speechless.

Not much renders me without words. I can normally formulate an opinion, draw a conclusion, put my heart into words. But this weekend, words escaped me.

My younger sister defines “faithful.” She radiates love and deep care. She faces adversity with strength that only comes from knowing an all powerful and loving God and Savior, Jesus Christ. She always puts others first, even if it is heart breaking. She is a woman who inspires and encourages me. Her faith steadies her weary feet.  I’ve witnessed this over the last years as she faced difficulties and sadnesses I couldn’t sometimes imagine. She never gives up. She always hoped. She always hopes.

Did you catch that? Yes, I can’t decide on tense.

She always hoped her beloved husband would be able to beat his addiction. She always hoped they would find redemption and restoration this side of heaven. But Friday brought the heart wrenching, devastating news that this hope would be deferred. He lost his fight. Lura lost her husband, her friend, the one her soul loves. Her children lost their father. Chris was a son. A brother. An uncle. He was a hard worker. A talented chef. His sudden death has broken many hearts.

But Lura still hopes. The Bible tells us in Romans 5: 8   that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” There was a day when Chris understood his sin before his Holy God. He repented and believed. And we cling to the truth of that often claimed, often recited verse in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Yesterday, as I sat and wept my way through worship, I felt the weight of this particular sin and the harm it has done. And then I wept more. For my own sin. Every one of us, when we take our last breath, will be caught up in some sort of sin. Perhaps it will be a gripping, destructive sin like drug addiction, or maybe it will be the less flashy sins like lust and bitterness. But we will all breathe our last breath sinners. But those who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord will open their eyes FREE. REDEEMED. WHOLE. LOVED.

That thought…..of Chris free from addiction, of the pain and hurts of this world…..gives me joy. But tearful, heavy joy. There remains a loving, young family that needs to heal from the wounds of this pain. I praise my God that Lura CLINGS to Him. I am so thankful for the gift of faith. In John 16:33 we are given words straight from Jesus: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus is greater than all our sin. Jesus is greater than all our pain and suffering.

Take heart. Have peace. Repent and Believe.

If you are struggling with something that causes you or your loved ones pain, please….I beg you…..open your heart to the Lord. Find a friend, family member, pastor, counselor….get the help you need to walk through this life. We are all broken, but we get to carry each other.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.               -2 Corinthians 1:3-5

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If you would like to help Lura during this time, a Go Fund Me has been set up. You can donate here17643192_1485178672-8449

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retreat.

retreat
 noun re·treat \ri-ˈtrēt\
1 : an act or process of withdrawing especially from what 
is  difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable
2: a place of privacy or safety : refuge
3: a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or 
instruction under a director

My weekend was spent enjoying the fullness of this word: retreat. Nancy Guthrie, along with more than 150 women from 40 churches other than our own joined more than 150 women from CEFC on Friday for a very moving, inspiring, refreshing and worshipful evening. The title of Nancy’s talk that night was “When God Says No.” We have all experienced, in some form or fashion, God telling us No to a repeated request. Maybe it is little. Or maybe it is very big.  But the answer has still been, at times, no. But Nancy reminded  us that when God says no, we find comfort in knowing that Jesus understands (fully man and fully God). We find companionship in drawing close to Jesus (he came close to draw us close!). We find confidence trusting in God’s goodness. (God did, in fact, say no to Jesus in the garden so that he could say yes to you and me for all eternity!). We are so very loved by the One True God! My scribbled notes from the evening end with this: Satisfying and sustaining you as you endure…ask him to use my weakness to put his power on display.

I have always been acutely aware of my weakness. A cry baby. Nervous nelly. Insecure. Unsure. People pleaser. But Nancy reminded me that my awareness of my weakness, ahem, my sin, is what can make me strong! I am able to fully lay it at his feet and let his power be made evident in this very weak vessel. I used to say I reveled in my geekiness. Well, no, now I will revel in my weakness as I glory in my Redeemer!

Oh, I don’t think I can summarize all that was Saturday here and now…I will save that for tomorrow. But, man. I am so thankful for where I am right now. To be surrounded by women seeking to know Jesus more deeply. To love one another truthfully and honestly. For women who teach the Bible like nobody’s business. Dig deep, layer after layer, revealing Jesus, revealing God’s promises, his hope, his love, unfailing, undeserved, unending.

lent.

I am really looking forward to lent. This preparation for Easter is something I have toyed with, but never sunk into. But since going to our church, one service that I have typically looked forward to is the Good Friday service. That looking straight at the cross. Seeing what happened and why. And who for. Remembering. Repenting. And ultimately rejoicing. Tomorrow I will begin a Bible study online. I have never done this, either. I will join ladies around the world at #shereadstruth as we come near the cross. If you would like to join in, it is free at the website, or available through a free app, as well.

I need it. I feel a bit fragmented, distracted, forgetful. How can I pray, read the Bible, get “ready” for the day only to find myself in anger or frustration an hour later? I am needy. I am weak. Thankfully, that’s nothing new to God.

Romans 5:1-11{emphasis mine}

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

geekiness.

Today, I am doing something I do well. Reveling in my geekiness. I could try to blame the lack of sleep caused by sitting bedside to a barfing Jude, or my recent work with Eli on memorizing prepositions, but truth is…it’s just me.

As you all know, I’m trying to get better at memorizing scripture. I can’t just read to memorize. I need to write it out. Over and over. Plus, I like lists and blue bic pens. So, as I am struggling through 1 Peter 1:3-9, I was caught up in all those prepositional phrases! They work as anchors to help me get it straight. And to see what is really being said. I decided to sit with Stella as she did her school work and try out one of her class’s ways of learning: doodle notes. Here is where that took me… Kinda fun. I am not an artist, but I am solid on this much of my memorizing! I think I will keep adding to it as the verses go on. We shall see…
image

flesh.

How does one Word become flesh and change us?

Words fly by so quickly. Speaking, listening, reading. They are a blur. I feel the urge, need even, to slow down and live life frame by frame in order to simply connect. But life doesn’t often allow for that, so I find myself fighting for it. Listen deeper to those I love, to the words I read, to my own heart.

When I slow down I can Remember and Consider. Remember the Truth of the Gospel (for God so loved the world…) and Consider my Reasons to Trust (I am with you, I will never, no never, forsake you!) These are the ingredients of growing in God. And believe it or not, this combination can transform your, my, Anxiety into Joy and Love.

How, you ask?

Anxiety remade becomes your friend–your door to actually knowing God. It becomes an informative signal, a door to faith. Much like the oil light on your dashboard flashing the need for attention, anxiety remade expresses honest need and distress of faith. When need is expressed as outcry, we are met with joy. When we Remember and Consider, we intercept our anxiety and begin to switch modes, and begin working towards joy. Instead lying on my bed and crying Woe is me, I cry out to the Lord. Anxiety becomes the signal to remind me, drive me, to the psalms, somewhere constructive.

Anxiety transformed makes me a friend to others. It becomes an expression of love and wisdom. Jesus knew anxiety transformed. He spoke the words of Psalms 31 and 22. He is the faithful High Priest who deals gently with the hurting. And we get to become that! Just as Timothy in Philippians 2 who was genuinely concerned, genuinely anxious for the welfare of the church at Philippi, we get to see anxiety transformed into care and service towards others. Anxiety remade lets us know there is a way forward, giving you the ability to help others with compassion and clarity. Actual, real help.

This journey of remaking our anxieties into something constructive is slow, hard and not mechanical. It is both personal and interpersonal. We, I, must face ourselves and open ourselves up to a loving and living relationship with God and others.

It begins with an Honest Conversation. Ask and really ask for help. Live a life of small obediences. Wear a path to the pool of grace. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. His power (divine kindness) is made perfect in weakness.

{all taken once again directly from my notes from CCEFs Anxiety conference}

a person.

Whenever I struggle with fear, worry, anxiety, panic…….. I fall into a trap of believing I am:
Abnormal
Alone
Isolated
Powerless
Punished

When the truth is, if we were really honest, fear and anxiety is a common trait among human beings as much as the air we breathe. These experiences, or responses to experiences, are very Normal. Now the other descriptors up there are up for grabs, but I offer that they, too, are lies.

All fears and anxieties are saying something. It is sometimes hard to listen to them honestly, because I find they so often are screaming and ranting incessantly. However, if we can give them a chance we will hear them saying that something we want, love, trust or treasure is feeling threatened. Now, it may actually be true, so this is not always a wacked-out feeling! However, quite often, fears and anxieties take things a bit too far.

In the midst of our woes we begin looking for a person. Someone to bring relief, alleviate the problem, fix it. Or someone to blame, take responsibility for it all. But if we could slow this down and really look at it, we would see that we are all really hoping for the Right Person. The only Person who promises us truth. His name is God is with Us!

Exodus 33:16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Hebrews 13:5 Hebrews 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.

He is the only one who brings peace and offers hope. There is nothing I find more comforting, grounding and clarity-inducing.

John 20:19b Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Psalm 46, Matthew 8 remind us that he is mighty, able, and willing. He calms the storms both figurative and real. He holds together the very molecules of my being!

It is when I begin to walk in faith during my fears and anxieties that I begin to see the spiritual reality of my life. I begin believing the truth. Fears tell me I am alone. Faith tells me He is with me! I often imagine the chariots of fire surrounding me just as the young man with Elisha saw with his own eyes.

This shift in focus, this slowing down and listening that allows me to see that there is a destination. Hope. God points us to the future and let’s us know he is writing it and it is good. Our heavenly home will be utterly free of this struggle. And in the mean time, I will grab the opportunities fear and anxiety present me with and take part of this Redemption story. My redemption story.

kindness.

I was stumped as to what I was going to write tonight, when a mutual friend of mine posted a little story about my nephew. D is a great kid. Fun-loving, athletic, smart, hysterical, and apparently very kind. Now, we all know how much he loves his family and friends, but this story took his kindness beyond…

He has become influential in the life of a younger kid on his bus. He has been sweet to him in ways that the young boy goes home multiple times a week and talks about D. In fact, he makes sure to pack his library books so that D can read to him on the way to school.

Now, I will admit that I am a proud aunt, but this hit me more than the typical. I am proud when D wins awards in hockey. Or when nephew L gets distinguished honor roll. But reading the comments other moms in that community were writing stirred something in me.

The story first appeared on a community website. The mother of the young student wanting to find and thank D’s parents for a job well done. In telling this story, other moms wanted to find out who it was. Who is this kid? Do I know him? How can we reward him? And it hit me. Kindness moves us. Reading those sentiments sent tears down my cheeks.

D’s kind actions were nothing to him. Of course he was nice! Of course he reads to the boy! (I am assuming here…but I bet it is something like that.) D didn’t plan and work hard to do that. It was just the right thing to do. But hearing stories of others kindnesses moves us…why?

I think it is God stirring our hearts. That old song says, “it’s your kindness that leads us to repentance, oh Lord…” And I think the movement is the beginning. We love stories of acts of kindness. Remember the whole Random Acts of Kindness thing? It’s a good thing….but again, why? We desire to be kind, and to be treated kindly. But we realize our falling-short. And we surely recognize other’s failings… When the truth is that we can only be kind because He has been kind.

It always seems cliche to say that we need to become like little children, but isn’t it true? I can’t wait to see D and hug him and thank him for showing me Jesus by being kind to the boy on the bus.

hope.

Jesus, your name, great banner of hope, steadies the knees of the weak. -from “Jesus Your Name” words and music by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Ian Hannah

This verse really popped out to me today during worship. I almost giggled in knowingness. Have you experienced the steadying of knocking knees? I sure have.

I picture a battle raging. Maybe in the kitchen. Words flying like arrows. Looks of death. Fists clenched. Then a silent prayer is shot to heaven. In rushes Jesus carrying his banner of hope. Your heart hears the whisper {hold on}. Soon comes the peace that only He gives (not as the world gives). And you rest. Fingers uncurl. Eyes soften. Words slow down.

So very thankful today for the Prince of Peace, whose name alone gives hope.