He jumped off the bus and saw him in the distance by our mailbox.
My Dad was waiting for my youngest to get home from school.
As soon as Dan got a glimpse of Pappy, he took off like a shot.
Gratefully, my phone was handy and I was able to capture the moment he ran into his arms.
It was a treasured moment.
I don’t know if something happened in school that day or if it was just the excitement of someone waiting for him.
But whatever the circumstance, my son knew that he had a safe place to land in my father’s arms.
Do you ever feel that sense of wanting just to land safely in the arms of someone who loves you?
Maybe you have had a bad day.
Maybe there has been pain and heartbreak in your life.
Maybe it is just the comfort of knowing there is someone out there waiting for you who cares.
We have a heavenly Father who cares so deeply for His children.
God waits for us to reach out to Him.
He wants to comfort us on our sad days.
He wants to rejoice with us on our good days.
Our heavenly Father simply wants to be in our presence to let us know how much He cares.
“The LORD waits for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for him to help them” Isaiah 30:18
With all of the changes swirling around us today, I am in desperate need of knowing that I can run into the arms of someone who cares.
Run into His arms today, friends.
He is waiting for you.
“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
He is my God, and I trust Him.
For He will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with His feathers.
He will shelter you with His wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.” Psalm 91 :1-6 NLT
“That’s the boy I met at school today!” exclaimed my son.
Just entering kindergarten, I was excited to see another child Dan could connect with in our neighborhood.
Without thinking, I began yelling and sprinting across the lawn to catch up with this boy and his mother.
And then it happened.
I was suddenly airborne, landing on the hard ground and spraining my ankle.
I had tripped over a metal drainage pipe that I had not seen.
But I was seen….
By the boys kindergarten teacher who just happened to be walking her dog up the street at the same time, bearing witness to my gracefulness.
Acting without thinking resulted in a badly sprained ankle this time.
If only I had not acted on impulse.
This is also true when I am not staying close to God.
It is easier to trip and fall.
When my focus is not on Him, I can be thrown off the path of walking in His will.
“In Scripture it says,
“Look! I am placing a stone in Zion.
It is a chosen and very valuable stone.
It is the most important stone in the building.
The one who trusts in Him
will never be put to shame.” (Isaiah 28:16)
This stone is very valuable to you who believe. But to people who do not believe,
“The stone the builders did not accept
has become the most important stone of all.” (Psalm 118:22)
“It is a stone that causes people to trip.
It is a rock that makes them fall.” (Isaiah 8:14)
They trip and fall because they do not obey the message. That is also what God planned for them.
“But God chose you to be his people. You are royal priests. You are a holy nation. You are God’s special treasure. You are all these things so that you can give Him praise. God brought you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people. But now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy. But now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2: 6-10 NIRV
God gives us His commandments and direction to keep us safe.
When we are outside of His will, it is easier to stumble and fall.
We often react based on our emotions before thinking through to the consequences.
But we are God’s people.
He chose us and desires to be in relationship with us.
And on those days we trip and fall, He is always willing to give us grace until we get on our feet again.
But just like my sprained ankle, there may be some discomfort as we try to get back on the right path.
Friends, take the time to pause, ponder and pray before you step into your day.
It will help you stay focused on His path for your life.
And when you lose your footing, remember His mercies are new everyday.
What are you giving up for Lent?
Leading into Easter, this was the question that was asked every year.
Growing up, my list always included potato chips, chocolate and soda.
No small sacrifice for a teenager.
The temptation of junk food seemed to be everywhere.
A friend even hid chocolate under my pillow one year to tempt me.
With a sense of pride having put down these things for 40 days, I would celebrate Easter morning with a bag of Middleswarth BBQ, a sleeve of frozen Thin Mints and a Diet Coke.
The sacrifice had been worth it.
My understanding of this time leading up to Easter has expanded as I matured in both years and in my faith walk.
The temptation of junk food is still everywhere.
It is no longer just in the form of sugar or carbohydrates.
Many things will tempt us with the promise of filling us up.
Stacked schedules, unhealthy habits, social media.
And when we are hungry, physically, emotionally or spiritually, it is tempting to reach for what fills us quickly.
But just like a sugar rush, the feeling of satisfaction is short lived.
We need a steady diet of time in His word and in His presence.
The world is saturated with temptations that will distract us from spending time with our Heavenly Father.
Jesus understood temptation.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil.
For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.
During that time the devil came and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But Jesus told him,
“No! The Scriptures say,
‘People do not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,
‘He will order his angels to protect you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.”
Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.”
Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”
“Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him.
“For the Scriptures say,
‘You must worship the Lord your God
and serve only Him.”
Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.“ Matthew 4: 1-11 NLT
Jesus was not focused on the temporary.
His eyes were fixed on the eternal.
The forty days He spent in the desert were nothing compared to the sacrifice He made on the cross.
But He knew that sacrifice would be worth it.
Nothing we will ever give up here on earth can compare to that.
But we can use the time during Lent to reflect on His sacrifice.
A sacrifice that was born from our Father’s great love for you and for me.
“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.” 1 John 4:9 NLT
What will you put down to spend time in His presence today?
Whatever you give up, I promise it will be worth it.
And the celebration on Easter morning will be filled with more than potato chips and Girl Scout cookies.
It will be filled with the hope and promise of a life with Him in the heavenly realms.
What will you give up for Lent?
I do not know who she is.
Maybe she is the young mom waiting in the parent pick up line.
Maybe she is the woman folding clothes at the laundromat.
Maybe she is the woman who appears confident on the outside, but is broken deep within.
Maybe she is you.
I know that she has been, and still is, me.
A woman in need of encouragement and hope.
A woman who worries about those she loves.
A woman who is weary and in need of rest.
A woman who is unsure if she truly has anything to offer this world.
Sisters, we all need a safe place to share our hearts.
A place to let go of our worries and rest our heads for a while.
A place where we are reminded that we were uniquely created to add something to this world that only we can give.
That place is found in the presence of the Savior.
The One who left the comfort and perfection of heaven to walk among us so that He might fully understand our experiences and challenges.
In His Word, He invites us to come to Him with the things that lay heavy on our hearts.
“ Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all He has done.” Phillippians 4:6
In His Word, He reminds us that there is hope and that we can rest securely in Him.
“And your life will be brighter than the noonday;
its darkness will be like the morning.
And you will feel secure, because there is hope;
you will look around and take your rest in security.
You will lie down, and none will make you afraid;
many will court your favor.” Job 11: 17-19
In His Word, He reminds us that we are all given gifts to offer this world. Gifts that He gives each of us to use wholeheartedly and without fear.
“ In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” Romans 12: 6-8
Sisters, I do not know what you are in need of today.
Anything and everything that you need, our God can provide.
He is our safe place and our refuge.
Still, there are so many who do not know the great love our Father has for us.
Friends, we are part of His provision.
Remember that we may be the only expression of God’s love that someone sees.
“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us.” 1 John 4:11-12
Share His love today.
It is too great not to share.
An uneasiness shifted through my mind, body and spirit.
My stomach was in knots.
I could not focus.
Everytime I tried, my thoughts would jump back to the dialogue that took place.
Sleep and peace eluded me.
It was as if I could jump out of my skin at any given moment.
The ground beneath me no longer felt solid.
The details of the situation are not important, because there have been many details and many situations over the years.
But the feelings are always the same.
Have you ever agonized over a situation out of your control?
The kind that you replay in your mind over and over again?
Maybe you have felt this mind swirling, jump out of your skin feeling surging through your body.
Maybe the ground beneath you no longer feels solid.
We all long for a sense of security, one that would allow us to soar without fear of failing or falling.
I have always been in awe of how birds build their nests high above the ground,
on the most delicate of branches.
Flying in and out of their homes, these creatures appear light and carefree.
But true security comes from building our lives on the solid foundation of Christ.
“Therefore, whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who builds his house on the rock, and the rain descended, and the floods came, and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” Matthew 7: 24-25
Even if we fail, He will never let us fall.
So often we stay fixated on our circumstances, instead of fixing our eyes on Him.
We all want to feel the ground beneath us for security, but it is in the letting go Christ takes us to new and unimaginable heights.
Sometimes that means letting go of the tape we replay over and over in our heads.
Sometimes that means letting go of past hurts that hold us back from experiencing present and future joys.
Sometimes that means letting go of people who are pulling us down instead of lifting us up.
Always it means shifting our focus on the One who is our Rock, our foundation.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.
Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever.
For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.” Isaiah 26: 3-4
Friends, let HIm be your security and your strength.
Let go….He will take you to new and unimaginable heights.
I have always loved taking pictures.
From my parent’s Polaroid to my first Kodak Disc Camera (totally dating myself here),
I loved capturing life’s moments.
Back then you had to wait for your pictures to be developed at CVS.
Impatient, I would usually get the “hour” service.
And always double prints, in case I wanted to share with a friend.
Today, we take pictures on our phones and share with 100 people immediately.
If we don’t like the angle of the picture, we delete it and try again.
We crop out “unsightly” areas that we don’t want others to see.
And while Snapchat filters and edits can be fun, these images are far away from what we started with … unedited versions of ourselves.
We don’t just do this in pictures.
We edit many things in our day to day life.
We are careful about what we allow others to see.
My house may appear one way if you come to visit.
But if you open the door to my bedroom, you will likely find all of the things that I had piled on the counter that I did not have time to put away.
Why do we edit our lives so much?
Fear of rejection? Judgement ? Shame?
Sometimes, we believe we have to edit ourselves before we come to God.
Like getting a visitor at our home, we try to hide the things we don’t want Him to see.
But there is nothing about us that surprises our Creator.
Not our emotions.
Not our bad habits.
Not our appearance.
He sees all of life’s moments.
We cannot hide anything from Him.
“ Lord, you have examined me
and know all about me.
You know when I sit down and when I get up.
You know my thoughts before I think about them.
You know where I go and where I lie down.
You know everything I do.
Lord, even before I say a word,
you already know it.
You are all around me—in front and in back—
and have put your hand on me.
Your knowledge is amazing to me;
It is more than I can understand.
Where can I go to get away from your Spirit?
Where can I run from you?” Psalm 139 : 1 -7
Friends, He knows everything about us.
Amazingly, He still loves us.
The unfiltered, unscripted, unedited version of us.
But our heavenly Father sees His children through the filter of His love.
His perfect love.
“There is no fear in love. Perfect love puts fear out of our hearts. People have fear when they are afraid of being punished. The man who is afraid does not have perfect love.”
1 John 4: 18 NLV
I am grateful that I do not need to edit myself before I come to our God.
He sees all of me and through His grace loves me anyway.
Friends, do you want God to be a visitor in your home or to take up residence there?
There is no need to hide what we don’t want Him to see.
There is no need to edit yourself.
There is nothing to fear.
Because His love for us is perfect.
The weight of grief has been heavy in our area over the past few weeks.
Two greatly respected and loved individuals left this earth too soon.
The ripple effect could be felt by people across all generations and backgrounds, as both women were deeply engaged in the community.
And even though I did not have a personal relationship with either, the sense of loss around me has been profound.
Although no words can soothe the pain, many heartfelt gestures have served as reminders that others were not alone in their grief.
The weight of grief got even heavier on Sunday.
The news of Kobe Bryant’s death stunned the world.
A greatly respected and loved individual, along with his daughter and 7 others, left this earth too soon.
The ripple effect could be felt by people across all generations and backgrounds around the country, as Kobe was deeply engaged in the global community.
And even though I did not have a personal relationship with this famous basketball player, the sense of loss around me has been profound.
Kobe Bryant was an individual who was woven into the fabric of many lives.
Although no words can soothe the pain, many heartfelt gestures from people all over the world serve as reminders that others were not alone in their grief.
Kobe was not just engaged in the community, he was with his community when his helicopter crashed.
He was with people he did life with.
There is something tragic and comforting about this fact all at the same time.
These untimely deaths leave many, myself included, with one looming question: why?
There is no explanation that will ever really satisfy those who bear the weight of unspeakable grief.
So I go to the One I do have a personal relationship with – Jesus.
And I am reminded that even in our grief, we are never alone.
I cling to the promise in His word that it will not always be this way.
One day there will be no more suffering or pain.
One day there will be no more goodbyes.
One day God Himself will be engaged with His community by walking among His people once again.
“ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away. There was no more sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem. It was coming down out of heaven from God. It was made ready like a bride is made ready for her husband. I heard a loud voice coming from heaven. It said, “See! God’s home is with men. He will live with them. They will be His people. God Himself will be with them. He will be their God. God will take away all their tears. There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All the old things have passed away.” Then the One sitting on the throne said, “See! I am making all things new. Write, for these words are true and faithful.” Then He said to me, “These things have happened! I am the First and the Last. I am the beginning and the end. To anyone who is thirsty, I will give the water of life. It is a free gift.” Revelation 21: 1-7 NLV
Friends, may we cling to the promise of this day like an anchor in a storm when the heaviness of grief is too great to bear.
Born in Pennsylvania, I was raised a Phillies fan.
I had a bat signed by Bake McBride and a Phillie Phanatic puppet growing up.
I remember watching the team win the 1980 World Series on our console tv.
My all time favorite player, Mike Schmidt, was MVP.
Sorry, I get a little nostalgic some days.
But today was focused on a player dressed not in red, but in blue.
Yankee great Derek Jeter was elected into the prestigious Hall of Fame.
Even this Phillies girl has an appreciation for Yankees history.
Completely humble, Jeter talked about getting to this moment.
A class act, as my father would say.
He did not boast of his works.
Jeter noted he focused on being prepared each day.
He stated he was grateful to have had the opportunity to play for the same team throughout his entire career.
Not everyone who plays the game will be elected to the Hall of Fame, even if they work hard.
But as God’s children, we are all given the opportunity to be a part of the same team and be welcomed into His kingdom someday.
And it has nothing to do with our works or achievements.
It has all to do with His grace and unending love for us.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. “
Ephesians 2: 8-9 NIV
God does not care what position we play in life.
We all have equal value in His eyes.
But we must prepare for each day by spending time in His word and in His presence.
We must not boast of our works, but always point to His grace and love.
Friends, remember today that we are all on the same team.
And even though none of us are worthy, we are all MVPs in the eyes of the Creator.
As I began to cross over the interborough bridge yesterday, I noticed a black car in my rear view mirror, making an odd maneuver in the middle of the road.
“They must be lost,” I quietly said to myself.
But as quickly as that thought left me, the car was right beside me.
An older gentleman rolled down his window, asking for directions to 80 East.
Gratefully, I knew how to get him to his destination.
I smiled back and said, “Follow me. I will show you the way.”
Without hesitation, the man and his family pulled behind my Honda.
The vehicle stayed close until we reached the on ramp for the interstate.
He gave a beep and a wave in a thankful gesture as he drove away.
This man put his faith in a complete stranger for direction.
The disciples put their faith in a stranger as well.
Jesus suddenly came beside them, saying “Follow me.”
And they did so without hesitation, remaining close behind Him.
“ One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed Him.
A little farther up the shore He saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And He called them to come too. They immediately followed Him, leaving the boat and their father behind. “ Matthew 4: 18-22
But it was not just the disciples that followed Jesus.
Others were looking for direction in their lives as well.
Some were sick, some were broken.
But when learning about the Savior, the crowds began to follow Him as well.
“Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And He healed every kind of disease and illness. News about Him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to Him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—He healed them all. Large crowds followed Him wherever He went—people from Galilee, the Ten Towns, Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River. “Matthew 4: 23-25
We all get lost sometimes.
We all need someone to show us the way.
Friends, Jesus knows the directions to our final destination.
Stay close to Him …He will show you the way.
It was a warm summer day.
I love this time of year, when I can sit on the deck and drink in God’s beauty.
The smell of the flowers.
The sound of the birds with their morning chatter.
The explosion of greenery in front of me.
All of my senses lead me to one question.
Are we already there, in heaven, and simply do not take the time to notice?
I sit with my thoughts and my coffee, when suddenly the groundhog who has set up residence under the deck pops his head up.
He is as startled as I am.
He quickly retreats, and my heart rate returns to its normal rhythm.
Then the cutest chipmunk scampers by the steps.
He sees me, but continues to go about his morning business.
This tiny creature does not appear concerned about me, as I am at a distance.
I settle back into my devotion, when suddenly a large bee comes flying directly into my chest.
I am not as startled by him as the groundhog, as I see him coming.
I gently flick him off my chest .
And then it happens.
He circles back and comes at me again!
Grounded and prepared, I push him away in the opposite direction.
This time maybe not so gently.
He must have gotten the message because he kept going.
Our lessons can come from anywhere, even nature, if we pay attention.
All of my creature experiences made me think about the problems we face in this world.
Sometimes, like the groundhog, a situation arises that is so unexpected that it startles us.
Like the violent attacks in our schools, places of work and worship.
Places filled with teaching, community and music one minute can be filled with devastation the next when evil pops up.
It leaves us shaken, startled because we don’t see it coming.
Then there are situations that arise like seeing the chipmunk.
We are aware of what is happening, but we aren’t as concerned because it is at a distance.
It doesn’t affect us.
Maybe a natural disaster or an injustice that is happening to someone else that we stay silent about.
We do not always react to things that do not directly impact us.
Finally, like the bee, sometimes problems come right at us.
We recognize it quickly and take action to push it away.
But like the bee, Satan will come at us time and time again.
We need to be grounded and prepared to push him away.
His attacks will come at us directly on one day, and in more subtle ways the next.
We need to be prepared for any situation to protect ourselves from his attacks.
Spending time with our heavenly Father helps us prepare for the battles we face here on earth.
“The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thess. 3:3
Our heavenly Father is ever present in our times of trouble.
“By this I know that You delight in me: my enemy does not shout in triumph over me.” Psalm 41:11
Friends, we can be confident in any circumstances because we know who stands with us always.
“Don’t fear sudden danger or the ruin of the wicked when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from a snare.” Prov 3:25-26