Color within the lines….

One of my dearest friends shared a story about her 6-year-old granddaughter. They were coloring together. Her grand daughter looked up and said, “MaeMae, try to stay within the lines. But that’s okay if you can’t.” My friend shared that her mom is trying to work with her on perfectionism. Boy, can I relate. There have been so many times that I have tried so hard to stay within the lines in my own life, realizing that I was failing epicly.

As a Christ follower, wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could just follow a specific list of rules each day. You know, check the boxes as we go, stay within the lines, and win our way right into heaven. The delusion that we could accomplish this perfectly is the biggest indicator of our need for a Savior. The bottom line is that Jesus doesn’t need for us to color within the lines perfectly, nor does he need us to live perfect lives. He simply needs us to recognize His sacrifice for us as a perfect Savior and put our lives in His perfect hands. It has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Him! “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8 NIV

This precious 6-year-old’s statement wraps up grace perfectly. We can try; but, when (not if) we fail, it’s okay because we have a perfect Savior who loves us and gives us His grace, hope, joy, and forgiveness.

It also occurred to me that the wisdom imparted from these little lips didn’t tell her MaeMae to stop trying. No, in fact, she encouraged her to try to color within the lines with the security of knowing that it would be okay if she was not able to do so. And we should do exactly the same! We should get up every day with the focus and desire to serve our Lord obediently and to turn away from sin; to let Him guide our steps; and to love Him with all our heart, soul, and minds; and to extend that love to those around us. “Jesus answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 NIV

We should give God thanks every day for His sacrifice and for His blessings in our lives. As Christ followers, we should be in constant prayer and try to serve Him with our thoughts, words, and deeds. Why? Because that is exactly the example that was set when His Son Jesus spent time on earth. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16‭-‬18 NIV Did you catch it? Our very ability to try is found in Christ Jesus.

Oh yes, grab those crayons and try to color within the lines. But, let’s not linger there. Let’s put our final assurance in Christ. I say to you earnestly that He makes everything okay, indeed!

Color away!

Me okay…

My grandson loves to bounce, climb, jump, and fall. In fact, we kept an old mattress in our living room for the majority of the year so that he could do all of those things a little more safely on the mattress.

His favorite way to play on the mattress was to jump from the back of the couch to the mattress. Sometimes, he nailed his landing. Sometimes, not so much. When he didn’t nail it, he would pop right back up and exclaim, “Me okay!”, with an enormous grin on his face. He would then get right back on the couch and try again.

We are saying goodbye to 2022 today. 365 days that God gave us. 52 weeks of memories. Like my grandson, I often bounced, climbed, jumped, and fell during this past year. Sometimes, I nailed my landing. Sometimes, not so much.

And here is the thing, tomorrow begins a whole new cycle in 2023. A brand new year to bounce, climb, jump, and yes, even fall. I have no idea what the year will bring; but I know who is sifting this new year through His Sovereign hands. God knows exactly what I will face. He knows exactly which landings I will nail, and He knows exactly which landings I will not. It is because of Him that I have the ability to pop back up and exclaim, “Me okay!”, with a grin on my face. God provides a safe landing every time. He sent His own Son to conquer the cross just so that I would not feel the sting of death. Because of Jesus, I will not be defeated. I am victorious! Oh yes, “Me okay indeed!”.

I think our battle cry for the New Year should be just that: because of Jesus, we are okay! Because of Jesus, we are not afraid to get back up and try again, even after failure, disappointment, loss, rejection, or even sin. And especially when we don’t nail the landing.

So, what do you say? Will you claim it with me as we walk confidently into 2023? “Me okay!” Because of Jesus, “Me okay indeed!”

“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”
Romans 8:31‭-‬39 MSG

The Polar Express….

We took my grandson to ride the Polar Express. He was so excited! From the moment he received his golden ticket to boarding the train, his enthusiasm was contagious. He loved the cookies, the hot cocoa, and he loved when Santa made his way down our passenger car. Our seats were the very last ones on the car; so when Santa stepped on board, my grandson stood up on his seat and started yelling, “Hey Santa! I’m right here! I need you!” It was hysterical! His anticipation of the moment that Santa would get to him was palpable. When Santa finally arrived at his seat, my grandson looked at him earnestly and answered all his questions. He even stood up for a picture with him.

The Advent season marks a time of anticipation for us as we wait for the miraculous birth of our Savior Jesus. I wonder if we are excited about this gift or if we have allowed the pressures of the season to distract us? Watching my grandson on the train was such an eye-opening moment! His little mouth cried out his biggest need in that moment. He needed Santa to see him!

I have a big need too, and so do you! We are in desperate need of a Savior! When I really think about it, I want to be just like my grandson this Christmas. standing up on my seat, joining the angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV) I want to be calling out to Jesus, “Look at me Jesus! Here I am! I need you! I need Your light, Your hope, Your forgiveness, Your grace, Your sacrifice. Your joy!” As I look upon the face of that baby in the manger, I want to be filled with such excitement that I can not sit still. I want to look earnestly at His face and open my heart to His presence.

For me to proclaim my need for a Savior, it means that I have come face to face with my own sin and my inability to save myself. It means that I realize that my only hope is in that baby boy lying in a lowly manger that will grow up, stretch out His hands, and conquer death for me. It means that I am willing to place Him first in my life, trusting in His Sovereign will, his goodness and love, even when I don’t understand the circumstances that I am facing.

Yes, we are all in need of a Savior to see us. We are in need of a Savior to rescue us. We are in need of a Savior to love us without condition. And we receive this precious gift on Christmas. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6 NIV

So, grab some hot cocoa and get on the train. We truly have the one and only golden ticket in Jesus. It’s the only ticket that matters. Happy Birthday Jesus! We need you!

More Jesus…

I sing pretty regularly to my grandson. He has heard some of the classics since he was born: Jesus Loves Me, He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, the Butterfly Song to name a few. The other night, I was putting him to bed by singing Jesus Loves Me. When I finished, I heard his precious 2-year-old voice whisper, “More Jesus”. So, I sang it again to hear him say, “More Jesus”. After a third time and adding the song Jesus Loves the Little Children, he rolled over and happily went to sleep. What a blessing!

Since, I have been pondering my own need for “more Jesus”. If my voice would whisper those simple two words regularly during the day, my thoughts, actions and responses to the demands of daily life would be met with more love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, goodness, gentleness and self control (Galations 5:23-25). And just think, if those were the last words I uttered before going to sleep each night, what a wonderful night’s sleep there would be!

We are heading into the holiday season. What if my attitude were one of seeking more Jesus? Maybe I would pause amongst the chaos and give thanks for my crazy, beautiful family this Thanksgiving, with all of our flaws. Maybe I would focus less on the things wrong with my house and just be thankful that I have a house. Maybe I would care more about the conversations and laughter at the table than a perfectly set and decorated table. Maybe I would choose to see my loved ones through Jesus’ eyes and be thankful that God sees me through His Son’s precious blood. Maybe I would talk more about our greatest gift, Jesus instead of focusing on the perfect gift for my daughter and grandson. Maybe I would sing more songs about Jesus. You see, seeking more Jesus would change everything!

More Jesus means less worry, anxiety, fear and stress. More Jesus means freedom. More Jesus means having a servant’s heart, humbled by His sacrifice for me. (Matthew 6:33, 2 Corinthians 3:17, John 13:14, John 3:16) Yep, more Jesus is definitely for me!

Thank you Father for using my grandson to show me the way. And please help me seek more Jesus every day!

Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

Be joyful as you seek more Jesus!

Laundry Room…

Today I lingered in the laundry room….for much longer than I ever intended. It is not a glamorous space. In fact, quite the opposite. It is too small, hot and crammed full of stuff that we can’t find any other place for in the house. Yet, there I was. Hiding really.

You see the laundry room door closes and has one of the only child protective knobs on it in the house. So, I was safe and alone…for just a few minutes. Unreachable by little hands and clamoring little feet.

I could hear my grandson out there running after our dog, Baby. Screaming (no screeching is a better word) along the way. He is a wild boy mid-mornings, demanding ever bit of his MiMi’s attention and seemingly moments away from the next tantrum. At nearly twenty months, he has mastered the word “no” and has opinions about what he will and will not do. And most of the time what he will do is NOT what he needs to do or even is allowed to do.

So, there I was in the laundry room, wondering  how many times a person can say, “no” in an hour. Or minute for that matter.  And thinking about my poor dog. Baby who undoubtedly wishes she had thumbs and could hideaway in the laundry room too.

Again, God steps in and whispers, “look again child.” You see, it is a perfect illustration of what I do everyday to my Father. Run wild, get into things I shouldn’t, and screech while emphatically proclaiming “no” and exercising my own free will.

Yet, my Father doesn’t require a time out in the laundry room. Nope. He sent His Son, Jesus to stand in the gap for me. Jesus’ blood covers all my running, defiance, testing and offenses. I get to hear a resounding “yes” over and over again. Yes to forgiveness! Yes to grace! Yes to everlasting life! Yes to complete victory!

Thank you God for daily reminders of your goodness. Oh and thank you for my laundry room!

Choose Joy!

Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.
2 Corinthians 1:20‭-‬22 MSG

I Get Knocked Down; But I Get Up Again….

We now have a 13 month old running around the house. He can be across the room in a blink of an eye and have his little hands in everything, especially if it is something that he is not supposed to have. He loves to play chase. And he loves to be wherever you are going. I can’t really count how many times a day my grandson falls down. This walking thing is tough.

The other night I came out of my bedroom with my dog, Baby in tow to find my grandson who was heading down the hall toward us. Baby ran past him and accidentally knocked him down. Before you could count to five, my grandson was up and in pursuit of Baby. Yes, my grandson gets knocked down; but he gets up again!

Walking through life is tough too. There are plenty of things that knock us down: pandemics, inclement weather, sickness, political unrest, family disputes, addiction, anxiety, depression and loss, just to name a few. But, let’s take a note from my grandson and be diligent and quick to get back up again! We have the ultimate example of this in Jesus.

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. Hebrews 4:14‭-‬16 MSG

Death on the cross couldn’t keep our Savior down! No! Jesus rose victorious and is seated at the right hand of God our Father, waiting to return again in final and absolute victory! Because of His outstretched hand, we can get back up, no matter who or what knocks us down. Walk right up to Him and get what He is ready to give! Get. Back. Up.

Thank you Jesus for walking through this life with us. And thank you for the lessons you continue to teach through my amazing grandson. Help us get back up again. And again. In Jesus’ name! Amen.

Security Blanket….

Like many children, I carried a beloved “blankee” when I was growing up. In fact, I vividly remember packing for a weekend cheer tournament in the 8th grade and taking my torn and tattered blankee with me. That’s right folks, I was thirteen and still took my blankee with me. I also had a stuffed rabbit named Bobbi who currently resides in my Grandson’s room. I think we all have a need for security in our lives. We like to feel relaxed, peaceful, at home, familiar and secure.

Romans 8:38-39 tells us: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus is the ultimate security blanket! He humbled himself and entered this world as a baby. He walked in His Father’s perfect will amongst the poor, the prostitutes, the tax collectors and the broken sharing a message of truth, hope and love. Crowds flocked to Him because He was security, peace and light in the darkness.

He was persecuted, torn, tattered, and then put to death for us. He rose victorious, swallowing up death so that these beautiful words in Romans become a fresh breath of life for those who believe in Him.

Crowds still flock to Him, looking for their rightful home and eternal life. Eternal life begins the moment you proclaim Him Lord and Savior. Security, safety, protection and a purpose-driven life are given in grace to those who believe in Him.

Yes, He is the perfect security blanket and He wraps His loving arms around us in this deceptive world. Absolutely nothing can take that security away. Listen to His voice and rest in the comfort of His blessed assurance.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
John 10:14‭-‬16‭, ‬27‭-‬30 NIV

Choose security!

Learning to crawl…

My grandson is about to crawl. He wants it so badly. He pushes up on his knees and rocks his body back and forth, eyes focused on the toy just within arms reach. In those moments he is laser-focused on what lies ahead and what he wants to accomplish.

His attempts to crawl forward so far have resulted in a face down sprawl. Most of the time, he pushes back up and tries again. My grandson likes to babble and whine during the struggle. Often, instead of moving forward, he actually pushes himself backwards, away from his goal. And sometimes, he gives into frustration sprawled face down crying, looking for a hug and a pep talk.

Oh what a picture of our life in Christ!

Paul shares in Philippians 3, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Just like my grandson, I realize that I must take baby steps toward the call God has placed in my life. I must be diligent and laser-focused on what lies ahead and not let what lies behind be a stumbling block.

Some days, I persevere and I am able to push myself up and strain forward easily. Other days, instead of forward, I feel like I have taken two steps back away from my goal! Much like my grandson, I like to babble and whine to my Father during the struggle. And there are definitely days that I find myself in a face down sprawl needing a hug and a pep talk, which my Father readily provides!

My grandson doesn’t realize that he is training his muscles with each attempt to crawl. Soon and very soon, he will crawl, reach that toy and receive his reward! And he will eventually turn that crawl into a walk, a walk into a run, and a run into a sprint! Glory! You see, God will reward His obedience and training. God has so many things for my grandson to accomplish with the life He entrusted.

The same is true for you. And for me. Keep striving! Keep training! Keep straining! Press on toward the goal! Our prize is found in Christ Jesus. Our call is to glorify Him with everything He has given. He will take our attempts and turn them into victory! Oh yes, He is Worthy!

Run your race!

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7‭-‬8 ESV

Jesus’ life matters…

My women’s group just wrapped the Bible study Trustworthy by Lysa Terkeurst, where we spent six weeks studying the Kings of Israel noted in 1 and 2 Kings of the Bible. The fact that a global pandemic was the back drop for this study was not a coincidence. Nor was it a coincidence that during the last part of the study, we experienced a tragedy as a nation and an outpouring of chaos and hurt. Much like the Israelites, we find ourselves with a desperate need for God’s truth, healing, grace, love and a Savior. We have all of that and more in Jesus and His life matters. And because of His life, every single one of our lives matter too.

Jesus is no stranger to chaos, injustice, or political unrest. He is no stranger to hurt, slander, or prejudice. He is no stranger to sickness, disease or death. He is no stranger to communities divided and lines drawn. His time on earth was filled with all of these things. He chose to walk in truth, love, compassion and justice. He chose to walk in obedience to His Father and His Father’s will for His life. Oh yes my friends, Jesus’ life mattered then and it matters now.

Jesus taught us how to handle ourselves during conflict, division, troubled times, pandemics and chaos. He is quite clear in scripture on exactly what to do.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30‭-‬31 ESV

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:5‭-‬7 ESV

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27 ESV

Jesus didn’t just choose words. His actions backed up His words when He was stripped and beaten; when His flesh was torn and He was spit upon; when He wore a crown of thorns and carried a cross; when He was nailed to that cross and was left hanging to die. All the while, Jesus was teaching us how to handle ourselves when everything and everyone seems to be against us. His words from the cross mattered.

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. Luke 23:34 ESV

Jesus died and three days later rose again. He now sits at the right hand of God the Father and He will return again someday to judge both the living and the dead. His kingdom will have absolutely no end. And because Jesus’ life matters and he laid that life down for us, we stand in perfect love, grace, forgiveness and unity. Our victory is secure. The battle has been won!

Jesus provided the perfect example of how to handle pandemics, tragedy, hate and injustice then and now. We must put our hope in Him. We must allow His perfect life and example to change us. And we must put His life in proper perspective to our own lives. Oh yes, Jesus’ life matters. I can’t think of a life that matters more.

Choose Him!

Peaceful slumber….

My 14 week old grandson fell asleep this morning on his back with arms stretched wide open across my bed. We had been playing with rattles, cooing and giggling when his eyes grew sleepy and he nodded off. I was struck by his complete innocence and open-armed trust. He doesn’t have a care in this world. There it is…complete peace.

Oh how I would love to join you grandson in your sweet slumber; but the corona virus still looms, face masks and social distancing keep us apart and my very own church decides whether it is safe to gather or not with precautions. Not to mention the dryer just beeped, my floors need mopping and I haven’t even worked out yet today. No, I simply can not join you grandson, I have too many things to do and so many things to worry about!

How many times have I allowed the world, all the fear and all the trouble, keep me from that peaceful slumber? I focus on the sickness, the distance, the unkowns, the trouble, the to-do list, and forget about the precious face of my Savior.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

My focus each morning should be more like my grandson: complete surrender to the goodness that God provides. I should giggle more, worry less and allow that peaceful slumber to come. In fact, I should find more time to stretch out my arms and relax into the goodness of my Father’s arms. Jesus demonstrated trust in His Father when He stretched out His own arms on a cross. His sacrifice overcame this world and all of its trouble when He rose victorious!

You know, I think I will join my grandson in a peaceful nap. I am confident that God is in control of this crazy world. He is in control of the trouble in my life. I will stand firm on the solid ground of His truth, His grace and His love. I will focus on that precious face of Jesus and find peace! Wanna join me? 😉

Be joyful!

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7 NIV