As of right now, there are twelve people in the world who have been inducted into the Master Penman Society – twelve. And Jake Weidmann is one of those – the youngest by thirty years. You might not think it’s a big deal, and I didn’t either until I realized what that means…and how beautiful hand-written word can be. I’ve been following Jake on social media since I first saw his story – you can watch it here:
What I love the most about Jake is his patience for perfect detail. A piece of art or writing cannot be what it should be without patience for detail. His wife in the video says that he will scrap whole pieces and start again – because it wasn’t right the first time. And what you see in his finished work is perfect. It is clean, flawless, and symmetrical – always. God made his hand to write and paint and draw – perfectly.
I am a details person, although not in the way that Jake Weidmann is. I like spreadsheets and dashboards…I like totals and averages and comparisons. The things I do daily almost always involve one or more of those – and by them I can measure improvement or decline. I can see trends. I can see completion. Even at home I calculate…I measure my performance, remaining tasks, and time allocation. I size up what has and hasn’t been done…who needs to have more mom time…what is going well and what needs attention.
On the wall in my office is this verse:
Psalm 37:23-24 The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.
Up till about a week ago I had read it a handful of times but never really thought much about it, but now I think about it often…He delights in EVERY DETAIL. That’s a lot of details. All of those things that I measure and calculate and produce – those are steps that God orders for me. All of my relationships, all of my victories, and all of my deficiencies – He sees those too. He sees them and knows them – better than I do. In this season of my life, He put me here not to write or to draw, but to manage details and to nurture a home…and through those details of my life He will direct me, and even hold me up when I’m not strong enough.
I cannot produce a perfect work of art, and I cannot pen perfect letters to make perfect words – you probably can’t either. But I’m pretty excited and overwhelmed to know that when we are walking with the Lord, the details of our lives can bring Him – the God of heaven – joy and glory. I’m also comforted to know that He will never – yes never – let us fall.
[blockquote cite=”Proverbs 22:6″ type=”center”]”Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” [/blockquote]
This verse is one that Christian parents hang on to with everything they have while raising children. I know I did. All three times, from the moment I knew that I was going to be a mom, I began to pray that my child would grow to be all that God would have him to be…that God would bring him to a complete understanding and acceptance of Jesus and that he would follow the principles of God every day of his life. If there was a way to ensure my child’s salvation I was determined to find it and do it no matter what. Who wouldn’t. Is there a way to make sure our kids choose Jesus?
I know many people who were raised in Christian homes and yet DIDN’T choose Jesus. I watched it happen too many times to count. Recently a mother of a rebellious teen asked me, “Doesn’t the Bible say that if we train our children in the ways of God then they won’t turn away? Isn’t there a promise that says when they are old that they will come back to the Lord?” After examining Scripture I am certain that this verse does NOT mean what many people think it means. It can’t. Even Solomon, who wrote Proverbs 22:6 had a son named Rehoboam who turned from the LORD. Rehoboams last 17 years is explained like this “..he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD” 2 Chronicles 12:14.
Godly training is extremely important. I believe that what Proverbs 22:6 means is that all the training a parent puts into their child will never leave him. And, he will never leave the training; It will always be a part of him. Parents can’t accept Jesus FOR their children or make Godly decisions FOR them. But they do have the privilege of showing Jesus to them in hopes that they will follow Him. Brooklyn Tabernacle’s Pastor, Jim Cymbala, has a daughter who walked away from her faith and her family. After several years of living in sin, she laid in her bed unable to sleep, listening to NYC traffic in the middle of the night. The Holy Spirit brought to mind what she had been taught. She wept as she remembered the Godly songs and Scripture that had been poured into her.She gave her life to Jesus that night and reconciled with her parents that very day. Thank God she couldn’t depart from the training of her parents!
I recently asked several people who never left their faith WHY they chose to be faithful to what they were taught in their Christian homes. I really enjoyed reading their answers. Their words are filled with wisdom, especially for those who are raising children. It is clear that Godly training led them to genuine faith in Jesus. This is what they wrote.
“I am a 4th generation Christian. I was raised by parents who taught me right from wrong, how to pray, how to love God, how to be obedient, and so many good things. They showed me what real Christianity looks like…what a real Christian is. I was saved and baptized at an early age. I never had a desire to leave my faith. I really believe that what I was taught was truth. I didn’t stray because I love God.” Janel, age 21
“I am a 2nd generation Christian. I was raised in a home where my parents taught me a lot of good things. We worked and played hard but Jesus always came first. I have been around church and Christians my whole life and I’ve never heard of one single person that has regretted living for God. Quite the opposite. Many people who look back on their lives have an overwhelming regret that they wasted time and didn’t spend time on things that affect eternity. I am thankful that I learned the Bible and grew up with Believers. I’ve had to face some very tough times and without God and my church family I couldn’t have gotten through. I see things differently when I think about the truth of eternity.” Brett, age 31
” I am a 3rd generation Christian although I can trace Christianity in my family a lot farther back than that. Why didn’t I leave my faith when I was old enough? I saw an amazing, positive, genuine Christianity lived out in my parents lives. They were not perfect, but they were real Christians. They never spoke bad of others in our church, they loved being at church and they lived the same way at home as out of the home. They told me how happy they were that Jesus saved them and lived that way….grateful for Jesus. When I was old enough to make the choice: is my parents God going to be my God? Well, it wasn’t a choice at all. I wanted God and all that came with that. I’ve never, ever regretted my decision. Sue, age 51
“I am a 2nd generation Christian. Honestly, what kept me choosing Jesus is that my parents practiced what they preached. How they acted at church was how they acted at home. I watched them filter everything through the Bible and do their best to please God. They were happy and fun and didn’t make following Jesus look like a chore or a list of “don’ts” They thanked and praised God for everything. I wanted God for myself and to live for God the way that they did.” Brie, age 34
“I am a 3rd generation Christian. From as young as I can remember I was taught about Jesus. I learned who He is and about relationship with Him. If I chose one reason that I stayed faithful to God and Christianity I would have to link it back to the way Jesus was introduced to me. It wasn’t about attending church… it was because I was taught and then understood about having a relationship with Jesus. About what He did for us so He could be with us.” Matt, age 31
“I am a 3rd generation Christian. The reason I stayed faithful to God and how I was raised was because I was shown true Christianity. Although I made some mistakes and poor choices I learned from them. I learned that what I was taught is truth. I was taught to hate sin and love grace; that all sin will eventually lead to destruction and that Gods grace is a gift to me. I had to experience it as a young adult to really believe it for myself. I am thankful that I was raised in a Christian home. I am even more thankful for my salvation.” Jake, age 29
“I am a 4th generation Christian. Why didn’t I walk away from Christianity like some people do? My parents stressed the importance of having a relationship with Jesus and they lived it out in their own lives. They didn’t have extreme rules or man made standards for my brothers and I. They, along with so many Christians, modeled the love of Christ to me. Because of that I want to go to church and grow in my relationship with God.” Kyle, age 26
“I am a 3rd generation Christian. My parents taught me to put Christ first in everything, how every decision I make should reflect what God wants and to love others like Christ does. They modeled this for me. They encouraged me to learn from the positive and negative examples of others. I didn’t walk away from my faith because I realized that Gods commands are there for my protection and because He loves me. My faith in God became my own. I want to please the Lord with my life because of all that He has done for me.” Kaitlin, age 26
“I am a 3rd generation Christian. Why didn’t I walk away from my faith? My parents taught me true Christianity. To love God and to compassionately love people. My parents had good balance with rules in my life and they lived by the same rules. I desired the Jesus that my parents pointed me to. He was real to them and I wanted that in my life.” Sarah, age 22
“I’m a 3rd generation Christian. Why did I choose to stay faithful to what I was taught? My parents did their best to practice what they preached. They backed everything they taught me with real love. I’m thankful that my parents actually “parented” me. They taught, instructed, disciplined and loved me. They glorified God in our home. I knew God was real because I saw Him in my mom and dads life. It was during a difficult time in my life that my grandfather, a preacher, pointed me to Jesus. That was when Jesus became real to me and I chose Him for myself.” Jared, age 29
“I am a 4th generation Christian. My parents demonstrated how to love God and how to faithfully serve Him. They showed generosity and hospitality to others, had a hunger for Gods Word and showed me the power of prayer. I grew up in a church where people encouraged and invested in me. All of these factors surely influenced who I am today. I am thankful for my heritage but this didn’t make me a Christ follower. I repented of my sin and asked Jesus to be my Savior at a young age. After 38 years, even though I have not always been faithful Jesus has always been faithful to me. Why didn’t I walk away from Christianity? Because I love Jesus. If my faith was based on the behavior of others, the circumstances of life or my own ability to measure up to Gods glory, I too might depart. But I am compelled to look at Jesus. Is it the prayers and godly example of the generations before or saturation of the scriptures that give me power to stand fast? Here lies the mystery and power of the Spirit of God. We can do the very best we know how to do, but its the Spirit of God that draws people to Himself.” Michele, 43
Can we raise our children to choose Jesus? No. That is a choice that is theirs alone. But we can do our best to model our love for Jesus to them. I never asked the people above to tell me what their parents did right or to give credit to them. The question was simply, “why didn’t you walk away from your faith like so many do?” I think it’s interesting that all of them pointed out that their parents genuinely modeled Jesus. If I could live motherhood again, I would pour even more of Jesus into my children than I did. More of Jesus and less of everything else. Because in reality it is He thats makes life stable, wise, successful, and purposeful! In Deuteronomy 6, God gives the Israelites clear instruction before they entered a new land, where there would be unbelievers who would influence their children to turn away from thier faith. He told them to teach their children the laws. Teach them to love the Lord with all their heart, soul and might. He told them to remind their children of all the things that God had done, like how he rescued them from bondage and all the miracles in the desert. All so that their faith might be strong and continue from one generation to the next. Don’t get weary in training….It may be the very avenue that is used so that your child chooses Jesus!
“When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in they grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that it is in thee also” 2 Timothy 1:5
[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Colette[/custom_headline]
Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by Philippe Put http://flickr.com/photos/34547181@N00/15589452139 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
This morning I was thinking over the many Bible passages that have changed my life and my thinking. The words “But God” are mentioned 42 times and as I was reading the verses, one after the other, it brought me to tears. I realized how much these two words, written together, have strengthened my faith.
After Jacobs father in law deceived him over and over I read, “BUT GOD suffered him not to hurt me”. Genesis 31:7
Joseph’s brothers had deeply wronged him. As he faced them years later he told them not to be grieved or angry. He said “It wasn’t you who sent me here, BUT GOD…he has sent me to be a ruler.” Gen. 45:8 Joseph said it again “ye thought evil against me BUT GOD meant it for good.” Gen. 50:20 A passage in the New Testament says “And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph in Egypt…BUT GOD was with him”. Acts 7:9
Saul was intent on killing David and the Bible says “Saul sought him every day, BUT GOD delivered him not into his hands”. I Sam. 23:14
David, speaking of death, writes “BUT GOD shall redeem my soul from the power of the grave”. Ps. 64:7 And, “My flesh and my heart faileth, BUT GOD is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”Ps. 73:26 David says, “BUT GOD is the judge”. Ps. 75:7 No matter what the circumstances. He is The Fair and Righteous Judge.
Mark writes “Who can forgive sins BUT GOD alone.” Mark 2:7 And Luke writes “BUT GOD knoweth your heart.” Luke 16:15
My favorite “BUT GOD” verses speak of Christ. And of us. “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him from the tree, and laid him in a sepluchre. BUT GOD raised him from the dead.” Acts 13:29. BUT GOD commendeth his love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Rom 5:8
There is so much more that is written…BUT GOD chooses the foolish things to teach the wise. BUT GOD alone gives and takes away. BUT GOD who is rich in mercy shows his love. BUT GOD is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted above which you are able but will always, always, always make a way of escape.
[blockquote type=”center”]BUT GOD.[/blockquote]
IT IS MORE THAN I CAN UNDERSTAND. Creator God, the Most High, who looks upon the earth to see if there is any that seek Him. He steps into our circumstances and although we deserve eternal separation from him he doesn’t offer us what we deserve. He offers us these words. Wait a minute! Hold on! Time out! BUT GOD….Meaning, instead of what is deserved He offers us grace and protection and redemption and eternal life. If those words never entered human stories where would men be? Each time they were written the entire direction of the story changed. Preceding those words was despair and after those words we see the goodness of God. Jacob, Joseph, David, Mark and all mankind…which includes you and I…are given God-breathed hope and meaning to every situatuation we ever walk through. BUT GOD….He showed his love for us and while we were yet sinners He died for us. Eternal hope. The good news of Jesus. No matter what happens in our life, God has a purpose, He is the judge, He accomplishes His will always for a greater purpose.
Two of the greatest words ever written, BUT GOD. This is what I am meditating on today. My prayer is that these words bless you as much as they have me.
[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]To God Be the Glory, Colette[/custom_headline]
Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by Infomastern http://flickr.com/photos/infomastern/12737852125 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license
My parents always loved music, so when I was young we went to plays and musicals and orchestra events and music festivals. There was always music playing in the car and in our house. They exposed me to all sorts of genres, and I naturally settled into those that I liked best – some that they weren’t so fond of, and some that they loved themselves. As a kid I had a leaning toward concerts that were loud and crazy…I liked the lights and the feel of the bass vibrating through the ground. But now I love certain concerts for a different reason – and I just recently figured out why.
Last week I went to see Rend Collective, which is a Christian band from Ireland whose music really inspires me to worship. My husband and I sat down in our seats at Roberts Wesleyan College’s performing arts center, and I people-watched a little bit as we waited for the show to start. There were people from my church, people we knew from other churches, people from the Christian school I graduated from, and many people we didn’t know at all. All of these people, all together, waiting for the same band, waiting to worship together. All of us were excited to be there, and we all had something in common so even those who didn’t know each other felt free to talk and ask about each other.
The lights went down and the crowd went silent, and finally the music started – and everyone sang along. And what I realized at that moment was that none of us knew or cared about the details of each others’ Christianity, other than that we were in agreement about the most important thing – that Jesus saved us from our sin, and that He is the One we should worship. We had no idea what version of the Bible the person in front of us read, or whether the person behind us was Baptist or Pentecostal. We didn’t know whether the woman across the aisle had a Calvinist or Armenian leaning, or which denomination the band was. The details seemed less important at that moment because we were gathered for a common reason – to worship the one true God together.
I looked around at the rows upon rows of people and wondered whether that would be what heaven will be like in some respects – all different Christians, from all different backgrounds, worshipping God together. Different in the details, but unified at their core – in their belief of who saved their souls from the sin they could never pay for themselves.
In our minds I think we know that there will be many different kinds of Christians in heaven. We say amongst ourselves that we will be surprised who will be there and who will be absent (Matthew 7:21-23). We think we have a good grip on the fact that God alone sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). But so many times in practice we look at other Christians and the biggest thing we see are the differences – and we dwell on them. We allow our feathers to be ruffled because other Christians listen to and worship using different music, read different versions of the Bible, and attend churches with different labels. We are called to unity as a body of believers but we look skeptically at each other, and even question each others’ salvation at times, because of details that we don’t agree with. We so often don’t consider that perhaps others truly ARE seeking God, and that He has for them a different freedom or a different restriction than He has for us.
This is dangerous ground, I know, because our convictions and preferences are part of who we are, and they determine how we live out our faith. There is theology that we strongly believe, and we can back it up. There are practices and traditions that we strongly adhere to for reasons that we may never loosen our grip on. We have a defense for what we do and why we do it…we have seen results, and fruit, and blessing. We have a defense for why we disagree so adamantly with certain others. Our views and interpretations and ways of life are important to us – and they should be. Practices and traditions and theologies ARE important, and some of them are worth fighting for, and fighting over. But not all of them. Not all of them are worth sacrificing the unity of the Church – and by the Church I mean the whole body of Christ.
When Colette and I started this blog, we came upon an issue that we didn’t agree on…It really doesn’t matter which issue so I won’t go into that, but we had to face a conflict. So we came together, talked about what we believed about that issue, came to an understanding about its importance, and came up with a solution that we believed that God would be pleased with. What we did not do was allow an important but non-essential issue (meaning an issue that isn’t truly central to salvation and Christianity) to divide us completely, and we were able to work together in unity regardless. You’d never know we disagreed at all! Extend this situation to the Church – the body of Christ…If we can grab hold of unity, if we make it a priority, we can accomplish things together that would never have been possible otherwise.
[blockquote cite=”Richard Baxter” type=”center”]In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.
Christ said in John 13:34-35, ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And in 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul said to the church at Corinth, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” We are commanded to love other Christians as Christ loved us (laying down our lives for each other), and the we be perfectly unified as followers of Jesus. We are, of course, bound to disagree on some things – but that doesn’t mean that our love and our unity in Christ should be compromised.
I know, beyond a doubt, that when we get to heaven our eyes will be on Christ alone, and not on each other. If we can practice that here, before heaven, we can accomplish so much more together. The world IS watching to see how we love each other, so when we are tempted to dwell on the details instead of on Christ Jesus who unifies us, let’s remember the amazing place heaven will be when we will worship together in spirit and in truth – one Church, one body, one focus.
The song I’ve included below (or if the music isn’t your preference, I included the lyrics there below as well) has become my favorite for so many reasons – it reminds me of those who have gone to heaven before me, of how unworthy I am of the salvation I have been given, of the power of the blood of Jesus, and now of the unity we have in Him, despite our differences. I looked around me at that concert as tears rolled down my face, and saw others doing just the same…Overcome with emotion because they know what I know – that we will approach Him one day, and that we have everything to celebrate. Fix your eyes today on Jesus – and not so much on the details.
[blockquote cite=”Rend Collective, Boldly I Approach (The Art of Celebration)” type=”center”]
By grace alone somehow I stand
Where even angels fear to tread
Invited by redeeming love
Before the throne of God above
He pulls me close with nail-scarred hands
Into His everlasting arms
When condemnation grips my heart
And Satan tempts me to despair
I hear the voice that scatters fear
The Great I Am the Lord is here
Oh praise the One who fights for me
And shields my soul eternally
Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty
Behold the bright and risen Son
More beauty than this world has known
I’m face to face with Love Himself
His perfect spotless righteousness
A thousand years, a thousand tongues
Are not enough to sing His praise
Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty
This is the art of celebration
Knowing we’re free from condemnation
Oh praise the One, praise the One
Who made an end to all my sin[/blockquote]
[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Celebrating who God made us , Melissa[/custom_headline]
Four years ago a group of seven other people and myself decided we should try to do the Tough Mudder, which for those of you who aren’t familiar is a 12 mile long military-style obstacle course. It entails what you might think of as “normal” obstacles – like scaling 12-foot walls, army crawling under barbed wire, and jumping from three stories into water…But there were also what I consider to be the “extreme” obstacles, like jumping into ice water and running through hundreds of dangling live wires that electrocuted us as we ran through them. We trained for ten months (we didn’t practice the electrocution part!), and in September of 2012 our team traveled to Maryland and completed our race.
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Our particular race had two electrocution obstacles – one that I described above, and another which I think was way worse. I started through the obstacle and thought that it wasn’t too bad, but then I heard the sound of a grown man screaming…and I knew I was in trouble. I got through, after being thrown around by the travelling current of electricity, and that man that I had heard was still standing there waiting for the rest of his team. I looked at him and shook my head and said, “We PAID for this!” and we laughed at the irony.
Why DO people pay for those races? Why do they subject themselves to the torture? I’ll give you two words: bragging rights. Sure, our team wanted to accomplish the feat of finishing, and it was fun to do it was a team. It was great to be in the best shape of our lives. But an equal component of us wanting to do that race was bragging rights. When I wear my Tough Mudder finisher shirt outside my house I can be sure that most of the time I will get a few glances, if not a full blown conversation. People are intrigued by a person who would do that to themselves on purpose, and so it gets attention. The race is far gone now and I’m kind of over it…but at first it was really fun to talk about it with random people.
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This gets me thinking about all of the things we do in front of other people in terms of serving and obeying God, and about our motives. We serve and take selfies of ourselves doing it…We post quotes and verses on Facebook that we read…We share stories about what our kids say about God or church or heaven. We make our walk with God public, which in many ways is a very good thing, but we need to be careful that we are directing others to who GOD is instead of to who WE are. I like to underline what I think are great passages in books and then take a picture and post it – but I wonder if that’s more for God or for me and my image? Am I bragging on Him because of something great that He showed me, or am I bragging on myself for reading it? I need to be careful.
At some point in all of our walks with Jesus, there must be the realization that we cannot do anything good without Him. The truth is that we can’t do ANYTHING without Him, because it is He whose will holds us together. The sin of others should pale in comparison to what we know is in our own hearts, and because we CANNOT save ourselves in any capacity, we should be humbled and broken before our Holy God. And the bragging rights fade.
As we live our lives for Christ “out loud” as a reader so aptly put it recently, we need always to consider who we are bragging upon.
We are lost, and our Lord Jesus finds us.
We are blind, and He gives us sight.
We are sinners, but He is good.
We are in need, and He is our provider.
We are guilty, and He is our defense.
We deserve punishment, but He is merciful.
We are hungry, and He is the Bread of Life.
We are weak, and He is our strength.
We walk in darkness, and He is our light.
We are wavering, and He is our Rock.
We feel alone, but we can be assured that He is with us.
We strive for more, but He is enough.
He is EVERYTHING.
Brag on Jesus, because all of the good in you is HIM in you.
[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]For HIS glory, Melissa[/custom_headline]
A few years ago I was presented with the opportunity to ride in a race-ready Porsche with a professional driver on the Watkins Glenn racetrack…It was set up privately by a guy who was a member of the Porsche Club of America (which I didn’t know existed till then), and my husband and I literally got the rides of a lifetime. But let’s just back up for a sec…and then I’ll tell you about my ride.
I get motion sick. In a big way. I can’t ride in the back seat of a car, or backwards on a roller coaster. If something rocks or spins or circles over and over, I’m toast. I went on a cruise, and was sea sick for three WEEKS after it was over. Enter the Porsche.
If someone says, “Hey, do you want to ride in a Porsche on a NASCAR track?”, I cannot even fathom saying no. It became an instant bucket-list item, and I whole-heartedly accepted the invitation. In the back of my mind I knew that it might not end well, but honestly I didn’t care – I probably would never have the chance to do it again, and so I did it.
We got to the track and I met my driver. He gave me a helmet, and showed me how to use the restraint and release it in case I needed to get out emergently. He called attention to the fire extinguisher that would be between my feet, just in case. I got into the car and he strapped me in. The driver looked at me and said, “Don’t puke in my car.”, and off we went.
Did I puke in his car, you ask? No, thankfully I didn’t. But by the time I was done with three laps at 170mph, I couldn’t feel my arms or legs and I literally had to be lifted out of the car because I couldn’t stand up. There’s some science behind that, but I’ll just say that my body didn’t like what had just been inflicted upon it. I did throw up eventually…just not inside the Porsche. Mission accomplished! It was an amazing experience, and despite the negatives I am really glad I did it.
So why on earth am I telling you my motion-sick Porsche ride story? Because I had to take advantage of the opportunity despite what I knew what might come afterward – and the risk was worth it. Sometimes risk is necessary – big risk – to get big return, big stories, big outcomes. God puts us in these positions in our lives and so often we let opportunities pass because we know there might be pain or humiliation or discomfort involved, but then we don’t get the win for Him. And while I know that He can use someone or something else to accomplish what He would have through us, we forfeit being used by Him at all.
God asks us to risk our whole selves…To have an outward faith and to spread the Gospel (Mark 16:15), to live fearless (Matthew 10:24-33), to love like crazy (John 13:35) – so that more people will come to Him with their own faith. And the risk seems great. He asks us to be a light – a beacon to those in darkness. And to do that we’ve gotta be willing to bull through the fear of risk and DO what He’s asking. It’s scary to tell people about Jesus in a personal, life-on-life way. It’s not easy to live like Christ when those around you do not. It’s not easy to love the unlovely when others might lean toward condemnation and raise an eyebrow. It’s not easy to give time and resources when we’ve planned so meticulously for the future and don’t want to risk our own discomfort. But that is what our God expects. Christianity isn’t safe – it’s a constant trying of our trust, and the willingness to do what seems backwards to us to see what God had in mind the whole time.
If you want God to use you in the LIFE CHANGE of others, risk is inevitable. But the return is beyond what any of us could imagine on our own. Take those opportunities, and pray for more of them…Listen to that still small voice and DO what He asks. I promise you won’t regret it.
[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Trusting and taking the leap, Melissa[/custom_headline]
About the author: Becky Bennett is the wife of a bearded-hipster-worship-leader and is the mother of three small children, Ava (5), Avianna (3), and Jack (1). Becky was diagnosed with a life-altering nerve disorder called CRPS in October of 2014 and is determined to choose joy in suffering. Originally from Maine, Becky now lives in Webster, NY, where she and her family love being a part of Northridge Church. Becky is a writer, a dancer, a singer, an artist, and a dreamer. Her greatest passion is Jesus. You can follow her journey at ToChooseJoy.blogspot.com.
This week, my dear little first-born is heading off to kindergarten. Like so many mommas who have gone before me, I’m transitioning into the place where I have to let go. As she sets her little light-up-sneakered foot onto the soil of her new school, she is stepping into the beginning of a lifetime of choices that will happen outside of my home, outside of my reach. The questions she will have to answer are about to get much more serious than, “Would you like grilled cheese or peanut butter?”
It is in these first few steps that I have to release from my arms the baby who taught me what it meant to labor and to ache but to keep my eyes on hope and on the prize of my pain. In the same way that I had to breathe deeply and walk away from her crib at night, wondering if she would keep on breathing when I did, I have to let go of the fear of what might happen to her when my eyes aren’t on her. I would suffer anything if it meant that she didn’t have to experience pain. But I can’t do that for her. I cannot choose the trials that she will have to face.
It’s been three decades since my own mom set out on this journey with me — the journey of letting go. I wonder what was it like for my mom when she stood on the other end of the phone line while my husband told her, from the hospital, that our life was going to change forever because I had just been diagnosed with a disease with no cure. In that very moment, she was in another hospital hundreds of miles away, where my dad was having surgery for cancer. I wonder how many times her stomach turned I wonder what her grief must have felt like. A mom — having to let go.
For all of the years that she spent lovingly preparing me for possible decisions and potential scenarios, my mom couldn’t choose my next steps for me as I faced loss after debilitating loss. She couldn’t give me back my legs when they were pulled out from underneath me, and my dancer-mobility was replaced with a wheelchair and a hopeful pair of crutches. She couldn’t be close enough in proximity, because of my dad’s condition at the time, to help care for her three small grandchildren whose momma had just been bound to a bed. She couldn’t be there to try to coax my youngest into taking a bottle — my baby, who, at the time, was only nine months old and had just lost his only-known food supply because of the medications I now had to take. She couldn’t be there to make us dinner. She couldn’t be there to tie my shoes. She couldn’t wish away my tears. She couldn’t take away my pain.She was helpless to help me, her little girl, in any way other than to pray. And pray, she did. She cast me into the arms of the One who cares for me more deeply than even she. And care, He did.
And I was ready for it. I was up for the challenge, resolved not to give in or to let it get me down. I chose joy in the suffering. I chose hope underneath heavy despair. In large part, I was able to make those choices because my mom had spent her life modeling the strength and mercy and joy and hope of Jesus for me.
When I think about letting go, when I think about releasing my daughter into a world of choices and inevitable suffering, I have another choice of my own to make. Will I trust God with her life? Will I believe Him, not just for myself, but for my child, when He says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance,” (James 1:2-3)?
I pray for good friends, kind teachers, and strong mentors to fill the years that are to come for my daughter. I pray that they would draw her towards Christ, rather than away from Him. I am reminded, however, that so often it has been through the least friendly “friends,” through the most difficult teachers, and through the greatest weaknesses in my mentors that I have learned the most about what God’s faithfulness and never-ending love and true wisdom really look like. I pray for a smooth journey and for success for my daughter. I know, though, that it has been on the bumpiest terrain and in some of the most devastating failures that the darkest places in my own heart have been revealed and that I have been healed. Trying times have been the very instruments of my maturity and my ability to press on through further trials. And those trials have been the very influences that cause me to cling more tightly to my Savior.
So, I will cast my cares on Him. I will entrust my child to the tenderhearted God of the most intimate and gracious and life-giving love. To the One who is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) and binds up their wounds. As my mind reels with urgency, wondering if I’ve missed something in these years that flew by so quickly, I’m comforted in knowing that my five-year-old does not have to be prepared, right now, for everything she will ever face. She only needs to be ready for today. I will pray her through each moment that I cannot be a part of, and I will be waiting with open arms when she comes running back home at the end of the day.
I will rest knowing that no matter what choices or challenges lie ahead for this little girl, she has already made the most important one that she will ever make: to give her life to Jesus. He will always be with her. He will carry her. He will never let her go. “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day,” (Psalm 46:5).
This beautiful little person didn’t come into the world just to fill my arms. She came to fulfill a destiny. She’s walking out the door. She’s ready. And I think that now I’m ready, too.
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Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by nick.amoscato http://flickr.com/photos/namoscato/8297366194 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
When I was a kid, maybe 5 or 6 years old, I had the keen idea of writing on my bedroom wall with a ballpoint pen. I didn’t write a lot…just a little dime-sized scribble right at the head of my bed. So the night after I did that, my mom came up to read a book to me before I went to sleep. The whole time I “casually” covered this pen scribble with my hand so she wouldn’t see it, and I was SURE she didn’t because of the oh-so-subtle way I hid it. She didn’t say anything about it that night – score! But what was I going to do the next night? And what if she came into my room during the day when I wasn’t there? I would have to strategically place the pillows, and continue hiding the mark with my hand. I knew I couldn’t hide it forever, and I felt awful for doing it at all…So I called my mom into my room and told her what I had done. And once she knew, it was over. No more worries, and no more hiding.
At the time that seemed so big – and for a five year old I guess it kind of was. But what was in my heart is the same as the guilt I feel, or at least should feel, over sins I commit now. Only now, I’m a big girl and I don’t have to tell anyone if I don’t want to. There are flaws and sins about me that literally no one will know if I don’t confess them. And why should I?
The Bible gives us some guidelines for prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication (a churchy word for asking for what we need or want)…But honestly I think the confession part goes right out the window a lot of the time, and it makes me wonder if we even think we’re really that bad. Why don’t we worry when we sin, like I worried when I wrote on the wall as a kid? Why don’t we tremble at the thought of God’s disappointment? Why don’t we run to Him for the reassurance just that He knows what we’ve done and forgives us? Why don’t we WANT Him to know every fiber of who we are? We hide, like Adam and Eve…or perhaps even worse, we don’t even acknowledge the trespass we have committed against Him and we go on with our lives ignoring our injured relationship with God. Depth and satisfaction in any relationship comes from transparency – and it’s no different with God. Confession to Him is a gift…It gives us the freedom to be known completely, to be restored in our relationship with Him, and to hide nothing.
God tells us not only to confess sin to Him, but also to each other…I think He knows that there are things we just can’t overcome on our own, and that He made us to depend on more than just ourselves. He tells us to share the darkest parts of our hearts with each other…but we usually share the best of us instead, for the sake of our image or reputation, or for our perceived protection. We tend to think that hiding what is in us somehow makes us less vulnerable, when in reality the opposite is true. Granted we can’t go telling everyone everything – that wouldn’t be wise. But our inner circle, the ones we call our very closest friends, should know who we really are so that they can come beside us when we are too weak to stand alone.
Confession and transparency lead to freedom because through them we know that we are truly known…that there is nothing to hide…that there is nothing that anyone could find out about us that we didn’t already admit out loud. And honestly, in my own life I’ve found that living a transparent life is just about the best way to show other people why I need Jesus so desperately, and why they need Him too. I need saving with every single breath, and the last thing I want to do is hide that. We live in a time and culture where people want proof of things…and one thing I can prove and reproduce an infinite number of times is the fact that I cannot possibly live up to the standard that my faith demands. My need for Christ is absolute and irrefutable.
So be known…Be known by the God you serve and by the friends you keep. Be real, and show others why salvation is so necessary. Be transparent and live in the freedom that comes with it.
[blockquote type=”center”]This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:5-9 [/blockquote]
Early in the morning on August 12th, after nine months and a long, hard day of labor a woman gave birth to a baby boy. He weighed 7 pounds 8 ounces and was 20 1/2 inches long. She had asked God to give her a child, and he was the answer to her prayer. She was still mourning the death of her first precious child, Stella, when she conceived Luca Charles. And while many people slept, at exactly 12:39 a.m., she welcomed him.
The ultrasound showed a problem with Luca early on. She remembers the day clearly. But it took many more days to absorb the meaning of all the words. Anencephaly. Won’t live. Option to terminate. Words she and her husband didn’t want to hear. Choices that were not choices.
Terminating the pregnancy would mean terminating life. A baby’s life. Lucas’s life. Her Lucas’s life. The baby boy she had prayed for and already loved. For her there was never a choice to end his life.
Kara Gagliano is a hero. Because in a world where so many would have chosen differently, she chose life. So many people chant that it’s the mothers body and she can choose what to do with “the fetus”. It was never a choice for Kara to end her son’s life. To solve a problem. To prevent her suffering. Our world seems to have lost sight of what a true hero is. A hero is brave, courageous and one who does all they can to save someone elses life.
Most heroes don’t want to be called a hero. I’ve heard them say things like “I just did what anyone else would do”. Most heroes are modest and don’t even recognize that they are extraordinary. Kara is a hero.
She knew that the safest place in all the world for Luca Charles, her son, was in her womb where his heart beat with hers. Where he was loved. She believed that she didn’t have the right or desire to take his precious life. Only the obligation and the desire to protect him and allow her body to nurture his.
And all mothers who have ever carried a child to term cheer for her. All who have felt the baby-kicks and hiccups inside of their wombs cheer for her. All moms will tell you that it is life they are feeling inside of their wombs. Real life. They will tell you that it is a privilege and responsibility to sustain their baby’s life, inside and outside their womb. All women who pray to God to fill their barren wombs cheer for her. And those who have miscarried. All who value life. We cheer for Kara today.
Many people may believe she had a hard choice to make. But to her it was not hard and it was never a choice at all to choose life.
So for nine months inside of her and for 18 minutes in her arms…she carried him. She sang to him. She prayed over him. She loved him. For 18 minutes she kissed his precious face. And at exactly 12:57 a.m. her baby entered into heaven. Passed from this life to the next as she said goodbye for now.
Kara was one of my cheerleaders when I was a Varsity Cheer Coach. I still see her in my mind. Her high-school face smiling as she yelled and jumped…and cheered. Back when problems in her life were not yet so big. But today, Kara and I switch roles. I proudly cheer for her. And I cry with her as we say goodbye to her son. For now.
Baby Luca, whose name means “light”. Mom Kara, whose name means “beloved”. They lived out the meaning of their names, on Luca’s birthday.
His birth was precious. Kara and Dave and Luca were surrounded by family who wore green shirts with the Bible verse “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart”. Baby Luca came into this world as a little light in a dark world, surrounded by family who deeply love him.
They serve a God who is the giver of life. They bless and honor Him with theirs…even when their prayers aren’t answered their way. They understand that His ways are not always our ways. And like their Luca, they are a light for Jesus.
Thank you Kara. For showing this world what a hero truly is. For showing us that life is precious and sacred and a beautiful gift from God.
Happy Birthday Luca!
[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]This little light of mine, Colette[/custom_headline]
Kara graciously gave permission for us to post her story. Her response when asked about it was this, “Colette that is beautiful. Yes I would love it if you would share that on your blog.” Thank you, Kara, for the hero that you are.
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Our goal is to encourage as many people as we can toward a better relationship with Jesus, and you can help us by sharing our posts with others! A huge THANK YOU to all of our readers for your love and encouragement!
Today I walked through Wegmans, which I believe is the greatest supermarket in the United States. I saw a clear case with a black mushroom in it called a Burgundy Truffle. Its price is $599.99 per pound. I looked around at all the food. Everything you can imagine and then some. There were fruits and vegetables of every kind and even a hundred different types of bottled water. Water! We understand what it is to be full. To eat until we can’t fit anything else in our stomachs. We are a blessed people.
This afternoon I was reading about the children of Israel. In Deuteronomy 8 they were entering a season of blessing and abundance. Their wilderness journey, the difficult trial of drought and hunger, had just ended. In this chapter God is telling them why they had to go through that hard time and what they were to learn from it:
It was to humble them.
They had pretty much nothing of value and had to rely on God for every basic need, such as food and water. They had the same clothes and shoes for who knows how long. Poverty humbles. And humbled hearts find it easy to turn to an all sufficient God.
It was to prove them.
It showed their character, determination, and strength. Or the lack of those things. And character or lack of character is meant to turn hearts to a righteous and perfect God.
It was to see whether they would keep God’s commandments.
He showed them the Father-child relationship and because of that they would understand how important it was to walk in his ways and to fear him. And living this out will turn hearts to a loving and fair Abba Father-God.
It was to give them the experience of true hunger so that they would understand their need for God.
They were to remember that when they were “filled up” with abundance, they must lift their hearts to God (Deut. 8:10,14). He warned them that if they turned from Him and forgot where their blessing came from, they would be destroyed. Understanding this turns hearts towards our Provider-God who does not share His glory.
God told the Israelites that they must never take credit for their blessings. He told them that it is God who blesses with wisdom and knowledge and the ability to work. It all comes from his hand (Deut. 8:17-18) Lastly, He said that if they decided, in their abundance, to forget Gods commandments then they would perish. He said it so clearly. “You will perish” (Deut. 8:19). Understanding this shows the grace and goodness of a holy God that gives what is needed.
I’ve watched so many people over the years. People in famine or in abundance, people in trial or in peace…people who know what Gods Word says about how to live life. And many chose to do things their own way and stray from God’s commandments: they choose to marry unbelievers and be unequally yoked, to choose sin, to grow prideful or hateful or unforgiving or bitter. God absolutely promises that those choices will lead to destruction – destruction of something or someone and the absence of His presence and blessing.
I remember the days when Matt and I were poor. We were young, newly-married college students and although we both worked, our tax statement showed our yearly income to be under $9000.00. Poverty level. As difficult as it was to go through, I am so thankful for that time. God did some pretty amazing things for us during that “drought and hunger” season. Our needs were always met and our faith grew strong. It definitely made us appreciative of what God did for us then… and now. Our trials throughout life are for the exact same reasons as the Israelites…to humble us, to prove us, to show us the importance of keeping his commandments, and to always remember where our blessings and strength comes from. From God and God alone.
Today’s reminder caused me to lift my heart high to God with thanksgiving and praise for all that He has done…in times of poverty and in times of blessing. In both of those seasons there is the potential to focus on self. But clearly, the answer is to focus on an all sufficient, loving, righteous and Holy God who we get the priviledge to call Father.
Psalm 121:2 My help cometh from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]How can I say thanks, Colette[/custom_headline]
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Our goal is to encourage as many people as we can toward a better relationship with Jesus, and you can help us by sharing our posts with others! A huge THANK YOU to all of our readers for your love and encouragement!
~Colette & Melissa
Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by Guilherme Jófili http://flickr.com/photos/gjofili/4337577836 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license