• Devotions

    All in Love

    We are all looking for love.

    A place where we feel welcomed with open arms.

    Somewhere we feel seen.

    Known.

    Some of us are fortunate to find it with our families.

    Others may look to their friends.

    But there are those who cross our paths daily who do not feel any of these things.

    We may walk right past them without ever noticing.

    Maybe we are consumed with what is happening in our own world or too busy to look up from our phones.

    Whatever the case may be , we are all called to love.

    To stop and care for all who cross our paths.

    One of my favorite quotes comes from Mother Teresa:

    “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” 

    No one does this better than my friend, Nikki.

    If you ask our tribe, we will all tell you that she has the biggest and most generous heart.

    But it is not because of the love she shows to her friends.

    It is the love she shows to everyone who walks through the doors of her restaurant on Main Street in the ’Burg. 

    She notices everyone who walks in the door.

    All are welcomed with open arms or greeted with a hug.

    Kindness shines through Nikki’s eyes and her smile.

    She listens to understand, not respond.

    She will tell you about the student she is so proud of who is working so hard or share a kind word with someone who needs a smile.

    And while she may be gifted in making the best eggplant parmesan and barbeque chicken pizza, this is not what brings her joy.

    It is being that safe place for others to land.

    People leave with a full stomach and a full heart.

    They leave better than when they walked in the door.

    They are seen.

    Known.

    My friend loves with all her heart, because she knows she is loved.

    Her faith tells her she is always welcomed with open arms.

    That she is seen.

    Known.

    Let’s all be a living expression of that love today.
    Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4: 7-21

  • Devotions

    Looking Through a New Lens

    The clarity was remarkable.

    What had been blurry for so long was now in focus.

    I was looking at the world through a new lens.

    Literally.

    Two days after my cataract surgery, I was able to read a line that previously would have resembled a fuzzy caterpillar.

    Not being able to see without the aid of glasses or contacts since the 5th grade, the awe of this new gift remains.

    Things in the distance were clearer than they had ever been.

    Reflecting on this experience, it seems almost parallel with how we walk in this world.

    Knowing God helps us to see ourselves and our circumstances with remarkable clarity.

    Some days we may feel unseen and unvalued.

    But our Creator knows us intimately and know our worth.

    “Before I shaped you in the womb,

        I knew all about you.

    Before you saw the light of day,

        I had holy plans for you:  Jeremiah 1:5 MSG

    “What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.”   Luke 6-7 MSG

    There are days we may feel unloved and unworthy.

    But when we view ourselves through the lens of His great love, we see He sent His only Son to go to the cross in our place.

     “This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, His one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending His Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in Him is acquitted; John 3 16-18 MSG

    Not knowing what lies in the days ahead can often fill us with fear and anxiety.

    But when we look through the lens of faith, we can see our heavenly Father clearly in the distance.

    “I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”  Jeremiah 29:11 MSG

    Friends, when we walk in faith it is like viewing the world through a new lens.

    What had been blurry comes into focus when we are seeing everything through the lens of His love.

    Things in the distance are clear because we can see our Father already there waiting for us.

    The awe of this gift remains.

    My prayer is that you see the world with this clarity.

  • Devotions

    When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

    It was a roller coaster of emotions.

    One minute getting the worst news of losing a friend unexpectedly.

    The next minute having something I had been praying about answered so magnificently.

    Devastated and joyful in such a short span of time.

    One moment life makes sense.

    And then it makes no sense at all.

    Is that how the disciples felt?

    During this Holy Week, I reflected on those last days Jesus spent with His inner circle.

    It must have been a roller coaster of emotions.

    One moment the crowds are cheering for Jesus and treating Him like royalty.

    “Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before Him and that followed Him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”  Matthew 21: 8-9 ESV

    The next they are yelling for Him to be crucified, treating Him like a criminal.

    “And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?”  And they cried out again, “Crucify Him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has He done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him.” Mark 15: 12-14 ESV

    One moment life makes sense.

    And then it makes no sense at all.

    Jesus was sitting with His disciples to share a meal, and then gets up to wash their feet.

    “ Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside His outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around Him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”  Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” John 13: 1-7 ESV.

    It did not make sense to Peter at that moment, the one he called Master washing his feet.

    Eventually he would come to understand.

    But friends, it is not the washing of the feet that speaks to me in this passage.

    It is that Jesus, knowing all that He did: that Judas would betray Him and Peter would deny Him, loved them to the end.

    Read that again. 

    “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, 

    He loved them to the end. “ John 13:1 ESV

    Someone needs to hear this.

    Friends, we are His own who are in this world.

    Somedays, it might not make sense.

    Have you ever asked yourself this: how could He love someone like me, knowing what I have done?

    But God’s word reminds us that even if it doesn’t make sense, He loves us until the end.

    Even when we deny Him.

    Even when we betray Him.

    Even when we put other things before Him and follow the crowd.

    He loves us to the end.

    He went to the cross knowing and gave Himself anyway.

    May you know that Jesus loves you to the end, friends.

  • Devotions

    What Is…

    What if…

    Two words that begin the unraveling.

    What if I didn’t do enough?

    What if I had gone sooner?

    What if I had not gone at all?

    What if I had been a better son or daughter?

    What if….

    Reflection is necessary to help us gain perspective.

    But this contemplation was never meant to rob us of our peace or cast shame and guilt our way.

    Sometimes it implies that we have more control than we do in this world.

    What if can paralyze us from moving forward.

    What if it doesn’t work out?

    What if I fail?

    What if I make the wrong choice?

    What if others think less of me?

    What if…

    Two words that can cast a shadow over us.

    Many occasions have occurred over the past month that those I hold close to my heart asked this very question.

    What if?

    In a world that feels out of control, where people are suffering from deep hurts and unimaginable losses, peace seems out of reach.

    We all search for a light in the darkness of despair.

    In those moments I try to shift my focus from what if to what is….

    When everything around me feels like it is changing, I fix my eyes on the One who never changes.

    “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 TLB

    Doubts may change the way others see us or the way we see ourselves.

    But God only sees us through the eyes of love.

    He has always had a plan for us..

    Read His promise in The Message.

    “How blessed is God! And what a blessing He is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him. Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved Son.” Ephesians 1:4-6

    Friends, He took pleasure in planning this all along!

    God was not worried about the what ifs in our lives.

    Despite our doubts, we can always be sure of what is:

    His unfailing, never ending love for all of His children.

    Amen.

  • Devotions

    The Depths of Love

    As I ascended the stairs of the apartment, I had only one thing on my mind.

    I couldn’t wait to throw my arms around my son.

    He turned his face toward mine, and I felt a sense of relief that I had not felt in over a month.

    Squeezing him for the first time in 34 days, I may have let my countdown calendar slip.

    “Mom, you have really been counting the days?”

    Was this really a question?

    Of course I had!

    As I soaked up his presence, I wanted to know the details of his day to day life.

    There was nothing my heart wanted more than to know everything.

    Friends, this is how our Heavenly Father feels about us.

    He cannot wait for us to turn our face toward Him so He can wrap His arms around us.

    In His presence is where He longs for us to be.

    Even though our Creator is all knowing, there is nothing His heart wants more than for us to share everything with Him.

    God wants to share with the fullness of His love as He makes His home in our hearts.

    “May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!”

    ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:17-19‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

    Standing in the apartment gazing at my child, I wondered if he would ever understand the depth of my love for him.

    But more importantly, I want Him to know the depth of the love his Heavenly Father has for him.

    My prayer is that you know that same love, too.

    He is waiting for you to turn to Him.

  • Devotions

    Embracing His Peace When Your Heart is Anxious

    I drifted off to sleep watching a movie tonight.

    For the first time in weeks, my body and mind relaxed.

    On this rainy night, the four of us played cards and then nestled together on our sectional to watch Revenge of the Sith (my younger son claims this is the best in the Star Wars saga). 

    No distractions.

    Just simply present.

    One son on my right, the other on the left.

    The feeling of contentment that washed over me was hard to describe.

    In my heart, I know that these days are coming to an end.

    Any captured moments together make me feel like I have won the lottery.

    In the not so distant future, our home will be empty for the first time.

    Both boys will be off to college.

    And as I lay here in the stillness of the night, comforted by the fact that we are all under the same roof right now, my thought was this:

    I desperately want to have this same peace when they are no longer in the house.

    Certainly I felt anxious when they started Kindergarten, had their first sleepover and drove for the first time.

    But this just feels different.

    How can we embrace His peace when our heart feels anxious?

    First, spend time in His presence.

    If I am being truthful, I have not been as intentional about taking time to spend with my Heavenly Father these past few weeks.

    I need to stay as present with Him as I was tonight curled up on the couch watching tv with the boys.

    He will be seeing even more of me when my son moves 1,135 away from home in August.

    I do not know about you, but my measure of peace is much greater on the days that I make my time with God a priority.

    Second, remember God’s promises to His children.

    He fully knows us.

    “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

     You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

        you discern my thoughts from afar.

    You search out my path and my lying down

        and are acquainted with all my ways.

    Even before a word is on my tongue,

        behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” Psalm 139 1-4 ESV

    He values us.

    “Are not five sparrows sold for two [c]copper coins? Yet not one of them has [ever] been forgotten in the presence of God.  Indeed the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not be afraid; you are far more valuable than many sparrows.” Luke 12: 6-7 AMP

    There is no place we can go that He is not present.

    “Where shall I go from your Spirit?

        Or where shall I flee from your presence?

    If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

        If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

    If I take the wings of the morning

        and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

    even there your hand shall lead me,

        and your right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139: 7-10 ESV

    He has a plan for us.

    “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

    Finally, spend time in His Word.

    Read this passage from Psalms:

    The Voice of the Lord in the Storm.

    A Psalm of David.

    “Ascribe to the Lord, O [b]sons of the mighty,

    Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

    Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;

    Worship the Lord in the beauty and majesty of His holiness [as the creator and source of holiness].

    The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;

    The God of glory thunders;

    The Lord is over many waters.

    The voice of the Lord is powerful;

    The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

    The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;

    Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

    He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,

    And Sirion (Mount Hermon) like a young, wild ox.

    The voice of the Lord rakes flames of fire (lightning).

    The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;

    The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

    The voice of the Lord [c]makes the doe labor and give birth

    And strips the forests bare;

    And in His temple all are saying, “Glory!”

    The Lord sat as King at the flood;

    Yes, the Lord sits as King forever.

    The Lord will give [unyielding and impenetrable] strength to His people;

    The Lord will bless His people with peace. “ Psalms 29: 1-11 AMP

    This book in Psalms took a hold of my heart.

    Our Heavenly Father has the power to break the cedars and shake the deserts.

    He gives us strength and peace

    Friends, I don’t know what is making your heart anxious tonight.

    But I know the One who sits as King forever and who will remain by your side in the storms of life.

    Grab a blanket and curl up in His presence.

    May He bless you with His peace when your heart feels anxious.

  • Devotions

    We Never Walk Alone

    These past few weeks I have been pouring over tons of old photos.

    I have always loved taking pictures.

    My first camera, when I wasn’t using my parents’ Polaroid, was a Disc camera. 

    Some of you in my age bracket will remember that one.

    But I have adapted with the times, moving through a number of cameras over the years.

    From getting my same day prints made at CVS to storing 18,385 precious photos on my IPhone, I have always found a way to capture what is going on around me in the lives of those I love.

    It is fair to say that a good number of profile pictures and cover photos of my friends are ones that I have taken.

    I’m kind of like the Friend Historian, if you will.

    And while I love to just drink in these moments, there have been specific reasons for time spent strolling down memory lane these past weeks to gather pictures.

    The first is for putting together slideshows: one for a funeral and another for a farewell.

    The second is for creating a picture board for a graduation party of my son and his friends.

    Whether you are the moms whose children are graduating, a family who is saying goodbye to a husband and father, or a church who is saying goodbye to a pastor, there has been a common thread sewn into patching these memories together.

    We do not walk through this life alone.

    From the very beginning, God did not intend for us to walk alone.  

    He created woman so that man would have someone by his side.

    “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”  Genesis 2:18 ESV

    In His Word, He tells us that two are better than one,

    “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” 

    Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV

    From hello to goodbye, from celebration to mourning, through good times and bad, our Father instructs us to have the same love for each other as His Son.

    “ So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Philippians 2: 2-5 ESV

    It gives our heavenly Father joy when we think of each other and do nothing selfishly.

    Jesus thought of us when He left the heavenly realms to come to earth to walk among humans.

    Even though there are no pictures, we get snapshot after snapshot of who Jesus did life with in His Word. 

    I am certain if someone had taken pictures, there would have been more than my 18,385.

    He was thinking of us when He took our place on that cross.

    He did not do anything out of selfish ambition, only out of His great love for us.

    There is another common thread that is woven through these photos.

    God walks with us through every season of our lives.

    Our Creator has known us since the very beginning.

    “For you formed my inward parts;

        you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139: 13 ESV

    Somedays I need that reminder.

    Maybe you do as well.

    In a time when everything feels as if it were changing, the one thing that remains constant is that our heavenly Father is ever present in all of our days.

    Friends, may that bring you comfort on the hard days and hope for the future.