I’m Guilty

jonahandjona

“No guilt in life, no fear in death

This is the power of Christ in me

From life’s first cry to final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny.” (In Christ Alone)

We sang this song this weekend at church. It’s one of my favorites because it is the perfect picture of life. As we sang the verse…”No guilt in life…” it reminded me of a story about Jonah. It happened several years ago but it still rings fresh in my mind. He was playing on the bleachers while his sister had soccer practice one night. My husband told him not to play on the bleachers because it was dangerous. I’m married to “Mr. Safety”. Anyhow, the little boy playing with Jonah fell and hurt himself. He ran to his mom crying. Moments later, Jonah burst into sobs crying, “I’M GUILTY!!” He had disobeyed his dad and now his little friend was paying the price.

This morning I read the story of David and his guilt. He slept with a married woman. She became pregnant. He tried to cover it up but his plan didn’t work. So, he had her husband killed. Then he took her as his wife. It was the perfect plan. He was king. He could do what he wanted. And everything seemed to be going along as he hoped until Nathan, prompted by God, confronted him. He was guilty! He had consequences to pay. But did that mean God would never favor him again? Did that mean he would be unloved by God? Did that mean God was mistaken when He said David was “a man after my own heart”? I don’t think so.

There are times in our lives we are going to make terrible mistakes. The fact is, we are sinners. We are not perfect nor will we ever be. We try but sometimes our best efforts fail us. We are guilty. But our story doesn’t have to end there. In the midst of our humiliation, God is with us. He sees our hearts and wants to redeem us. Some focus on the consequences but I focus on the relationship. After we’ve sinned and been forgiven, I believe we are more humble. We trust Him a little more and follow His leading. We are not so eager to pump ourselves up. We refocus.

If you find yourself in the midst of a mess, know God truly loves you. He doesn’t love you because you are perfect. He loves you because He created you. He can redeem your mess. He forgives your sin. He will never forsake you, ever…even when you are guilty.

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48 NIV)

Life is Short

life

My heart was heavy and my mind was reminiscing as I drove to the church on Saturday. I was attending a memorial service for a man I had never met. I knew his name. I had seen pictures, but I had never had the privilege of sitting and talking with him. The only thing I knew about him was the woman he had married; an old friend of mine.

My friend was someone I met over twenty years ago. We met at church and realized we had the most important thing in common. We both loved the beach; still do. Way back, when I had no husband and children, we would get up almost every Saturday morning and head over to the coast for a day of relaxation. We’d set our chairs up on the edge of the water and soak in the warm sun. I am convinced there’s a beach in heaven. There is simply no better place on earth.

When I got married, my friend was one of my bridesmaids and she sang. I remember looking over at her singing that day but having to look away because I was about to burst into tears. It’s funny the things you remember. On Saturday, I became teary eyed again as I watched my friend sing at her husband’s memorial service. Her voice brought back so many memories. You see, it had been probably ten years or so since I had seen my friend.

After the service ended I made my way to see her. She gave me a big hug and I burst into tears. I told her I was so sorry. And she responded, “You never got to meet him.” You know, the older I get the shorter life seems. You think you’ll do it tomorrow. You expect everything will remain the same but it never does. There are no guarantees.

So, my question is, if we knew when our last day on this earth would be, what would we do with it? How would we spend our time? Who would we talk to? What would we say to them?

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12 NIV)

Insincere Love

clingingLove must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9 NIV)

I read these words yesterday but this morning they made their way into my heart. I wondered why Paul would write these words…Love must be sincere. I mean, isn’t love always sincere? I don’t think it is. I think there are times we “fake” love. We seem to be sincere but in our hearts we don’t really care or maybe we’ve simply grown cold. Perhaps this was happening to Paul. Or maybe, it’s what he witnessed.

Today I started to think about how or why we become insincere. I think the answer lies in the rest of this verse. Paul says, “Hate what is evil”. Recently, my Mom came for a visit. In the evenings we would watch the news and she was horrified at the crime taking place each day. I reassured her it wasn’t near where we live but I don’t think it brought her any comfort. Night after night the news was filled with shootings, rapes and child abuse, just to name a few. Looking at mug shots of criminals and hearing about the crimes they allegedly committed hardens your heart toward them. How can they carry out such terrible acts? How am I supposed to have a sincere love for them?

Paul finishes this verse with, “cling to what is good”. He knew the key to heartfelt sincerity was clinging to good. Each and every person was created by a Loving God. Regardless of their actions, He loves them. His love is never dependent on behavior.  I think Paul understood the only good in this world comes from God and when we cling to Him, our hearts can be filled with love.

When my kids started school years ago I challenged them to look for God. I told them He was always there. Sometimes, it was obvious and other times He seemed absent. But I reminded them He promised He would never leave them. Over the years my kids have come home with stories of God. They have noticed His hand in unexpected places. These God sightings have offered hope. They gave them something to cling to.

Life is exhausting emotionally and physically. It can cause us to become burned out and insincere. We have to remember to look for God. It is our only hope of remaining authentic in our love for those around us.

Imperfection is a Blessing!

diamond

For you have been bought with a price: (1 Cor. 6:20a)

I’m not much of a jewelry person but I know diamonds are considered a precious stone. They are pretty. They sparkle. They can be used to cut glass, I think. Maybe that only happens in the movies. Regardless, people pay a lot of money for those little rocks. In fact, people look for the perfect, flawless diamond. Those are the most desired and come with the highest price tag.

I found this scripture in an old note I wrote about 5 years ago. The note went on to talk about bargains and how I love a good bargain. I refuse to pay full price for anything. I will put up with a little flaw, stain or smudge if it will give me a good product for a reduced price. I’m not looking for perfection if it means I have to pay a higher price. I’m all about saving a few bucks. Thankfully, God isn’t a cheapskate like me.

He paid the highest price possible because He wants to have a relationship with us. He wanted to make a way for us to come to Him because He wants to be in our lives. He wants to comfort us in our sorrows and celebrate the joyous occasions. And He wants us even with our flaws.

I am incredibly appreciative God loves me and my imperfections. In fact, the flaws we have make us more precious to Him. He wants to be our strength when we are weak. He wants to be our comfort when life is unbearable. He wants to wrap His loving arms around us when we are without hope. He loves us especially with our flaws. And He paid the maximum cost so He could have a relationship with us.

Amen!

Where is God When we Fall?

goal

Soccer season is in full swing. Early morning games on the weekends make us yearn for the off season until we arrive on the open field moistened with dew. The air is chilled and there is an underlying hope that this game will be epic. It wasn’t any different this weekend. Parents stood there with coffee as the girls began their warm-up routine. They had to win or tie to make the finals. After an hour, the team came away with another win. Oh it wasn’t an easy win, they had to fight for it making the victory that much sweeter. In the end, it moved them into a tie for first place. Their only reward was facing the aggressive and sometimes dirty team again. Regardless, they marched to the next battle.

Four games in two days will wear out even the most physically fit person. But these girls didn’t show any signs of exhaustion. They went to the field determined to win. They knew the championship was within reach because they had tied this team the day before. It was a tough game. The girls were aggressive, insulting and obnoxious but our team charged on. Every girl on that field fought hard and when their opponent scored, they fought even harder.

The score was 1-0 with the opposing team ahead. The clock was running out when our striker got the ball and headed for the goal. She outran their defenders but only by a few steps. We held our breath. This was it. When she made this goal she would tie the game pushing the deciding factor to penalty kicks. She planned her attack glancing toward the defenders when all of the sudden she tripped. She fell to her knees sitting on the ball. Her moment was over. The hope of a tie score had diminished as the ref blew his whistle giving the other team a free kick. Our striker was devastated. Those of us cheering her on fell silent.

My girl’s team lost. They finished in second place even though they played well. The coach worked hard to encourage them but their disappointment was obvious. Our striker hung her head refusing to be consoled. Her Dad, knowing her regret, made his way to her. Lifting her head, she looked at her father. Immediately her eyes flooded with tears. That tough young lady stood there and cried as her father held her.

Life is a battle. It’s hard to balance all we have to do. We have demands placed on us. There are things we are required to do. We struggle day in and day out to do the right thing, to have the right attitude and to honor Christ with our lives. Some days are victorious. Others we want to forget. But always, and I mean always, whether in joy or in pain, our Father is there. He celebrates with us and He comforts us when we fall down. There is nothing that can keep Him from coming to us because His deepest desire is to be with us.

As you walk through this week, know He walks with you. He is cheering you on. He is for you. He will guide you and show you the way. And when you trip and fall, He will offer you a hand up and a shoulder to cry on. He’s that kind of Father.

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;  though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

(Psalm 37:23-24 NIV)

Focusing on God

focus

This morning, I found myself praising God for today. I thanked Him for this moment in time where all is well. I thanked Him because I know everything can change in the blink of an eye. So today, I simply sat and thanked Him for today’s blessings.

My prayers today came about because of a conversation I had with someone. She was throwing out a bunch of what-ifs. She asked what I would do if this or if that happened. She wasn’t being cruel. In her mind, she simply wanted all of the bases covered in case something happened. I think she was surprised by my response. I told her I can’t live my life worrying about the “what-ifs”. I told her it wasn’t biblical to concern myself with things that may never happen. And I told her I would drive myself insane if all I did was think about the possibilities. The fact is they are endless.

Rather than worry about what might happen, I thought, what if for today I was completely satisfied with where I am in life. What if I were satisfied with our home and all of its needed repairs? What if I were content with my car because every single day it starts and takes me where I need to go? What if I had no expectations from my husband except to come home at the end of the day and spend time talking? What if I were absolutely without want for anything more than I already have? This perspective made me cry.

It is too easy to think about what could be or what might happen. I believe this is what Paul was saying when he said, ”We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”(2 Cor.10:5 NASB) He’s urging us to take every unholy thought and make it obedient to Christ because he knew our thoughts, if unchecked will wreak havoc in our lives. They can cause us a tremendous amount of unnecessary stress. And quite frankly, if we are looking at what-ifs, we will not have our gaze focused on the One who is in control.

Thank you Lord for today. Thank you for your abundant love. Thank you for your provision. Thank you for holding my future. AMEN!

Trusting God with our Children

Jonah Scout 042

A few years ago

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.(Romans 8:37 ESV)

Last week, I went to open house for my son. Since we talk a lot about life at school, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Some of his teachers greeted me asking who my child was. They offered kind words (whew!) which I always appreciate. Then they did their presentation. I was surprised though. I assumed the teachers my boy favored would be the fun teachers. What I realized is that my boy prefers the teachers who are personable. Those who took the time to shake my hand, look me in the eye and offer encouragement about my boy where the same teachers who have taken the time to get to know my child personally.

God knows each of us personally. He knows our children personally too. It has been a season of changes and I am thankful for this scripture. It has become real to me over the years and now I am reminded of it as I send my children off each day. He loves them. He will protect them. And He will draw each of them closer. Unfortunately, growth often comes when life is hard. Yes, God wants our kids to struggle so they can learn to rely on Him.

My tendency is to make life easy for my kids. I love to surprise them. I enjoy blessing them unexpectedly. But the reality is, those things aren’t going to increase their dependence on God. Real life happens every day and I’m not supposed to hide them from it. Instead, I’m supposed to teach them how to walk through it. They will come up against challenges and I have to let them pursue the solution. If I do it for them, they will never learn on their own. It is a hard road but I KNOW God is with them. It is comforting to see God has surrounded my children with wonderful people. Some of these people are fellow Christians. Others are not. All are welcome in my children’s lives because they all have something to offer and they care.

God never called us to an easy life. He doesn’t call our children to leisure either. Their spiritual growth will come when they fall down. They will learn from their mistakes. It will not ruin them if they have a misstep here and there. We just have to get out of the way and let God work.

Thank you Lord for those who surround us to teach us, guide us and encourage us. They are blessings from you meant to help us as we journey through this life.