been designated not only for prayer but the retrieval of a scripture bookmark selected especially for each one of us. Mine was Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. In that moment, God whispered in my heart that not only would He redeem my story by exchanging good for harm, He would do it in a way that accomplished the saving of many lives. What a wonderful promise He offers each one of us!

This morning, my study finishes the story of "The Woman at the Well" in John 3:31-42. After meeting the Messiah, our feature character's life is immediately transformed. Verses 28-30 report that she left her water jar and went into the town to gather as many people as possible to meet Jesus. Many in the village believed, Verse 39 reports. It is the reason why they believed that is a lesson to me. If I had been among the townspeople that day, there are many reasons why I can imagine I might have believed:
  • Seeing Jesus perform an amazing miracle
  • Meeting the Master up close and personal
  • Hearing Jesus deliver a compelling sermon

Interestingly, none of these reasons were given as to why they believed. They believed "because of the women's testimony". Not one drop of water in the wells of her life had been wasted. Jesus had taken every wrong turn, difficult experience and painful memory and used them for His glory by working a miracle of transformation in real people's lives. Likewise, there is no part of my story, no well too deep, disgusting or dirty, that Jesus cannot redeem for good if I'll only allow Him.

When I think about a well's usefulness, there several aspects that spring to mind:

  1. A well must be dug. This is painstaking work that can take days or even months. In order for Jesus to redeem my well, I may have to work alongside Him for a long period of time digging into it and allowing Him to exchange my dirt for His delight.
  2. A well must be deep enough. The hard work of digging is not done until the reward of water is reached. I cannot allow discouragement or distraction to prevent me from working far enough down my well to reach the life-giving water, where Jesus' ransom lies. Jesus cannot ransom my well unless I willingly allow Him to dig deeply into it.
  3. A well must be uncapped. A well dug many years ago can go almost completely unnoticed by the passerby. The same is true with my wells dug many years ago. It seems easier to ignore them than to acknowledge them. Jesus must first gently pry off the cap to my well before I can even find out what's inside. Deep at the bottom of the oldest, most forgotten well there is a thirst-quenching reward just waiting to be discovered.

Jesus, today do more than sit at my well with me. Ransom every aspect of my wells that shaped this woman who sits there today. I know I can trust you to not waste a single drop of my testimony, if only I'm willing to pour out the water of my life into Your hands and deliver my testimony to your townspeople.

The Well That Offers More Than a Wish

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Yesterday I drove to the store with my two little ones in tow. When I arrived at our appointed stop, I paused briefly to gather my belongings before exiting my car. This gave my ever-eager Clara (4) just long enough to open her car door and somehow wedge her head between the front edge of her car door and the facing to my door. Seemingly defying at least one of Newton's laws, it was clear she could not free herself without assistance, however I could not open my car door without causing insult to injury by slamming my door into her head. Just as I had determined that I would have to gracefully shimmy to the other side of the car and exit the passenger door, a sweet "seasoned" lady came along. Seeing my predicament, she gently guided Clara's head back into the vehicle. My attention was immediately drawn to ensuring Clara was not harmed in anyway. Noting there was no real injury, I could not resist the opportunity to insert some parental wisdom. "As future women, you might as well learn now not to put your head where it doesn't belong", I smarted toward the general direction of the backseat. I imagine my sweet assistant was still laughing when she got home.

This morning's passage is John 4:1-30. This familiar passage recounts Jesus' interaction with the "woman at the well". His conversation with her was highly unusual not only because she was a woman but also because she belonged to a people that Jews considered to be "half-breeds" and not worthy of attention by a true Jew. It was not just the fact of the conversation that's remarkable though, it's also the content. Jesus' comments to her might be qualified as assertive and pushy, ranging from discussing her vast number of prior marital partners to her current sexual partner (Verses 16-18). Some might even say he was sticking his head in where it didn't belong. Out of His great love, He was willing to tread the unsavory places of her past and present, in order to offer her the incredible gift of Himself, Living Water (Verses 10-14).

I, for one, am exceedingly grateful that Jesus is willing to stick His head into every crevice of my being. There is no place in my past too distasteful that He won't travel to heal, no hurt too painful that He won't take on Himself to mend. I have noticed though, that I'm not always even cognizant that He's sitting by my well. There have been wells in my life where Jesus sat patiently months or even years. Inside my wells sat painful memories, deep hurts, bitterness and unforgiveness. All the while, Jesus sat patiently by, waiting for me to recognize His offer of exchanging my disaster, despair and destruction for His offer of repair, restoration and resurrection.

Jesus, help me to see not only my wells but Your Presence at my wells. You sit at the ready always offering Living Water and the true satisfaction that comes from drinking deeply from You. Fill my longing heart to overflowing with You as I seek You today through your Word and prayer. Open my eyes to any remaining wells in my life. I know You are sitting there waiting for me.

How To Rescue Your Marriage from the Pound

John 3:30 He (Jesus) must become greater; I must become less

Last year, in a moment of sheer weakness, I rescued a dog. Scott had been diagnosed with cancer a month earlier and since our former dog had lost a battle with cancer two years prior, it seemed the appropriate time for the addition of a new family member. Brady had hardly gotten used to his new digs before a friend of mine, Denice, who is one of my models concerning how to be a godly wife, issued me a challenge. Beat Brady to the door every night to greet Scott. Dogs run to the door with the enthusiasm of a preschooler, open their hearts without any thought of self, and eagerly give affection to the returning family member.

This morning, I am reading John 3:19-36. This passage opens with some teaching by Jesus (Verses 19-21) and then immediately spotlights a disagreement between John the Baptist's disciples and "a certain Jew" over how and when you should wash your hands. Apparently carpet, committees or even hymnals are not required for Satan to fuel conflict among believers. I wonder though what "fuel" did Satan use. Did he use division by making this "certain Jew" feel like an outsider, excluded from the circle of followers drawn around John? Did he use distraction by raising a minor, non-essential issue (hand-washing) and exploding it to epic importance in their minds? Whatever his tactic, he was successful. He even managed to get them to drag Jesus and John into it (Verse 26). It is John's responses in Verses 29-30, that I want to look at most closely today.

John refocuses their attention onto Christ and diffuses the situation with an analogy, making himself the "best man" and Jesus the "groom" in a wedding. Obviously the role of the best man in the wedding is not to seek attention for himself, but instead to seek to aid and assist the groom. Today God spoke this story into my heart from the standpoint of my actual marriage. Is there unnecessary conflict that I allow Satan to sow in my marriage. If so, what seeds is he using? Like the "certain Jew" do I allow feelings to fuel an argument? Do I filter out the minor issues so our discussion can be focused productively?
  • Verse 29 establishes that the bride belongs to the groom. I know through passages such as Genesis 2:18 and 1 Corinthians 11:3, that I was created for the benefit of my dear husband and have a tremendously important role to fulfill as his right hand girl.
  • Next the role of the "friend" is designated as one who waits for, listens for and joyfully greets the groom (Verse 29). Perhaps God wants me to be not only mate but also friend. Titus 2:3-5 outlines several things that older women in the church are to train younger women in the church to do. One of those is to love their husbands. The Greek word for love here is not the sweaty-palmed, butterflied stomach love but rather friendship love. The love that no doubt would be shared between a groom and his best man.

Is it even possible for me let God guide our conflict instead of allowing Satan to sabotage it? Am I capable of being both mate and friend to love Scott? Verse 30 gives me the key to my success. He (Jesus) must become greater; I must become less. The more I spend time with Jesus, the more drastically He changes my character. The greater He changes my character, the more natural it is for me to become a godly wife. Jesus, turn the attention of my heart to my husband to wait for, listen for and joyfully greet my groom today. Maybe, just maybe, I could even beat Brady to the door.

Amazing Grace

Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

Not too long ago as I was doing my Monday cleaning and stumbled upon a horrifying discovery. I make it my aim to do maintenance chores each day of the week - laundry, dishes, spot cleaning, straightening, etc. but Mondays and Fridays are the days I actually clean the house with purpose. This particular Monday I was just getting ramped up when I opened the coat closet to retrieve the vacuum and decided to hang up a coat that had been strewn on the floor for at least a month. Underneath I found a sweater that had a brown stain the size of a large rodent on the front. I almost expected something to go scampering off from underneath when I picked it up, like a scene from a bad movie. Immediately, I felt embarrassment creep into my cheeks. What kind of a housekeeper allows a stained sweater, knowingly or unknowingly, to lie around in the floor for over a month?

This morning I am in John 3:1-18, which contains the very familiar John 3:16. This verse is part of the answer Jesus gives a seeker who wants to know more about Jesus. However, what follows is my focus today.
  • Verse 17 explains that Jesus was sent to save the world, not condemn it

  • Verse 18 reiterates that those who believe in Jesus are not condemned

Condemn - Just the sound of the word is ominous and even a bit frightening. Yet I am not condemned, so why is it that the person I have the most difficulty extending grace to is so often myself? The opposite of condemnation is freedom and freedom is exactly what Jesus died to give me - freedom from the penalty of sin, freedom from the living without power in my life and freedom from condemnation.

When I find a horribly stained sweater in the floor...I am not condemned!

When I forget a friend's birthday...I am not condemned!

When I arrive 30 minutes late to an appointment...I am not condemned!

When I lose it in front of my kids...I am not condemned!

When I don't live up to my own expectations...I am not condemned!

Jesus, today may I live truly free, extending your amazing grace to all those I come in contact with, including and maybe even especially myself.

Texas: Famous for More than Just Cowboys?

Psalm 84:1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!

Do you ever wonder if your kids are really listening to you? I certainly do. This most recent Easter was the first that Scott and I really attempted to explain the true meaning of the holiday to our four-year-old, Clara. Our efforts were rewarded when her preschool teacher commented on how she knew almost every part of the story. We proudly listened as her teacher recounted all the correct responses she had given to various inquiries. Then the final question came. "What happened after they put Jesus in the cave?", her teacher asked. Clara piped up immediately with, "He came back to life and now he lives in Texas!". I just knew I would forget to pack something when we moved!

Today's scripture is the 2nd chapter of John. The first half relates the story of Jesus' first recorded miraculous sign, turning the water into wine at a wedding. After a brief stop which records a visit of Jesus with his family, John then picks up his account as Jesus goes to Jerusalem for celebration of the Jewish Passover. When Jesus arrives, he heads almost immediately to the temple where to his dismay he finds many people profiting from the sale of items used in the various prescribed Jewish rituals (Verses 13 and 14). Incited by the scene, Jesus drives both the merchandisers and their wares from the temple grounds (Verses 15-16). Jesus' disciples notice the connection between Jesus actions and a prophesy found in the Old Testament book of Psalms: Zeal for your house will consume me (Psalm 69:9).

What our precious Clara has yet to realize is that Jesus no longer lives in a city, state or country. He lives instead in all who have called on His name (John 1:12). There has been more than one occasion in my life when I thought it would be quite an accomplishment to have a man completely consumed with me. Who knew One already was! I looked up zeal on and found this definition:

fervor for a person, cause or object; eager desire or endeavor; enthusiastic diligence; ardor

Whew. Those are some overwhelming words. Can we really comprehend how much Jesus loves us? He is wrought with fervor, eagerness, desire, enthusiasm and ardor. When I read that I wonder how I could ever find myself at lack for anything. Jesus, today may my heart beat even half as wildly with excitement over spending the day with you as yours does over me, your dwelling place.

You've Got Mail

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

I like mail. In fact, I like it so much there is a standing house rule that no one else is to open the mail but me. (Clearly, I have no control issues whatsoever...but that's learnin' for another day). I enjoy the satisfaction I receive from tossing a catalogue with the restraint of not ordering a thing. I take pleasure in sorting the mail into stacks, checking our financial situation and reading correspondence from friends. The premier piece of mail, though, is an invitation. An invitation is a promise, an anticipation, even an acceptance and belonging. When we invite someone to an event, we are inviting them to share our joy, our triumphs and even our everyday lives. The true location we are asking them to attend is our hearts.

The scripture for today is John 1:29-51. The section recounts testimony by John the Baptist concerning Jesus and then describes interactions between Jesus and four of his early followers - Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathanael.
  • First on the scene is Andrew (Verses 37-40). Andrew was initially a disciple of John the Baptist (Verse 35), but when he heard John declare Jesus the "Lamb of God", he eagerly sought additional teaching from Jesus. After spending the the day with Jesus, Verse 41 tells us the first thing he did was to find his brother Simon (aka Peter) and bring him to Jesus. Simon makes the sound decision to follow Christ (Verse 42) and Jesus dubs him Peter.
  • The next act involves Jesus finding Philip and inviting him to join them as well (Verse 43). Philip turns right around and he finds a friend, Nathanael, and asks him to come see Jesus (Verses 45-46).

I really don't remember what the first thing was I did after deciding to follow Christ on New Year's Eve 1990, but I'm certain it wasn't inviting friends to follow Him too. Then I fast-forward to today and realize that there are hundreds of things I do each day that can be an invitation of sorts. Do my words entice those around me to Jesus or drive them back? Do my facial expressions woo people toward Jesus or repel them away? Do my attitudes entreat or cause a retreat?

Today, Jesus, let me be Your invitation to Your people to a place of promise, acceptance, belonging and joy - Your Heart.

Perfect Packaging

Psalm 139:14 I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Today begins a new book of the Bible. New things are simply just a lot of fun. Whether it's the new car smell or the clicking of a fresh pair of flip flops, with the new comes pleasure. This morning that pleasure is John 1:1-28, my favorite beginning of any of the gospels. There is great peace and confidence in knowing that Jesus has been at the side of the Father since The Beginning. Not a star has twinkled nor a snail slithered that Jesus has not experienced.

My heart is really smitten today though with the 3rd verse. "Through him (Jesus) all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." That means I literally passed through Jesus' hands as I was being brought to life.

  • My thighs that carry more passengers than I would like, passed through the hands of God.
  • My mind that doesn't remember things as speedily as would suit me, was shaped by the hands of Jesus.
  • My mouth that talks too much and my ears that don't listen enough, were fashioned by the hands of the Savior.

Through the hands that healed the blind, my hips were produced. Through the hands that broke bread feeding thousands, my nose was made. Through the hands that spread wide on the cross, my heart was formed. I am a miracle!

Now don't get me wrong. I'm a huge proponent of doing the best I can with what God has given me. I'm all for eating right, getting enough rest, exercising and daily using my anti-wrinkle cream. In fact, I'll go so far as to say I love my anti-wrinkle cream. I am certain it makes me look at least 39....oh wait, I am 39. The lesson for me today is to not be so consumed with my packaging as I am with my praise, not to be so absorbed with my make-up as I am with my Maker.

God did not have to choose to fashion every one of us. We could have just been spoken us into existence like so much else in creation. Yet, He desired His seal of approval to be found on each one of us. He wants us to bear His personal inspection sticker that reads, "No manufacturer's defects".

Open it, Mom, Open it!

Luke 24:36b Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you".

It is as clear as if it just happened yesterday. I am four, visiting Venice, Italy and standing in the center of St. Mark's Square, surrounded by pigeons as far as the eye could see. I was enraptured by the sound of their brief flights and the sight of their erratic movements. In those solitary moments, the backdrop of the world containing buildings, people and cafes, faded to black and my attention was lasered on the pigeons. To this day, I have no idea how long I stood there. It was likely only moments but plays in my mind like hours. That is exactly how Jesus wants to captivate my attention today.

This morning I was reading in Luke 24:33-53 which is the final passage of Luke's gospel account. I am intrigued by the last page of any book because this is what the author desires to play on your brain for months or even years to come. Among these final verses are three that summarize the gifts Jesus is giving me, and any mother who wants them, on Mother's Day.
  1. Peace - Jesus' final greeting to his chosen disciples was, "Peace be with you" (Verse 36). This was more than just a "greeting card wish"; It was a promise. John 14:27 records Jesus telling the disciples that his peace would be given to them. There are innumerable moments throughout my mothering days where I need Jesus' peace right there in that moment. Whether it's the carpool line that's moving slower than a slug, the clamor rising from my kids arguing over a toy, or the concern surrounding releasing my older children into the world each day, my heart needs peace.

  2. Insight - Later in this passage, Jesus "opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures" (Verse 45). Another of Jesus' great gifts is the Holy Spirit, who was given to us to be the ultimate Counselor (See John 14:16). The problems I encounter parenting my children grow more complex by the year. When they were infants my biggest concern may have been how to get them to sleep through the night, now my children are confronted daily by foul language, sexual innuendo and peer pressure. Additionally, I am a member of the "sandwich generation", so as I ease into the role over the coming years of "parenting my parents", no doubt a new set of thorny issues will arise. There are many minutes in my day when I desperately need Biblical insight.

  3. Blessing - Lastly in Verses 50-51, Jesus' final act on earth was blessing his followers. The joy of receiving a hand-picked bouquet of dandelions, the serenity of holding a sleeping child and the delight of witnessing my children become more like Jesus are just a handful of the bountiful blessings that accompany motherhood. Truly, Jesus has abundantly given the present of being blessed.

Luke closes his book with worship (Verse 52) and praise (Verse 53). Jesus has given me more than I could ever recount; all He asks in return is worship and praise. May all life's distractions fade to black today as my heart becomes lasered on You, full of worship and praise.

Spectacles Not Required

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

When our 11 year old, Hayleigh, was around three she would get an inquisitive look on her face, cock her head slightly to the side and inquire, "Are you happy about me?" This was her innocent way of affirming that she was in my good graces, was indeed still tremendously loved and was loved just as she was. In many ways she still asks that question today. Every woman, whether 3 or 30, wants someone to see, to take note of, even to admire the person she is and the things she accomplishes.

Passed over, unnoticed, practically unnamed. All these words could describe the characters from today's passage. Today, the gospel of Luke continues in Chapter 24, Verses 1-32. After the initial recounting of the women finding the empty tomb (Praise Jesus!), the attention turns to two down-hearted, confused travelers walking to a nearby town. They were in earnest discussion about the events of the past weekend, when they were joined by a third traveler - Jesus! (Verses 13-15)
  • Initially, the are prevented from even recognizing Jesus (Verse 16).

  • Jesus inquires what they've been discussing and one of them, Cleopas, begins to summarize what has happened over the weekend in Jerusalem (Verses 17-24).

  • Jesus' intended purpose begins to emerge, as he explains to them, using references from the entire Old Testament, who he was and is - Messiah, Emmanuel, Redeemer, Lord! (Verse 27)

  • After they reach their destination, they sit down to dinner together. It is through the unique gestures Jesus makes when breaking the bread that at last, they recognize him (Verses 30-31).

None of us would consider Cleopas and his friend, with a single mention in scripture, major Bible characters, yet God used them (and continues to) in incredible ways. These two men weren't looking for Jesus, but Jesus was looking for them. Additionally, we might find it strange that Jesus would choose to hide his identity from them, however, God reveals his greater purpose for doing so. Jesus wanted to make certain they heard his message. These two men of no fame had been equipped by Jesus. They could explain in great detail exactly why Jesus was the Christ. They could have been the very ones who schooled Peter, John or later even Paul to preach the gospel using the Old Testament passages that Jesus had fulfilled (See Luke 24:33-35).

Today Jesus smiles at me and reassures, "I know you. I see you. I have a great purpose for you. And yes, I am happy about you".

Crooners and Hooligans

Luke 23:34 Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

Harry Connick, Jr. was on American Idol this week as the weekly guest mentor to the contestants. If it is possible, I will enjoy his music even more after his appearance. He was funny, engaging, encouraging and just presented himself as an all-around good guy. I have been following his music since my college days. Reminiscent of the great Frank Sinatra, who crooned about love and life as if there was nothing grander, I find him so endearing as he sings about love and his lady. The best part is that his songs focus my heart on what's right with my husband instead of what's wrong.

Today I started out in Luke 23:26-56 which recounts the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Even though this part of scripture contains one my favorite phrases from the crucifixion (Verse 34), I'm tempted stop my ears to God this morning and just wait to hear from Him tomorrow when Jesus will victoriously rise from the dead. Gently Jesus urges me on to the Old Testament passage for the day, 1 Kings 21-22. This passage stars one of the vilest kings of Israel, Ahab, and his conniving, manipulative wife, Jezebel. Let's see what these hooligans are up to:
  • Chapter 21 commences with Ahab longing to purchase his neighbor's vineyard. This no doubt will be a slam dunk because who doesn't want to brown-nose the king? (Verses 1-2)Mr. Ahab's neighbor, that's who. (Verse 3)

  • Ahab comes home, plops on the bed and begins to watch Sportscenter while he sulks. (Verse 4) His wife finds him there remote in hand, belittles him verbally (Verse 7) and then usurps his leadership role (Verses 8-15).

  • In the end, Ahab gets what he thinks he wants - the vineyard (Verse 16).

  • His life is recounted further down in Verse 25, which is one of the most tragic verses of scripture from the perspective of a wife. "There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife".

Gently, I hear Jesus ask me:

How do you respond when your husband is down? Is your first thought sincere concern for him and a pure desire to serve and love him or yourself and how his mood is going to impact you?

How do your words sound when they hit Scott's ears? Do they build him up or tear him down? Do they make him feel rejected or respected?

How do you respond when your husband isn't handling a situation the way you'd like? Do you seek me, pray for him, give input where appropriate and wait patiently for him to act or do you charge ahead thinking the world will end if something isn't done immediately

Father, forgive me, for I do not know what I am doing

Thank you God for your resurrection power which is available to empower me (Eph. 1:20) today to be your kind of wife. Help me to focus my mind on what's right with my husband instead of what's wrong. Let my actions flow from a heart of devotion to you. Then I will verbally build my husband up, be patient with him, focus on his needs instead of mine and be his Chief Encourager.

O What a Beautiful Morning

James 1:19 Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Each of my children wakes up differently but Rynnie (3) doesn't really wake up so much as "sleep up". Her morning greeting is more of a transition from horizontal to vertical sleep and then a slow transformation into the world of the coherent. Her favorite thing to do upon rising is to crawl in my lap so tightly even her arms are tucked in, and allow me to rub her back while she gradually welcomes her day. She rarely speaks during our time together but listens intently to everything I say to her. She radiates warmth and love in a way that makes it absolutely impossible for you to do anything but join her in her state of genuine satisfaction.

Today I am reading Luke 23:1-25 where Jesus' appearances before the local governmental authorities, Pilate and Herod, are recorded. I find the recounting of Jesus' time with Herod the most fascinating. It is only in the gospel of Luke where this interchange is recorded in which Jesus' responses remind me a great deal of the attributes in my Rynnie which I admire the most.

In verse 8, the scene opens with Herod looking forward to meeting with Jesus. No doubt Jesus' fame had made him a topic of conversation even among nobles, because Herod was familiar with his miracles and anticipated seeing some of them for himself. I imagine Herod's frustration and disappointment grew by the moment as he met with him, because he peppered Jesus with questions, yet heard no response (Verse 9). Not only had Jesus not displayed his miraculous wonders, he had demonstrated zero interest in even defending himself or imparting wisdom. During the entire episode Jesus listens respectively, never speaks and refuses to respond in anger.

I want to greet my day today like Jesus and Rynnie. I want to focus on helping other people engage their talents, instead of flaunting my own. I want to seek to listen, instead of insisting on being heard. I want to radiate love, instead of tearing others down in anger. Jesus, let me ease into my every day wrapped up in you with my arms tucked in tight, listening to you alone and letting your love radiate onto me.

And The Academy Award Goes To...

Joshua 1:9b Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Hands down there is one movie genre that deserves the Academy Award for "Best Movie Genre" (Yes, I am making that award up). Chick Flicks! I am actually quite organized about my chick flick obsession and keep a personal running list of the "greats". Near the top of the list is Father of the Bride. This morning I am replaying in my mind a poignant scene in the second movie. The focus of the first film is the engagement and wedding of the young 20s daughter. The second movie centers around the theme of pregnancy, as both daughter and middle-aged mother find themselves pregnant. After the simultaneous birth of both his grandson and daughter, the main character, George, muses about raising his new child. Having been to this rodeo before, he relegates child-rearing to a series of gut-wrenching moments and wonders if he has the stamina to parent yet again.

To a large degree, George is spot on. Back in Genesis 3:16, God is giving the outcomes to Eve of her disobedience. One outcome, with which most of women are frankly more closely acquainted than we'd like to be, is the pain in childbirth. The word here for pain in the original Hebrew can also be translated sorrow. I would submit that we don't just bring forth our children in sorrow but that this sorrow continues throughout the duration of child rearing and even beyond.

Recently, when I picked up our four year old, Clara, from preschool she ran into my arms sobbing. She had fallen on the playground that day and somehow the fact that I was not there with her, hurt her in a place no physical wound could touch. My heart broke as I held her. Having older daughters, my mind was instantaneously flooded with dozens of memories of holding them while they mourned emotional wounds no band-aid could cover. I suddenly felt exhausted and totally ill-equipped to survive the sorrow to come.

This morning, I am reading Luke 22:45-71 in which Luke recounts the arrest and initial Jewish trial of Jesus. Let's journey through this passage not with Jesus, but instead with Peter. The scene opens with Jesus praying in the Garden at Gethsemane. He has drawn Peter, James and John away from the other disciples and asked them to "pray that you will not fall into temptation" (Verse 40). However when Jesus returns to them after praying himself, he finds them asleep, "exhausted from sorrow" (Verse 45). That is precisely how I have felt innumerable times as a parent. In those moments, I have a choice to pray or panic. Tragically, Peter never joins the Lord in prayer and the results are both disastrous and serve as an excellent model for why I desperately need to pray as a parent.

1) Poor Decision-Making - While Jesus was still speaking, Judas arrived with the temple guards. Peter makes the unfortunate choice to draw his sword and wound the servant of the high priest (Verses 47-50). This is the same Peter who heard Jesus' instruction to give an adversary your coat when he takes your tunic (Matthew 5:40) and to love and pray for those you count as enemies (Matthew 5:44). Lesson 1 to me is that when I do not pray during my trials as a parent, I act out of my instincts instead of the truth of God's Word.

2) Flimsy Faith - Once Jesus had been arrested, Luke recounts that Peter followed at a distance (Verse 54). When I skip the step of praying for my children and attempt to handle their problems myself, I find the second result is growing alienation between myself and God. Without that connection, I have no energy to carry through with Biblical parenting.

3) Secondary Sources Take First Place - Following at a distance climaxed in Peter denying he had any association with Jesus (Verses 55-61). While I might not out-right deny my faith during a parenting dilemma, I may fail to pray. This leads to the tendency to turn to other sources of help instead of God. I begin to deceive myself into thinking that advice from others, the latest pop-culture parenting manual or even counseling is the answer to my parenting questions. While none of these resources are wrong, they need to maintain their rightful place as secondary sources of parenting help. The final result of not praying over my children is forgetting who is my primary parenting manual.

The next time I find myself exhausted with the sorrow of parenting, I need to remind myself to stop and pray. Then I will make better parenting decisions, be plugged into the parenting power source and turn to the Word first as my primary parenting manual.

I Hope My Psychologist Has a Comfy Couch

Philippians 4:6a Do not be anxious about anything

Yesterday I was listening to James MacDonald on my iPhone and laughed out loud when he talked about irrational fears that people have. I know one of mine with certainty. If you really want to scare me, certainly absolutely terrify me, just say "Shannon, I need to talk to you". This will immediately catapult me back to some of the finer moments in my childhood when my mother's "corrective action" would be prefaced with those exact words. I fully acknowledge that this is entirely irrational. As it turns out, the vast majority of people truly just want to talk to me when they speak those words. Nonetheless, my natural tendency is to find my stomach in knots and my heart filled with dread.

In Luke 21:10-19, Jesus is describing to the apostles what would occur when Jerusalem is destroyed by the Romans approximately 35 years later. These are the kind of passages I'm so tempted to blaze right through in an attempt to "get to something that applies to me". If I slow down though, I just might hear a word for me today. The truth is, not only do I dread interpersonal confrontation but I really do not enjoy public speaking. I am completely unqualified to do the very thing God frequently asks me to do. When I examine this passage, however I find a prescription for being petrified.
  • Face Your Fear - Verses 12 and 13 of this passage foretells that the apostles will be brought before all levels of government which will result in great opportunities for the apostles to witness to them. If a great conflict avoider such as myself is terrified at the thought of "corrective conversation" even with someone I love, the idea of speaking before say a President or Governor is enough to nearly induce an ER visit. Being willing to do something I least want to do means God is going to use it the most. After all, it actually really is "all about" Him.

  • Resolve Not to Worry - Verse 14 contains a phrase that might be best stamped at the beginning of any of my speaking notes; "make up your mind not to worry beforehand". Even if I feel completely unqualified to do something God is asking of me, I need to make up my mind not to worry. Even if what God is asking of me is worst-nightmare scary, I need to resolve not to worry.

  • Rely on God - Verse 15 gives a peace-inducing promise that they will be given the words and wisdom such that those they are speaking to will have zero rebuttal. This means that if God calls me into a situation, I can count on Him to supply exactly what I need each moment I'm in that situation.

Today I will face my fears, resolve not worry, rely on God and wait to see the wonders He has waiting for me.

Mission Impossible

Luke 18:27 What is impossible with men is possible with God

I woke up this morning in Memphis, Tennessee. To you that might not seem so strange since I live here. For me though, it still seems like I'm waking up in a dream instead of from a dream. I wonder how did Scott and I get here to this place where God called two completely ordinary, seemingly unqualified people into service for Him. I hear Jesus' answer, "Nothing is impossible with God."

This morning I am reading in Luke Chapter 18, Verses 18-27. Here I encounter a stand-up guy asking Jesus a question. In many ways he sounds like the kind of man I pray for my daughters to marry. He is both respectful of his parents and of very high moral character (verses 20-21) and, as a bonus, he's loaded (verse 23). Surely this is the kind of man that my daughters would be proud to bring home to Jesus as well. If they did, they'd find him asking Jesus, "What must I do to inherit eternal life? (verse 18). Jesus response is one you'd never hear most potential parents-in-law saying to a guy like this: "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

This fine young man is filled with sorrow (verse 23) because his wealth was just too much to part with. The crowd then muses who possibly can be saved if not this guy. I know I for one don't measure up. My parents could tell you I've been less than respectful and I can't even say that I've kept the short list of commandments listed at the end of verse 20. I, for one, am exceedingly thankful that Jesus responds by making the impossible, possible (verse 27).

When Mary was first told she would bear Jesus she cries out, "How will this be since I am a virgin? (Luke 1:34)" The angel's response was, "nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). Just as the impossible was required for Jesus to enter the world, the impossible is required for him to enter my heart. I am not good enough. I could never make myself good enough if I kept a thousand commandments. By God's grace, love and mercy, he whispers in my heart, "I make the impossible, possible". That is how I woke up in Memphis this morning.

Make Mine a Double

Luke 17:5b Increase our faith!

Mother's Day is approaching which means it's time to make another list. My sweet little family loves "the list" and rarely deviates from it. And now I ponder what should find it's way to my "the list" this May? Clothes? Jewelry? A Spa Day? Books? More Faith? Wait a minute. How did THAT get lumped in with the potentials.

This morning I was reading Luke 17:1-5. Here Jesus is addressing seemingly totally unrelated issues:
  • Verses 1-2 clearly states the importance of being a godly example to others - This touches me in a raw, tender place because it takes my mind and heart to my children. So often when I see a behavior in their life that concerns me or I'll be honest maybe just is driving me to the brink of mom insanity, I have to look first to myself. When the laundry is piling up to the ceiling, I merely have to open my eyes and I find my clothes among the pile to know they are just as diligent in this as me. When I hear them speak unkindly to each other, I replay my own conversations with them and hear the moments when I spoke unkindly to them. I cry out to God, "When will I ever change?"

  • Verses 3-4 reiterates the importance of being willing to forgive a person multiple times - Here my heart is drawn to my spouse. While I hit the jackpot when I was blessed with my sweet husband, he actually is human. Like me, occasionally he'll repeat a behavior of something for which he has previously asked my forgiveness. At these times I struggle to have a heart fully open to forgiveness. I cry out to God, "Why it is so hard to forgive?"

  • Verse 5 the apostles pop on the scene. They clearly had been sleeping during the sermon because they responded, "Increase our faith!" What in the world does faith have to do with what kind of behavior I model or how freely I offer forgiveness? Could it be that increased faith is the key to unlock two doors of great struggle in my life?

If by increasing my faith it is possible to be a better wife and mother, than I say to Jesus today, "Make mine a double!"

Boo Boos

Luke 18:14b For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Having four children, my time with the Lord is often “shared” with one of them. This morning, as I opened the Word and began to pray to hear from God, I felt my four year old, Clara, snuggle up next to me. Acknowledging her presence, I began to mindlessly stroke her lower leg as I initiated reading. In no less than fifteen seconds, she emphatically whispered, “Mommy please stop rubbing my boo boo; it hurts!” Then I remembered, Clara had fallen down a number of days earlier and rather than healing up, it had formed a large mangled scab.

I was giving her honest, heartfelt affection but it was received as pain. I personally don’t particularly like it when God lovingly strokes my “boo boos” either. My “boo boos” are those sensitive places caused by sin I may or may not have acknowledged but definitely have not dealt with. I let my sin fester, ignoring what God is asking of me and over time a scab develops. God in His great love, though, doesn’t allow that area of my life to stay wounded.

In Hebrews 12:4-11, we can read about God’s loving discipline towards those He counts as sons (and daughters).

  • His discipline is initiated by something I’m doing (or for me probably refusing to do) – Verse 4
  • His discipline is the outpouring of His love – Verse 6
  • When he disciplines me He is treating me like He is truly my father – Verses 7 and 8
  • I can choose to avoid discipline with a submissive heart – Verse 9
  • God disciplines me to make me more like Jesus – Verse 10
  • God’s goal of discipline is to raise a whole crop of righteousness in me – Verse 11

I wasn’t disciplining Clara when I touched her leg; I was merely expressing my love for her. When God disciplines me, He is doing the same.

That morning I was reading in Luke 18:1-23. Right in middle of this passage is a jewel of a scripture. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. “ When I humble myself, the strong, gentle arm of the Lord doesn’t need to stroke my boo boo because I’m already in a position to be healed. I’m taking my fresh wound cause by my sin to the Lord and seeking Him for restoration. Therefore, a scab never develops. Instead, He holds me in His arms, gently strokes me and I feel nothing but pleasure in His presence.