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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

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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

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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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Blessings in the midst of weeds

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So let us not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Dandelions. Those wispy flowers that can grow in the most unlikely of places. One which most see as only a common pest. A weed. Yet, to another a sign of joy and happiness in the dark and dreary mountain of obstacles in our way. A blessing for the one who chooses to stop and take in its overlooked beauty.

The dandelion is also said to be a symbol of perseverance. However, often in the midst of walking in the gardens we nourish as ministers of His word, we may lose sight of the beauty before us. All we see are the weeds.

Sometimes in the middle of doing, planning, and being the hands and feet we are called to be as ministers of His love and grace, it can be hard to see the lives and people who have been touched by it. Instead it seems all we have encountered is one more battle, uphill climb, or discouragement after another.

Enough to want to give up.

In my role as a children’s pastor, the fruit of all the seeds planted weekly can be tough to see peeking through that soil. When you can see the flowers sprouting physically before your eyes, having fun, smiling, and reciting verses and stories taught to them over the years, there are also times when it is difficult to see through the weeds of disobedience, disconnect, and complacency that plagues this garden, too. The weeds that grow around carefully planned lessons and programs to hopefully encourage them to engage and draw closer to God, seem to only grow taller among criticism, “should have done this that ways, and “could have done that betters.”

Some days it is hard to see the blessing over the weeds. Some days you start to desperately look for an exit. But, you continue to say “yes.” Be obedient, anyway.

And, I continued to be obedient to Him as I made calls, texts, and emails to schedule gift delivery again this year for our annual participation in the Angel Tree ministry. As I watched all the gifts trickle in. Saw them all pretty and wrapped in front of the tree. Ready to bless families of those behind bars. I began to see the weeds again. The calls not returned. The preparation. The work. The late nights. The discouragement of those who just couldn’t offer redemption. Planting seeds of love and grace I was certain I would never see bloom.

The weeds grew taller. I wanted to give up. Maybe even not sign-up next year. I couldn’t see through the weeds, and I needed an exit.

Some blessings can’t be seen over those weeds. But, you get up. Show up, because He says to. You continue to say “yes.” To be obedient.

You work in that garden once again, and finally you see it. The blessing. In the flesh. Standing before you. Blessing you.

As I reached for the gifts for those who had come to take them home to their children, I realized what stood in front of me was what I would have missed if I had stopped being obedient. If I had let the weeds stop me from doing His will.

Here was the gentleman we had been showing hope. Here was the woman we had been blessing through it all. Whose kids we reached out to each year. Blessing me.

Thank God He removed those weeds.

So, if you two happen to be reading this. Thanks for being obedient. For bringing encouragement to a minister who was deeply discouraged. For reminding me that His light and grace does shine through all those weeds in this garden. That redemption is real and standing here right before us.

You are the blessing in those weeds. Thanks for reminding me of the reason I continue to say “yes.”

So, to anyone stuck in a garden you have sowed, over and over. Unable to see your harvest because the weeds of doubt, insecurity, envy, and fatigue are too tall-I pray this Christmas you will be given a dandelion of hope among those weeds. That you are blessed by something or someone that helps you see past the muck. That encourages you to continue to say “yes” to God. To continue, even when you want to give up.

And, if you have been blessed by someone-return it. Show them the grace, love and hope given to you. Bursting forth among all those weeds.

“Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back-given back with bonus and blessing. Luke 6:38, MSG

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in On Purpose

 

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His Will, Not Mine

This boy…the one this post was written about is 8 today. It was 8 years ago on Thanksgiving that we bought this guy home for the first time. And, I am ever so thankful, even through the pain and heartache, that God’s will is always better than mine.

Coffee with a Shot of Faith

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him. Psalm 127:3

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I remember the day like it was yesterday. I had just found out the news. I remember thinking to myself- How could this be? This was not part of the plan! This can’t be right! Two lines? Yep, there are definitely two of them-two VERY blue lines, in fact. My then 10 month old daughter was running in and out of the bathroom, and then it hit me. I’m pregnant! Again!

So, I did what any woman does who has waited for those blue lines to appear. I did what any woman does while waiting for a test to seal their fate. I did what any woman does when she finds out she is going to have a baby. You guessed it!

I sat on the bathroom floor-and cried!

I cried for the daughter I…

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Posted by on November 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

 
 
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