Reunion

My husband and I never get away together.  I know people say “you have to make the time”.  But not everyone has ten kids and all the activities that involves, or has aging parents at the exact same time.  For the past two years we’ve been caring for Dale’s mom with Alzheimer’s and it has taken our time and our energy.  So when we got a call that Dale’s Marine buddies were having a reunion, it became our goal to get to this important event.  And we are so glad we did!

Unless you’ve watched a reunion of Marines, you have no idea how gigantic a hug can be.  The sound of these grown men wrapping their arms around each other with the massive thud of their hands and arms is enough to wring out a heart full of tears.  But to watch them reminisce and share their thoughts with one another is beyond beautiful.  They knew each other so well back then.  They became men together, the hard way.  And they were each other’s family for years.  When they get out, some of them are so glad to get back home that they hardly look back.  But most have a deep far-away love for the brothers they left behind in life.

One man, senior to my husband, caught my attention this weekend.  And I hope to goodness he’s reading this.  He asked me what made me smile, and I shared with him my hope and joy, “it’s Jesus.”   He genuinely spoke of the guys as “his boys” and I knew why.  He loved them.  It was in his heart.  This man will stay in my heart for a very long time.  He was heartfelt and real.  Life wasn’t easy and yet he still cared from the inside out!  Having never really had a father of my own in life, he was one of the men I could walk away from and say, “I’d take one like that!”

After we came home, I was working in my five-day-over-grown garden, of which I’m sure none of the children picked, watered or weeded while we were gone.  The weeds had infiltrated my beautiful rows and were almost as tall as everything in the garden.  I watered it generously and then started pulling weeds while the ground was soft and moist.  It made it easier to pull the weeds with their usually shallow roots.  As the garden started to shape up, this man again came to mind.

He told me that at some time in his life the motto of the Marines, “God, Country Corps”, had gotten out of whack.  It hadn’t been in the right order and God had not come first.  As I watered and then weeded my garden today, I thought about the order.   The order of the garden mixed in my mind with the order of the universe.  If we aren’t soft, if the garden we call life isn’t watered, we can not notice let alone pull the weeds out of our own lives.  If we aren’t diligent, daily, weeds get out of control.  If God isn’t first, other things come up, crowding out what is important.  It’s overwhelming.  The order has to be right.

I’ll never forget these Marines.  The big guys that we spent our only alone time in 30 years with. Time well spent.  In two years they will reunite again.  I’ll so cherish the moments with the Marine who said, “why do you smile?”, the man who made me smile!  A man who loved his “boys” and a man who gave me a glimpse of what a good father can be like.  For only knowing him just a little while, I was reminded to share my joy regularly with those who ask.  I was reminded to keep smiling, so that someone will ask!  I was reminded of order, and I was reminded how important relationship is, both with God and people!    My heart is full.

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It’s a hot summer weekend, bordering the Fourth of July.  It’s the kind of weekend that is normally full of invites and picnics, beaches and fun.  But it’s also one of the few weekends that I didn’t have anything on the schedule.  The rest of the family was booked solid though!  The minute this weekend is over, our calendar is on hyper-speed.  We have one thing after another and I won’t be able to see straight until early October.  Yes, it’s that kind of summer.  The kind that you feel racing ahead at a time of year that you really want to slow down and enjoy, especially in Michigan where the great weather is short-lived.

The big kids were off to various places, a car had to get in to the dealer, drop-offs had to be made for teens and I needed to drop in for a visit with my parents.  By 2:30 pm the littlest two and I were finally home with no where to go.  They jumped in the pool and I started a project I’ve been hoping to tackle for a couple years.

Both of our walkways, front and backyard, are made of interlocking pavers.  In between all those pavers are copious quantities of small weeds and grass.  For the past two years, a few times a year, I’ve picked all the weeds out and hated every minute of it.  I have wanted to do a clean sweep, but just never got around to it.  Time would be short and I’d pick the weeds, knowing that if I did the whole job I wouldn’t have to weed as much.  So yesterday, when the world was busy around me, I determined it would be the day.  It meant I had to take the new power washer and put gas in it, and attach the hoses, something I normally rely on my husband for.  But he ran up north to cut the grass at his parents cabin.  I got the job done and started power washing out all the weeds and dirt and gravel between the joints.  In no time, I was covered head to toe in mud and fine gravel.  It was in my ears and hair, my bathing suit, my legs and my face.  The crunch between my teeth was a tell-tale sign I must have had my mouth open during the project.

As I waved the wand with water that flowed out at such a rate it cut like a knife, I noticed something between the flying mud and water.  Some weeds were immediately blown out of the cracks.  Others, like mossy areas, were a little harder to come up.  However, when you caught the edge of them, they came out in large chunks.  Deep dandelions, well no getting around it, they would be loosed, but I would need to pull them in the end.   But there was something that caught my eye in the process.  Some of the finest weeds didn’t budge.  I could go back and forth, over and over, and they did not come out.  They would bend and change direction, I could blat them sideways, frontwards and back, and dead on, and still they would not come out.  The same was true for areas that had filled in with grass.  Thin, tiny blades of grass were some of the hardest to remove.  Even in the tiniest of places to grow, their roots secured them.  Even under the greatest force, they remained.  The powerful force of the water that can even slice through my skin, could not automatically uproot grass or tiny weeds.

It was a quick reminder to me of just how rooted I need to be.  I may not be able to cover alot of ground, but my ground needs to be able to withstand frustrations, troubles, rejections and attacks by forces greater than myself.  Someone once asked me, “have you ever questioned your faith?”  I can tell you, the answer is no.  I’ve never questioned it.  There have been alot of rough spots in my life that I have been absolutely at the mercy of.  But it never made me doubt my faith.  And my faith has kept truth in sight at all times.

My daughter and I were driving to the chiropractor and we commented just this week how amazing it is to know so many who were raised with the truth and knowledge of God and His word, but who have justified new philophies and compromises.  People who we thought were rooted but who have become separated from the ground beneath their feet and embraced what the world has proclaimed to be true.

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ…” Colossians 2:6-8

Rooted…not just full of faith.  Deeply rooted, instructed, established, and overflowing with gratitude.  Nobody, or no theory or feeling, should be able to move us from the grounding of our faith.  It has to go deep, and to go deep, it needs to actually be deep. Immovable!  Unshakeable!  I may be tiny, but my faith is strong, and my determination is to go deeper as the power that tries to shake me loose looms.  Go deep!  Work at it, be  instructed, be established, be filled with gratitude!  And hang on!  Life is pretty rough.  But God already knew that….. 🙂

Time Out!

Time out!  Yep, I’d like the world to take a short commercial break for me.  Not that I watch commercials, or TV for that matter, but I really would like everyone to just stop what they’re doing for a while so I can have a time out.  Send me to my room, tell me I’m grounded, tell me everything’s cancelled, I think I need a time out.  Do you ever feel that way?

It’s about the time of year when I get that feeling.  If you’ve ever lived in Michigan in the winter, and the long grey days, you’ll understand.  Everyday I find myself saying “I just need some sun!”   I  begin to scour flights and places to go to get me a little sunshine to get me going again.  I look ahead at my spring and summer calendar and realized it is already getting booked up making the hope of coming warmth and God-given Vitamin D to feel as if it’s already being used up before it actually returns to our cold state.  It’s this time of year when the fog sets in and I’m not sure how to accomplish it all on so little fuel.  I begin to wonder what am I doing, where am I going, can I just take a nap?

As I was reading in my study this morning I marvel at how purposeful life is without distractions.  I see how in spite of our feeling, we have a calling.  And how clinging to the balance of sheer life and death can bring clarity and purpose to anyone!  I’ve studied Moses, a lot.  I’ve always loved the example of God’s call and Moses’s answer to the difficult tasks he faced and the purpose God set him to accomplish.  But I don’t think I ever noticed how difficult it must have been just to survive every day until he even could recognize that call on his life.  When he was a baby, daily survival was a great big deal.  Because Pharoah had set to kill the baby boys of that day, we see the story in Exodus of how his mother made a basket to float him in the river just to hide him.  The questions in my mind swirled.  Did she float him between feedings and risk being seen with him every time he needed to be fed?  Did floating him sooth him so he didn’t cry and risk being heard?  For how long did this process go on?  How tough it must’ve been to get through the long days of praying this little boy kept living.  I’m sure Moses’ mom would’ve wanted to call a time out at this point.  “You all take your baby-killing decrees and go sit in your palaces while my baby and I have a timeout right now.”  She would’ve wanted to snuggle him and feed him in peace, and without the day to day struggle, never knowing if the hope for the months ahead was worth it.

God had a different kind of time out in mind though.  Moses was scooped up by Pharoah’s daughter, his life spared, his momma became his nursemaid, and he was raised in Pharaoh’s home.  God set in motion the plan for his life to free an entire nation from bondage.  He was set up for his calling in the dreary, fretful, dark days of ancient Israel with what looked like no hope in sight.  I was so deeply reminded that in the mundane, in the dreary dark days of the winters of our lives, (both literal and figurative), that if we yield to God’s will, we are being set up for His calling on our lives.   Fulfilling His calling IS the light that moves us forward into the next season of our purpose.

I’m still looking for flights!  But with the full knowledge that the next season is more about fulfilling God’s plan for me than it is about me escaping the mundane.  Are you in need of a time out too?  Let it be a place of being set up for fulfilling God’s purpose.  Dig deep and be prepared, be in communication with God, be ready!  God’s call is real and we don’t want to be caught taking a nap when it’s time to move!

Here’s a few practical tips to make it from the dreary winter days of your life to the light and warmth of your purpose being fulfilled:

 1.  When you can’t see very far ahead, keep your eyes on God and be reminded of what He has already done in your life. 

“Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually and always.  Remember the wondrous works that He has done, His miracles…”  1 Chronicles 16:11-12

2.  Be assured, God knows when you’re struggling to make it to the next season in your purpose.  You are not wallowing alone, grounded or set in a time out without Him knowing it.  

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

3.  Make sure your perspective is eternal not stuck in the moment that you are in.  If you only look at how you feel today from your own human perspective, you will never know where you need to be tomorrow and you certainly won’t be prepared for the day God moves you to the next place in your calling. 

“The Lord does not look at things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:7

4.  Be ready!  Be watchful!  God’s purpose for you may be building up inside you while you are waiting. And when it is time, you don’t want to be caught sleeping.  Get in shape!  You may have a big task in front of you.  You have to do your part! 

“You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.  With Your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”  Psalm 18:28-29

5.  When it’s time, move.  God will steady you, He will be your strength and He will be your guide, but only if you move!

“I waited patiently for God to help me; then He listened and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire, and set my feet on a hard, firm path and steadied me as I walked along.” Psalm 40:1-2

I hope you’re hoping, I hope you’re waiting, I hope you’re digging deep.  I hope you’re ready!  God never calls us to nothing and so the next season is coming!  The next season in your calling…your life…your purpose.

Un-destinguishable

After yet another long argument with a teen in my house, who I’m pretty confident argues to get out of work, not necessarily for her deep convictions, I suddenly am having one of those mom days that are probably a little closer to wallowing than they are to grumbling.  I sent her off to go do a study on “having joy” because I’m so tired of arguing with her about things “not being fair”, that she needs to understand that joy isn’t a circumstance, it an attitude!  I told her to come back with 20 Bible verses about  joy written down and five of them memorized.  I sick and tired of no one having joy!

As I type those words , I realize in the mommy process,  I think I’m losing my own!  It might just be because I haven’t had an hour of quiet in the last 29 years.  Or maybe because the only decent meal I have time for is usually when I finally get out and I’m really too tired to enjoy it.  Or maybe because the dog threw up, and the cat litter stinks, and the ink pen broke on my leather couch.  Or because yet again, the dishes are piled so high that I can hardly fill a cup of water from the sink.  Maybe it’s because the sock bin runneth over, or because the yard is full of dog poop and I have to spend time calling yet another insurance company or medical provider, which should never take as long as it does.    It’s so easy to lose our joy and so hard to find it again.  And it’s not like kids are working hard to help you find your joy!  They’re a little engrossed in their own self-satisfaction at this age.

While I explained it to my daughter, I realized that I am speaking to myself.  You see, everything I just listed, is a circumstance.  It’s not me, and shouldn’t be my heart.  If I can blame the loss of joy on everything and anyone else in my life, then my joy is dependent apparently on others, and that my friends, is not joy.  That is an unyielding immovable attitude.  I think of the Israelites when they were rebuilding the temple after gathering back in Jerusalem.  They were so happy to be building the temple once again, and Ezra 3 says they shouted joyous praise to God.  But, there were older Jews there who recalled what the temple used to be like, and it says they wept, and because the weeping was as loud as the praise,  no one could distinguish between the noise!

We have to be able to distinguish between the noise!  What is it, weeping or joy?  I can tell you that when we are grumbling and complaining, it doesn’t sound a lot like joy.   I’ve walked around for a couple of days with a pretty straight face counting all the pitfalls of the self-sacrifice in motherhood and being a wife as if I were filling out a score-card.  And although I’ve managed to say nothing aloud the last two days, my face and my actions have probably said a lot!  And it probably didn’t sound like joy, or if what came out of my mouth was still a form of Godly, it likely wasn’t distinguishable from my grumbling.

I’m pretty sure I need to go memorize five of my own verses on joy! Here’s a few if you’d like to join me!

  • “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy”  Psalm 94:19
  • The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.”  Proverbs 10:28
  • [Paul] know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, … .  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13
  • “As servants of God we command ourselves in every way to great endurance in troubles, hardships and distresses; …in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;…through bad report and good report, …sorrowful yet always rejoicing; …having nothing and yet possessing everything.” 2 Corinthians 6:3-9
  • “…God is my strong refuge. …He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. …You have given me the shield of Your salvation …For you equipped me with strength for the battle.” 2 Samuel 22:33-34 & 36 & 40
  • “The Lord is close to those whose hearts are breaking; He rescues those who are humbly sorry for their sins. The good man does not escape all troubles – he has them too – But the Lord helps him in each and every one.”  Psalms 3:18-19

As I finish this, I realize the house is suddenly quiet.  I look outside, and in the finally blue sky and the muddy backyard, my children are running and playing, having escaped their frustrated mother’s homework and her grumpy smile while I stole the necessary minute away.  And I think, for the moment, in the pursuit of joy for all of us, I’ll just let them keep on playing  🙂

Love at First Look

I stopped at a bakery yesterday to pick up an order for my mom. The lady at the counter tapped the ring on my finger and said, “your husband must love you alot!” I smiled and said, “yep! He loves me that much!” But inside, I had quite the chuckle. My own cherished wedding ring has a broken prong so I don’t wear it very often as I don’t want the diamond to fall out. But a while ago at a rummage sale, I bought an imitation that is probably worth a couple dollars which I often wear in its place until I have a chance to get my own fixed. As I drove away contemplating letting my husband know just how much he doesn’t love me according the value of my ring, LOL, I was reminded just how unreal impressions can be. It was a huge reminder to me that when we meet someone and assume something about them, it may in fact not be the case. Someone who seems mean, or hurtful, may in fact be hurting. Someone may seem happy on the outside and be extremely sad on the inside. What a great lesson for me on the grace and love we need to offer to everyone we come in contact with, because what we see may not be who they are on the inside, and certainly not who they appear to be.  

How appropriate that nearing this day of love being professed the world over, we are reminded of God’s love for every one of us and that He truly does know who we are.  He doesn’t have a first impression of someone, He has the blueprint of their actual heart and soul!  He knows what each of us is really like, what each of us really struggles with, and His love for all of us is deep and steadfast and not measured by what He gives us or how we look on the outside!

God loves each of us the same, yet He knows us intimately! No other love story deserves such recognition as this one!  But it’s not uncommon for us to think differently of people based on what we se.  It’s happened for centuries.  In fact, in New Testament times, when Paul and Barnabas were busy sharing the love of Christ with both Jews and Gentiles, the council in Jerusalem, the Pharisees, were pretty preturbed.  They looked down on the Gentiles and felt if they were going to get the same grace and mercy that Christ gave on the cross, that the Gentiles should also have to look just like them.  And Peter, in all his wisdom, explained the love of God to them this way:

  • 6The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:6-11 – NIV)

Yes, God knows the heart!  And He has loved us all, equally and mercifully, just the same!  There’s no measure by the way we look, or what we wear, or how we seem to be that can affect His love for us! No man can judge what is happening on the inside or what our lives are really like.  God knows the heart!  And He loves us all just the same!

Now, I might be a little more conscious about the ring I wear.  I might one day work a little harder to get mine fixed, or even talk my husband into a new one!  It will never be the measure of how much my husband actually loves me.  But it will always be a reminder to me to love beyond what I see!  Because the perfect example of love, in all it’s purity and grace and mercy and redemption was poured out in spite of the condition of my heart!  And my Father in heaven, sees my heart, and yours, exactly as it is!

The Middle Ground

Sometimes when God begins that gentle nudge on my heart, I am only minutely aware of what He’s prompting me to think, or feel,  or act on.  But often, as time goes on, that gentle nudge becomes a nagging tug, and then my heart begins to be bothered in a big way.  I really believe this is how He causes us to take action on issues.  And recently, that tug has been giving rise to an issue I just need to barrel through.  It will not be settled till I do.

We are living in a world where compromise seems to be the key word.  Where negotiations and finding common good is important if anything is to be accomplished.  But I wonder sometimes, does common good, does compromise, or negotiating to meet in the middle leave us in a precarious position where we are neither right nor wrong and we find ourselves standing in the middle ground?

For what seems like a solid generation, I think the middle ground is eroding into the common ground, the place where many people find themselves.  In that world I was raised in, there was never any room for compromise.  For that, in some ways, I’m so grateful.  I have never doubted my relationship with an amazing and powerful God, ever.  As a teen, it sure wrankled my spirit though!  I thought there should be more compromise, more grace and less condemnation.  I thought there should be allowances and that surely God loved people beyond the rules and commandments.  Surely, there might be a middle ground.  A lot of my friends lived there, in the middle ground, and it was a struggle to not wander in that territory.  It was a few steps away from what I knew to be true, and the constant grace I wanted to live under  because I wouldn’t give up walking in the middle ground.

That place between truth and falsehood is sure a good looking place, isn’t it?  Everyone loves the vast acreage in the middle ground.  There’s no frustration, no anger, no condemnation and no judgement in the middle ground.  Legalistic attitudes go bye-bye in the middle ground and living there is so much easier.  But in reality, can you really live in the middle ground and still follow Jesus?  Maybe we need to define the middle ground a little bit, or better yet, maybe we need to define what is NOT middle ground to know if it’s real and if it’s fine to walk with Jesus in the middle ground.

I’ll tell you right off the bat what is NOT the middle ground.  Middle ground is not the issue you might think it is.  Middle ground is not the debate between to drink alcohol or not to drink it.  Middle ground is not the argument betweens “hymns” and “worship” music.  Middle ground is not the space between traditional or contemporary.   Middle ground is not the debate between raising your hands in church, or clapping, or sitting stoically.  Middle ground is not speaking in tongues, or “gifts for today” and “gifts of yesterday”.  Truthfully, none of that is the middle ground.  Those are the interpretations that we have of the one truth.  But truth still exists, and you are either in it or not, and these issues I assure you are not the middle ground.

Middle ground, in my opinion, is that point where you wander just far enough from the truths you actually do believe in, or that you know to be true, that you are no longer within the boundary of your own belief.

Middle ground is the point you indulge your heart just long enough to lose sight of the truth you do know.

Truth doesn’t actually disappear when you step into the middle ground, you do.

Middle ground is not on any real path at all.  In fact, it goes nowhere worthile.  You left a meaningful path when you followed your heart past the point of truth.

Middle ground is often referred to in a positive note.  It’s that place where we agree to disagree, it’s the place we compromise, it’s the place where no one is really right or really wrong, and we are much more comfortable in the middle ground than we are with all kinds of opposition on either side of it.  Middle ground is where we like to be if we are uncomfortable with being uncomfortable!

It’s easy to wander into this middle ground almost unknowingly.  Social media would have us believe that we’ve entered a new era, where no one is right, no one is wrong, and everything goes.  The middle ground is that spot where we say, “well, I don’t believe that’s right, but …oh well.”   So your belief is simply yours and there is no repulsion for what you believe is wrong.  We love the person, as we should, but we also let that cause us to stray from the love of the truth sometimes.   If your love for a person affects your love of the truth negatively, then you really don’t love that person as you should.

So why the tug? Why is the “middle ground” weighing on me so heavily?  Because the middle ground has started screaming.   We need to be so mightily steeped in the truth, that the middle ground just screams danger to us.   What we hear, what we watch, what we spend our time doing….if you pull it apart and examine it,  are you putting in your heart and mind the truth of God’s word, or is it screaming middle ground?  Is everything you watch or see or hear something you’d tell your child to do?  Does it line up with scripture? Or is it in the middle ground, while you tell them to live truth?

Are you watching a TV series where the characters or what they say, or the way they are living their lives is contrary to scripture?  Do you sing lyrics along your way into work that are contrary to God’s Word?  Do you eat like you shouldn’t?  Do you speak like the world?  Is what comes out of your mouth with one friend different from what comes out of your mouth when you’re with another?  You have entered the middle ground.   Do you believe in being pure outside of marriage, and yet habits get the best of you?  Do you keep the freebie in the grocery store because the clerk forgot to charge you?  Are you screaming at the driver in front of you?  Or hail your own salute when he flips you off and zags around you?  You have entered the middle ground.  What about laziness?  We know it’s wrong.  But what are we when we sit around for hours on our phones, scrolling, watching video’s, playing games…I know it.  I’ve done it.  But we are just “relaxing”  “Relaxing” is fine.  There’s a time for that.  The Bible says so…right?  Well…if that is really what is refreshing us and helping us rest up for the battle for people’s lives and eternity, then yes?  But most studies will tell you that screen time is actually not relaxing for the body, it’s not refreshing it, and we are not actually resting. Truthfully, we’re indulging ourselves and laziness is part of the middle ground.  Not actually doing something awful, but not really doing anything at all.  I’m guilty.  I know.  Are you lying to yourself by not answering God’s call on your life…telling yourself you are not qualified, or claiming no time, or no ability….then you are in the middle ground.  Because you either believe the truth of the call and God’s ability to empower and equip you, or you don’t.  The middle ground exists in our decisions to act and act within God’s truth, not within the truth itself.  Truth itself never walks in the middle ground.  All of this thinking about the middle ground of course recalled the verse about being lukewarm.  Couldn’t help it.  But I noticed something I hadn’t before.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”  Revelation 3:15-16

It was written to the prideful church at Laodecia.  Why on earth would the writer tell them that it is better if they were either hot or cold?  Isn’t a “little bit hot” better than all-out cold?  And I realized something must be horribly wrong with the middle ground for that to be true.  Something happens in the middle ground that is detestable.  It could be that it’s like any other hotbed of activity.  When so many wander from the truth and enter the middle ground, it becomes the place to be.  It doesn’t change truth, but more people are enticed to leave truth and check out the middle ground.

You see, the people who always stand firmly on the side of falsehood, well they are easy to negate, easier to keep away from.  They actually look and feel wrong.  But those who stand in the middle ground, those are the ones who don’t look wrong, don’t make you question if your action is actually based on truth, and they accept you easily.  When you step into the middle ground, you’ve become a land mind of complacency that is easy to suck others into.  You are dangerous not just to your own self, you are dangerous to others when you walk in the middle ground.

Considering the all important fact, that God will not co-exist with darkness, understand that when you step out from the light of truth, you are stepping into a darkness that you haven’t yet recognized.  I’d venture to say it also takes a whole lot of pride to stand in the middle ground.  Because you look over at the side of falsehood, and surely, you are better than they.  You look back at the camp called truth, and they seem to not have the love and acceptance of the middle ground.  Surely, the middle ground is better than that.  Unfortunately, we all know what happens to those filled with pride.

It’s time for the middle ground to be the empty acreage.  For far too long, it’s been the most occupied place on earth!  Don’t lose the truth you know by stepping in the middle ground.  Stay out of the middle ground!

If it looks evil, when then guess what, it’s evil.  If it doesn’t align itself with truth from the word of God, well then it’s falsehood.  If it dabbles in sinfulness….well then doggone it, it just isn’t on the side of truth.  There’s so much more at stake than acceptance and love.  There’s so much more ahead that requires we stand firmly on the side of truth and that the boundary between truth and the middle ground is abundantly clear.

“Those who keep their heads on straight will teach the crowds right from wrong by their example.  They’ll be put to severe testing for a season; some killed, some burned, some exiled, some robbed.  When the testing is intense, they’ll get some help, but not much.  Many of the helpers will be halfhearted at best.  The testing will refine, cleanse, and purify those who keep their heads on straight and stay true, for there is still more to come.  Daniel 11:33 (The Message)

With every move you make, look at the boundaries.  Are you in the middle ground looking back at the truth or standing in the light of the truth itself?

 

 

 

The Family

Around here, the holidays are a big deal.  The season brings amazing busyness and wonderful connectedness with so many people in ministry, in family and so many circles of friends.  It’s absolutely exhausting, and yet it is wonderful all at the same time.  I can’t help but reflect on what the end to the year brought with it.

Our family is big to start with.  But this year we were blessed to add to our ten kids, one daughter-in-law, a granddaughter a few extra’s like a fiance’ and a girlfriend and a “friend”.   My husband and I woke up on Christmas Day in the only place of peace in our home, our bedroom, and look at each other and said, “Here we go!”   Fifteen people to wake up to beside ourselves and a tree of blessings and loads of love to go around.

As I looked around, and I watched my man embrace the job he loves and is so serious and passionate about, the passing out of the gifts, I couldn’t help but notice this year everything has changed.  With the additional newcomers to the family this year, I don’t think I expected it to be the same ‘ole thing.  But it was different in an amazing way.

In our family we always save every gift for Christmas.  So you get your socks and underwear and your everything….and it seems like alot all at once.  So it’s always big.  But it’s usually gifts from “Dad and Mom”.  This year I noticed a whole other process had  begun to take place.  Everybody was into the ‘giving’ part!  They were so excited to give to one another!  They’ve caught on to the excitement of finding something that will float the other person’s boat.  Or the one little item they knew you needed.  It was precious.   And it was a blast!  No doubt it is alot of work, and I can’t imagine how these kids will keep it up as the family continues to grow, but for this year, to watch the giving hearts of everyone toward each other made it amazingly special.  I can honestly say that the whole group, even the new ones, showed a genuine love for everyone, as a whole, not as a part, not as a faction of what can seem like an impenetrable clan.  They all loved all.  It was so beautiful to watch.

And while we never set out to have this big family, nor did we even make plans for what it should look like, this year, it looked fabulous!   I pray it always does!  I pray they always get along, I pray their spouses always get along, and I pray they love each other with an amazing heart-gifting love.  There’s only one thing we pray for more than that.  Truly.

I’m sure it’s hard to make your way into what seems like a fortress of people when you’re new.  But if you ask those here, they’ll tell you they understand one thing about this crew.  Aside from loving each other, we care about one thing and one thing only.  We just want you to love Jesus, all for yourself, because that is the gift that knows no season, knows no one particular family, and knows no boundary.  We will love you and welcome you no matter what, but you will never receive a gift like the one  you have knowing Jesus.   The biggest family you will ever become a part of…..   The best gift you will ever get…  The greatest sense of belonging….   And your hope for years to come.

The Dress Shirt

I woke at 4:20 am today, just before my husband’s alarm went off. I snuggled a little closer to him and an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness came over me. My man of 30 years woke up, like he has almost every day of his life, and went to work to take care of his family . He would easily be a cave man if we weren’t around. My burly, strong, tough, love of my life doesn’t need frills. And as he put on his pressed dressed shirt and slipped into his engineering role for the day, I admired just who he is. He is certainly the man God gave me! And he is certainly the man God made him to be. He is a professional at work, but when he comes home and throws on those jeans and gets dirty fixing cars or building projects, he is every bit the rugged Marine who doesn’t know what “too tough” means. He is exactly who he needs to be wherever he needs to be it.

I put out his lunch and he kissed me as he left. I rustled around in my bed a few minutes before making my coffee, my kick-start for the day and the calm before the storm of life wakes up around me. I looked out at the beautiful still-night sky and know that in a short time, the rest of the house will wake up too. I couldn’t help but ponder my man’s amazing ability to adapt to his environment in order to care for us. It such a reminder to me that I need to do that for my sphere of interactions as well. And although I don’t run off to work each day, opportunities abound for me to touch and relate to everyone I’m in contact with. But it has to be as genuine and heartfelt as my husband’s desire to be wherever he needs to and do whatever he needs to because of his love of family. I need to love everyone around me enough to meet them right where they are at, to be who they need in their lives, so that I can love them to Jesus himself. It’s a responsibility I need to take as seriously as my husband does. We can’t expect people who need Jesus to come looking for us to tell them! We need to meet them where they are at, become like them in ways that touch their hearts, so they want the Jesus we have.

New testament Paul knew this. He lived in a Greek and Roman world. He faced Jew and Gentile everyday! He knew exactly this concept and the impact it would have. In 1 Corinthians 9:21-23 he explains it like this: “To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (NIV)
If we aren’t who people need us to be, without compromising the Truth that we have committed to be, we may have no influence on this world at all! Do you have someone in your life who needs you to be compassionate? Do you have someone who needs you to be strong? Do you have someone who needs you to speak truth into their chaos? Maybe you have someone who just needs you to hold their hand while they walk through a tough circumstance….Be it! Change your outfit if you have to, slip into the dress shirt of the world, per se, that needs you! …..so that by all means possible, you might save some!

Change-up!

I’m one of those people who when my head hits the pillow, I start thinking.  As I lay there not sleeping, I think of the weirdest things!  I wondered about Adam and Eve and what they slept on.  I’ve got to assume they slept on the ground.  Obviously there were no beds, there were no blankets for a while, and certainly not a “sleep number!”  How do you sleep face down when you’re on the ground?  Was there a sweet soft grass field that they slept on?  Now Eve might have had it better than Adam.  When Dale and I curl up in bed, I sleep with my head on his chest/shoulder.  So I’ve got a nice place to lay my head.  So maybe Eve slept like that on Adam.  If Adam laid on his back, then did his hair get all dirty?  Maybe that didn’t bother them.  I can’t imagine a garden without dirt.  Certainly bugs from ants to spiders must have been in the garden. 

Do you all think like this when you lay down to rest?  I think almost constantly.  So these things become analytical thought processes in my mind.   The garden itself was idyllic.  And Adam and Eve were created without clothing.  So apparently any  of the things that bother me outdoors must not have bothered them.  Perhaps they were so busy communicating with God that those things just didn’t matter.  Maybe we’d do well to follow that example/idea!  If our focus is entirely on our relationship with God, we might not be so focused on our surroundings either!

That’s my exercise for today.  Whenever a grumble begins to come out of my mouth, or swirl in my mind,  I’ll plan to switch it up quick to focus on my relationship with Jesus Christ.  I bet I could get into a much better habit of praising Him in all things if I make a conscious effort to replace one behavior with another! NOTHING HINDERS MY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD LIKE I DO.  Instead, I want to build that relationship. 

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee.”  Isaiah 26:3  My mind needs to be diverted from my surroundings to my Savior! Oh how often we get caught in the frustrations of our situation, or the uncomfortable-ness of our surroundings.  Instead, if we capture those thoughts, and keep our mind and focus on Him, peace abounds.  That’s my aim today!  What’s yours?  I’d love to hear from you

The Marriage

It was late, really late.  Or maybe you’d say it was early, it wasw 3:33 am.  One of the little ones was coughing a bit and it woke me up about an hour ago.  But there’s something about mid-life really that doesn’t allow you to go back to sleep when you wake up in the middle of the night. It only takes the slightest thing to wake me, but hours to get back to sleep.  I can see from the light of my laptop screen the inhabitants of my bed.   Snuggled between my husband and I is Lexie.  Lexie has made a habit of climbing in our bed recently.  And next to her, is my strong husband.  I notice him turning a bit and finally I whisper, “Are you just turning or are you awake too?”  He, who never seems to wake during the night, leaned up toward me and said, “I knew you needed a kiss so I woke up just for you.”  He kissed me and laid back down.

When he did, I had to laugh.  He took the lion’s share of the blankets and wrapped up to his neck.  Oh how times have changed!  It used to be I was the one wrapped in all the blankets, constantly moving close to him to stay warm. He was the one who used no blankets and slept like a man in the wilderness with his own fantastic metabolism to keep him warm. Now, he gets cozy in the blankets and I am the one throwing them off all night for the sudden feelings of tropical heat, the kind that bakes you from the inside out.  I said, “Look at you, the blanket hog!  My oh my have times changed! .”  His groggy humor rose to the occasion, “It’s insulation against all the heat you throw.” He chuckled and rolled over, back to sleep, as if our sweet exchange never happened.

I look at him with a blessed heart. It’s years of living and loving and growing that brings us to our life of today.  It’s age and understanding, it’s trials and guesswork, sometimes even fiery tempers, it’s wisdom and laughter, it’s a blessed love and tenderness that has grown us, together, tightly as one. The thought came to mind, “Is it any wonder that Christ used the marriage relationship as an example of His relationship with us? “   He knew it was an example we would understand.   Just as in the marriage relationship, a wife desires to grow closer to her husband.  She begins to become one with him in thought, she desires to please him, she doesn’t always understand him…but she wants to.  As they grow in years, she finds herself reacting in a way that would make him happy and he is a husband who is proud of her.  She is loyal, and he is strong.  He guides and directs firmly but with tenderness and she is eager to follow. Ah…yes…this is the relationship Christ wants of us. It’s continual, it’s sacrificial, it’s based on a commitment in spite of circumstances…yes, one day we will become that bride He has planned us to be. And it will be a great day!  …..Rev. 21:2!