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

The Future…

My daughter had a baby. Yes, a perfect baby boy who has changed my life significantly in the last two months. He was born on January 30 and I was the second one to hold him. The miracle of this tiny addition to our family is nothing short of extraordinary. God breathed out and this life began. I marvel daily at his beautiful face, his tiny hands and his feet. Where will those feet take him? How will God use those hands to serve others? What kind of God sightings will take place through his eyes?

Six weeks after he was born, COVID-19 changed our world. What a juxtaposition. The innocence and calm of this little life against the calamity and panic of a nation. Tender mercies and quiet snuggles wrapped against the back drop of social distancing and hoarding. A precious life given, while others battle a virus. I watch my grandson grow while the death toll rises.

I find myself thinking quite a bit about the future. What will the world look like as he grows up? I know that the current life of “stay at home” will soon pass. But, in the reality of today what things will I choose not to go back to doing? Could we emerge from this time apart better? A little more kind? A little more generous? More God-centered? More thankful? For my grandson’s sake, I sure do hope so!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 NIV

What good are we going to allow God to work through this season? We were absolutely called to this time for a purpose. We need to love and trust God. We need to lean into His teachings and allow Him to refine us. We need to rest in His hope and in His peace that surpasses all human understanding.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved 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. Romans 8:37‭-‬39 NIV

Oh yes, grandson, we are more than conquerors. Jesus loves you so much. The victory is yours. And the victory is mine. And the future is bright!

Jesus is the Reason…

So, I truly believe that I am the sane child in this photo. You see, there is simply nothing normal about forcing a child to sit on a strange man’s lap, especially when the strange man is dressed abnormally. If you look closely, you will see that my brother knows that I am right. His forced smile gives it away. He is thinking, “geesh, my sister sure does seem to be losing it. Maybe I should be a little scared too.” You see, I am the wiser child.

Oh the wonder and joy of Christmas! If you are like me, you find yourself in the midst of tradition, laughing at family memories, making lists and checking them twice, shopping, baking, and trying desperately to live in the moment and not allow the season to simply sprint on by. Boy, I can sure make Christmas about me, myself and I.

Christmas is about Jesus. Nothing more and nothing less. It is about the Savior of the world, God incarnate, born in a lowly, humble stable. A tiny baby boy, wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. The innocence of His birth with the weight of sin and salvation resting squarely on His shoulders. God’s perfect Son born in God’s perfect timing. Filled with God’s perfect grace. No, Christmas is not about me. It is about Him. Jesus.

Live this Christmas with Jesus front and center. Live this Christmas filled with the hope, joy, love and wonder that He brought into the world. Find Jesus this Christmas and let Him fill you with warmth and light: in the midst of the chaos; in the midst of grief; in the midst of illness; in the midst of tradition; in the midst of memories; in the midst of the list; in the midst of shopping; in the midst of your circumstance. (Even in the midst of a strange man abnormally dressed.) Yes, Jesus deserves our best thoughts, best words and best deeds. His entrance into this world that day in Bethlehem makes this life bearable and His grace changed everything.

Be merry and hopeful!

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NIV

Hummingbirds…

“Why can’t my hummingbirds just get along?” My friend posted this on facebook today and it made me giggle. I, too, have delighted in watching the battle of the hummingbirds in my own back yard, as they chase each other away from the feeders.

Between my house and my neighbors, the hummingbirds are privvy to at least five feeders; yet, every day the chase is on like donkey kong. Fascinating, isn’t it? Instead of enjoying the abundance of sugary sweetness around them, they spend most of their time fighting.

Isn’t that a picture of us? I imagine God looking down on us pondering the same question, “why can’t my children just get along?” He watches as we chase each other, coveting each others’ possessions, allowing jealousy and comparison to cloud our hearts. He watches as we desperately try to keep up with proverbial Jones’, instead of finding satisfaction in our own last name. He watches as we think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, instead of savoring the sweetness of the grass in our own back yard.

And because He knew that we would struggle, fight, covet and compare, He sent the sweetest gift of all to us: His Son, Jesus; in hopes that we would stop chasing each other and start chasing Him. He sent Jesus so that we would stop fighting and start loving Him. And others.

The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:14‭-‬17 NIV)

Who are you chasing? I encourage you to savor the sweetness of God; cherish the abundance of His goodness in your life; and love those around you fiercely.

Be hopeful!

Give a dog a bone…

The angel dog and the stray dog Baby have two distinct approaches to bones. Baby takes the bone and immediately settles into chewing it, usually under the coffee table.

The angel dog does not. He lays with his bone in his mouth and watches Baby. And he waits. You see, Baby will eventually leave a part of her bone unattended and the angel dog will swoop in, taking her sloppy bone remnant quickly onto the couch. Angel dog will then chew that bone remnant as fast as he can, and go back to taunting Baby with his original bone.

Here is the irony in the story. When there is no more bone, Baby simply moves on to play with her toys. She is not concerned with angel dog in the slightest, nor does she covet his bone. Angel dog, on the contrary, is obsessed with Baby and will growl if Baby even moves in his direction, just to protect his treasure.

What is your approach to the treasures in your life? Are you like Baby, completely focused, enjoying the moment and savoring the goodness of the treasure filled with happiness and perfectly content? Or are you like my angel dog, hoarding up your treasure, coveting what others have, filled with jealousy and discontent?

Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. Matthew 6:19‭-‬21 MSG

Did you catch it? Our treasure is Jesus. And heaven is our home. We are to be so heavenly minded that simple treasures here on earth do not matter. Y’all, nothing compares to the Glory that is to come!

So, I say enjoy those bones when they are handed out, glorifying your Father in heaven. And then move on because the best bone is yet to come!

Be hopeful!

Just Do You, Boo…

I am going to be honest. I watch a television show called Married at First Sight. I find it fascinating. A team of experts put couples together based on interviews and assessments. The couples literally meet for the first time at their weddings. It is a modern twist on arranged marriages and I find the show wildly addictive.

On a recent episode, one of the newlyweds made this statement to her husband, “just do you, boo.” This is not the first time I have heard this particular comment. It seems to me that “doing you” and “speaking your own truth” are prominent schools of thought in today’s culture. And I know that in many circumstances these comments are not intended to be anything more than a mindless statement of support and encouragement. Sort of a verbal way of leveling the playing field. However, we are living in a culture of me, myself and I. And is it really okay to just “do you boo” even at the cost of someone else? And where does this “truth” you are speaking truly come from?

Jesus said to him, I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV).

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31‭-‬32 ESV

We are called to follow Christ’s example and he spoke truth in love. We can find absolute truth in the words of our Father written to us in His Word. Our truth comes from Him and His Word, not some watered down version of the truth that the world hands to us. And definitely not our own version of the truth. There is simply one way, one truth and one life.

I would say “do you boo”; if, and only if, that you is a reflection of the Father and is derived from obedience to His word and His calling for your life. You see, you are completely made new in your identity in Christ and you absolutely should be the you that Christ created you to be! He made you for a specific purpose, reason and season!

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5‭-‬8 NIV)

Be hopeful!

Retail Therapy…

After my father passed away, my mom taught me an important part of the grieving process: retail therapy. Often, when we felt a little blue, we would head to the mall and shop the day away. And still to this very day, one of my favorite things to do is shop with my mom. Now please, before you start judging, know that I am very aware that shopping is not a healthy coping mechanism; however, some of those trips to the mall sure did get our minds off of the grief and allowed us to enjoy time together.

During the last few weeks, my husband and I have been weathering a storm. It has been pretty intense and we have felt a bit bruised and battered. So, I had to giggle when he took the day off last Friday and told me we were going to get some retail therapy. We headed to the mall in Houston, putzed, talked, laughed and even found a good deal on luggage! The day ended with a delicious dinner with a beautiful view at a new restaurant. It felt simply luxurious and reminded me how very thankful I am to be navigating life with him.

Honestly, there just may be something to this idea of retail therapy. Not in the buying; but in the change of location, head space and pace. The focus of the day became something completely different, shifting the storm clouds out and allowing the sunshine to pour down. The result? Well, I felt thankful, relaxed, renewed and ready to battle some more knowing that I am not alone!

Christ does all of this for us and more. Are you battling a storm? Do you feel overwhelmed and alone? Jesus is the best therapy out there! Spending some time with Him, putzing, talking and laughing will change your mindset and lighten your load. In fact, when we try and navigate storms without Him, we will not succeed. Just like Peter, we must keep our eyes on Jesus in order to get out of the boat and navigate the deep waters of this life. Jesus provides a safe haven for us and He renews, restores and refreshes our souls, especially during the storms! Who knows, He might even lead you to that good deal on luggage. 😉

I encourage you to take time to remember whose you are in the midst of the storm. Allow Jesus to equip you, lead you and tend to all of your needs. During every season of life. And be reminded that you are never alone in the battle!

Be hopeful!

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here! ” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.
Matthew 14:27‭-‬33 NLT

Grandpa…

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Grandpa Hart lately. I loved him and was blessed to live close to him when I was little. I had him in my life for just over six years before Jesus called him home. When I think of him, it takes me back to times of innocence and love.

I would often “babysit” him. We would go on walks in his neighborhood and he would wait patiently while I made him elaborate pretend snacks. (By waiting patiently, I mean dozing in front of the television in the day room.) He was tall and strong and he loved me. I vividly remember the nuances of my grandparents home in Ft. Myers. It was truly a place that I looked forward to visiting. What I would give to hang out with him again right now, basking in the innocence of “babysitting” him instead of the other way around.

The song, When I Get Where I’m Going by Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton always makes me think of him. “I’m going to walk with my grand daddy and he’ll match me step for step. And I’ll tell him how I missed him every minute since he left and then I’ll hug his neck. When I get where I’m going. There’ll be only happy tears. I’ll shed the sins and struggles I have carried all these years. And I’ll leave my heart wide open. I will love and have no fear. When I get where I’m going, don’t cry for me down here.”

We have so much hope in Christ. We have the hope of being reunited with loved ones for eternity. We have the hope of shedding the pain and suffering that are a part of this very temporary human experience. Our hearts, souls and minds will be healed. In fact, we will share the very mind of Christ. And we will bask daily in the warmth of His Son and God’s very face will permeate and radiate. It will be an eternal time of innocence and perfect love.

My Grandpa is experiencing all of these things and so much more as I write these very words. Boy, I can’t wait to get where I’m going!

Be hopeful!

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 6:19‭-‬20 NLT

Focus…

I really struggled with something last week. It had me completely distracted, challenged my understanding, shifted my mood and consumed my thoughts. It really wasn’t anything big; just a slight disappointment, merely a hiccup in the grand scheme of life. Yet, here I am putting fingers to keyboard writing about it. Why? Because what I realized is that I allowed it to shift my focus, which allowed it to change how I felt on the inside, within my spirit. And in the midst of the disappointment, I found myself struggling to extend grace and forgiveness.

Yes, we all make mistakes. We are all fallible. We fumble through relationships, stumble through life and leave a mountain of missed opportunities, hurts and misunderstandings. We let each other down. We are not perfect. But, why is it so difficult sometimes to extend grace to others, especially in full knowledge of our own imperfections?

And then I realized that it is completely about focus. If I am honest, my focus last week was on myself and with that came a laundry list of unnecessary thoughts and wasted energy. To borrow a little ditty from Lauren Daigle, ‘Look up child”!

Where is your focus this Monday of Holy Week? Are you watching Jesus? Are you trying to view the world through His gracious eyes? Are you diligently seeking God’s own heart? Or are you trying to seek understanding in this crazy world with your own heart and your own mind?

Our focus changes everything. When we bow our knee to our Mighty Father and allow Him to reign in our lives, our focus becomes tainted by love, peace, forgiveness, and grace. We begin to see a change in ourselves and the best in those around us. And before you know it, you feel your soul lighten and your spirit lift in response to Him.

I encourage you to allow God to search your heart this week and create a new and right spirit within you. I can’t think of a better time to do it! Y’all, Jesus conquered the cross so that we could do just that! He rose on Easter morning so that we might live, live well and treat those around us well too!

Focus on Him and be hopeful!

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23‭-‬24 NIV