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A little love up in here

Surely, Lord, You are in this place. Surely, Lord, You are in this place.

These were the words written in my daily devotional this morning. These were the words I had to repeatedly say to myself over and over just to get through my day today. To get through some spaces today.

Surely, Lord, you are up in here!

Because, I didn’t really believe it. Because all I had seen, heard, witnessed, even had spewed at me was cruelty. Hate. I had been hurt. Heartbroken. And I was having a hard time seeing anything redeeming in some of those faces.

I was also wearing it. Which means that my facial muscles just don’t do “fake face.” If I am mad, sad, happy. My face let’s you know. And, I had been walking around in a funk for a number of days.

It’s why I could instantly recognize it in the kid in a sea of kids during the transition between recess and last period. That “Please don’t look at me, or I’ll just cry” look.

It may have also been his black plastic rimmed glasses, and unruly curly hair; much like my own kid’s that made him stand out to me in that moment. The fact that earlier that day, I had been wondering if these same group of kids would be so unkind to my wee, little quirky boy?

Then I saw one…similar…standing in front of me. Trying not to cry.

While everyone else just walked right by him. While everyone else just blew him off. While no one else noticed his sadness. Or saw it. And failed to stop and say anything kind.

Hurt people hurt people. Yeh, yeh. I get it. Read the book. Check. Do the job to stop that cycle.

Hate that is given, that is often returned to others is just that-hateful.

Thing is, we don’t have to be hateful. I didn’t walk a life paved with roses. It has been rough. Pieces of my childhood were painful. Filled with grief and loss. But, I didn’t use it as an excuse to hurt others. I was a tough cookie at times, sure…however, I never spread hate. I was never unkind because cruelty was handed to me. No, I took my pain and used it as a tool to undo harm, by showing love to others.

This is how you break the cycle. Refusing to spread hate with hate. You battle the hate you feel you have been given. The crappy hand you feel you have been dealt, not by hurting others, but with love. You become a warrior. Of love. Of peace. Of kindness.

Surely, Lord, You are in this place. Genesis 28:16

He was. In me. I was called to show someone the Lord today.

Today. I could be that warrior of kindness.

Be, here. In this place. That had been a source of hurt to this woman, what I would want for my child. The one who came to mind as I watched this one cry in front of me. The words I would want my own sweet, quirky, funny, but tiny and unruly headed little boy to hear.

“I am sorry they hurt you. No one should get away with saying hurtful things. It’s not OK. You are smart. You are worthy. You are wonderful. You are awesome.”

It’s never cool to hurt. It’s never cool to take your pain and use it as an excuse to inflict it on others. I could have easily walked by, mumbled an “I feel ya,” and kept going, but even in my pain I chose to stop and show that kindness, love and peace does live up in here. It’s the only thing that drowns out the hateful noise. And you have the choice whether you receive it, and then in turn give it.

My prayer is this: Stop when someone is crying. Those tears are tears of pain from a heart that is full of love and kindness, and so desires to hear how valued they are.

Show them that love, goodness, and kindness lives here. It could truly save a hurting soul. And, it only takes a hot minute.

The same hot minute it took to read a devotional dated December 5th.

On December 6th.

Surely, Lord, You are in this place! 

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Posted by on December 6, 2018 in Loving Others

 

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Peace with everyone

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Do all that you can to live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

For years I have tried to determine the best way to read, reflect, and write what God has spoken to me as I sit with Him each day. There has been quite a learning curve along the way. Many a planner bought. Many a planner tossed. Until finally the system that works for me was born.

It involves reading a passage of Scripture, noting the particular verse that speaks to me, and writing down what He says to me.

I also then pencil in a verse of the day.

Sometimes I read the rest of the passage. Most days I don’t.

Until this particular day. Only because it had been the second time in two weeks I had been directed to this very one.

Live at peace with everyone.

Really, God…everyone?

When I picked this particular plan on peace. My hope was that God would reveal that “peace that surpasses all understanding” in some of the areas where I just didn’t have any. Where situations still remained a little chaotic, and there were still some weeds in my garden to tend to…some I wasn’t sure if they were even mine to “weed out.”

I wasn’t expecting this to be his first plea! I definitely wasn’t expecting it to show up again a few short weeks later.

So what does the rest of the passage say? How does God expect us to live in peace with everyone?

Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Romans 12:19-20, MSG

By doing. By loving. By buying my enemy lunch and a drink. Now, do I have to sit with them and eat? Not. Nothing says we have to be the best of friends. However, will there come a time this person needs to be shown compassion? Maybe. Who should they see? A bitter ole hag, still dragging around old baggage? Or a kind and loving Jesus?

Peace comes when we relinquish the need to harbor hate towards those who have plotted evil against us. When we can wish them well from “over there.” When we can move about our day, knowing that God will judge the integrity of those who lie and scheme. We don’t have to. It’s too much for us to bear.

We just have to do good. Even to those who hurt us. Even to those we don’t like.

Even to those who yes (human emotion, here)…we really do hope tumble for all the pain they have caused.

But, He will take care of that. We simply take care of doing good.

Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. Romans 12:21

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2018 in Loving Others, Mercy

 

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Let my words be sweet

“Because she is a crybaby. That’s why she is crying.”

Where did these words come from you ask? They were uttered from my youngest. The answer from the lips of my son after his sister had asked why tears had filled her mom’s eyes.

And, of course, after these words, I began to cry even more. Thinking…Where did he get that word from? Where did I go wrong? How did this word come from this one? The one who sees his mom love without limits and at all costs? Who forgives and forgets each time his anger turns to aggression? This is what he has learned?

We don’t call people “crybabies” in our house. We don’t use the “r” word. “Stupid” and “dumb” are banned. A curse word may fly every now and then, but hurtful words for the most part are not a part of our general conversation. We have taught our kids to use kind, gentle words when they speak to each other. To others. To use words to build up. Not to tear down.

But, I can’t always shield them from what they may hear in this world. I’ve seen the word “crybaby” used to describe anyone who dares to stand up to injustice. I’ve even been called one before this day when I’ve been caught crying after being hurt by people I care about.

So…would our children, my child learn something different, or learn to speak loving and kind words if we took time to use our words to build up while they watch?

Keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Psalm 34:13

I had been spending a lot of time over a number of days thinking about words. My children had spent a number of days passing harsh words back and forth amongst each other. I had contemplated the ways in which words had been used to hurt, deceive, and divide people over the course of a year. I had been hopeful that over that year mine had shown and spoken something different.

I had not anticipated to walk into Bible Study at all on Wednesday night. I am usually the one serving in some capacity. This night was supposed to be no different. But, as God often does, He had other plans. So, I walked into the room and heard this:

“People can hurt. They can frustrate. But, they are also our greatest treasure, and you and your words are very important to some other person.”

The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Isaiah 50:4

The world. Satan and his crafty adversaries. They had convinced me that my words were failing. That I had nothing of worth to say. That any wisdom God had given me to comfort had been useless.

He had put me in that room right where I needed to be on this night to prove otherwise.

Here’s the thing:

Words have infinite power. They can heal a wounded soul. Or inflict tremendous pain. The words spoken to self or to others have the power to breathe life into a heart, or break one. Words of love and forgiveness can build or repair something beautiful. While words of hate and contempt can destroy it. Once spoken, whether sweet or bitter…they cannot be taken back.

Choose wisely.

Choose words that build beauty.

Choose words that give life.

Choose words of love.

Choose the words of Christ.

Be compassionate and careful. Especially with those you care so much about. Choose words that if repeated back the only thing you would hear are sweet, loving words softly spoken back to you.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2018 in Like Jesus Does, Loving Others

 

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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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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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The World Outside My Starbucks App

Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:4

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The picture above looks similar to my local Starbucks. No, it’s not in an airport, but there is one striking similarity I noticed as I waited in line this morning for my triple grande caramel soy mocha with no whip and caramel drizzle-every single person in line was furiously texting and scrolling away on their cell phones. Eyes downcast. Oblivious to anyone and anything around them. 

And, I am among those people. Distracted by every chime, every notification, every tweet, every up-to-the-minute status update. 

Eyes downcast. Oblivious to anything and anyone around me. 

Oblivious to the ones who are hurting, heartbroken, and desperately hoping someone will look up and see the pain and sorrow in their eyes. 

We continue to be shocked when we hear news of someone who is so sad and lonely they would see no way out but to take their own life, and as the world stands in shock once again with the death of Robin Williams, we ask ourselves these questions: Why weren’t the signs not noticed? Why wouldn’t he or she reach out for help? How can we miss the signs so often when tragedies like this occur?

Many answers come to mind, but as I stood today noticing I am just as guilty of shutting out the world, I could not help but wonder how much my inability to connect with people beyond my cell phone contributes to some of the hurt people feel. Contributes to the inability to look beyond what is going on in iPhone land, and look for signs of the brokenhearted. 

When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Romans 12:13

However, I have often been too eager and willing to share my emotions by updating my “status,” and too hesitant to reach out and share them with those who matter the most-my family, my friends, and most importantly, God.

I have opened my Facebook app instead of my Bible. 

I have reached out to Twitter followers instead of confiding in a friend.

I have hidden behind my cell phone in order to avoid eye contact with someone I just didn’t feel like talking to.

I have avoided looking up and reaching out to those who may need a caring word the most, someone who may need a smile, a kind word, or a simple gesture that someone truly sees they do exist.

And, I know how much easier it is to be honest with our invisible followers, than those who may stand face-to-face with us. 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you. Matthew 6:33

If I can put down my cell phone and look up when I am lonely. Look to Him for hope in a dark and sinful world. Look to Him for healing in the midst of brokenness, I can then be equipped to provide others with the same hope and peace. Look around and see people are hurting, and trying hard to hide it behind smiles and jokes. 

Because the word no one wants to hear, the one very few understand, and many are quick to deem as a selfish act, has touched many lives and families, including ours.

All covered by smiles and jokes.

One sudden and forever unexplained.

One prevented, but one which I could have easily missed simply because I spent so much time hiding behind my smart phone, and avoiding a human connection. 

Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, and whatever else there is out there, cannot compete with the power of an intentional connection with another person.

It cannot compete with looking up into the eyes of a grumpy cashier, seeing the hurt behind the angry mask, and offering a simple smile.

It cannot compete with doing something kind, and expecting nothing at all in return. 

Who knows whose life could be changed simply by putting down the phone for a while. 

So, this is my pledge:

I am going to stop reaching out to Facebook, and use His arms to reach out to love and help others.

I am going to stop checking my email while in line at Starbucks, so I can look up and see what is going on around me. Speak, smile, and make someone feel important. Who knows which one of them may have woken feeling worthless, wondering why they exist, or why they are always ignored. 

Instead of pouring my heart into a new status update, I am going to borrow his heart to seek out those that are hurting and discouraged.

I am going to start living outside my iPhone world, so I can spend a little time in the worlds of those around me. 

 

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2014 in Loving Others

 

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A Boy, A Puppy, and His Image

Image

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them. Genesis 1:27

“Can the image of God be found in an autistic child?” This is the question that was asked during a ministry class I took over the summer as I discussed some of the struggles we had as a family with our son, Hunter’s, diagnosis, and the many times we have stressed over locating his precious blue puppy. At first, my initial response was, “Of course!” But, I never really thought much more about the question, or what the question really meant in the context of autism or any disability.

First, I’ll admit it. Autism has broken me. It has pulled me and pushed me in ways I never could have imagined. It has tired me. It has beaten me, both literally and emotionally. And it has left me feeling alone in many ways, just yearning for someone out there to just “get it,” or to understand so I don’t have to feel so alone. So my child does not have to feel so alone.

But, as I think back on all the fear, the tears, the failures, and the triumphs-yes, I can’t help but see the likeness of God in the face of autism.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.                                                                                                                                  Colossians 3:12-15

As those made in his image there are certain attitudes we possess as His followers. While the Bible and my walk with Him have taught me about many of these attitudes, seeing the world through an autistic little boy has shown me so much more.

You must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy and kindness. Colossians 3:12

Kindness and mercy-something I did not extend to parents in line at the store with “those” kids. You know, the kids who acted out, who screamed, who hit, who ran in circles. The kids who made me think, “Those parents need to learn how to discipline those kids.” It is funny how actually having one of “those” kids can teach you how to show mercy to other parents who are struggling with a tantrum over banana yogurt. How what used to be a look of condemnation is now replaced with a smile, and a look of compassion that tells that other weary and judged parent, “It’s OK. I get it. I have been there, too.”

Clothe yourselves with patience, make allowance for each others faults. Colossians 3:12-13

Autism has not only taught me how to be patient during a full-blown tantrum, as my child repeats the same phrase over and over multiple times, as we turn the car around to pick up a misplaced puppy once again for the fifteenth time, but it has also taught me how to be patient with others. With their faults. With their limitations. It has taught me that some of our battles are hidden from the world, and that we all must endure them. It’s taught me not to take the emotions and actions of others personally, and to forgive them since most of the time it’s never about me…in the same way I forgive the little boy who may have bruised me with his punches or kicks, utterly confused me with his lack of speech, or laid that poor, beaten puppy down one too many times.

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:14

Love. Unconditional love. If the image of autism has not taught me anything else it has taught me what true love really is. Its knowing that love is not simply a word that is spoken, but something that is expressed through actions. It’s knowing that when I don’t hear “I love you,” my son’s sleeping face as I rub his back to soothe him to sleep is enough. It’s loving despite abilities. Despite one’s faults. Despite one’s vast differences. Despite the fact that just like Hunter’s blue puppy, we are all torn, dirty, and ragged. It’s learning to love like Christ-without limits. Even if it’s not reciprocated. Even if it means getting hurt. Even if it means I have to give more of myself. So much more physically, emotionally, and mentally. It’s teaching others to love in this way as well.

And always be thankful. Colossians 3:15

And yes, one can be thankful in the midst of raising a child with autism, raising any child with a disability. I didn’t ask for this struggle, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,

The Bible taught me about the greatness and goodness of God, but an autistic little boy taught me just what all this really means.

Kindness, patience, love, and thankfulness. They are found in this journey called autism. They are found in the struggles we face, and in the triumphs we celebrate. They are found in the image of a beautiful little boy. One made in the image of God.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2014 in Autism and Faith

 

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