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More than I could ask or imagine!

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Have you ever been so blessed you just cant stand it? Like the sun on a hot summer day when its brightness is too much to take in, abundant blessings can be hard to absorb. This past Wednesday was a day like that for our family.

On Tuesday, June 9th, the Baltimore Orioles chose our youngest son, Ryan, in the fourth round of the MLB draft. The following day we celebrated his graduation and new baseball career with friends and family, including many of Ryan’s youth baseball All-star teammates and their families. The joy was palpable. It wasn’t just the excitement of the moment but the delight of the Lord that was apparent everywhere you looked; sacrificial love, abundant grace, pure joy and warm fellowship that all reflected the heart of God.

Initially, I saw sacrificial love in Sean, our oldest son, as he played Can Jam with his cousin. Sean stayed home an extra week, postponing his internship, because he wanted to be with his brother to celebrate this special time. Then, God’s abundant grace was evident in the sunshine and warmth, the surprisingly beautiful and delicious food the caterers prepared and the extra games brought by our nephew, which everyone enjoyed immensely.

Moreover, the decorations which were a gift from a friend created such an atmosphere of joy you couldn’t help but smile when looking at the six centerpieces full of baseballs, American flags, Big League Chew, peanuts and Cracker Jacks, not to mention the “home plate” paper cut outs which handsomely anchored each display. Best of all, the warm fellowship we experienced with our friends was such a gift. The whole community was cheering for Ryan and showered their love on him and our family that day. We felt God’s pleasure.

In retrospect, I can hardly absorb the brightness of the blessing, especially against the backdrop of our failings.  God met the needs of our children, filling in the cracks left by imperfect parents, and led them to an abundant life in Him. There were many rough roads, struggles and doubts but to quote Beth Moore, “You cannot amputate your history from your destiny, because that is redemption.” (Esther Study). Boy did we experience redemption this past week! God is able to do far more than we could ever ask or imagine and He longs to give good gifts to His children.

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Absolute Love

“And He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.’” Mark 5:34

Recently God convicted me of having an unclean flow of criticism. He also showed me a dark corner of my heart where unbelief was feeding off my fear of joy and my need for conditional love.   This perverse need is based on pride and rooted in the lie that no one can be trusted, not even God, and I have to earn love and acceptance. If I could only stay hidden and touch Jesus surreptitiously so no one has to know my secret shame then I’ll be okay. What I found was that I am much harder on others and on myself than God would ever be. Jesus performed the only deed that could win my freedom. He is the only One that can make me clean, cutting off the flow of words that cut off fellowship from the very people I love so dearly.

However, we live in a cynical world where we are all susceptible to skepticism, suspicion and fear. The story in Mark 5 reveals the hearts of many women who suffer in shame. They are afraid to speak out loud about their sin for fear of further rejection, not believing that anyone would love them as they are. When this woman reached out to Jesus He asked, “Who touched me?” giving her an opportunity to confess out loud in front of others for the purpose of healing and restoration. In verse 33 she is finally compelled to fall at His feet and tell Him everything. His answer astounds me. He calls her “daughter” and blesses her, not only with healing but also with affection, validation and encouragement. There is not one ounce of criticism in the interaction.

Similar to criticism, people pleasing is a form of manipulation. This past weekend I tried to please others at every turn to earn approval but ended up hurting the ones closest to me with impatience and anger, which caused friction in my marriage. Fortunately, I asked for forgiveness and told my husband that I needed his support and love even more when I was struggling. Then, I released the whole thing to the Lord, stepping out in faith to trust God’s love for me. God forgive me for stealing their joy!

This cycle of criticism and people pleasing is seeded by insecurity and watered by unbelief. In her book, So Long Insecurity, Beth Moore encourages the reader to remember that their security is in Jesus Christ and no one can take it away from them. She actually coaches you to say it out loud. So, taking her advice I said, “Jesus, You are my Rock and my salvation! No one can take me out of Your hands. I will not give my security to any man or woman. It belongs to You and I choose to stand securely in You.”

If you are also touching Jesus in secret I want to encourage you to share with your spouse, a trusted friend or a pastor what Jesus did for you, bringing out into the light for His glory. The only way we can walk in the light is to be transparent. Then we are free to tell our story of healing victory to anyone without shame. Yes, I am a recovering people pleaser with an insatiable appetite for approval whom God has freed. You may be too but we can all fall at His feet and tell him everything in front of everyone without fear of rejection because the truth is He adores you and always will.

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Deceitful Dust Devils

As a result [of spiritual maturity], we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;” Ephesians 4:14

 Dust devils look like mini tornados. They appear in hot, arid climates and form when a dusty surface is heated up causing the air to rise and start to swirl. These funnel-like forms move quickly, picking up the dirt and debris in their path, leaving a mess in their wake. Much like dust devils the effects of believing lies are quick, messy and destructive. When you allow yourself to be deceived, and open the windows of your mind to the debris of condemnation and doubt, it feels like a dirt devil ran over your heart.

For me the whirling thoughts start soon after my button gets pushed and I am blinded by the dust and debris of the day. For example, when I hear things like, “This is the right way to do it.” My internal thought translator says, “You’ll never do it well so don’t even try.” This thought battles the truth that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Also, when I feel dismissed, used, unloved, or powerless, whether real or imagined, the winds start whirling and anger rises up in me like hot air on dry ground.  Whatever triggers the chain reactions incites only because I believe it’s true. What power I give to others by not believing God!

However, through Christ we have a way of escaping the wreckage. First, remember that God is sovereign and allows the whirlwinds that stir up the garbage. Why? Because only when we recognize the garbage as sin will we release it to Him. Second, we are very precious to God and He is the only One who should define us. Christ paid a high price for us, and value is based on what someone is willing to pay. The truth is I don’t have to be the best, or the smartest, or the most creative. What joy that brings to my heart when I live in the freedom Christ died for me to experience! I want to live, moment by moment, in the reality of Christ’s love for me and avoid the deceitful dust devils that come with doubting God.

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Perfect Peace

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3 ESV

After opening our pool yesterday we discovered a colony of critters called Water Boatman. These tiny bug babies blanketed the pool. Also, with these water bugs comes their biting enemy, Backswimmers. Backswimmers eat Water Boatman, and the Water Boatman eats algae. Fortunately, these bugs are unable to live in chlorinated water so they are now dead. Unfortunately, they are still in the pool so we are unable to enjoy the water!

In comparison, if I have thousands of tiny things bugging me it is impossible to enjoy the clear waters of peace. When thoughts, like algae, grow into worry they feed my insecurities and the enemy of my soul pounces at every opportunity. What creates an environment for distraction and worry making me vulnerable to enemy attacks? Lack of trust in and focus on God. In the verse from Isaiah the person whose mind is stayed on God, the one who trusts Him, has peace. So, if peace is not present then I am not focused on God nor do I trust Him. The evidence is in the state of mind. Therefore, once the pool cover of my mind is lifted and I recognize the bugs exist (anxiety and worry = not trusting God) I purpose to shock the thought pool through confession and repentance.

In other words, there is hope! God wants us to have perfect peace and has shared his formula of grace. He then proceeds to sanctify the water with His Word, cleaning out the old thoughts and pouring in truth. He renews the mind, changing us from the inside out. Our part is allowing Him to remove the cover and examine our hearts. When I first saw the insects in the pool I immediately wanted to re-cover the pool and pretend they did not exist. It was overwhelming to confront the reality of the problem. But, the only way we will be able to enjoy the pool this year is to do the work and clean out the bugs, one scoop at a time. Praise God, the masterful skimmer of dross! 1 John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” What a privilege it is to be transformed into the likeness of the Prince of perfect Peace!

Gospel, Hope

Fools for Christ

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21

April is a month of favorites in New England. Spring melts away the tension of winter, the air is actually warm when the sun shines and the Easter celebration arrives. Still, April 1st has not been a favorite for me until now.  Traditionally, April Fool’s Day is celebrated by deceiving people into thinking or believing something that is not true in a lighthearted, fun way.  However, the foolishness of the gospel is the exact opposite.  The simplicity of God’s plan boggles the mind. It doesn’t make sense that we are offered a free gift without having to earn it.  Our first reaction is to ask, “What’s the catch?” But it is true.

When I came to know Christ eighteen years ago my eyes were opened by God to the truth and I believed not because I was convinced in my mind by a skillful argument but because God revealed Himself to me and I KNEW Him.  It was as real an experience as if I had met a person in the flesh.  He not only revealed Himself as my savior but LORD, convicting me to the core that I was a sinner living apart from a Holy God and I desperately needed someone to save me from God’s judgement.  It is hard to write it in those terms because it makes God sound mean but He is so loving.  He is the judge who determines good from evil and holiness from unrighteousness but he is also the Redeemer, sentencing justly and then paying the penalty Himself. It is foolishness to the world. But, isn’t it foolishness not to take the free gift and run? Isn’t it foolishness to run away from, instead of into, the arms of a loving God who takes away my sin and shame?

Also, like the inheritance of a rich father’s child, salvation is free to those who believe. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–” John 1:12    We don’t have to continue earning our salvation because we are His children.  It is finished and there is nothing we can do to change our heritage in Christ.  So, in Paul’s words, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great [resurrection] power for us who believe….” Ephesians 1:18-19a.

Therefore,  since we are Fools for Christ, let’s celebrate, decorating with the centerpiece of our Risen LORD, Who, by His resurrection power, brought us from death to abundant life.  No joke.

Hope, Uncategorized

Overflowing with Hope

Imagine a clay pitcher in the desert being filled so full with water that it overflows, spilling onto the hot, cracked dirt. Now imagine that the dirt is a hurting person, parched, alone and in desperate need of hope, and you are the clay pitcher.  Yes, God promises not only to fill you but also, through you, to quench the thirst of those around you if you trust in Him.

Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of Hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him, so you may overflow with Hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

  1. God is the God of Hope.
  2. He will fill us with joy and peace if and when we trust in Him.
  3. The result of trusting God and being filled with joy and peace is overflowing hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This reminds me of my less than stellar waitressing experience when I “overflowed” hot coffee onto a customer’s lap! It affected her alright but in a harmful, scalding kind of way.  Fortunately, she was very gracious and I did not choose waitressing as a career!  The point is whatever overflows from our lives, be it attitude or action, affects others.  May you be filled to overflowing today with the peace and joy that can only come from trusting the God of Hope so that someone else may be drenched by the deep, abiding love of Jesus.