Not always on the top of my to do list.
Probably because it stretches me and takes me out of my comfort zone.
But knowing its benefits, I half heartedly commit to move in some small way.
Typically, the gym provides the kind of security I am looking for when exercising.
It offers a controlled environment.
The speed on the treadmill?
Steep inclines or extra weight?
All controlled by me.
Watching TV or listening to music brings a welcome distraction to the strain I feel in my body..
If I dare to go even further outside my comfort zone, and into the great outdoors, I like it to be under “favorable conditions.”
Secretly, I have always been envious of people who run outdoors in all kinds of conditions.
They choose to be completely exposed to the unpredictable elements.
Some days are sunny and the road is clear.
Others the rain comes down so hard, you can barely see the path in front of you.
Some days a gentle breeze washes over you.
Others the gusts of wind are so strong, you feel like there is a wall pushing against you with each step.
Somedays the terrain in flat and easy.
Others the hills are steep and the road is anything but smooth.
Jesus came to earth as a man, out of the comforts of heaven.
He knew the benefits of His sacrifice, and fully committed to move for us..
Walking among men did not offer Him security, but it offered us eternity.
Jesus chose to live in “unfavorable conditions” so that He could remove the obstacles for all mankind to be with our Heavenly Father.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied HImself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man. And being in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Philippians 2:5-8 ESV
It was not a sunny day when Jesus was crucified on the cross, but the road He had to take was clear.
There was no gentle breeze that washed over our Savior; instead the scornful and hateful comments of man surrounded him.
He did not adjust His burden, but carried the full weight of our sin on His torn and bloodied back, just as was foretold in the Old Testament.
“ He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”
Isaiah 53: 3-5
Jesus was completely exposed.
There was nothing to distract Him from the pain and anguish He felt as He hung on that cross.
But the pain of spending eternity without us was greater.
So Jesus did not choose the easy path or favorable conditions.
He chose us because of His great love.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
This promise remains, that He will walk with us no matter the conditions we face.
Math has never been my best subject.
But If I had to choose, my favorite types of problems are greater than, less than or equals questions.
5 > 1.
3 < 4.
2 + 2 = 4, nothing less, nothing more.
That’s my speed.
These problems have always made the most sense.
So I am fairly sure all the math lovers like me were completely confused when Jesus began His lesson on how one is greater than ninety-nine.
“Look at it this way. If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine and go after the one? And if he finds it, doesn’t he make far more over it than over the ninety-nine who stay put?” Matthew 18: 12-13 MSG
One celebrated more than ninety-nine?
In a world that promotes more is better, how could this be correct?
It was almost as if Jesus was speaking in another language.
And He was.
Jesus spoke in the language of love.
The Great Teacher also included math when teaching lessons on the subjects of grace and forgiveness.
“ At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven? Hardly. Try seventy times seven.”
Matthew 18: 21-22 MSG
If this had been a multiple choice question, I probably would have thought the seventy times seven number seemed a little high.
It didn’t make sense.
But if we want to follow Him, than we need to recheck our math.
Jesus wants us to learn to forgive others as many times as He forgives us.
I don’t know about you, but I am sure the number of times He has forgiven me goes well beyond seventy times seven.
Jesus does not use the same textbooks or lessons that the world offers, but invites us to study His word so we may begin to understand His great love for each of us.
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should how high, how wide, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to fully understand .” Ephesians 3: 18-19 NLT
No formula will ever be able to compute His infinite love for us.
It is immeasurable.
We will never be able to fully understand it .
But as His children, may we never stop trying to learn about it and share it with others.
His love is too great not to share.
30 minutes had passed.
A parent of one of my students had not yet arrived for our conference.
Feeling slightly annoyed, I dialed the number to her house.
The voice on the other end of the phone sounded shaken.
I had no idea what was going on outside of my classroom walls.
“You don’t know what is happening, do you? We are waiting to hear if my husband is ok.”
We turned the television on in our room.
It was the morning of September 11th.
As the tragic news of the day unfolded, a number of staff came to use the phone in our room, attempting to reach loved ones who commuted into the city.
One moment changed the landscape of lives forever.
My eyes kept shifting to the clock.
All I could think of was my 10 month old son.
I could not get home fast enough to wrap him up in my arms.
As a parent, I wanted to shield my child from the evil that had just crashed into our world.
There was an innocence and purity in his eyes.
He had no knowledge yet of good and evil.
Adam and Eve did not have this knowledge either as their story unfolds in Genesis.
There was an innocence and purity that existed in the Garden of Eden.
And just like a parent, God wanted to shield his children from the evil that existed in the world.
“The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden – except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” Genesis 2: 15-17 NLT
One moment changed the landscape of lives forever.
“The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees of the garden,” the woman replied, “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, “You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.” “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some fruit and she ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at the nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves to cover themselves.” Genesis 3: 1-7 NLT
It is hard to remember a time when evil did not exist.
Daily, we are bombarded with news and images that evil is ever present in this world.
Sometimes it comes crashing into our lives.
Others, it slithers in the door quietly.
But God promises to those who believe that there will come a day when all that evil brings will be gone forever.
“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying “Look, God’s home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All of these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21: 3-4 NLT
Especially on this day, I am grateful for that promise.
Summer break means different things to different people.
For some, it is about swimming, barbeques and vacations.
For me growing up, it meant staying up late watching old movies with Mom.
Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Cary Grant became familiar faces to me, as much as any of the modern day ones, in my Tiger Beat or 16 Magazines.
Send Me No Flowers and An Affair to Remember are still on my watch list.
Camping out on the couches in our family room, curled up in front of the console TV is one of my favorite childhood memories.
So you can only imagine the excitement I felt when my own children wanted to camp out in our family room.
The scene is slightly different, with a flat screen TV, sectional and bean bags sprawled across the floor.
But I could picture Mom’s face smiling as if she were still sitting next to me.
On one particular summer evening, after the boys have fallen asleep, I switched the channel to TCM to find one of my all time favorites, Blossoms in the Dust.
Based on the life of Edna Gladney, this 1941 film starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon tells the story of this child and adoption activist.
The opening scenes highlight Edna and another young woman, raised as her sister, at a phase in life where each is about to marry. It was discovered by one of the future mothers in law that the character about to marry her son is a “nameless foundling,” The word “illegitimate” is written on her birth certificate. At the time, this was considered scandalous and meant that a child with this distinction had no inheritance rights. No birth right. The mountain of shame this brings prompts the character to take her life, as she sees no hope for her future.
Edna Galdney is not only known for her life’s work for placing over 2000 orphans into good homes, but also for her perseverance in having Texas legislators remove the word “illegitimate” from the birth certificates of children born out of wedlock.
Watching this movie still brings tears to my eyes as an adult, but now stirs up a different message in my heart as an adult.
How many around us today feel hopeless because of a label attached to our lives?
What shame and brokenness makes us feel as if we are not worthy or have legitimacy in this life?
This classic movie, over 70 years old, still carries a timeless message.
The Bible, over 2000 years old, carries of a message of hope and love for all of God’s children.
None of us are nameless.
We have been given a name by the great I AM.
We are HIS.
We have an inheritance.
“In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will…” Ephesians 1:11
”Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He caused us to be born again to a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by God’s power are guarded through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
1 Peter 1: 3-5
We have a birthright. We are heirs.
“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3:29
We come from a royal lineage.
Brothers and sisters, remember that you have a name.
Remember that you have an inheritance.
Remember that you are HIS.
Friends, remember to share that message of love with those around you
Give hope to a broken world.
Hope has a name.
Coffee in one hand, cell phone in the other, I sat down on the couch to send a text message to my step-daughter, Victoria.
I wanted her to know I was thinking of her.
“Good morning, beautiful. Hope you have a great day. Love you.”
I hit “send” and took a sip of my coffee.
Moments later I heard that annoying sound, the one that lets me know that my text had not gone through.
I glared at my phone.
“Message failed. Try again.”
Frustrated, I hit “try again” and waited.
The connection signal is sometimes weak at our house.
Again, I heard that annoying sound.
Would she ever get the message that I loved her and was thinking about her?
It was with this failed attempt that God whispered a bigger message into my heart.
“How many times have you not received my message due to a weak connection?”
Honestly, there are many days that I miss God’s voice.
Sometimes my connection is weak.
Instead of taking time to sit in His presence, pick up my Bible or pray, I get distracted by my own thoughts or the busyness of the day.
But wIth each sunrise, God sends me a message that He loves me and is thinking of me.
How many times do I miss that?
What if I never received the message that I am loved?
Gratefully, the Creator of the universe hits “try again” because He wants all of His children to receive the message that we are loved.
He never tires of showing us just how much.
“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, because His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3: 22-24
God sends us daily reminders faithfully.
And even when our connection is weak, He remains strong and constant in pursuing us because He loves us.
So much that He sent His only Son to die for us on the cross.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
His message comes through quickly when our connection is strong.
And even when we get caught up in the distractions of life, God will continue to send messages of His extravagant love.
Friends, our Heavenly Father wants to have a relationship with each one of us.
Keep your connection strong by staying in His word, praying and seeking Him throughout your day,
And remember, even when our connection is weak, He will try again and again.
Thank you, Father God for never giving up on sending messages to Your children of Your unending love.
Sometimes you don’t see it even when it’s right in front of you.
Just off of Buttermilk Falls Road is a little piece of paradise.
This gem is somewhat hidden by the greenery that gently frames it.
A waterfall that flows into the still waters below.
God nudged me to pull the car over this morning to take in this beauty.
And to hear His voice.
The gushing water poured over the rocks with a powerful force.
My mind drifted to a number of friends facing difficult circumstances today.
Health concerns, losing a loved one, financial burdens.
I imagined this same force surging through their bodies at this very moment, with fear and despair.
Sometimes you don’t see it even when it’s right in front of you.
Busyness obstructs our view to the brokenness that is going on around us.
The window from our laptop or cellphone frames the world in a way that hides what lies beneath the picture.
Quickly, we survey the image and return to our lives.
There is an acknowledgment, but no understanding.
Jesus was in front of the multitudes.
Many saw Him, but did not see Him.
He preached to the crowds.
Many heard Him, but did not hear Him.
The disciples questioned why Jesus spoke in parables.
“This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For the people’s hearts have grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” Matthew 3 : 10 – 15
Sometimes we don’t see Him even when He is right in front of us.
Quickly, we glance at His image and return to our lives.
We acknowledge His presence, but have no understanding of who He is.
Friends, we need to take a closer look.
Today I challenge you to stop, look and listen.
No quick glance and returning to your to do list.
And in that sacred moment, my prayer is that you see another powerful force at work.
Just like the waterfall flowing into the still water below.
May His power wash over you and bring you peace and understanding.
Don’t miss it.
It’s right in front of you.
The long narrow road was framed by the window of the airplane.
It seemed to go on for miles.
No one could get lost on this road, not even me, I quietly whispered to myself.
My thoughts drifted back to childhood, when our GPS systems were maps and landmarks.
Flipping through the pages of my Dad’s AAA books, for whatever region we were visiting, to find hotels and restaurants provided countless hours of entertainment for me growing up.
Dad knew all the roads and interstates.
Even if we somehow got turned around (meaning he decided to let my Mom drive for awhile), he always knew how to get us back on the right road.
You could always count on him asking one question when someone returned from a trip:
“Which way did you go?”
Dad had a keen sense of direction, a trait that I did not inherit.
He taught me that if I got lost and could find Route 80 or 95, I could always find my way home.
Traveling is not the only time I get lost.
I have found myself in situations or circumstances that seem far from my intended destination.
At times my path has not been a smooth and straight road, but instead one that has bounced me around bumps and curves, leaving me with doubts that I could find my way back.
Thomas had his doubts as well when Jesus told him He was going to prepare a place for him.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “ I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 4: 1-6
And just like my Dad provided me with directions to get back home, our Heavenly Father gives us a way to always get back home to HIm : through His son, Jesus.
Friends, do not be troubled today.
There is always a way back home.
Money cannot buy happiness.
But $1.75 will buy you a ride on the Carousel at Knoebels, and that is pretty close.
My sister and I had parked ourselves under the Birthday Cake pavillion next to the Carousel, reminiscing and catching up.
I felt glued to this spot, where years ago my father handed out tickets for the Boyardee’s Family Picnic.
Picturing him with one leg propped up on the bench, arms folded over his knee transported me back in time.
That image and the sound of the music from the Carousel made it almost impossible to move from our spot.
I finally looked at my sister, Lauree, and said. “Let’s go for a ride.”
I returned to her almost skipping after purchasing the tickets.
“You look like a little girl. There is such joy on your face,” she said as she gazed at me.
Despite our ages of 50 and 60, we giggled as we hopped up on our horses.
I could see the childlike joy on her face, too.
A treasured moment.
And as always, when I empty my mind of the worries of the day, I hear His voice so clearly.
There is abundant joy to be found when you are present.
Living in abundance is not about what I own or what fills my house.
It is about what fills my heart.
Collecting moments with those around me are my greatest treasures.
Time with my heavenly Father brings me the purest joy.
“The thief comes only to steal and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
The distractions of the world steal from us the joy that God so extravagantly wants to place in our lives.
The joy that comes from watching the sunrise, listening to the rain or even taking a ride on the Carousel.
Friends, my prayer is that you collect moments today with those God has placed in your life.
Don’t miss the gifts that are showered upon you each day by the Creator.
And don’t forget to thank Him for His abundant love.