Senka has a message, we can help her live it.

Senka July2013Serbia has come along way when it comes to the rights and support of people with disability, but it still has a long way to go. Several years ago I traveled twice to Serbia to see the conditions of people living with disabilities in Dom Veternik mental institution. An institution is no place for a person to live. Many of Eastern Europe’s institutionalized people were born with normal mental capacity, but were challenged with physical disabilities. They found themselves institutionalized anyway.

And then there’s Senka! On my second visit I was surprised to see a small woman with cerebral palsy at an event. I may even have scared her I was so eager to meet her! She is unique. Senka stood out in a society that has a limited population living with disabilities in public.

And what a joy! She had recently become a Christian and was eager to share the truth of Jesus with others. Her smile lit up the room, and there wasn’t a trace of self-pity in her conversation. She is an overcomer.Senka 2

But it’s not easy living with disabilities in Serbia. The government provides little assistance to people who need it. And while new buildings and transportation may be built to code for access, most buildings are still inaccessible. I watched Senka try to navigate life during my few days in Novi Sad, it was a slow, tedious process. She is determined, but it’s obvious she needs assistance.

I’m passionate about assisting Senka because I can’t decry the institutionalization of people like her, without supporting someone who has beaten the odds, who sets the example to her community every day!

I have set up a GoFund Me campaign to help Senka pay a personal assistant. She needs about $165 a month to pay someone to help her navigate her daily activities such as school, shopping, and social outings. Because assistance is limited for people like Senka she relies on the help of friends and her own creativity.

You can read more about Senka at her GoFund Me page. We love to talk about equality and helping others, and this is a great opportunity to do it! Senka is an example to her community that people with disability can and should be a part of society. Her message of joy and determination in the face of challenges is just what her community needs! I hope you’ll join me in helping Senka overcome her society’s obstacles! Any little bit helps!

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Donald Trump Is Offensive And So Am I

Donald Trump is offensive. Seriously. He bad-mouths women, he brags and boasts, he’s rude, he has not been faithful to the women he has married, he makes money off of strip clubs, please don’t get me started on his ‘policies’. He claims Christianity but he doesn’t seem to understand what that means.

He offends me. And I’m offended that other Christians aren’t offended by him!

Donald Trump is offensive.

And. So. Am. I.

Is he a bad man because he’s had affairs and owns strip clubs? Is he a bad man because he calls people names? Is someone a good man because he doesn’t do those things?

It is so easy for someone like me, someone who likes to play by the rules, and make sure everyone else does, someone who identifies with the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, to say yes, yes it does! We humans love boxes and labels, and to slap them on everyone else.

But that’s missing the whole point of grace.

It is not wrong to curse or drink or go to strip clubs or cheat on tests or call people names or yell at your kids, or overeat, or whine or any such things because a rule has been broken. Rather, engaging in or abstaining from those actions reveal a heart tuned into love, or to self.

Plain and simple.

True followers of Jesus don’t obey the ‘rules’ to gain love or acceptance, but rather to express it! Jesus came down hard on religious pharisees because he knew every generation would have them; people who set themselves up as the gatekeepers of faith. People who check everyone else’s report card! (Matthew 15)

I’m not saying we don’t need leaders, spiritual or otherwise, we do. And I’m not saying that God’s word isn’t bold, straightforward, and exacting in its expression of what true life in Christ looks like, it is.

The problem is we love to measure ourselves against each other and not the real measure of truth – Jesus. If we did that, measured ourselves against Jesus, we would recognize Donald Trump and our Sunday School teacher and ourselves are all in the same boat. None of us measure up. And while some of us have embraced Jesus’ offer of forgiveness, have submitted to what he says is best for our lives, and have chosen to be obedient, it doesn’t change that we all stand on level ground and without God’s grace we are all morally bankrupt. We can’t take credit for grace, we are all offensive. Many of us church people have just forgotten that truth. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

But believe me, no one likes a snotty kid who goes around looking at everyone else’s report card in class and shouting out the grade. (I know because I was that kid, I didn’t have many friends growing up.) What we all love is kindness.

Indulge me on a little side note. My son, Max, has heard a lot of bad language at middle school lately. I’ve been torn in how to talk to him about it. Do I say, “don’t say those bad words because it’s wrong.” Or do I disapprove of his actions and scold him if he does say vulgar, ugly words? While that might be an okay thing to do, I’m unsatisfied with an authoritarian approach’s ability to get to the heart of the matter.

I decided I would tell my son that words meant to cut people down, that are common and low, words that describe the worst of human nature shouldn’t be used by people who have been deeply loved, and want to express love to others. It’s that simple.

Jesus has not called us to follow rules, but has set us free to express love profoundly, and if that means “limiting” ourselves for the good of others then that’s a life of great power and purpose.

So here’s my real problem with Donald Trump. He does not appear to be a man who has learned to limit himself or exert self control for the good of others. He does not appear to be a man who sees value in all people, especially women and his opponents. Which is Jesus’ real test. Can you love even your enemy? Because if you can it means you see in them the traces of God’s glory. Glory you seek to honor.

And that is why I am offensive too, because I haven’t chosen to see God’s glory in Donald Trump. I have laughed and mocked and ridiculed his behavior. We may argue that if someone is going to behave like a fool in public they should expect to be laughed at as one. But that’s their issue, not mine. His behavior doesn’t mean I have to take the bait and laugh. Instead, people, like me, who know what it’s like to be forgiven of so much, to be loved even at our most unlovely,  should know  bad behavior is nothing to laugh at. Foolish behavior, especially by someone in a public position should be grieved and prayed over. 

I think God would just as soon we not follow the rules, if we are not going to do it for the right reason.

All my not drinking or cussing or cheating or stealing, and all my going to church and giving money to poor people and being nice to animals mean nothing if my heart isn’t motivated by love. Love for God and love for others. Clinging tightly to the rules just highlights my pathetic attempt to prove I’m good enough for God to love me, and that’s silly, because I’m not.

As much as it feels good to mock Donald Trump in the moment, I can’t justify it anymore. And that’s thanks in part to Brant Hansen’s book Unoffendable. (I already knew a lot of these truths I just needed a strong reminder.) I’m afraid my actions toward Donald Trump expose me as the fool, the pharisee I am. Not the lover Jesus is and wants me to be.

It astonishes me the ways Jesus can call us to love, and hold us accountable to let love guide our actions. Anyone who says following Jesus is easy is trying to use him to their own advantage. Nothing in life is harder than following Jesus, because it means dying to our own selfish impulses, but nothing is more beautiful, captivating or exciting either!

Over the last few weeks I’ve seen Donald Trump as a great gift for the laugh I could have at his expense, but now I see him as a great gift for the love he can produce in my heart, as I learn to be like Jesus.

If you’re anything like me praying for Donald Trump doesn’t come naturally. (If you’re not like me, but like my husband, then good for you!) A gentle attitude, a kind thought, a patient heart turned in his direction seems counter intuitive, which sounds like the gospel to me. So let me offer up a prayer for Mr. Trump, and for us:

Father in heaven, your graciousness is shocking! It shocks even the senses of us who have long been acquainted with you, and we’re glad because we need it. I don’t see eye to eye with Donald Trump, but I don’t have to to recognize you knit him together in his mother’s womb, with purpose and hope. Help me to see him as a person of worth and a bearer of your glory. And help him to understand that truth about himself as well. Only you know his heart, in kindness and love search it out and teach him your ways I pray. Help him to walk in the light, in humility, and in love for his fellow man, just as I ask you to help me to do also. And help me to be ready to celebrate the work you do in his life. Amen.

{This was a hard post to write. And I’ve hesitate posting it because it may seem attention grabbing, which is not what I want. But I decided to share it since I had been public in my poking fun of Mr. Trump. I also want to clarify that disagreeing with a leader and voicing that disagreement is not wrong. The issue is why and how it’s done.}

Lullaby – How My Mother Lived With Hope In spite of Cancer

One of the last clear sentences my mama said to us was “She wants to be free – unfettered.” A few days later she flew home to be with Jesus. She had been diagnosed with cancer almost three years before. The journey was long. On the way she wrote these words. They are a comfort to me. I hope they will be to you too as you journey home.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

Winter wrapped the rawness of a cold night around our small cabin. The crisp, stark evening fell hard. Beautiful in it’s severity. But the sturdy cabin stood brave against nature, protecting us. Tucked away in a crease of the giant hill our small home was shielded against the seeing eyes of the world, neighbors, or the passerby. And except for the telltale mail box and open mouth of the driveway there would not have been a hint that life was being lived in that fold of earth. The capable wood stove of our cabin glowed red, fighting off the threatening cold just outside, and warmed us as we observed our evening habits, our ritual falling into place, like every other night.

My husband had achieved reentry from his day of hard work, and time together had been well spent around the black stove as we enjoyed the remains of the day. Dinner had been satisfying, delicious in it’s life giving. And our chatter had been satisfying as well. Our conversation had not been of much importance or of great interest, but necessary in sustaining the relationship, keeping us in touch with each other, a little like taking a pulse. We used this time to familiarize ourselves with each other after the separation of the day. I washed up dishes looking out on a view I never tired of. The almost gone sun made leafless trees and pines, which edged the ridge, appear shadowy against a deep purple sky creating my rural skyline. The angle of the meadow right out my window was a very steep grade and it’s contrast with the horizontal tree line could sometimes make me dizzy. I gave thanks for it’s beauty again as I looked at it for the last time of the day.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

Settled in our favorite, respective chairs we read aloud together. Using someone else’s words to help put meaning and description to our own feelings and thoughts. We found comfort, pleasure and amusement in another’s creativity. It was an ordinary evening, exactly the same as other evenings. It was the sameness that made if feel secure, familiar, and comfortable. All seemed right with the world, especially in our secluded, private piece of it. Troubles seemed far away if not nonexistent. The grandfather clock dutifully counted off nine strikes signaling phase two of our evening, and our flow moved upstairs seeking deeper rest. Dependent pets were taken care of, their needs of food and warmth supplied, all lights were turned off, downstairs shades drawn, doors bolted securely against evening and anything unwelcome it might hold. I usually made it upstairs first, turning back covers, covering our canine companion on his bed, and beginning my relaxing, warm shower, ready for cozy covers. He lagged behind feeding the little black stove a heaping serving of logs. Guaranteeing warmth in the depths of the cold night. I was soon followed by him, where he took his place on his side of the bed, and he checked in on the cyber world while waiting for the last of the evening’s rituals to be complete. Being in a rhythm together had given peace, now for sweet, restorative sleep. Layers of covers insulated us and the nearness of another added to the warmth of our bed.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

The silence outside so filled our sheltered nook you could almost hear it. Any sound was amplified by the cove and by the crispness of a winter night. Stillness, the partner of silence, settled on us just as the heavy, black velvet of night blanketed us. All was hushed as if the earth had put her finger to her lips and issued a slow shhhh. It was easy to imagine us all alone on the planet, but being watched by the universe. As I had pulled the last shade against the dark, I glanced up at the seamless sky seeing it full of watching, twinkling eyes. Tucked in, sleep came easily and cocooned us. Soon after darkness was allowed into our room breathing slowed and deepened, movements became involuntary and our bodies worked on auto pilot having been programed for a night setting. Visions from unknown places, funny, weird, or relating to the events of the day played in our heads while the mystery of sleep was at work holding us captives in other worlds. Dreams became our reality and there we lay. The clocks in the cabin ticked in the night and the sands of time slipped away unnoticed. The night deepened and the world whispered.

Sometime in the night I woke to change my position, adjust overs. Something wasn’t right. Maybe this leg needed to move, or that pillow be shifted. Comfort had left me. Dread lay a heavy hand on me. I sensed it in the room. It moved from corner to corner and whispered uncertainty to my fear. The menacing spectral was glad to have me alone in the darkness, there it could fill me with worry. It offered me anxiousness, not of anything certain but made me guess while my fear grew. I recognized fear. The gripping you have when you smell smoke in your house but you can’t find it. It was present but wouldn’t identify itself. It laughed at me, making fun of the peace I had celebrated during the day. It lay close, up against my cheek, ridiculing the security I had found in The Faithful One. Spinning stories of failure, ruined finances, loneliness, disaster. Casting doubt on my belief in Forever, it hissed that the dark hole may be all that awaits. I felt suffocated, my heart rate increase, panic began in my chest but the darkness gave me nowhere to hide from my tormentor. A prayer formed in my heart and I cried out for reassurance.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

I heard it faint and far off. A low, easy sound broke the spell encasing me. I reached over my head to raise the window allowing the cold air to usher in my comfort. Deep in the woods of the ridge a lone owl sang it’s night song. Who, who,who,who. It sliced through the darkness of night and my soul. I lay still, listening, willing it to sing again. Needing the sound of a fellow living creature. A companion song came from across the meadow. The same song, the same tune, it’s mate in one accord. The two owls created to endure the cold, to give life to the empty night, sang in duet and I heard their words given to them by their Creator. They sang to the One who had given them voice, and to me. They sang, “I will praise the One who made me, I will be the owl He knows, I will watch over the darkness, I am not alone. He is faithful to His creatures, He is watching over all. He sees you in your darkness, He does not sleep, He hears our song, He sees you weep.” The mountain walls vibrated with their worship, it rippled through all of the wood. As the praise of the night filled my room, the blackness that sought to fill the night and my heart could not stay. I joined in the praise to Him, along with the singers of the night, until I fell asleep. Peace had returned with the lullaby.

 

The unknown has become known to my mom. What she hoped, a reality. Her hope was not in a god of her making or imagining. But in the God made known through creation and the words of the Bible. How could I have let go of her if we hadn’t received the comfort that God was present with her, with us, keeping his promises to the very end?

Regardless of what we are experiencing, God is present, he hears us, he will not leave us. And he desires the gift of our worship in those moments. It’s what all of his creatures were made for.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:1-2, 7, 14

Kindness ~ A gift for others

Kindness is key3For the last couple of weeks we’ve been talking about kindness. First focusing on God’s gift of kindness to us and next the importance of giving the gift of kindness to ourselves. God’s kindness to us and our ability to be kind to ourselves, are important building blocks to being kind to each other. They pave the way.

I have struggled with writing this post far more than I expected. Which surprises me. How hard is it to say be kind!

In our day of media saturation, diversity, and polarized politics, kindness seems illusive. It’s seen as weakness, or acquiescing, or even losing faith. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our relationships spread out in ripples starting with those closest to us, family, and moving out broader and broader; co-workers, church, community, region, country, world. We cannot neglect kindness close to home any more than in how we treat humanity broadly.

I would like to say I’ve learned this lesson, of passing kindness out to everyone as if it were as free and plentiful as air. But I haven’t. My face burns with shame at the fire hot words that all too often seer my children’s hearts. I can be stingy with the gift of kindness, even when I’ve received it in abundance.

Until we understand our absolute need for God’s kindness to us, and how little we actually deserve it, kindness will clog in our hearts at important moments. 

Kindness is crucial. It shapes hearts. Our kids are thirsty for it. Our spouses crave it. The lady in the checkout with the sad eyes would welcome it. The hard heart is surprised by it. We cannot neglect kindness. (I am preaching to myself right there, if you need the sermon too, then you’re welcome!)

I think the hardest people to be kind to is those who see life very differently than we do.

Romans 2:4, Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

That’s a shocking concept isn’t it. What leads people to repentance? Judgement, fear, condemnation, shame a sound talking to? No, kindness. If God is content to approach the world’s sin problem with kindness instead of an angry fist, shouldn’t we as his followers be also? Don’t get me wrong, I recognize other passages in scripture talk about God’s wrath. And I believe he will judge and punish all who have not received his gift of forgiveness. But this is the age of mercy, the age of wrath is yet to come.

Mercy is at the heart of all God does. We are most like God when we are merciful. – Alice Smith

I have been in many situations that have shown me the value of kindness. None more clearly than one late summer day in Alabama. Taking my son to school I passed a young person walking in the same direction. A twinge in my heart said, “give them a ride.” I said, “no way!” But after dropping Max off and heading back home I knew I had to obey. As the person, whom I assumed to be a tall, willowy young woman, came into sight the song “Jesus Friend of Sinners” came on the radio. I pulled over.

When the young man looked into the car window my heart skipped a beat. I offered a ride. Which he accepted. And I drove him to Wal-Mart in the next town over. At the time North Carolina was boiling with the debate of gay marriage. My family was at odds. Members firmly on opposite sides. And here sat this young man, painted fingernails, eyeliner, and a broken heart. He told me a story of abandonment. It cracked my heart and my pride wide open.

After dropping him off, and inviting him to our church potluck, I headed back home. My mind was reeling. My ideology had been confronted by a person. On the drive home I prayed, and this is what God said as clearly as if he had spoken. “I wanted you to see my plan of kindness in that young man’s life. He had prayed for a ride and I used you as the answer. You were meant to serve him, because I had purposed to serve him. I have chosen him for my kindness.”

This young man broke the mold of who I thought deserved God’s kindness, of whose prayers God would answer. God had called me to be a witness of his love.

I wanted to fall on my face in shame and worship. The God who loves everyone, not just a select few, was bigger than I had ever seen before.

Now, my understanding of God’s plan for human sexuality according to his word has not changed. If anything I am more passionate about holding out the truth of reconciliation with God, ourselves, others, and all of creation. But my understanding of what that looks like changed radically. Kindness. Mercy. Compassion. They took on new meaning.

Can I tell you; I would have baked the wedding cake in Oregon for the gay couple, and I would have asked to attend. If we believe the gospel accounts of Jesus, then I think it’s very possible he would have too. Not because he doesn’t call people to holy living, but because he shows up where they are first.

And that’s the heart of kindness. Showing up. Show up for the conversation at the dinner table with your precious family and use words of love. Show up at the hospital and cheer your friend. Show up in the orphanage and listen to the orphan and the worker doing a harder job than you can imagine. Show up to the jail, the run down house, the food stamp office. Show up to the boss’ Christmas party and spread gratitude, joy, and when necessary sobriety. Show up. Not to correct or criticize or condemn. Show up to be kind.

Can I also say; the strength of the church’s kindness is more important than whether we “win” this country back or not. The country was never actually ours. Every kingdom rests solely in God’s hands. The kingdom of heaven is ours, and that’s better than any country. We are not responsible for the government. We are responsible to living lives of faith, of praying for leaders, of clinging to hope, of overflowing with joy, of loving our spouses and children well, of sharing the good news that Jesus came not to condemn but to save, of being KIND.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25

Please no more posts about those “idiots” in any political camp. No more outrage or shock when broken, sin sick, people act like it. No more pointing fingers and calling outs. No more zingers, and poking fun. No more claiming “my rights!” If we tend to our own holiness, and goodness knows we need to, and offer kindness in Jesus name our light will be radiant.

No one is going to have a conversation with a person shouting at them. If you want to make a difference. Set the table for conversation. Be kind.

Are there people it’s hard for you to be kind to? Black, white, foreign, conservative, liberal, Muslim, atheist, Pentecostal, poor, rich, sister-in-law, husband? It can be anyone, we all have our prejudices and weaknesses. If so, have you accepted God’s generous gift of kindness to you? Are you willing to extend kindness to yourself? Maybe you need to start there.

Let’s pray: Father, the evidence of walking by your Spirit is kindness. We can not live kind lives on our own. I know I can’t. It’s only by your Spirit. Won’t you inspire us with your kindness, help us be kind to ourselves, and give us eyes to see opportunities to be kind to others this week. Thank you. Amen.

{Next week we’ll be talking about receiving kindness from others.}

Kindness ~ A gift to ourselves

Kindness is key3Last week I declared October to be the month of kindness! I wrote about God’s kindness towards us and we saw the word kind is defined this way: Kind, gracious, kindhearted, kindly – imply a sympathetic attitude toward others, and a willingness to do good or give pleasure. Kind implies a deep-seated characteristic shown either habitually or on occasion by considerate behavior: a kind father. (Dictionary.com)

This week I want to ask the question; how kind are you to yourself? Our flawed and prideful nature can be quick to make excuses for our mistakes and weaknesses. But how many of us actually have a humble, healthy view of ourselves? One that is kind.

It is difficult to see ourselves correctly until we first understand how God sees us. Last week we saw that God is kind toward us, willing to do good, sympathetic, considerate. Psalm 103:13-14 says:

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

I love that, “he remembers that we are dust.” He understands that just as we’re catching on life is over, it’s a breath. He is considerate to our plight. Not that he doesn’t expect us to walk in holiness, he provides all we need to live a godly life. But he understands how hard it is for us to live against our nature and according to his perfect one.

I have to confess often I am not kind to myself. Sometimes I’m lazy, or excuse my behavior, self indulgent even. But that’s not the same as kind.

Being kind means recognizing what I am, my limitations and strengths, and summing myself up accurately. It means seeing myself as God’s child. Forgiving myself when I need it. It means believing God has forgiven me when I ask. It means celebrating my successes in a healthy way. It means caring for my body. It means living up to God’s expectations, which are right and good, and not other people’s. It means backing away from the sharp edge of comparison’s blade.

Maybe you have messed up big time, or you think you have no value. Or maybe you feel just fine until you look around and compare yourself to everyone else. Repeating your flaws or mistakes is not extending kindness to yourself. Driving yourself to perfection isn’t kind. Your children, family, and friends are observing. Those broken words, repeated over your life, will teach them that if you can’t be kind to you it’s safe to assume you can’t be kind to them either. Children will learn those broken habits from a parent.

The kindness we are able to receive from God, and extend to ourselves, will have a powerful impact on our relationships. That’s a principle of community. How we walk with God affects others.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:12-13

If God has called us to clothe ourselves with kindness and treat our brothers and sisters with such character, I think it’s safe to say he would expect us to extend that attitude to ourselves. If we can’t embrace the goodness of God for ourselves, it will be hard to extend it to others.

I’ve seen time and again bitter women making others miserable because they have been unable to grab hold of God’s forgiveness and grace in their own lives. They can’t be kind to others because they haven’t learned to be kind to themselves.

I regularly fight the broken tape playing in my head that says, “you’re not good enough, you are uneducated, you make no money, you aren’t a good mother, you aren’t wanted, you don’t matter, you’re a mess.” I think I will hear those words until I die. That in and of itself isn’t a sin. The defeat comes when I don’t counteract those words with truth. God has said that I’m forgiven, accepted, redeemed, loved, wanted, equipped, grafted in, sung over, empowered, indwelt by his Spirit, victorious, and destined for a glorious eternity!

I am most kind to myself when I shut out the lies of my scarred heart, broken sin nature, and a twisted society, and instead recite the truth over myself. Until I do that I can’t recite the truth to others when they need it, and they are going to need it.

Accepting God’s kindness and being kind to ourselves are the first steps to being kind to others.

Do you have a hard time being kind to yourself? Does that affect the way you treat others?

Let’s pray:
Father, it can be hard to be kind to ourselves. But that grieves your heart because you love us. Will you help us grab hold of our worth in your sight and treat ourselves with kindness? Thank you for setting the standard of love. We’re grateful. Amen.

{Next week we’ll talk about extending kindness to others.}

When Grief Is Eclipsed By Joy

Grief isn’t a land to live in, but a season to journey through. We all have seasons of grief. Strangely at times grief mingles with joy. Life is funny that way. This past weekend my family and I spoke at my mom’s memorial service. Grief was certainly present but it was mostly eclipsed by joy, at least in my heart.

My husband spoke on the legacy of faith mom passed on. My siblings and I gave examples of what that looked like in our lives. And my dad honored her well. This is what I had to say:

mommyandbeck

Mom was my first and primary teacher. She taught me about life from her example, not just through ten years of homeshcool lessons and bible studies.

Mom taught me that the word of God is powerful and important. She taught me to love books. She taught me that manners are for other people. She taught me that faithfulness and love are rooted in the nature of Jesus, not ourselves. She taught me that beauty matters. She taught me to be kind to creatures and people more vulnerable than myself. She taught me to marvel over nature, to identify trees, and rescue box turtles. She taught me to enjoy laughter and family and a good story. She taught me to appreciate the testimony of people who served as missionaries.

Most importantly she taught me that nothing satisfies our hearts more than Jesus. Let me say it again. Nothing satisfies our hearts more than Jesus. I think that’s what I loved most about our relationship, pursuing that truth with her together. My life is good because she taught me to be satisfied by Jesus. Above all else.

Mom was a beautiful person. Creative, kind, loving, fun. But years ago, for a season, mom succumbed to despair. Fear and depression at times overwhelmed her. There were moments when she didn’t know if she could hold onto God anymore. But out of that season was birthed great joy. When she didn’t feel able to hold onto God she found out he was still holding onto her. I watched that truth transform her.

And what had been her naturally fun, lovely, creative personality deepened and intensified, containing even more beauty, compassion, and kindness, and adding to it hope and joy. The love that attracted all of us to her and the beauty we saw in her came from a nature transformed by Jesus, in the midst of real life.

In the last week I’ve been thinking about the words to the song Through All Of It, by Colton Dixon. It captures her story well. Here are a few lines:

There are days I’ve taken more than I can give
And there are choices that I made
That I wouldn’t make again
I’ve had my share of laughter
Of tears and troubled times
This is has been the story of my life

I have won and I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life’s been a journey
I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it

Mom wasn’t a person of faith, that’s too fuzzy. We all have faith of some sort or another. Mom was a person of faith IN Jesus. He was her only hope. He has been her God through all of it. Through the brokenness and the healing, the loss and the joy, the sorrow and peace. He was and is the source of all her hope. That has been mom’s legacy in my life. Jesus satisfies. He still satisfies her, now more than ever. This is my comfort.

Mom4

The day was amazing. The sanctuary filled with her favorite things. People from every stage of life present with us. An opportunity for her family to rise up and bless her. The service was closed with a clip from Loui Giglio’s talk Symphony. Mom had been so comforted on her journey by the truth that stars and whales praise God and we can join in that song of creation. And then God gave us a surprise! Loui Giglio himself showed up and spoke a message of Jesus presence to our family! It was a kindness we could never have expected.

Are you comfortable with sorrow and joy intermingling in your life? How has God shown you he is present as you walk through valleys of grief?

I know God loves me because of you

“I know God loves me because he gave me you!” My mom used to say that to me, often. As a child I knew I was one of her gifts. An expression of God’s love. Because she told me so.

My husband and I have served in church ministry for fifteen years. We’ve experienced our share of joy and pain in church life. No doubt if you’ve hung out in churches for any length of time you have too. Sometimes I have dwelt too long on the hurts, allowing them to eclipse the amazing love that has been poured out on our lives.

But there are moments that bring me back to the joy of family life. Those seasons when I just know I couldn’t make it without my brothers and sisters, and I wouldn’t want to.

It takes all of us, filled with God’s Spirit, reflecting his nature, to make up the person of Jesus here on earth. And that’s exactly what’s happened in my life. Sure, occasionally we get out of sync with one another, sometimes we’re more focused on serving self than on worshiping Jesus. But the reality is, it’s with YOU, my brothers and sisters in the family of God, that I most experience Jesus.

Looking back it’s easy to see now that in every church I’ve shown up to, Jesus was there waiting on me, he was in each of you! I know God loves me because he gave me you!

So many times I have been loved by Jesus through the skin of humans. I’ve been forgiven, corrected, encouraged, enjoyed, cared for, prayed over, taught, celebrated, embraced. In every single season of my life.

I’m convinced, and I believe the book of Ephesians agrees, that we cannot fully love God or experience his love without the relationship of fellow followers of Christ. When we’re hurt it’s easy to pull back from the church and want to do our own God thing independently. But that’s not actually a viable option left open for us in God’s word.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:2-6

I’m amazed when I look at each of you and find Jesus smiling back at me through your eyes! That is truly a gift!

I’ve found it to be especially true over these last weeks that have been so hard. As my family has said goodbye to my precious mama, Jesus, through the church, has wrapped his arms around us. You have prayed, and written, and sent food, and showed up, and prayed, and encouraged, and cried with us, and prayed. And I’ve known Jesus more deeply because of you all. I truly know God loves me because he gave me you. Thank you.

Do you take your role in the body of Christ seriously? Without your presence people are missing out.