What Has Happened to All Your Joy?

Psalms 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

Clara (5) and Carynne (3) get to go to school at Daddy's work because our church is also a preschool during the week. Needless to say, the two of them feel quite privileged. Frequently, just about the time I am getting them settled into their classes Scott will come strolling up to hug his girls. While both give a sweet greeting, Rynnie takes it to an entirely different level. She sprints up to Scott, jumps in his arms and hugs him tight in a way that makes him feel completely secure in her love.

Today's reading is Galatians 4. Paul uses the first two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, as an illustration of the difference between trying to reach God from our own effort and allowing God to reach down to us through grace. Ishmael was born of a servant and is a picture of the bondage and futility of striving to please God by being "good". Isaac was born of a promise and demonstrates the wonder completed on the cross and the entirety of Jesus' substitution for our sin. (Verses 21-31).

In the middle of this chapter, a question leaps off the page. "What has happened to all your joy?" (Verse 15) Almost daily some object or possession gets lost in our home. At least we say that it is lost. In reality, it is just misplaced.
  • Covered - Sometimes the missing item has slipped up under an article of clothing or bed. It is there but it just can't be seen. The joy of being free through faith in Jesus is not a secret that we should keep hidden. God wants our light to shine from the hilltops, a radiant reflection of His love and grace.
  • Ignored - At other times the absent article isn't actually mislaid. It is laying right on a dresser, counter or table in plain sight. We may have even walked by it a dozen times but simply never really saw that it was there. The blessings of salvation, such as joy, can be just like that. They are ours for the taking. We may even be aware that they are available. We just never take the time to notice the difference it would make in our lives if we picked them up and used them.
  • Borrowed - The last place the absent is often present is in the possession of another. Perhaps it was loaned or taken with a bit less permission but either way it is located in someone else's room. I have allowed my joy to be taken by others. I permit their judgements, attitudes and injuries towards me to rob my peace. My joy is not rightfully theirs and is it only by an act of my will that I let them steal away with it.

My joy can make off like a bandit more easily than I'd like to admit. Thankfully, Paul tells me how I can keep it. "Because you are (daughters), God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."" (Verse 6) I have to remember who my Daddy is. Carynne never fails to greet Scott and rush into his arms. When I am looking into my Daddy's face, I find joy there. When I am wrapped in my Daddy's arms, I am at rest, totally secure in His love.

Jesus, thank you for this sweet reminder that my joy is not lost and I don't have to allow my joy to be covered, ignored or borrowed. When I am focused on You, Your joy fills my heart. Like a garden hose connected to a fire hydrant, there is more of You than I can even absorb. Today I will stay attached to the source of all joy.

What To Wear

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Hannah (14) and Hayleigh (11) are my built in fashion consultants. I have absolutely no need to watch "What Not to Wear" because they bring the show to life in the hallowed halls of my closet and dresser. In fact, I've noted I receive the most compliments on my attire, hair or accessories when I allow one of them to style me. Their flair for the chic coupled with their obvious talent for pulling an outfit together all add up to one mama that looks considerably better because of their input.

This morning I am reading Galatians 3. Paul is confirming that we are saved completely by grace. In fact, he uses Abraham who lived thousands of years before Christ as an example. How is that possible. Simple. Abraham "believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness" (Verse 6). In fact Abraham lived long before the law was ever given by Moses. It was not his ability to keep track of and abide by hundreds of rules but rather his faith alone that found favor with God.

We too are called by God to walk in faith and believe God to deliver on His promises. Just as God promised Abraham an heir and made good on His oath long after it was humanly possible, He makes the impossible possible in my life and yours. As I read, one phrase stuck out to me: "For all of your who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Verse 27) Jesus is my daily garment. What does this mean in my every day life:
  • Not Optional - Jesus is not an accessory that I can mix and match as it suits my desires. He is matchless - He doesn't just coordinate with every ensemble. He is the outfit.
  • Not Occasional - Far better than my favorite pair of shoes, Jesus is always in season and style. I can't choose to leave Him in the closet or donate Him to Goodwill. He is a permanent addition to my wardrobe.
  • Not Ordinary - His price tag reads a number I could never afford. He is priceless - bought with His own blood. He is a non-refundable gift not found in any store. He makes even the likes of Gucci and Manolo Blanik appear mundane.

Thank you, Jesus for wrapping me in a priceless garment. I wear an extraordinary robe woven of scarlet but appearing pure white. You are definitely what to wear.

Spy Games

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.

The first day of school is a strange concoction of excitement, dread, anticipation and nerves. And that's just the range of emotions a mother feels. The first day of preschool this year fell on my birthday. I deemed this a worthy present and went through the halls singing "Freedom" Aretha Franklin style as less "seasoned" moms wiped tears and attempted to hide their apprehension.

When I picked up Clara (then 4) from her class, I opened with the obligatory, "How was your first day of school, Honey?", question. The words had scarcely dropped out of my mouth before she retorted, "It was terrible, Mom. They have rules...and they expect me to follow them." An independent thinker who is not easily swayed by the crowd, something tells me Clara will have no trouble grasping the theme of Galatians. Those of us who are more intimately familiar with the people pleasing mindset, though, may wrestle with its' broad stroke of unmerited grace.

This morning's reading is Galatians 2. Here Paul chronicles his grace journey and his willingness to battle with anyone who blockades grace's path. Paul was unafraid even of rebuking Peter if it ensured that the gospel would remain untainted by those who piled man's requirement onto God's grace (Verses 11-21).

Paul reported that certain people had infiltrated their ranks to "spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus". Most of us have some area in our life in which it becomes extremely important to us to be deemed "good". You might strive to be a good employee, good child or a good spouse. I can fall prey to any of these but am most susceptible to good mom syndrome.
  • Good moms provide their children with healthy, well-balanced meals and might even make their own baby food.
  • Good moms read the correct child training manuals, purchase the safest possible car seat and generally avoid any activity involving sharp objects.
  • Good moms never raise their voice, always arrive on time if not early and never fail to remember things like share day at school.

At least these are the lies I allow to bounce around in my head every once in a while. For the record, I do try to feed my kids at least one daily serving of fruit and one serving of vegetables. I currently feel pretty proud that Carynne says her favorite food is broccoli. This makes Hannah and Hayleigh wonder if there isn't something wrong with her. Oh and I have never made my own baby food. I'm pretty excited when I remember to feed them. I have never read "Baby Wise" or "Toddler Wise", but I do read the Bible. My toddler children ride in booster seats not car seats...and they only weigh a bit over thirty pounds. I didn't know the right weight rule until I'd already given the other seats away. All four have given a haircut to herself, a sibling, a toy or a pet. I do occasionally raise my voice. I am sometimes late. And last Friday I arrived to Carynne's class and said, "I know I was supposed to bring something today but I have no idea what that was." Pretty much I'm expecting the "Mother of the Year" award to arrive on my doorstep just any day now.

The reason I beat myself up about mothering is that I allow others to spy on my freedom. Freedom in Christ means it's okay if your kids watch an extra hour of television so their mom can spend some quality time with God. It also means that an occasional unplanned haircut is less tragic than a home cut short of love. Most important, it means there isn't one thing I could do as a parent that could make Jesus love me any more than He already does. After all, He's still working on raising me. No doubt it makes Jesus sad, when I measure myself by the extra-Biblical yardstick held by a so-called "perfect" parent.

Thank you, Jesus, for reminding me of how sweet freedom feels draped about my shoulders. Grace is the ultimate security blanket. It is comforting and chocked full of Your love but at the same time absolutely weightless. Today I will remember that Your grace extends to every part of my life...even if I'm late in carpool line.

What Are You Waiting For?

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Not too long ago, I was having one of those lively conversations with Clara (5) that punctuate my days with laughter and smiles. This particular day Clara was informing me of her and Rynnie's (3) future career plans. After much discussion they had concluded they would be jointly employed by Chick-fil-a where they would be compensated in ice cream and trips to the indoor playground. After seventeen years of schooling, I pray her needs are that easily satisfied but something tells me she won't find Chick-fil-a worth the wait.

This morning I am reading Galatians 1. Paul is determined to convince the church at Galatia that the gospel he taught them was sound and correct. In the midst of his compelling argument, he mentions that after Jesus appeared to him (Acts 9:3-9), he spent three years in Arabia studying the gospel in obscurity.

Patience is something I continue to learn as I walk with and learn to wait on God. If I had a life-altering encounter with the risen Christ, I would immediately want to jump on Facebook and tell five hundred of my closest friends. Paul had to wait. We don't know exactly what happened in those three years. We do know that Jesus had spent his three years of public ministry with the other apostles. Perhaps, he wanted Paul to have the same amount of time to develop and grow.

I don't pleasure in waiting. I haven't had a face-to-face encounter with God, yet when I feel His gentle tug at my heart, I want to spring to action. Sometimes His plan for me is just that. Other times, His plan unfolds at a pace reminiscent of the tortoise rather than the hare. Regardless, this day is valuable. This day is a gift from God. He has lessons to teach me and character to change in me. Transformation happens one sweet day at a time.

Paul came out of the desert of Arabia a changed man. The question is will I? While I wait on God, will I squander my days or treasure them as precious gifts of time and transformation?

Jesus, Your timing is worth the wait. Help me redeem my days with steady consistent time with You. As I emerge from each season of waiting, may the woman who walks out look perceptibly more like You.

The Final Chapter

2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

I can remember my college speech teacher remarking that, "You must have a strong opening and gripping conclusion. The stuff in the middle no one ever remembers anyway." While that may not be entirely true, it is certain that the ending is what one take with them when they leave.

I deplore going to a movie with a poor ending. Even if the movie was captivating and entertaining up to that point, it's a waste if the last ten minutes don't satisfy. When this happens, I find myself rewriting the ending in my mind and perhaps even fantasizing of sending it to some big-shot Hollywood executive. I simply can not get closure until I determine how the movie should have concluded.

This morning I am reading the final chapter of 2 Corinthians. Paul is determined to pay another visit to Corinth though he is clearly reticent about what kind of reception he will receive. He has made significantly strong statements in his two letters. After addressing issues ranging from marriage to immorality, Paul finishes his letter.

His last words to the church at Corinth are, "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." That is an excellent ending. In one sentence, Paul wraps the keys to living out your faith. The exciting part is that I can start doing that right now. I don't have to wait for the end of my life to begin.
  • The Grace of Jesus - Grace. Grace enables me to look beyond the perceived flaws of my husband. Grace empowers me to forgive even those who think they've done nothing wrong. So many issues addressed by Paul would dissipate if grace were flowing freely from my life.
  • The Love of God - Love. God's love is sacrificial. God's love is complete. God's love is eternal. God's love casts out fear. So many topics covered by Paul would become victories if love were covering those in my life.
  • The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit - Fellowship. Fellowship is experienced when I think of others instead of myself. Fellowship is enjoyed when I more concerned with unity than getting my way. So many subjects brought up by Paul would cease to be concerns if fellowship were my aim in every relationship.

For certain Paul has penned the perfect ending. If I made just his one verse a complete reality in my life, I am confident I would be radically changed. In the story of my life, every day counts. How I finish will be determined one day at a time as I choose to walk in faith.

Jesus, You are the Author of my story. May the pages of my heart today read love, grace and fellowship.

Body Building

Romans 12:5 So in Christ, we who are many form one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function.

My husband is a body builder. Well he used to be anyway. I've seen pictures from his youth and let me tell you, he was hot! His body building routine was a combination of disciplined eating and scheduled workouts that resulted in a fine specimen of God's handiwork. To this day he enjoys the routine of planned meals and strenuous exercise. In fact, he's still incredibly handsome. In my book, he's Mr. Memphis not only because he takes care of his body but because he also tends to his soul.

This morning's passage is 2 Corinthians 12. In this chapter, Paul makes reveals God's intention to allow weakness into our life. It is our weakness that reveals His strength. It is our difficulties that turn out hearts toward His ease. It is our persecutions that seek His relief. Paul knew that as a teacher and fellow believer his words could either lure his friends towards Christ or repel them.

"We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening." (Verse 19) We are each on assignment as God's body builders. It is His desire that I build up, strengthen and encourage my fellow believers. To be a body builder is to:
  • Lead others to exercise their souls

  • Allow God work out my fears and anxieties and help others to do so as well

  • Energize others with the hope and abundance God provides through a dynamic relationship with Him

I can allow the insults and hardships of my life to sequester me into a life played safe at home or I can let them jettison me to a vibrant life lived out in God's gym. It is God's hope that I take my weaknesses and use them to make others strong.

Jesus, You fill every part of me when I come to You. Today I will build others up in faith. Just as physical exercise requires discipline, so too does spiritual exercise. Today help me be disciplined to add on the muscle of Your Word and bulk up with prayer.

Mixed Messages

Psalm 98:2 The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.

We were gathered around the table for family dinner for a significant celebration. It was Clara's fifth birthday. As often happens at family gatherings, we began to reminisce and the conversation turned to the subject of how I announced to Scott that we were expecting Clara.

I like to joke that when Scott I wed, he got three for the price of one as he gained not only a wife but also two beautiful daughters that June day in 2004. Naturally, Scott had never had a birth announced to him so I wanted to make his first memorable. His birthday happened along within days of my realizing I was pregnant. This was the perfect moment to announce the gift God had given us both.

After he had unwrapped all his packages, one tiny parcel remained to be opened. As the wrappings fluttered to the floor, a mixture of confusion and disappointment crossed his face. The gift was a set of baby car keys. Our verbal exchange went something like this:

Me: Honey, what did you get for your birthday (grinning ear to ear)?
Scott: I don't know. Some kind of car keys (bears confused expression).
Me: What kind of car keys are they?
Scott: I don't know.
Me: What does it say at the top?
Scott: Baby teether.
Me: Why would I give you baby car keys?
Scott: I don't know.
Me: Because we're having a baby!

Little by little, confusion melted to disbelief. He was going to be a father and this time, he'd start at birth.

Today's reading is 2 Corinthians 11. Once Paul departed Corinth, other teachers came in right behind him and began to teach subtly different messages about Jesus and the gospel than what Paul had taught. Perhaps Paul wasn't clear or maybe the differences were small since they passed unnoticed. Either way, the church at Corinth was slowly allowing the truth to be denigrated with untruth. They had received mixed messages.

When I wrapped up a set of baby car keys, it never occurred to me that Scott wouldn't get "it" immediately. I was operating from my point of reference which included extensive experience with baby gear. Someone who'd probably never graced the doors of Babies R Us found my gift a bit less obvious.

The announcement of Clara's birth, however, is not the only time in my life I've delivered an unclear message.
  • When I ask my kids to put away their laundry while mine remains piled on the dryer...
  • When I lecture my kids about being less selfish and then complain thirty minutes later that my husband won't let me pick the show...
  • When I enjoy the benefits of my husband's unconditional love for me and then make him feel like my love is conditional...

Jesus, You are not unclear. You long to reveal yourself to Your people. If I am to be Your representative, I must make Your love and passion clear in my life. Today, I will free myself of mixed messages, so You can clearly communicate through my life and actions.

His Light Shines in My Darkness

2 Corinthians 10:4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

On February 24, 2009, I received a phone call that I will not soon forget. I had been having lunch with some girlfriends when I suddenly felt the urge that it was just time to go. Myself and one other friend excused ourselves from the table, paid our bills and stepped into the balmy Texas sunshine. Immediately both our phones began to ring. As we parted company, I answered my phone to the words, "You're right, dear, I have cancer".

From across the parking lot I gave my friend the thumbs down. She knew what that meant because she and one other friend were aware of the potential diagnosis Scott and I were facing. Her caller was our other friend. Within moments of my learning of a devastating diagnosis, these sweet women were surrounding our marriage, home and family with the power of prayer.

This morning I am reading 2 Corinthians 10. In this passage, Paul is clarifying for the Corinthians whom we fight and what it is we are fighting for. "Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you." (Verses 15b-16a) I long to give my children a heritage of faith that passes through dozens of generations. In other words, I want my activity to expand beyond me.

I have battled as long as I can remember with bouts of negativity and depression. Most days I faced the world with a smile but occasionally a stormy day passed my way. I tried everything I knew to change this about myself. I thought positive thoughts. I tried eating right and exercising. While these things helped, they did not conquer my problem.

A few years ago, I asked my older two children if there was anything they wanted me to change as a mother. They both said they wanted a mom who was always positive, not just sometimes positive. Ouch! Since then I have vigilantly faced this problem and fought it square on - God's way. Armed with God's divine power through faith and prayer, this stronghold has slowly been demolished. "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (Verse 5) Not too long ago, I asked my kids how I was doing in this area. They told me God's brought me a long way.

Jesus, I am so glad you're not done changing me. It is only through Your power working in and through me, that I can leave the right kind of legacy for my children-one of hope and victory, not negativity and depression. Thank you that I do not battle alone. You have surrounded our family with many precious prayer warriors. I thank you today for each of them. This is Your day. I choose to make it a bright one, not a dark one.

How to Iron on Gratitude

2 Corinthians 9:12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

My sister, Lynn, is the most put together person I know. She is so easy to look up to, she makes being an older sister look effortless. When she leaves the house, her outfit and accessories are ideally coordinated, her makeup is expertly applied and her hair is skillfully styled. Most impressive, her clothes are always presented wrinkle-free.

Ironing is a mantle that my mother attempted to pass on to all four of her children. My mom models this behavior as she still faithfully selects and presses my father's clothes every morning. She even took the time to demonstrate the proper methodology and had me do this chore regularly as child. Perhaps because I'm the youngest or maybe because I'm just plain the laziest, I did not take up the mantle of ironing. Nonetheless, as a wife and mom I do perform a myriad of thankless tasks every day and week that I choose to treasure as blessings instead of curses.

This morning I am reading 2 Corinthians 9. Paul is continuing his discussion on the importance of giving generously to God's work. This chapter contains the often quoted words that God loves a "cheerful giver" (Verse 7). As I was pondering the impact of giving, I read verse 12: "This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God."

My mind was drawn to the little acts of service I do every day: picking up toys, running errands, doing laundry, preparing meals for my family. I don't know about your family but some days I'm not even sure my family notices the work I do let alone thanks me for it. It is at this precise moment that God whispers into my heart, "Shannon, what if it's your heart that I long to see overflowing with expressions of thanks to me?"
  • Thank you, God, for the abundance of your provision. Without it, there would not be near so many things in my home for me to pick up.
  • Thank you, God, for a life that is so full of excitement and fun that I never lack for errands to run.
  • Thank you, God, for loads of laundry that seem to magically reappear in the laundry room as soon as they are washed. They represent the profusion of your blessing to me in granting me four children.
  • Thank you, God, for the privilege of gathering around the family dinner table. It is there we share, laugh and enjoy being a family as our hearts are connected over a meal. Thank for the privilege of being Your facilitator of those things by being the cook.

God sees my small acts of service. "Now he who supplies the seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness." God multiplies these simply acts of love and kindness and enlarges them for good in the lives of my husband, children, family and friends.

Jesus, you love a cheerful giver. When I give my time and energy to my family and friends today, I will do it with a happy heart. Thank you for blessing me with the opportunity to serve. I may never present myself to the world as classily as my sister, Lynn. But, I pray today that what small things You give me to do, I carry out with her brand of excellence.

Grace = Giving Radically And Receiving Eternally

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

When Hannah (14) was little her vocabulary consistency astounded me. Not only did know "big" words but she could use them properly in a sentence. Occasionally, however, she would misunderstand a word and inadvertently create a brand new word. I was always delighted by her additions to the English language and at three of these remain in my vernacular today:

  • Caroucycle - Found at malls, zoos and amusement parks, the caroucycle is still a favorite ride of at least two of my children. I strongly encourage the purchase of the multi-use pass but discourage the riding of any animal that does not go up and down. That is just a waste of a good caroucycle ride.
  • Promote - The promote operates your television. Personally, I think she aptly named this device because the possession of it does promote "discussion" between my husband and I from time to time.
  • Ife - An ife is what I put through my hand a few years back. However, we never refer to it as simply an ife. The descriptor sharp is a necessary accompaniment in our house. Sharp ifes should not be held by anyone under the age of seven...and me obviously.

With these mixed up vocabulary terms, Hannah provides our family laughter and the joy of experiencing the world through the eyes of a child. There are some gifts that just last.

This morning my reading is 2 Corinthians 8. Paul is encouraging the church at Corinth to be as excellent in giving as they are in other areas such as faith, speech and love. He calls serving God in this manner "the grace of giving" (Verse 7). Grace is giving that which is unmerited. Giving that honors God is given and covered in grace.

When I evaluate the reasons I either use or have used in the past to not give, the most frequent are:
  • Control - In certain situations, have been hesitant to give because I didn't like the way the recipient was spending the money. If I'm going to give with grace that means giving and then leaving the results up to God. Now I am not advocating irresponsibly giving to a charlatan or a cause God wouldn't support. But grace giving means I leave my gift freely and allow the responsibility for how that gift is used to rest squarely between the recipient and God.
  • Judgment - I remember distinctly one Christmas that I helped a family only to discover that they ate out more often than I did, had greater extravagances than I did and celebrated Christmas more lavishly than I did. This grew cynicism in my heart as I began to judge whether someone was worthy of my kindness. Grace is not dependent on the receiver's merit. I give because He asks to whom He asks. My job is not to question the value of the beneficiary but to give.

When I was in college, I spent a summer doing short term missions. I can't remember every teaching I received twenty years ago, but this one lesson has stuck with me. Live simply so others can simply live. When I give out of love for God, I am blessed with joy. The gift I receive from Him far outweighs that which I give away because His gifts last.

Jesus, today teach me to have a simple heart that longs only to know You and to freely give what I have received. I choose to give You control and to cast judgement far from my heart. Help me narrow down my financial priorities to those that most honor You so others can simply live.

God's Balloon Bouquet

Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door. I will come in and eat with (her) and (she) with me.

One day Clara (5 tomorrow) asked me, "Mommy what happens to all the balloons that float up into the air?" Not wanting to deal with delivering a lesson in helium, I simply asked her in return what she thought happened. "I think they float up to heaven where Jesus catches them and makes a giant balloon bouquet". While her physics may be slightly off, she certainly understands Jesus' heart. He delivers bouquets of comfort and kindness any place He is welcomed.

Today I am reading the 7th Chapter of 2 Corinthians. Paul refers back in this chapter to the first letter that he had written to them. Because of godly sorrow that leads to repentance (Verse 10-11), their lives have been transformed. Paul had addressed a myriad of serious concerns in his first epistle. They allowed God to alter their hearts and actions. This means God can change mine too - truly good news!

Nestled within these verses is a truth rich with encouragement: God comforts the downcast. Whether the source of our stress is conflict with others or fears, God shows up to soothe us. However, often we, His people, are the vehicle He uses to touch someone else. Paul reports that Titus touched his heart with the overflow of love from the Corinthians (Verses 6-7). In God's economy one simple act of kindness can trickle to another to form a raging river of goodness given to others.

Jesus, today, I want to be a source that gives Your hope and comfort to others. Thank you for the many You send my way each day who fill me up with Your love. Today I will not hold their gifts of encouragement to myself but will allow Your kindness to flow back out to comfort others. Today I will be Your delivery girl.

Status: Delayed No Longer

2 Corinthians 6:2b Now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

I was either born or developed into an accomplished procrastinator.
  • In college, I would wait until the last possible moment to study or work on a project. Somehow I skated through and even managed to turn out some fairly good grades.
  • I have hosted a multitude of dinner parties that I prepared the same day I gave them. Amazingly, most of them turn out quite well.
  • I have left on vacations that I only began to pack for hours before I departed. I usually end up packing what I need.
This morning I am reading 2 Corinthians 6. This chapter centers around the theme of displaying godly character in every situation. Whether beaten, hungry, slandered or imprisoned, Paul did not allow his surroundings or circumstances to derail God's plan for his life.

He knew intimately that now is the right time to be in God's will. Today is the right day to answer His call. My procrastination in my study habits, party planning or vacation execution pale when I realize the seriousness of postponing God's best for me. Why would I ever wait to enjoy the fullness of God's goodness? In Ephesians 3:19, Paul prays that the church there would be "filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

Jesus, I know You long to fill me. You are waiting on me to ask to be filled. Today I will rise above circumstances and distractions and embrace Your best for my life.

Someone Old, Somehow New

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

One of the greatest joys of parenting my tweenage and teenage daughters is seeing their lives change day by day, month by month, year by year as they learn to trust God. I have felt the pressure of their peers. I have heard the messages vying to capture their hearts. I have tasted the bitterness of their feeling awkward and different. I have seen two young women rise and walk in love and faith. They have lives that are being daily transformed by the power of Jesus Christ.

This morning's passage is 2 Corinthians 5. This chapter contains a verse that was at one time quite perplexing to me. I knew that according to 2 Corinthians 5:17, I had become a new creation when I became a Christian but up until a few years ago there was no appreciable change in my life. How could I be new if my habits and behaviors still seemed like they were old?

What I didn't notice for so many years was the word - therefore. This little preposition means that there must be a catalyst for that change. In fact, as I now read this chapter in its' entirety, I see two of them.
  1. Faith (Verse 7) - Paul tells us that he lived by faith, not by sight. For so long, it was both logical and comfortable to me to operate out of that I could understand or observe. I now realize it's far more satisfying to walk according to that which I don't see but I know. Faith doesn't mean I follow blindly, it means I follow closely as I come to know the One who leads me intimately day by day.
  2. Love (Verse 14) - As I fall more in love with Jesus, His love renovates me from the inside out. Love is a four letter word that makes a fourteen letter impact - transformation!

Faith and love are the kindling that ignites authentic change in my life. My relationship with God has to be rooted in love and defined by faith in order to experience the transformation that was so long lacking in my life.

Jesus, thank you for Your love that alters my very being. You want to be known by Your people because as we know You more, our faith grows. Thank you for promising that if I seek You today, I will find You. Today I will trust You to use love and faith to continue to fuel measurable alterations in my life.

Carried by Love

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Although she only referred to it as "the distraction" my sweet friend, Lucy, battled cancer this year. She has endured multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and of course hair loss. Her smile has never left her face. She may have had cancer but cancer did not have her. She has not been crushed. She would not despair. She will not be destroyed. This is all possible because she has not been abandoned.

This morning I am reading, 2 Corinthians 4. Paul is addressing trials in this chapter. Every one of us has difficult days and seasons. It seems that some Christians gracefully glide through trials while others fall prey to despair and struggle even holding onto their faith. My Lucy is a glider. She has clearly applied the truth of this passage to her life. If I'm going to be a glider, I'll have to as well.

Paul presents three keys to peace during trying times:
  1. God's mercy (Verse 1) - It is because of God's mercy that Paul does not "lose heart". Gripping God's mercy means my glass turns "half full". Those with the glass "half full" have a glass that's brimming with gratitude. They see their circumstances as much for what God has spared them from as what they are enduring.

  2. Time With Jesus (Verse 16) - Paul notes that no matter how difficult things are on the outside, he can be content on the inside where Jesus offers daily renewal. When I stay connected to Jesus, that consistent time with Him fills my heart with praise and sweeps away doubt, fear and negativity.

  3. Perspective (Verse 17) - Paul labels his troubles "light and momentary". He is able to do that through the power of perspective. His eyes were fixed on what is unseen (Verse 18). When I fasten my eyes on Jesus, my troubles in life seem fleeting and His heaven imminent.

Thank you, Jesus, for Your mercy, perspective and willingness to meet with me. Thank you for Your sweet promise to walk with me when I feel pressed, perplexed, persecuted or struck down. Your love carried Lucy. Your love can carry me.

Jesus Take the Wheel

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.

Last night I watched a beautiful woman of God step right out of her comfort zone to embrace the next assignment that God had for her. She moved, though hesitant, to the position He wanted her to embrace. Like a toddler unsteadily placing one foot in front of the other, she fell into God's arms of grace as He whispered, "Well done" into her ear. Often there is not room in my life to both stay where I am and go to that next place God has for me.

I was reminded of a ride I took thirty-five years ago on the back of my sister's Schwinn. She was steering and peddling as I affixed my rear to her seat and my arms to her waist. As we raced down the steep hill that met our driveway, she inched me further and further back on the seat until my backside rested on her rear tire instead. The tire simultaneously burned and marked me in a funny looking tread that didn't feel at the time very comical.

Years later I think of my precarious placement on that bike seat every time I have attempted to wrestle the handle bars of my life from God's hands. He gently reminds me that there is not room for both of us on that tiny seat of control. If I want to race down the hill of the thrilling ride of walking in His path, I have to be willing to endure the marks of being out of my comfort zone.

Today's reading is 2 Corinthians 3. The church at Corinth is described by Paul as a letter written on human hearts. The splendor of a changed life is the most profound evidence that Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be - Our Savior and the very Son of God. This letter of grace was not written in Paul's strength. His confidence and competency comes only from God (Verse 4-5).

Frequently, the culprit of my reticence to embrace God's calling on my life is rooted in my lack of self-belief. Jesus probably just shakes His head and laughs when I forget this profound truth that I am not able because of what I bring to the table, but because of what He does. Paul reminds His readers that because Jesus is sufficient, we should be bold.

Sometimes the smallest steps of faith are the boldest:
  • Walking into that first Bible study
  • Picking up and apply the truth of that first Biblical parenting book
  • Cashing your check and choosing no matter what to only spend that sum of money until the next pay period
  • Having that first real conversation with God where you both speak and listen

Today, Jesus, I will be bold. I will boldly walk in the path You direct. I will remember that my confidence comes only from You. I will scoot my sweet little bootie off the seat and let you have full grip on my handle bars. Today I willingly bear the marks of walking straight out of my comfort zone.

Perfume Purchased at the Highest Cost

Ephesians 5:2 And live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

One of the potential benefits of having four daughters is the welcome anticipation that one day we will be the grandparents to many. I have clearly done an adequate job of expressing my excitement because today Clara (4) came up to me and asked if she grew up big, got married, and had a grandbaby for me would I buy her a cell phone.

Someday we will be Papaw and Mimi instead of Daddy and Mommy. When I think of my grandparents, I immediately think of the smells in their homes. Each house had a distinctive odor, not necessarily sweet or offensive just different from the scent I was used to at home. You could have blind folded me and I would still have been able to identify my surroundings based on what I smelled.

This morning I am reading 2 Corinthians 2. In this chapter, Paul is encouraging the Corinthian church to forgive (Verse 7). Forgiveness reaffirms love (Verse 8). Love is a sweet aroma that blesses the world with the fragrance of Christ (Verse 14).

You can see, touch, taste or hear something and have that impression fade almost as quickly as it was made. To smell is to truly experience something. When the world encounters a believer, the bloom of Christ surrounds that meeting. It is a bouquet meant to linger for eternity.

Today, Jesus, I will surround myself with the perfume of Your presence. I want those I meet to smell You when they see me. The layers of Your grace penetrate my heart and allow me to forgive and love. Without the blanket of that forgiveness, my life would be nothing but a stench to others. Today, may Your love be so strong in me, that blindfolded someone could identify me as Yours.

God's Hotel: Comfort Inn

Isaiah 40:1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Today is September 11th - a day that will forever be associated with sorrow and horror. On this day nine years ago, a single inquiry lingered on the lips of every American, "Why?" Perhaps more than at any point in our nation's history the question of why bad things happen to good people, seered our hearts and minds.

This morning I am reading 2 Corinthians, Chapter 1. This book opens with the theme of hope and comfort. When life is at its' most trying, God sometimes gives us a peek into the answers to our questions. This passage is one of those glances into the goodness of God.

Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?
  1. So I Will Learn to Rely on God (Verse 9) - Paul reports that he and his companions had recently endured circumstances that were "far beyond their ability to endure" (Verse 8). Graciously, he also tells his readers, why God allowed this to happen. It happened so that they would learn to rely on God instead of themselves (Verse 9). As I look back on my life, there have been hundreds of days that I made harder because I thought I could tackle something myself, instead of with God's help. It wasn't until what I encountered was truly beyond me, that I threw myself on God. I'm so glad I did.
  2. So That I'll Have a Storehouse of Comfort to Give Others (Verse 4) - Paul refers to God as "the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort". Compassion and comfort originate in God. If I have never received God's tender care during my own difficulties, I have nothing to give away to others. As I learn to rely on God and allow Him to soothe my anxious heart, my heart literally begins to overflow with comfort that spills around onto other people (Verse 5).

God can fill the awkward pauses in my life when I "just didn't know what to say" with an abundance of tender love and care. On September 11, 2001 I was airborn on a flight that was reported on CNN as unaccounted for and possibly taken over by terrorists. I don't know why God chose to spare me and allowed so many other precious people to perish that day. I do know that it my aim to make every day that remains for me one which counted. One of the best ways I can do that is to love others in the midst of their pain.

Jesus, today help me see people who are hurting, especially those hiding behind painted on smiles. Allow my heart to wander behind the mask, to the place that cries for answers to their questions. Let me offer them the authenticity of Your comfort which is true, real and deep.

Saving So I Can Give

1 Chronicles 29:16 O LORD Our God, as for all this abundance...it comes from your hand and all of it belongs to you.

It was early November last year when we broke the news to the kids that we were moving to Memphis. Hayleigh, whose birthday falls in early December, had but one request prior to the move. She wanted our family to take a day and attend the monthly shopping extravaganza held in Canton, TX the first weekend of every month.

The weekend prior to Hayleigh's birthday we piled into the car for the trek over to Canton. Hayleigh arrived armed with $20 Scott and I had given her to spend and $20 that she had withdrawn from her savings account. I was quite interested to see how she would spend her little nest egg.

I ended that day amazed at the love stored up in Hayleigh's heart. She spent almost every dollar she'd brought buying Christmas presents for her family, teachers and friends. She had taken what she had saved and what she'd been given to invest in other people. Clearly, she knew Who had really given her that money.

Today my passage is the final chapter of 1 Corinthians. Paul is apparently addressing a question that has been raised about collecting money to benefit the poor in the church at Jerusalem. Paul's instruction is to have each person set aside money once a week to be saved up and collected at a later date when Paul returns for a visit (Verse 2).

As I read this, I evaluated what it is that I'm currently saving up for. College, retirement and cars for my girls are presently topping the list. In fact, I can't say that I've ever really considered saving up money to be given in a future offering to my church. My husband and I believe strongly in the principle of giving to God first out of our income and back that belief with the action of giving out of every paycheck but I can't say that we're actively setting aside money in addition to that practice.

Just a few verses later, Paul is asking the Corinthian church to "do everything in love" (Verse 13). There are days that I realize that by the time my five sweet blessings return home from work and school, I have spent my day's allotment of love on other people. If I am going to do everything in love, surely that means maintaining a special reserve for the most important people in my life. Perhaps I'm too quick at times to give away what God wants me to keep in reserve.

Jesus, everything I have is Yours. Help me see my finances and my love as Your resources to be both stored and freely given as You would design. I need Your wisdom to know how to balance these seemingly competing objectives. Today I will stay close to You, and listen carefully so that I will know when to give and when to save.

Keep On...Keepin' On

Galatians 6:9-10 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

I have often joked that if I ever went back to college, I would major in etymology which is the study of how words or phrases came into existence. My love affair with words has only been fueled by the iPhone app, "Words With Friends". Similar to Scrabble, this online game allows you to develop your vocabulary at a rapid pace. Naturally, I'm practically addicted to it.

Several of my family members share this passion and even my eleven year old, Hayleigh, can be found regularly participating. Recently I was complaining to her because my sister, Leigh, a most formidable opponent, was once again beating me. Hayleigh took affront to my whining and retorted, "Mom, what do you possibly have to complain about? Do you recall that I have never yet won a game of Words With Friends?"

She's right. All of Hayleigh's opponents have been adults who have either narrowly or soundly beat her. She has not allowed her defeats to dissuade her. She simply perseveres and chooses to respond to each move with the very best play of which she is capable and she doesn't mutter any complaints.

This morning I am reading 1 Corinthians 15:29-58. Paul is completely his treatment on the subject of the importance of believing in the resurrection. He provides here some of the most encouraging words found in Scripture, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Verses 55-56)

Paul then goes on to say that because God has given us victory through Christ we should do two things:
  1. Stand Firm (Verse 58) - Hayleigh has been an example to me of what it means to stand firm. Obviously, she would prefer to win as any of us would but instead of giving up, she is standing firm.
  2. Give Yourself Fully to the Work of the Lord (Verse 58) - Now playing Words With Friends is not exactly God's work but one thing I know with certainty. If I were even half as persistent in what God asks of me as Hayleigh's shown herself to be in this game, I would prove myself fully dedicated.

This chapter closes with a sweet promise from God: "Your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

  • When your kids don't seem to be getting it...your labor is not in vain
  • When you eat right and exercise and don't see the result you'd like...your labor is not in vain
  • When you clean your house and no one notices...your labor is not in vain

Jesus, Your promises are so precious. You promise to see that which is overlooked by others. Today I will stand firm in what You've asked of me. Today I will fully give myself to whatever I do. Today I will remember that my labor is not in vain. I might even not complain about Leigh even though she is beating me...again.

He's Alive!

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

When I was five, I shared a room with my eleven year old sister. Looking back, I can only imagine that year was long and torturous for her. I was a typical, pesky little sister who wanted nothing more than to be all up in her business every moment of each day.

One day, in a crazy attempt to gain her attention, I dropped a dresser drawer on my toe. The aftermath of that silly antic was a toenail that turned black and eventually dropped off my foot. When that drawer landed on my foot I knew the consequences of that decision intimately. No one would ever have to convince me not to repeat that behavior. I believed with certainty that drawers were best kept where they belonged...safely fastened inside furniture.

This morning the passage I am reading is 1 Corinthians 15:1-28. In this section, Paul is reconfirming for the Corinthians exactly what the gospel is. Through the years, I have often heard someone pose the question, "Do you know what you believe?" I have answered that question, "yes" without hesitation but today I give it just a bit of pause.

Paul outlines four essentials of the Christian faith:
  1. Jesus died for our sins (Verse 3) - Jesus literally died in our place. He took the punishment that I and every other person deserved because none of us has lived a perfect life (Romans 3:23).
  2. He was buried (Verse 4) - Jesus' body was laid in a hillside grave. When someone passes away, it seems quite often that the family cannot completely face the reality of that death until they see their loved one's casket getting lowered into the ground. As I think of that moment when Jesus was sealed in a tomb, I see finality. His burial signifies the end of my "old self". God tossed all the parts of me that don't look like Jesus in the grave with Him.
  3. He was raised from the dead (Verse 4) - Jesus' tomb didn't remain occupied. Three days later, He came back to life. The empty grave is the single greatest symbol of hope there has ever been. Jesus' resurrection means that I am free to live a new life marked by joy and contentment. When God brought Jesus back out of that grave, He guaranteed each of us a fulfilling life that can start right now.
  4. He appeared to many witnesses (Verses 5 and 6) - This is the part of which I hadn't really taken the time to consider the significance. Previously, I hadn't let this soak into my heart as an essential piece of my faith. Yet as I pondered it, I realized how powerful it is that there wasn't just one witness proclaiming Jesus' resurrection; there was over five hundred. Jesus, fully alive and powerful to intervene in each of our lives.

Thank you, Jesus, for the certainty that surrounds the testimony of five hundred witnesses. You want me to believe without any doubt that You are alive and available to resurrect my life. Today I want to live out of the joy that comes from knowing Your vibrant life.

Pieces of My Heart

Luke 16:10a Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to bless Clara and Carynne with pancakes for breakfast one morning. Upon my announcement, Clara (4) raced to don her head with her chef's hat and her midsection with her apron. Clara looked as professional as Emeril Lagasse and appeared totally prepared to work as my sous chef, but to make certain I knew she was ready she exclaimed, "Look, Mommy, I'm a shepherd!" Like me, sometimes Clara misses it big on the little stuff.

Today I am reading 1 Corinthians 14:21-40. Paul is continuing his instruction regarding the appropriate times and manner to speak in unknown tongues. There is a broader instruction in this section, though that applies to so many areas of my life. Paul exhorts the church to do everything in a "fitting and orderly way". (Verse 40)

I have a life that tends toward chaos, not order. My natural inclination is towards flying my the seat of my pants, going with the flow and a million other cliches that really just mean that my strength is not planning and organizing. Not shockingly, I do not have the spiritual gift of administration.

If the cry of my heart is to honor God in every area of my life, though, that means doing things God's way instead of mine. The road to becoming more organized has been a slow crawl for me but over the coarse of time, I have seen real, measurable progress.
  • I no longer let mail stack up
  • I deal with school papers the same day
  • I make a weekly meal plan and execute it
  • I attempt to do some laundry every day

There are hundreds of little evidences of the true life change Jesus has made in my life. I thank God that my journey with Christ is littered not only with telephone pole-sized change but toothpick-sized change as well.

Today, Jesus, I want to give you another toothpick-my shoes. I have picked up shoes three pairs at a time for my lifetime but now I want to allow You to make me more orderly in just this smallest of ways. I know that the little things I give to You, make big changes in my heart. My home is just the space where my heart dwells. It's my heart You actually want to change. So in giving You my shoes, I'm really giving You another little piece of my heart. After all, You are the Shepherd (or is that Chef?) of my heart.

Wherever You Are Be All There

Colossians 3:1-2 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Jim Elliot was a missionary to South America who was martyred in 1956 while attempting to contact an unreached people group there. Elliot died at 28 yet in his short years lived a life that demonstrated an unquenchable, unstoppable love for God. He is quoted to have said, "Wherever you are, be all there." His life and death certainly displayed that truth.

This morning I am reading 1 Corinthians 14:1-20. This passage makes it apparent that the church at Corinth was having an issue with individuals speaking in tongues without someone there to interpret what was being said. Paul encourages the church to use their God-given gifts but to use them in a way the edifies or builds up other people (Verse 17). What a beautiful admonishment.

Sandwiched in this section is a verse I've never even noticed before that provides help for me in a very real and practical way. Have you ever been praying and felt your mind slip away as you begin to compile a grocery or errand list? Have you ever sat in worship singing words to a song but actually having no cognition of what words you're singing?

Both of these have been a struggle for me. I have tried praying out loud, praying while on a walk with God and praying at various times throughout the day. Sometimes my focus is so that everything but God disappears. Other times no matter where I am, what method I use or what time of day it is, my mind wanders completely off topic. The same goes for worshipping God. There are times when I'm singing and the presence of God is so real that I'm certain my heart is fully engaged with His. At other times, I wrestle with my mind to keep it where I am.

"So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind." (Verse 15) This verse makes it clear that if I truly want to connect with God, I need to yield both my mind and spirit to Him and allow them to work in unison to draw me closer to Him.
  • My Mind - Set your minds on things above (Colossians 3:2). Like tuning the channel on my television, I need to direct my thoughts to Christ and then leave them there. Having my mind set on Jesus, means no channel surfing. He needs to be my one and only station during times of prayer and praise.
  • My Heart - Set your hearts (spirits) on things above (Colossians 3:1). Setting my heart on Jesus means letting Him have His rightful first place. I once heard someone say, Jesus shouldn't be your first priority, He should be your priority. When I let God completely captivate my spirit, my heart will be set on Him.

Jesus, today I give you my heart and my spirit. When I pray, I will talk to You alone. When I worship, I will allow You to consume me. Wherever I am, especially if it's with You, I will be all there.

His Scarred Hands Spell Love

Yesterday, I told you about the day I accidentally drove a knife through my left hand. Moments prior to this happening I was rejoicing and thanking God because I had just finished memorizing the 13th Chapter of 1 Corinthians. This chapter, frequently referred to as the love chapter, is often read at weddings. I had committed to learning it word for word with the desire that knowing it in my heart might lead me to demonstrate the true love of Christ in a more relevant way to my dear husband.

As soon as I realized how significantly I had injured myself ,I knew that I could not both dial the phone and apply the appropriate pressure to my gaping wound. Nor would I be able to load two toddlers into the car and drive myself to the hospital. I knew I needed to find someone to help me...and fast. I made my way next door and knocked on the front door with my elbow. No answer. Feeling desperation begin to rise up inside me, I muttered a cry of help to God as I dashed to the next home down.

I had not yet even met these neighbors as we'd just relocated to this neighborhood a few weeks prior. The beautiful sound of a vacuum humming behind their door meant someone was inside who could help. It turned out to be two someones. The wife, a former nurse, stayed a my home with the toddlers, cleaned up all the blood and greeted my other to children when they arrived from school. The husband, whisked me off to the hospital in his car.

Sensing my angst, he told me to talk about something that calms me. The only thing I could think of was the scripture I'd just been memorizing so I began to recite the words I'd just learned. These words are about real love. Love that is patient. Love that is kind. Love that doesn't give up no matter what. As I spoke those words, my heart calmed, my pulse slowed and I knew God, full of perfect love, was not surprised when that knife passed through my hand. He would give me the patience to endure the consequences of my wound. He would inspire other's with kindness to help me when needed. He would not give up on me.

Today's passage is the very one I memorized two and half years ago, 1 Corinthians 13. I will forever associate this passage with my scar. I carry in my hand as well as my heart the evidence of the scars that develop with love is severed.
  • Love is Patient - Love is patient even when I've spent the entire day waiting on others.
  • Love is Kind - Kindness is not conditional on how somehow else treats me.
  • Love Does Not Envy - Love does not envy even when I feel like I'm stuck at home, even when I honor God with my finances and it seems like everyone else is rewarded for it and even when others receive that for which I worked hard.
  • Love Does Not Boast - Love focuses its' attention squarely on the other person and rejoices in their every triumph and accomplishment.
  • Love is Not Proud - Love is never too prideful to ask for forgiveness.
  • Love is Not Rude - Love takes the time to listen and puts others ahead of my agenda.
  • Love is Not Self-Seeking - Love delights to let someone else get to choose.
  • Love is Not Easily Angered - Love likes to laugh. Love enjoys responding with kindness. Love gives up the right to have rights.
  • Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs - Love tears up the lists and presses stop on the recording of my mind that replays past hurts and incidents. Love expects the best no matter how many times I've been disappointed.

Recently I set my pinkie that has never fully regained its' nerves, onto a 400 degree cookie sheet. It took much longer to pull my hand away than it should have due to my dulled sensitivity. When I love in a way the doesn't honor God, my senses get dulled to what loving someone with God's love should really be like. I might even lull myself into thinking that lashing out in anger is the appropriate response or keeping track of who's wronged me is just being smart about my relationships.

God's brand of love described in this passage heals and binds. When I act or speak in ways contrary to His way, I tear at the fabric of my relationships. I cut others down to size. I scratch away at the foundation of love and inflict gashes of hurt.

Jesus, today, help me remember why I learned this passage to begin with. I want to love others, starting with my husband, in a way that honors You and reflects Your character. Jesus, Your scarred hands are the ultimate symbol of love. Today I will use my scarred hand as an ever-present reminder of Your definition of love.

Cuts Like a Knife

February 29, 2008 started as the best day I'd had in many. I had my hair colored, cut and styled. There is nothing like professionally coiffed hair to make me feel energized and positive.

After I arrived home and settled Clara (then 2) and Carynne (then 1) down for a nap, I began straightening up the house in preparation for the afternoon's activities. Yesterday's pan of brownies beckoned me from the counter. The trouble was they were stuck to the pan. I began chiseling them up with a serrated knife for long-term storage in the refrigerator when the knife slipped up and passed straight through my left hand. Immediately my kitchen was transformed into what looked like a crime scene as blood splashed spasmodically out of my hand and around the room.

In one swift move, my joyous day had been sliced with an afternoon trip the ER, fifteen stitches and the application of a bandage that resembled something from a 1950's mummy horror flick. I ended the day with a hand engulfed in throbbing pain and wondered if it would ever function the same again.

The feeling has never completely returned to outer edge of my left pinkie. I also have a nasty scar on my left palm as a memory of that day. Along with that scar, there is a reminder in my heart of what incredible damage can be done in a single careless moment.

This morning I am reading the 12th Chapter of 1 Corinthians. Paul's emphasis in this passage is the gifts from God that are granted each person when he or she accepts Jesus' sacrifice as the payment for their sins. Each gift is unique (Verse 4). Each gift is specifically designed to fill a special purpose in the church (Verse 7).

Paul takes great care to teach the Corinthians that every role a person is gifted to play is just as vital as any other. Every one is needed and necessary to ensure the health of the whole. This whole is referred to as the body of Christ (Verse 12). What I contribute might be a toe, a hand or some ribs but no part is greater and no part is less.

As I pondered this passage, I thought of the many people I know, including myself, who have been wounded by careless words or thoughtless actions by someone in their church. Though the gash in my hand was painful, feeling severed from Jesus' body hurt immensely worse. I can feel Jesus' tugging at my heart, whispering words of hope and healing.

Shannon, you go bandage their wounds. Rub the salve of My grace and kindness over their sores. Cover your own cuts with the bandage of forgiveness and use those hurts to pour love on other people. Don't let My people stay separated from My body. Love them back where they belong, folded securely among my church.

Jesus, I hear You. I know the pain of reckless words and many times have been the source of another's hurt. Today I choose to be an agent for hope and healing. I choose to gather back instead of to scatter. I choose to overlook, forgive and give grace. I choose to recognize the gifts You've granted others and help them find new and creative ways to express them for the good of the whole.

Thank Heavens

Ephesians 4:1 ...I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

A few mornings ago, Clara sleepily stumbled into my room and mumbled, "I want the colorful stuff for breakfast." My brain wasn't working too quickly yet, so after a hunt around the kitchen I realized she was referring to breakfast cereal. She stated in no uncertain terms that she was not interested in the circles, she wanted those little rocks.

She was greatly dismayed to find none of them in the cupboard. I offered to help and knowing just where to look found the container that had one single bowl of Fruity Pebbles remaining. Elated that her breakfast wishes had come true, Clara threw her arms up looked straight at the ceiling and exclaimed, "Thank you, God!"

This morning I am reading 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. In this section Paul is admonishing the church at Corinth to celebrate Communion with dignity, order and the seriousness of the event it represents. Jesus' death was the single most selfless act in human history. His sacrifice is marked with agony. He died for me. He died for us.

"Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A (woman) ought to examine (herself) before (she) eats of the bread and drinks of the cup." (Verses 27-28) Now the churches I have attended through the years have never seemed to struggle with holding Communion in a manner befitting of Jesus' death but I thought about these verses on a more personal level today.

Don't I drink and eat Jesus' sacrifice daily as I enjoy the benefits of the salvation He provided for me? As I live this life of freedom and forgiveness am I doing so in a "manner unworthy"? Clara reminded me that God is intimately involved in the details of my life. So often though I don't pause long enough to thank Him for being there.
  • Hitting all green lights when I really need to get somewhere
  • Feeling a tiny hand come into mine when I'm a bit down
  • Finding that book I've wanted for far less than I've seen it listed

God inserts Himself into each part of my every day life. Sometimes I'm just not looking. Perhaps worthily drinking in this life Jesus' granted me, means pausing just long enough to throw my hands to the ceiling, look up and say, "Thank you, God."

Jesus, today I will pause as many times as needed to recognize that You are with me, You are guiding me and You are aiding me. Thank you, God.

Lead him, Lord

1 Corinthians 11:3 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ and the head of the women is man, and the head of Christ is God.

In January 2007, Scott came home from work one day excited to communicate to me his new vision for our family. He felt like we should sell our home and build a home in a neighboring community so we could attend the satellite location of a large church in Dallas called Prestonwood.

I was eight months pregnant with our fourth child, hormonal and exhausted. We had just relocated to Dallas from Florida three years prior and I saw no good reason we should make this move. After expressing my concerns to Scott, he was not dissuaded.

This left me with a choice. I could get on his page with a happy heart. I could move but secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) resent Scott and all the additional work he was flinging my direction. I could refuse to move and Scott likely would have acquiesced. I chose the first option. I have never regretted it, not even when we sold that house for a nearly $100,000 loss.

It was through the ministry of Prestonwood that Scott first recognized his spiritual gifts of leadership and administration. It was through Prestonwood that those gifts were utilized and developed. It was through Prestonwood that Scott was called into full-time vocational ministry.

Today I am studying 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. This is one of those prickly passages that makes me cringe when I read it. Not only does Paul state here that my husband is my leader (Verse 3) but he also says that I was created for him (Verse 8). I would love to just pass right over this section but I believe in a God who isn't surprised. I don't think God's in heaven shaking His head and lamenting to Himself, "Man, I really wish Paul hadn't written that."

If God meant what He said then I have am forced to consider what this means for my life. I know that I am full, complete and equal in Christ with my husband. However in this passage, even Jesus has an authority-God the Father. Matthew 24:36 No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Clearly there are limits to Jesus' authority and there are even things the Father has not revealed to Him. If having a leader is good enough for Jesus, I'm thinking it's probably good enough for me.

I don't understand why God chose my husband, flawed and mortal, to be my head but I accept His plan. I know that He knows infinitely more about what is good for me than I do and I trust His goodness inherently. I do know that having a head means I don't have to lie awake at night and worry. I can rest knowing the final decision lies with my dear husband and that Jesus is leading him.

Jesus, thank you for providing for me even in ways I don't understand or necessarily agree with. I know You. I trust You. I believe that Your ways are always for my good. Today I choose to trust Your plan - that You designed Scott to lead our family. Lead him, Lord.