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Would you carry my burden?

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Burdens

There is something I have noticed among us. A lack of empathy. A lack of desire to seek understanding when it comes to someone else’s burden.

Maybe it’s the rise of social media that tends to put us on notice when things are amiss. Maybe it is our busy lives that have established this pattern. This lack of response to the needs of others. But, honestly…we don’t carry each other’s burdens very well.

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

We are quick to rejoice in success. Celebrate all the great things. As we should! I certainly want my achievements and all that is going right in my life to be acknowledged. You know…all those “happy” moments we tend to overshare with our virtual world. Celebrating is easy.

However, when that same brother or sister shares a trial, a burden. All is silent. Virtually forgotten. Simply because burdens are hard. And, we don’t like hard. We rarely know what to do with it, or how to respond.

I keep a devotional on my desk at the elementary school in which I work. I read it every morning before I start the day, right before I pray for each child that will grace my office threshold. And, on a day when I felt especially burdened, this is what I read:

“Jesus’s earthly life included a wide range of difficulty. He felt the searing heat of the sun, the pain of an empty stomach, and the uncertainty of homelessness. Emotionally he endured the tension of disagreements, the burn of betrayal, and the ongoing threat of violence. Jesus experienced the joy of friendship and family love, as well as the worst problems faced here on Earth. He is the one who can say, ‘I’ve been through that. I understand.'” -Jennifer Benson Schuldt; Our Daily Bread 9/11/17

When others leave us when things are hard. Leave us alone in our weeping. We have Him. He will carry our burdens each and every time.

But, I am going to go even further by saying that we need to be Jesus to others as well. Carry a few extra burdens ourselves. Weep with some neighbors. Sit a while in their sorrow.

You do not have to have personally experienced every painful thing that another has to truly show empathy. You don’t have to even claim to understand them. Empathy gives you the ability to say “I haven’t experienced that, but it must be/have been hard.” Love gives you the capacity to reach beyond yourself and take time to say “Tell me more about it.” And, true compassion and understanding occurs when we readily seek to learn more about the hard stuff. To seek, ask, and find out how exactly we can manage to bear that heavy load together.

As brothers as sisters in Christ, are we like Him?

Do we provide a safe place for others to hide and rest? Do others feel comfortable sharing their sorrows with us? Do we respond like Him when we don’t understand the struggles of another?

And, if we, like Jesus, have felt pain and suffering, are we willing to reach out and listen to the pains of others? Or do we encourage them to “get over it,” well…because that’s what we had to do? Or, worse…do we simply walk on past, because it’s not personal enough for us? We don’t have time? Or, it’s just too hard?

The same Jesus who felt our pain would have sat down a while and listened. Reached outside the text boxes and hashtags of social media, and extended an invitation for coffee or to break bread. Tried to understand those he didn’t. He is our safe harbor, therefore expects us to be the same for others. Not to judge. Not to dismiss. Not to determine if our personal burden is heavier. Not to offer pat answers when we are too ashamed to admit that we really don’t have any.

I encourage you to shed the burden of technology today, and reach out to help pick up the heavy burden of another being. Walk alongside them. Weep with them. Hurt with them.

Even if you have no words. Even if you simply sit in silence. Even if you don’t understand their perspective. But, still showing that you are willing to walk with them anyway.

 

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Posted by on September 14, 2017 in Loving Others

 

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battling little boy giants

So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword.  1 Samuel 17:50

Battle Rock

David and Goliath. One of my favorite Bible stories. Every time I read, tell, or hear this story I get excited. I am reminded of so many of God’s truths. It is a reminder to children that no matter how small or young they are they can do great things for God. It is a reminder to us that God can take down our biggest giants if we have faith. It serves as a reminder to me of each giant he has taken down for me time and time again in my own life.

During my quiet time a passage of the story of David’s battle with Goliath was part of my daily reading of God’s word. As I read the words David spoke to Goliath as he prepared for battle, I began to feel the excitement all over again. The hope and promise that even kids can do great things! Those past giants that were conquered! All those future giants that will be!

And, then I began to think of my little boy’s giant. That giant called school. The one that had him not wanting to grab his own basket at back to school night. Sort his supplies. Look his teacher in the eye. The one who screamed when a simple question was asked about a kid in his class. Who cried and pulled his hair when his locker wouldn’t open. Who dreads the first day of school weeks before the actual day.

His Goliath was real, and the poor little guy’s plan of attack was grunts, kicks, and screams that were now becoming this family’s giant.

And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us! 1 Samuel 17:47

God had now told me exactly what to do.

My favorite story was now our new plan of attack to tackle our back to school Goliath.

So, as I put the little guy to bed I read him the story. It’s a story he had heard before. As he so quickly told me. He’s a PK (pastor’s kid). He’s heard them ALL before. He is also usually the one up front telling his momma exactly how to relay the story. While his momma threatens to send him out.

“But Hunter, I am reading only part of it. The part where David kills Goliath.”

“Oh! That’s my favorite part! The best part!”

Well, at least we agree! And, so for a time…he is at ease. And, while he does slightly critique me as I read (tell me I am doing it wrong, ask me why my version is different, refer to the exact age of David when I refer to him as a “boy.”), he is completely open to the message. Which is all I really asked for.

And, as I finished the story and prayed to God to give me the right words to say to my son who does not understand metaphors (black and white thinking, here folks), he asked me,  “What does this have to do with school? Is it like my giant or something?”

Oh! Thank you, God!

“Well, is it, Hunter?”

“Well, yes! It stresses me out!”

So, in his hand, I placed a stone. On the stone were written the words: “The Battle is the Lord’s.” I explained that David defeated Goliath with one stone, and Hunter could defeat his anxiety with one stone. He would take it in his backpack to school as a reminder that if he felt anxious, he could bow his head and repeat those words to himself: “The Battle is the Lord’s.”

I had no idea what would happen when I placed that stone in his tiny hands. I figured what I would get would be a perplexed look, and a grunt. Instead, that little boy took out his Bible, searched for the scripture reference I had written under those words, and underlined those same words in it. He then bowed his head and repeated them: “The Battle is the Lord’s.”

God had given me the message and the words to say, and He had given that little boy an open heart to receive it.

We all face a number of Goliath’s. A number of challenges. Some are big. Some are small. Some are visible. And some are hidden.

But we are never sent out for battle alone. God is fighting with us and for us each step of the way.

“The Battle is the Lord’s” 1 Samuel 17:47

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2017 in Autism and Faith, How Is Your Faith

 

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we have all been in the boat

Boat

I am blessed to live in an area that affords me space to seek quiet and solitude surrounded by nature and picturesque views. I often find myself when I have a few moments alone scurrying down to the fishing pond close to my home with a book to read for a few, and to spend some uninterrupted time just taking in the sights and sounds around me.

On this particular day, I was not the only one who happened to find a few spare moments alone, and while I am not a fan of sneaking pictures of strangers (because in a small town you learn quickly no one is a stranger), I couldn’t help but capture this moment. Simply because it took me back to so many of the moments I had as a kid on many other lakes fishing with my father and my younger brother.

Those moments were not so quiet. And in those times there were three very different people in the boat. With very different personalities, serving three very different purposes.

My dad. He was the patient fisherman. He never really caught anything. And, he had to be pretty patient to spend all day on a boat with two young kids. He was the one who steered the boat in the right direction. Who picked the good fishing spots. Who baited the hook of the girl who refused to touch any worms!

Then, there was me. Every now and then I cast a line. I liked to fish, but I liked to read more. I liked to sit back on the boat, feel the breeze, and finish the book (or two) I was reading. If I did happen to take a turn fishing, I was the one who managed to snag the “sneaky” fish. The fish who managed to get the worm, but not the hook. Then, sometimes…if I studied the “sneaky” behavior long enough, took a break and read a few more books, I’d cast my line one more time, and manage the biggest catch of the day!

Last, but certainly not least, was my younger brother. Not to be out done by his older sister; and sure he knew that the fish would bite in the farthest reaches of the lake-he spent most of his time tangled in the trees.

There are all kinds of people in our boats.

All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27

Some of them are the patient kind. They keep us on course. Steer us in the right direction. Even untangle our messes.

Some of them may just sit back and watch you get tangled. Maybe they will read a few books on how to help. Everything may seem easy to them at first, but if you look below the surface, there are people waiting to take whatever they may offer them on that baited hook, or behind that book they often sit behind, while they wait-studying the fish, so they know exactly how to help them in the future.

Then, there are those who just fall into the mess each and every time. And, that is OK.

We need these fisherman in our boats.

Because they remind us that we all have some mess we have been tangled up in at some point. Some time when we got our line stuck in the trees.

When we needed someone else to steer the boat. Someone else to guide us. Someone else to help get us out.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who you are. Romans 3:22

They remind us that no matter the mess. No matter how tangled the line, or how many times we needed someone to rescue us…we are all worthy of saving.

And, that we have all been in the same boat.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2017 in You Make All Things New

 

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a boy and his bible

boy-and-his-bible

Take hold of my instructions; don’t let them go. Guard them, for they are the key to life.         Proverbs 4:13

“Mom! I’m ready!”

This is the call from the steps, or the couch, or the bed of a little boy ready for his bedtime routine. After having lavender rubbed gently on his feet. His covers placed over him just right. His favorite puppy tucked neatly beside him-he is then ready for sleep.

This is our nightly routine. Without fail.

Until…mommy gets distracted, and that routine gets ignored.

On this particular night, I will admit…my favorite show was on. I asked that little boy to wait patiently until the next commercial. And then, that commercial turned into two, three, and four.

When I did finally remember I had failed to make good on my promise, I expected one angry, upset, little boy.

I found something quite different.

I found a boy and his Bible.

Instead of sulking. Instead of pouting. Instead of fussing because Mommy had failed him, he simply opened his Bible.

And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Romans 15:4

This boy. This patient, little boy was doing exactly what I had been failing to do. He picked up his Bible, and waited patiently. He spent those extra few minutes waiting for that nighttime lotion Mommy had promised, to read about what God had promised.

I can take a few notes from that boy and his Bible.

That instead of sulking. Instead of pouting. Instead of fussing because someone has failed me, or let me down. I can pick up His word and read about how His love never fails (Psalm 136).

Instead of getting discouraged when things don’t go my way, I can open up to His promise that he won’t let my heart be troubled (John 14:1). That He will guide and direct my steps even when I stumble. Fall. Fail (Proverbs 3:6).

Instead of worrying about the tasks that don’t get done. The kids that aren’t at home. The ones that are but are struggling. The bills on the counter. I can pick up my Bible and read that there is no need for worry, as He will handle it all (Matthew 6:25-34).

When I’m overwhelmed, unbalanced, and ready to break from trying to handle it all, I can read how His strength sustains me (Phil 4:13).

And, when I am tempted to consume myself with the distractions of the world, my phone, or my TV, I can give back to Him the precious time He has given to me.

Just like that little boy and his Bible.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2017 in Craving More of God

 

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Why can’t we just be nice

be-nice

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

 I started something different recently in the Wednesday night service I lead at my local church. Instead of another children’s sermon with kids sitting in neat rows, I started breaking them into groups. The purpose-conversation, fellowship and unity.

“Group 4 will be “Susie, Kelly, Aaron, and Johnny” (Names changed to protect the young and innocent).

First, I heard it. “Aaron?” In a judgmental and exasperated tone.

Then, I saw it. The eye rolls, the face made and directed at the chosen child.

All from children who were being taught week after week to love others.

On the way home that night, my daughter began to talk of her own experience with judgement and exasperation. With the girl she had struggled to get along with all year, and who just didn’t seem to like her. “She tries to tell others not to play with me, and threatens them if they do.” With the girl that made fun of her wacky hair, on get this…wacky hair day! The girl that shouted profanities at her for taking up for a friend.

“Mommy, Why are people just not nice to everyone?”

Good question…why aren’t we a little nicer to each other? And how exactly are kids learning it’s ok not to be?

I am not naive. I was teased in school. I knew school yard bullies, and I had my fair share of girl drama, with a little profanity, too.

I know that not everyone is accepting of differences. That those differences become slurs to be used to berate, to spread hate of anything not like them.

I am not naive, but I still believe in nice.

We are a nation so quick to call out any slight, offense, or use a few thumb strokes to profess our disdain for hate behind our computer screens…while our children are learning exactly how to not be so nice.

Instead of civilly sharing a difference of opinions when we know in fact we are all different, our first response is a quick, witty, I’ll-shut-this-person down insult to prove just how right we are.

Where instead of working conflict out, we use our egos and our need for power to throw people under the bus to attempt to prove how powerful and important we think we are.

Why can’t we just be nice?

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12

After the exasperation and judgment on that Wednesday night, we read this verse as a group. It wasn’t me who was encouraging them to love each other. Some naive, Christian lady, who thinks the world is all butterflies and roses (Because I don’t think that…I just believe in nice, that’s all).

It was Jesus. The one who laid down his innocent life to save us despite all our evil, and not so nice ways. For people who did nothing but spread hate about him. Who sought to encourage others to use a little nice.

Don’t we owe it to him to show love to others? Don’t our kids deserve to see us using kind words with each other? Helping someone who is in need? Talking and fellowship with those that are different? Working out our conflicts without games and deceit? Instead of divided by those differences?

Can’t we just be a little nicer to each other? For our kids? For our nation? For Him?

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, Just as Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2017 in Loving Others

 

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one word: acceptance

img_1451

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace. 

Surrender. My word for 2016. A word that challenged me to let go. And while I did drop off some baggage in the form of thoughts, practices, and even people; there is something telling me that I still have a ways to go on this journey.

As I reflected on the past year. The chaos. The times I felt attacked. Uncertain. The many days I walked around dazed, all because I was carrying too many of my own burdens, and attempting to lug the baggage of others around, I realized an important truth.

With surrender must come acceptance. Once I let go, I have to be willing to accept that I laid down that burden. Never to be picked up again.

Acceptance of the ups and downs. Knowing that each blessing. Each trial is the divine work of God.

Acceptance of my flaws. Understanding that I am not perfect, but “made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Accepting that others are not perfect either. Realizing these flaws are what makes us vulnerable. What makes us crave the power of a savior.

Accepting that not everyone will get me. Support me. Even like me. Knowing that it doesn’t matter. Since God always loves me. Knows all the traits others don’t “get,” and accepts me as I am-depsite what may bug others.

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you. John 15:7

Acceptance of differences. Being willing to explore a different opinion. Engage in a conversation with someone who may not have the same views. Realizing our differences, and our ability to see past them is what makes human relationship so sacred. So beautiful.

In doing this, I will also accept that some may not value my differences. May judge my choices. My parenting style. My words. My actions. Learning to shake it off, and instead walk in empathy with others, when others may not show it to me.

I will take defeat. Embrace failure. Accept it as an opportunity to grow, to become humble in my weakness. Relinquish the pride that comes with being successful and right all the time.

Accept the situations I cannot change. The people I can’t change. Recognizing God’s will is more important than my desire to “fix” all that I see is wrong. Relinquishing control to the only one who can change circumstances. Hearts. Minds.

Accepting that life is messy. Ministry is messy. Parenting is messy. And, people….yes, they are, too. Accepting that it’s not my job to “clean-up” this mess. Instead, taking in all its glory. Recognizing the beauty in all that is not neat and tidy.

And, accepting that my home may be a mess. Void of neat and tidy. Knowing that as long as those that inhabit it are happy. Loving each other. Enjoying each other. That it doesn’t matter if the bookcases are dusty. The counters are crumby. Or the carpets are dirty.

Accepting me. All that makes me who I am. My personality. My body. My pet peeves. My past. My wants. Desires. Dreams. Even if others can’t handle it. I will accept the woman He has called me to be.

This year I will accept the mundane. The chaos. The beautiful. The ugly. Those that are different. Those that love me, and those that don’t. The messy, and the neat.

Whatever He throws my way. Whatever His will.

Acceptance.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2017 in One Word 2014, You Make All Things New

 

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after the decorations are gone

christmas-spirit

The days after Christmas. Memories of the laughter. The time spent with family. The remnants of gifts not yet put away. The lazy days. The leftovers. Naps. Netflix. The promise of a new year.

With this promise each year also comes the burning desire to reclaim the space in my house. Get back into my 10 and a half month routine. Everything in its place again. Time to rid my house of the Christmas glamour for one more year.

Usually this need to reclaim my territory fuels me. Sends me on a cleaning frenzy. But, this year was different. If it wasn’t for our choice of fresh fir, and the limp, dying branches that forced me to take the soon to be fire hazard of a tree down, all our shiny and glistening decorations would have just stayed.

As I packed up every ornament. Every tinsel wreath. Beaded garland. Dancing Santa. I had a thought.

Shouldn’t the spirit of Christmas, and the Christ child born on this day live all year long? Is the Christmas “spirit” really only reserved to one month a year. To a plethora of shiny decorations?

Certainly it couldn’t be! There must be something we can do to make sure that spirit remains here. Lives in this home. Lives in us as we carry out a usual routine for the remainder of these months.

But, how?

Well, it can begin with hope.

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Hebrews 6:19

After the expectation of those wondrous gifts. After the anticipation of Christmas Eve night. Still lives the hope that His promises will be fulfilled. Living each day knowing, expecting, anticipating  His faithfulness. His strength. The promise that even though some days in the new year may be hard, we KNOW, and EXPECT that there is hope in the days to come. Bringing a promise of glorious days with Him in Heaven.

It can continue with peace.

“I have told you all this that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But, take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

It is not letting the stress, worries, and anxieties of living in this broken and rushed world cause our hearts to be troubled. It’s letting go and feeling relief. It’s choosing calm over the chaos that claims to measure success. It’s being still and rejoicing in Him, even when life gets crazy. It’s living in harmony with each other, even when we don’t agree. It’s accepting our flaws, and those of others unapologetically.

The spirit of the blessed babe can live on past Christmas day with joy.

You will live in joy and peace. The mountain and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! Isaiah 55:12

The spirit of Christmas doesn’t live in packages and bows. It’s not the blessings under the tree that give joy after all the decorations are gone. Happiness doesn’t live in those boxes. It lives in the laughter of your kids on a family game night. It lives in the songs of praise raised to Him on Sunday morning. It lives in the full heart as you snuggle with a small child. It lives in the praise that escapes your lips for everything He has done. For the small things. For the blessings He has given that can’t hide under a tree. All He has promised. Made happen in your life. Not just on Christmas Day, but everyday.

And finally, how do we continue to show the spirit of love?

“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” John 15:12

Despite flaws. Despite differences. Despite who has “wronged” you. It’s being patient with the lady in front of you with too many items in the express lane. The driver that cut you off. The colleague that always comes in late. Talks to much. Does something too much. It’s remembering that once the ball has dropped. The last song has been sung. The clock signals the beginning of a new year, to be kind to each person we meet, not just those in our “circle.” It is responding with kind words, not words to tear down. It’s praying for our enemies, and those who have hurt us. It is forgiving and choosing to show mercy those that make is angry, frustrate us, and make our eyes roll. It’s reaching out our hands to life the fallen, and expecting nothing in return. Loving as He has loved us.

It is extending this love past the month of December.

And choosing to reflect the Christ child. His love. His light. His everlasting spirit.

After the lights have come down. The gifts have all been opened. The decorations are all gone.

All year long.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2016 in Like Jesus Does, You Make All Things New

 

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