For some people, Wednesday is considered hump day.
In our house, Wednesday is Survivor night.
If you are not familiar with this reality show, now in its 38th season, let me give you a quick summary. A group of men and women, all ages and backgrounds, are marooned on an island. They must work together in teams to survive the elements and challenges until only one person remains. The grand prize is one million dollars.
Our family piles on the sectional, eager to watch whatever challenge will unfold and which tribe member will be voted off the island.
On this particular night, the challenge will bring the most coveted of all rewards: time with a loved one.
On the island for over a month now, separated from parents, spouses and children, each tribe member gets a brief moment to be reunited with a loved one.
To be able to embrace a husband, mother or son after what probably feels like an eternity of being apart….what a reward!
Overcome with emotion, they leap into each other’s arms.
I can feel the tears trickling down my face.
What I wouldn’t give to be able to put my arms around my Mom or Dad one more time.
These few precious moments will be multiplied for the winner of the challenge.
I cannot recall what obstacle had to be overcome, but I remember my heart immediately breaking for those who would have to say goodbye to their loved ones.
Saying goodbye to someone we love is one of the hardest challenges we will face in this life.
Not a day goes by that I do not long to have one more conversation with my parents.
But there will come a day when I will be able to embrace them again.
The reward we receive as Christians is that we get to spend eternity with our loved ones, not just a few precious moments.
Christ took the challenge for us, so that we could all share in this priceless reward.
Because Christ went to the cross for our sins, we receive a reward that is worth far more than a million dollars.
We receive the gift of eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
This is the promise that I hold close to my heart. The one that gives me hope.
And unlike Survivor, where only one is chosen, everyone can share in this reward.
“My Father’s house has many rooms.” John 14:2
What a joyful day it will be when there are no more goodbyes!
Friends, the only challenge left for us is to believe in Him and accept this priceless gift.
I was literally running on fumes.
I just needed enough fuel to get home.
I had $3 in change left from tips.
Gas in 1987 was around $1.08 a gallon.
I coasted into the gas station and put enough in my tank to get to the next place.
And so would begin a pattern that I would carry into adulthood.
Running on fumes.
Why is it that we attach a badge of honor to doing so much on so little?
I used to believe that existing on Diet Coke and Doritos with little sleep gave me some type of Superwoman status.
As I got older, I got smarter.
I upgraded to a Skinny Vanilla Latte and a Protein Bar.
I would fill my tank with just enough fuel to move onto the next task.
Chauffeuring the kids to practice, taking parents to doctor’s appointments, working, grocery shopping, heading the PTA, going to this committee meeting and that committee meeting.
My friends would joke that I never ate and stacked my schedule.
Maybe your schedule sounds something like this.
And so I coasted into my home each night, running on fumes.
I would never stop to completely fill my tank, literally or figuratively.
My girlfriend in faith, Dawn put it this way:
“You cannot fill a moving car with gas. You need to turn it off.”
Sisters, I promise you there is no medal at the end of the day when you are running on an empty tank.
There is just exhaustion and an empty tank.
And you cannot continue to give if you are running on empty.
That is not the way that God intended us to live.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
Just like a moving car cannot be filled with gas, we cannot be filled if we are in constant motion.
My schedule was filled with good things, but I was never taking the time to fill my own tank.
I love my Skinny Vanilla Latte, but I need more.
His word provides that fuel that we need so that we are not simply coasting from day to day.
“For it was I, the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it with good things.” Psalm 81:10
“He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!” Psalm 103:5
“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with love.” Romans 5:5
Busyness is the tool that is used to keep us from filling our tanks completely.
We believe that we can go a little further or take on one more task based on our own strength.
But we deceive ourselves.
We are simply coasting.
I am tired of running on fumes. Are you?
The price of His fuel is the same as it was in 1987.
It is always free.
Stop the car. Fill up.
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
“I can’t go with you,” I said to my oldest son.
Jonathan was struggling being away from me, heading into the 2 year old class at pre-school.
My heart was in my throat.
I knew that God was watching over him, but that did not stop my tears from falling.
I wanted him to have something that he could hold onto when I was not in his sights.
The concept of carrying Jesus in his heart seemed a bit too much for him to grasp at this tender age.
So I sent a Jesus he could carry with him instead.
His own personal Jesus.
Now if you are in my age bracket and a music fan, you will understand why some of my girlfriends found this amusing.
When looking for anything that would give him comfort, I came across this plush Nativity set.
If I am being completely honest, it was really Joseph I sent with my son, not Jesus.
Desperate moms take desperate measures.
So I packed Joseph, I mean Jesus, in his tiny backpack to remind him that Jesus was with him even when I was not.
It gave me some comfort as well.
That was 16 years ago.
Graduation is a month away, with college right around the corner.
“I can’t go with you,” I say to myself.
I am struggling at the thought of being away from him. He is going where I cannot follow.
My heart is in my throat once again.
I know that God will be watching over him, but that does not stop my tears from falling.
I need something to hold onto when he is no longer in my sights.
He grasps the concept of carrying Jesus in his heart now, and that gives me peace.
He has Him in his heart wherever he goes. And so do I.
So I will hold onto the promise that nothing can ever separate him from His love or mine.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8 : 38-39
Are there any gladiators out there?
If on any given Thursday you tuned out the world and tuned into Scandal, then you know exactly what I am talking about.
For those of you who are not familiar with one of my all time favorite shows, here is the Reader’s Digest version of the series: A former White House Communications Director starts up her own agency to deal with crisis management in the nation’s Capitol. She works with her team to conceal people’s secrets. If you are in trouble, Olivia Pope is the first call you make. She even wears a white hat. Her agency is comprised of “gladiators.”
Gladiators are people who jump into the messiest of situations, no matter the cost.
Then there are people like Olivia’s love interest, Jake, who wanted to run away from all of the messiness enveloping them and stand in the light.
“I want us to stand in the sun together.” said Admiral Jake Ballard.
But standing in the light means that our mess is exposed and we are left vulnerable.
Sometimes we feel like it is easier to conceal our mistakes rather than to allow others to see our flaws.
Maybe we believe no one will stand in our messiness with us.
We distance ourselves from others, hoping no one will notice the weight that we carry deep within.
I wonder if that is how the Samaritan woman felt. She came to draw water from the well at a time of day when she would not have to interact with others or be judged.
She had no gladiators to call upon when she was in trouble.
Until Jesus came to the well.
Jesus was a gladiator who jumped into the messy lives of others, no matter the cost.
“When the Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “ Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into town to buy food). The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (For Jews did not associate with Samaritans). Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water .” John 4: 7-10
Don’t miss what Jesus says here.
“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst again. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is quite true.” John 4: 13-18
He offers her the living water even knowing the messiness of her life.
That day at the well, He brought everything into the light and stood with her.
Mess and all.
Friends, He knows our flaws, and jumps right into our messy lives.
He knew the cost would be His own life, and He gave it freely anyway.
Just like a gladiator.
I still have a soft spot for Thursday nights, but in my heart I know I need to follow His example and be a gladiator everyday.
Stand in the messy places with those around you and love them as Christ would love them.
Are there any gladiators out there?
Living in a house with three men, it is common for some sporting event to be on our television.
Football. Basketball. Golf.
And even though I do not always understand the rules, I do love to watch the excitement and joy that follows a victory.
Tiger Woods return to glory, winning the Masters again this past Sunday was one of those moments. Witnessing the embrace between him and his son shortly after he walked off the course was a snapshot many will remember for years to come..
That rare and beautiful moment that takes your breath away and sometimes brings a tear to your eye.
I had a moment like that eight years ago.
It was right before Easter.
Our friends, John and Amy had gifted a place at the beach for my husband and I to take our boys, then 10 and 8 years old.
I had just finished my last round of chemotherapy.
Despite their generosity, it was not a journey I wanted to make.
My body ached. I was drained both physically and emotionally.
The thought of spending hours in a car almost brought me to tears.
But something deep inside nudged me to say yes.
So I packed my wig and my clothes, and away we went.
We shared the joy of being together. Watching the boys play in the sand, eating pizza at the Grotto.
And going to church together on Easter morning.
We arrived too early for the service. I had mistakenly read the start times for worship.
Our family was greeted by a friendly older couple who welcomed us to wait in fellowship hall, where the boys could have a snack until it was time to go into the sanctuary.
While the boys had cookies and punch, John and I struck up a conversation with the husband and wife.
It quickly became evident why God had brought us there early.
Their daughter had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.
I listened as they shared their hearts with me. I offered what comfort and insight I could into the road that lied ahead. Sharing my journey brought healing to me as well.
God speaks through us and to us in the most remarkable ways.
On that Easter Sunday, He used me to speak words of hope to that couple.
And then He used my 8 year old son, Daniel to speak words of hope to me.
It is a moment that still takes my breath away.
When we had initially entered the hall, my eyes were immediately drawn up to the ceiling.
There were large poster boards dangling from the ceiling tiles, etched with words like addiction, divorce, loss of job, death of a loved one. They seemed to represent the pain and suffering that others had overcome. I glanced at them briefly and focused my attention back to our conversation.
But my son had been studying these 30 plus boards as he nibbled on his cookies.
Excitedly, Daniel ran over to me to get my attention.
He pointed above him, exclaiming and proclaiming:
“Look, Mommy, look! Cancer didn’t win!”
That rare and beautiful moment that took my breath away and pierced my soul.
I knew that God had already claimed victory over my cancer.
But even more importantly on Easter, He proclaimed victory over death.
And I cannot tell either story without getting emotional.
Friends, Christ laid down His life because of His great love for us.
And even though He felt physically and emotionally drained, He said yes to the journey.
He proclaimed victory for us all.
On this Good Friday, share the greatest story ever told.
His love for us is too great not to share.
“The Lord is my strength and my song, He has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise Him – “ Exodus 15:2
This beautiful picture was given to me as a gift by my friend Sharon.
The detail is remarkable.
It was created by using different colored tiny beads.
Each bead has a place, not one unused or insignificant.
Each one unique, but when arranged in just the right spots brings something of extraordinary beauty.
I cannot imagine the time and attention it took to create this picture.
If I would have looked at the directions on making this project, I would have got to step three and probably would have looked for something else.
But like the notes jump off the page for a musician, or an equation makes sense to a mathematician, these directions spoke to my friend.
That is probably how Bezalel felt when he was called by the Lord.
I’m sure you all know who Bezalel is, right?
It’s ok…I didn’t either.
But even though his name does not jump out at us like Moses or Mary, he holds a special place in the Bible. Four chapters in Exodus to be exact.
More importantly, he holds a significant place in God’s kingdom.
“Then Moses told the people of Israel, ‘The Lord has specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. The Lord has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft.” Exodus 35:30-33
Bezalel was hand chosen by God to perform any task that was involved in building the sanctuary.
“For the framework of the Tabernacle, Bezalel constructed frames of acacia wood. Each frame was 15 feet high and 27 inches wide, with two pegs under each frame. All the frames were identical.” Exodus 36: 20
“For the inside of the Tabernacle, Bezalel made a special curtain of finely woven linen. He decorated it with blue, purple and scarlet thread with skillfully embroidered cherubim. For the curtain, he made four posts of acacia wood and four gold hooks. He overlaid the posts with gold and set them in four silver bases.” Exodus 36:35-36
“Next, Bezalel used acacia wood to construct a square altar of burnt offering. It was 7 ½ feet wide, 7 ½ feet long and 4 ½ feet high. He made horns for each of its four corners so that that horns and altar were all one piece. He overlaid the altar with bronze.” Exodus 38:1-2
Confession? My eyes glaze over a bit on certain parts of the Bible. This was one of them. Why do I need to know the specifications of the tabernacle? Why does this take up so many chapters in Exodus? It is not the parting of the Red Sea, the burning bush or the Ten Commandments.
Sometimes we miss stories in His word because they may appear insignificant.
But there is no detail in God’s eyes that is insignificant.
Let me say that again.
There is no detail in God’s eyes that is insignificant.
The word detail can have two meanings. It can be an individual feature or to assign someone to a particular task.
Do you see how God is present in both meanings?
He hand picks Bezalel for the task of constructing the Tabernacle and then gives him what he needs to perform the tasks.
“All whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved came and brought their offerings to the Lord. They brought all the materials needed for the Tabernacle, for the performance of the rituals, and for the sacred garments. Both men and women came, all whose hearts were willing. They brought to the Lord their offerings of gold-brooches, earrings, rings from their fingers and necklaces. They presented gold objects of every kind as a special offering to the Lord. All those who owned the following items willingly brought them: blue, purple and scarlet thread; fine linen and goat hair for cloth; and tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather. And all who had silver and bronze objects gave them to the Lord. And those who had acacia wood brought it for use in the project.” Exodus 35: 21-24
God not only spoke to Bezalel, but also to all who would have a role in the building of the Tabernacle. He spoke to those who could construct, engrave, sew and donate materials. Each person had a role to play. No role was insignificant.
Think about how more relatable His word becomes when we feel like He is speaking directly to us. And our hearts stir when we understand we all have a significant place in His kingdom.
Friends, God is in every detail of our lives : the occupations that we have, the tasks we perform and in what we give.
And like the tiny colorful beads used to make this beautiful picture, when arranged by His hand, we each help to create something of extraordinary beauty bringing glory to His kingdom.
There is no detail in God’s eyes that is insignificant.
The sound comes from deep within me before I can stop it some days.
This animal-like growl signifies that I have been inconvenienced, interrupted or annoyed in some way.
Maybe I have to wait longer than I would like to in the check out line, or one of the boys has asked me to get up to make food literally two minutes after I have sat down or walked in the door (If you have teenagers, you know exactly what I am talking about). Maybe I haven’t eaten or had my coffee yet.
You get the picture. It doesn’t take much to trigger our GRRR button.
The GRRR is our default setting.
It takes more effort to get to a place of grace.
But there was One who did not growl when inconvenienced or interrupted.
He did not get easily annoyed with people or circumstances,
“And the Word (Christ) became flesh, and lived among us; and we saw His glory, glory that belongs to the (One and) only begotten Son of the Father, (the Son who is truly unique, the only One of His kind, who is) full of grace and truth (absolutely free of deception) “ John 1:14
For Jesus, there was no GRRR before the grace.
He didn’t become impatient when the lines of people wanting to see Him became great. He repeatedly and consistently offered love and mercy.
“ When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Matthew 14: 14
“And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them” Matthew 15:30.
After a long day, the disciples were tired and hungry. They were ready for Jesus to send the people away.
Jesus had other ideas.
“When the day was nearly gone, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is an isolated place, and it is getting late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.
But He replied, “You give them something to eat!” And they asked Him, “Shall we go and buy 200 Denali worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” Mark 6 :35-37
I am guessing this was a GRRR before the grace moment for the disciples.
They were probably thinking: does He really expect us to go into town after a long day and buy food for all of these people?
But Jesus, who also had to be tired and hungry, performs a miracle.
“He said to the disciples “How many loaves of bread do you have? Go look! And when they found out, they said, “Five loaves and two fish.” Then Jesus commanded them all to sit down by groups in the green grass. They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and two fishes, He looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people; and He divided up the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied. And the disciples picked up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of fish. Those who ate the loaves were five thousand men (not counting women and children).” Mark 6: 38-44
When Jesus became flesh, He did not offer the human response when He was interrupted or inconvenienced.
These were opportunities to show His love and mercy to a broken world.
Jesus offered grace spontaneously.
Today, may that same grace come before our GRRR …so that we, too can share His love with others.
Now more than ever, we are saturated by news.
Even if we choose to turn off the television at home, “breaking news” seems to follow us wherever we go: going out to eat, waiting in the doctor’s office or even pumping gas (yes, even some gas stations have tv monitors in the gas pumps).
We cannot escape it.
So I have started to wonder how busy the fact checkers of the world are right now.
What is a fact checker?
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines fact checking as “the process of checking all of the facts in a piece of writing, news article or speech”. The goal is to ensure that nothing that is shared is ingenuine or fake.
“Fake news” seems to be a hot button right now for so many.
But “fake news’ is old news to me.
Let me explain.
I am 100 and it’s none of your business pounds.
That is a fact.
The scale is my fact checker.
But I can take that fact and turn the newsreel that plays in my mind into something completely different than truth.
The “fake news” commentary sounds something like this:
“You are unattractive.”
“You are undesirable.”
“You will never look as good as that person.”
Facts can apply to anything in our lives: appearance, belongings, or circumstances.
Wearing no brand shoes, the dollar signs attached to a salary, the address someone lives at… all of these may be facts in someone’s life.
Facts can be confirmed, but facts do not always equal truth.
A childhood friend had to move into an apartment following the divorce of his parents.
It wasn’t until we were adults that he shared how that fact translated into a truth for him that he did not measure up to his peers. Another friend who is a stay at home mom shared that she felt less than her peers who worked outside the home.
Friends, we do not need fact checkers in our lives.
We need truth checkers.
We need to verify what we believe to be true before allowing it to penetrate our hearts and allowing “fake news” to overrun our thoughts about who we are.
This is a daily act of choosing which station we allow to play in our minds…our truth or His truth.
Trust me, His truth is the most reliable source. There is no “fake news” in His word.
To become truth checkers, we must be truth seekers.
What does His word say about who were are?
~Valuable (Matthew 6:26)
~Set apart (Jeremiah 1:5)
~Chosen (1 Peter 2:9)
~Children of God (1 John 3: 1-2)
~His (Isaiah 43:1b)
~Known (John 10:27-28)
Father, help us to be accountable to each other, making sure we always check Your truth against our own.
Lord, Your Word says, ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free’ (John 8:32).
Sometimes we don’t want those around us to know what we are going through.
We have our reasons.
Maybe we don’t want our loved ones to worry. Maybe we are afraid our friends will turn away from us. Maybe because we ourselves are unable to face that monster that stares us in the face. Maybe we believe that we should be strong enough to tackle this monster single handedly.
Whatever the reason, we are not ready ….not yet.
So we put on a smile and go through the motions, wanting others to believe we are fine.
We lie to ourselves, saying that no one knows.
And we breathe a sigh of relief.
That’s when it happens.
A wave of emotion so strong crashes over us that us feel like we are drowning. Even if our bodies are still, our minds are flailing and desperately wanting someone to notice us in the deep end of despair.
Sitting in the chair waiting to go back for surgery, that is precisely how I felt.
I had my reasons for not telling my loved ones. My Dad was already going through treatment for lung cancer. This was devastating enough for our family. Why worry anyone needlessly if the lump they were about to take out of my chest wasn’t cancer? My friends have enough going on in their lives to worry about me. Besides, wasn’t I strong enough to handle this on my own anyway? So I put on a smile, telling myself that it was probably nothing.
But when you are connected to IVs and prepping for surgery, you cannot escape the monster you have been hiding from anymore.
A surge of panic took over me like I had never felt before. My thoughts raced, but I could not move my body. I wanted desperately for someone to see me struggling in the deep.
Then I remembered. Someone did. Someone had been with me since the beginning. Someone knew my thoughts even if the rest of the world only saw my smile.
Psalm 139 : 1-10
1 Lord You have examined me
and know all about me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I get up.
You know my thoughts before I think them.
3 You know where I go and where I lie down.
You know everything I do.
4 Lord, even before I say a word
You already know it.
5 You are all around me-in front and in back
And have put Your hand on me.
6 Your knowledge is amazing to me
It is more than I can understand
7 Where can I go to get away from Your Spirit?
Where can I run from You?
8 If I go to the heavens, You are there
If I lie down in the grave, You are there
9 If I rise with the sun in the east
And settle in the west beyond the sea,
10 Even there You will guide me
With Your right hand You would hold me.
And as soon as I said His name, I knew He was there.
Sitting in that chair, I could feel a sense of peace wash over me.
The waves of panic turned into calm because I spoke His name.
He saw me struggling in the deep and reached out His hand.
I could feel His presence in that sterile space.
My mind stopped racing.
He knew, even when no one else did.
Sisters, I do not know the monsters you are facing today.
They have different names for each of us – cancer, addiction, shame, guilt, loneliness.
The list is long.
But I promise you that even when you believe no one else knows, He does.
Let Him hold you with His right hand, whatever you are facing today.
He promises us we are never alone.
They were a tangled mess.
How did that happen so quickly?
My headphones were in knots.
The cord looked like a pile of spaghetti noodles.
Would I be able to listen to my music if they were that twisted?
Would I be able to hear?
Looking at this tangled mess, I began to reflect on my own thoughts.
One minute, they are clear, confident, focused.
And then in what seems like a nanosecond, chaos takes over.
My thoughts are unsteady, uncertain, all over the place.
Just like that tangled mess.
How did I get here so quickly?
One minute I am confident in who I am and Whose I am, praising Him.
The next minute I am anxious and fearful, wondering if I matter at all.
Have you ever felt like that?
On a good day, I can stop that train before it ever leaves the station.
I do not let those thoughts penetrate my heart or my mind.
I strike back quickly with the “sword of truth” …
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) or “If God can be for you, who can be against you?” (Romans 8:31). I have a little come to Jesus meeting in my head and say “not today, Satan, not today.”
But then there are those other days when it takes longer for me to pick up the sword. I don’t even realize that I am under attack. When I let my guard down, it is easy for the lies to chip away at my confidence. Doubt begins to penetrate my thoughts.
My trigger word is enough. My thoughts become twisted, just like the cord.
“You don’t do enough.” “You aren’t a good enough mother, wife, friend…” The list goes on and on. Before I know it, I am far away from who I am and more focused on who I think I should be.
Dear sisters, this is the very distraction that pulls us away from the One who gave us life.
If we are too busy trying to be everything to everyone, trying to measure up, we forget we are already everything to Him. We become like that tangled mess. And when are thoughts are a tangled mess, it becomes harder to hear His truth.
In my head and heart, I know this. And when it happens for the up-teenth time, I always come back to the same question: how did I get here again? How can I keep from coming back?
The answer is simple-spend more time with Him and in the Word. Jesus went off on His own to spend time with the Father. He needed the comfort and wisdom of God over the clamoring of the crowd. Sisters, we need that same time to curl up in our Father’s lap to remind us who we are. I pray that each of us takes the time to spend with Him daily.
Now, to untie that cord…..