¡Conocerlo y Darlo a Conocer!: To Know Him and To Make Him Known!

Our mission: To Know Him and Make Him Known!

When I was in college, I went on two short term mission trips with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) to Juarez, Mexico and also Creel, Mexico near the Copper Canyon where the Tarahumara Indians live. It was life changing. I loved the culture and the people (still do). At that time in my life, I had plans of finishing school, I was majoring in Spanish, and then joining YWAM full time, working in Mexico or possibly Guatemala. Of course, I… had plans… God had other ones. Long story, but here I am a 51 year old, mother of 4, homeschool mom for 22 years, grandma, and housewife for almost 27 years. Definitely not a foreign country missionary.

One of the phrases that has stuck out with me through the years from the trips I made besides the Spanish name for YWAM, Juventude Con una Mision, is “Conocerlo y Darlo a Conocer”- “To Know Him and to Make Him Known”. My first trip to Mexico was with a youth group from a church near my hometown. I was sponsored by some of the leaders of that youth group. It was for a week. It was awesome! My second mission trip signed up for a “Summer of Service” which was a 3-week trip. I boarded a plane to El Paso, by myself (20 years old) and went with a group that I knew no one. I ended up with a group of kids from another youth group. Some of the kids, were obviously not into missions, more into drama… So we spent the first few days on the El Paso side of the border trying to get our attitudes right. We were cleaning ministry buildings, and basically working on tasks that were sweaty and unenjoyable like moving boxes that had cock roaches under them that were big enough you could put a leash on and take for a walk. YUCK! Then when we finally got to cross the border, we ended up cleaning up a goat pen for one of our first major projects. It was good, but kind of a bummer for someone who had worked hard at raising money, and had visions of “getting a little taste of the glory” while in another country.

The Cooks for the Mission team. Leticia and me.

On my second trip, word got out that I was a cook at a nursing home, back in the states. So, I got put on the kitchen crew, another blow to my ego. Since I was cooking all the time as my job at home…Ha ha. When we went down further south into Mexico, I was one of the two cooks for the whole team. At the time, I was thinking, “this isn’t so glorious”. Cooking on wood stoves in a kitchen with a skirt on (almost caught it on fire), with a bunch of Mexican ladies that I could barely communicate with. For some reason I had not learned the word for “Spoon” in my Spanish lessons. You should have seen them laughing at me while I was telling them in Spanish “I need a thing that does this” making wild stirring motions. ha ha Looking back, it was perfect, and I would not change anything in those experiences for the world.

The wood stove, the skirt that almost caught on fire and me 😊

Then there was sleeping on a concrete floor of a church (we were helping to build) with only a sleeping bag. Experiencing Montezuma’s revenge (diarrhea) after eating vegetables that were washed with local water. Everyone on the team using the same outhouse while having the diarrhea as well (Words cannot describe the smell). “Showering” using a barrel and a scoop. All this, to “¡Conocerlo y Darlo a Conocer!”. “Know Him and Make Him Known”.

I’ve mentioned before that I was given a bracelet at a Skillet concert recently. When I put it on, something on it deeply resonated within me. It says, “Make Me Like Jesus”. “Yes Lord, that is all I want, ‘Make me like Jesus'”. Here lately, when I look at it, a question comes up in my mind. “What would Jesus be like in this….?” The answers are challenging. Jesus would be patient. Jesus would forgive. Jesus would give himself away… etc. It’s having the same affect on me that the 20 year old Janet experienced 21 years ago in Mexico. Humbling to see how far away from Christlike I can be…

Life is not always what I expect it to be. Sometimes it can be somewhat “mundane”, lacking excitement, dull. But God is far from mundane. He is beyond all the expectations I have. That is why in the daily, mundane tasks of life, even sometimes the gross tasks…, my aim should always be simply “to know Him” and with what I learn of Him, “make Him known”. Had the mission team I was on back in the early 90’s not been there for the mundane.working on projects, helping the full time missionaries, we would have missed our chance to help an elderly missionary make it to the local hospital in the dead of night while having a health issue, a very dangerous drive through the mountains of Mexico. We also would have missed being able to pick up a young Mexican mother along the way who was in labor and rush her along to the hospital as well. Believe me, that was a hair raising, exciting story. Had I missed the mundane times in motherhood, I would have missed the excitement of getting to pray with each of my children to ask Jesus in their heart. I would have missed the deep conversations on faith that have shaped them and quite honestly myself. Had I missed the mundane tasks of going to the grocery store, paying bills, cleaning house, etc. I would have missed the excitement of having friends over for an evening of food, fellowship, worship in our living room, and prayer. All the seemingly mundane of the world, when set apart by the constant companionship of Jesus through prayer and worship, (while driving, folding clothes, doing dishes, etc.) suddenly becomes a Holy time. It prepares us for that opportunity to come where I am able to “make Him known”. Whether it be in conversation with a friend, giving to a stranger, or helping someone in need. That is what Jesus would be like. Make me like HIM!!

¡Conocerlo y Darlo a Conocer!

Dropping My Stone (Originally written 7/24/2013)

“You know, it’s very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”-Inigo Montoya “The Princess Bride”.

Offense- a crime,sin; act of wickedness … an injury… Attack; assault

Living life on planet earth opens everyone up to an Offense within their life. Someone, somewhere will commit a crime against us, a sin, an injury, an attack. Some offenses are purely intentional by the offending party. Some are not. Other offenses are taken, just because there is a hurt already in place that the perceived offense bumps up against.
Offenses in life can cause a person to find themselves in a stone throwing war. They have a tendency to make a person feel justified in “picking up a stone” for later use. Holding onto that stone and watching for an opportunity then becomes the focus. You threw something at me, I wish to get you back. It may take me awhile, but when I will appear to be justified in my actions, my time will come, and whammo my stone will fly. I may throw my stone subtly or I may throw it with the desire for all to see. It all depends on the occasion for the stone throwing. The offender then responds in same and thus the stones fly and no peace is ever found.
There’s a story in the Bible of a woman who found herself in a literal stone war. She had been caught in her offense of adultery, and by what was considered justice at that time she should be stoned. All those offended by her sin were prepared and carrying their stones ready to let them fly. I have often related to the woman caught in her sin. How often in my life have I found myself trapped by a sin and deserving of punishment? More times than I would want to count. I have felt indignation towards the crowd of “stone carriers” ready to launch their offensive. How dare they?! What a group of self-righteous, religious men eager to trap Jesus and hungry to show just how right they are by taking care of that sinful woman in a manner that follows all the rules. Commit adultery…get stoned. It’s the old eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth thing.
This morning as I look into the mirror of the word, I see things a little differently. There are times that I am just like the men in the crowd. I have been self-righteous and religious. I have wanted my vindication for the wrongs committed against me. I want an eye for an eye, and I want a tooth for a tooth. I want to grip onto my stone and wait for the green light to let it fly, but I can picture Jesus looking directly into me saying, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
What Jesus said as a rebuke to all the potential stone throwers is actually a very freeing statement if you let it be. He had opened the door to the concept of forgiveness and letting the stones drop. Being set free from the weight of carrying a stone and letting go of spending all our energies looking for the right time to let the stone fly sets you free.
It may be uncomfortable at first to let the stone drop, but it is freedom and life. The very thing that Jesus intends to give to anyone who will receive.

Live to Forgive

“We never look more like Christ than when we forgive.”- Beth Moore

Being a good church girl in the 80’s I took to listening to CCM (Contemporary Christian Music). After an experience with God in 1983, I decided to get rid of my Rock n Roll music and listen to Christian only. I was ecstatic to find the CCM genre. Especially since I am not a fan of Southern Gospel, Blue Grass, and Sandi Patty (can’t stand her high notes…). Steve Taylor was one of my first favorites in the Christian music scene. I even got to see him in concert live. I’ve never seen anyone jump around so much and still be able to sing. lol. On his 1984 album “On the Fritz” there was a song “To Forgive”. It was a catchy little tune about forgiveness.

I am a child of the 80’s. My teen years were during the heart of the 80’s. I graduated in 1989. I was home sick from school when there was an assassination attempt on President Ronald Regan in 1981. Come to think of it, I was home sick when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded killing all aboard in 1986. I remember both of those events vividly. But I quite honestly remember very little of another big event of the 80’s the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981. Maybe I wasn’t home sick from school, or maybe it’s because I grew up protestant and didn’t think a whole lot about the Pope or understand his significance to the Catholic Church. The Pope’s attempted assassination hasn’t been one of my significant memories from the 80’s.

I saw a man
He was holding the hand
That had fired a gun at his heart
Oh, will we live
To forgive?
I saw the eyes
And the look of surprise
As he left an indelible mark
Oh, will we live
To forgive?
Come, find release
Go, make your peace
Follow his lead
Let the madness recede
When we shatter the cycle of pain
Oh, we will live
To forgive?
Come, find release
Go, make your peace
I saw a man
With a hole in His hand
Who could offer the miracle cure
Oh, He said live
I forgive
Oh, He said live
I forgive

This morning I woke up with the song “To Forgive” rolling around in my head. When I sat down to spend my time with Jesus, I took the time to look up the lyrics. It’s pretty profound. The first part of the song is about the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. My curiosity was peeked. I looked up the event on Wikipedia. The pictures are very moving. This got me to thinking about another story of forgiveness I have been familiar with Corrie ten Boom and the former Concentration camp guard. Once again, another moving story of forgiving the impossible to forgive.

Nazi Concentration Camp survivor speaks on forgiving during a face-to-face encounter after the war of one of the abusive guards she and her sister Betsy, who died while in the camp, had suffered under.

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, closes with an account of forgiving the unforgiveable. Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, and suffered slavery, imprisonment, wrongful accusations, abuse, etc… reassures his brothers of his forgiveness to them in this way, “But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21 NIV.

Forgiveness… Recently I went to a Skillet concert. While waiting in line to attend, a woman in the crowd was passing out rubber bracelets that said, “Make me like Jesus”. I’ve had it on ever since. It states something that has been the cry of my heart more and more lately. I want to be like Jesus. I’ve been asking God for that to be a reality in my life more and more. The truth of the matter is that in order to be like Jesus, we have to forgive. He openly spoke forgiveness to the lame man, to the woman caught in adultery, to the thief on the cross, and then some of His final words, “Father Forgive them they know not what they do”. Then His present ministry of forgiveness to anyone who comes to Him wanting relationship with Him. Jesus forgave, Jesus forgives. The question is “Do I?” Do I forgive offenses far less harsh than being shot by a gunman as the Pope or tortured in a concentration camp as Corrie ten Boom? How about looking at the hard times of my life where I suffered offense at the hand of another as something that was meant for bad by satan, but intended by God for the good not only of myself, but others as Joseph did? Do I forgive like Jesus? Completely, from the heart, over and over again?

Jesus knew the weight of unforgiveness was more than we could bear. It is the only way to let go so we have arms open wide to receive His pure love and the healing of our hearts.

Come, find release
Go, make your peace
Follow his lead
Let the madness recede
When we shatter the cycle of pain
Oh, we will live
To forgive?

If I could only tattoo this truth on my heart… The only way to be like Jesus is to do as He did. I must live to forgive.

Held

Newborn babies are wonderful! I could hold one for hours, as long as they don’t cry. Holding a newborn does not get old. My newest grandson is one of those cuddly babies. I haven’t heard to many whimpers out of him, never seen him mad, in fact, I’ve not really seen his eyes very much. He’s sleeping most of the time. I absolutely love him. What Grandma wouldn’t?

There’s this newer/ probably not so new idea that hospitals are using with the newborns called, skin on skin time. (They didn’t do this when my 4 were born) It provides bonding between the parents and the baby. The warmth of the parent’s body against the warmth of the newborn’s body is a time the newborn can feel the presence of his parent and listen to their heartbeat. The parent gets to hold their little bundle of love. Absolutely beautiful!

This morning while I spent my time with God, I was reminded of another old worship song, “Heart of Worship”.

“I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about you,
It’s all about you, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about you,
It’s all about you, Jesus”

I started thinking about how close God wants to be to me. Just as close as little Levi in the hospital bonding with his Daddy during their skin-on-skin time. The problem is unlike little Levi, I wrestle with God and fight getting close at times. My mind flies through so many different things. Then I got this picture of how it would be if Levi lay there refusing to be comforted, refusing to be held. That is me and I’m sure that is you sometimes as well. I was reminded of a verse Psalm 77:2 “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; My soul refused to be comforted.” The issue with having that close “skin-on-skin” time is having something in between you and your Heavenly Daddy. We can choose to lay on our bed of offences- injury, anger, displeasure, or we can choose to let Him wrap us up in the warmth of His arms of love. We can refuse to be comforted or we can choose to let go of everything and simply come seeking to let our lives be “all about our God”. Only one way leads to the peace we all seek and that is intimate, unhindered communion with our Heavenly Daddy. This only happens as we let every unclean, soiled part of us be washed by Jesus’ precious blood, and we simply come willing to leave behind what we sometimes hold onto for dear life, thinking it protects us. Trusting that there is no safer place than against our Heavenly Daddy’s chest, held by His all powerfully strong arms, listening to His heartbeat of Love for us. It is the only way to the peace He gives. Just be held! He is just that Good!

To Take His Hand: Submission and Trust

The first date my husband and I went on was to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, May 9th,1992. We jokingly say that date was “WORLDS OF FUN!!” He was (and still is) the total package. 6 ft 2, brown wavy mullet, sparkly eyes, muscles, our conversations as we rode to Kansas City together and walked around the park were easy. After a full day we went to ride the Ferris wheel one last time. His final pickup line had me, “Hey, I would like to ask you out, but I don’t have much money.” My reply was, “We could go for walks and get a soda. Just hang out. You know the old song says,’ I don’t care if you ain’t got money, I’m so in love with you honey.'” So began our “Summer of Love”. I have jokingly told him to this day he was a poor college student when we met, but I was sure he had ‘money making potential’. This began our fun dates: walking around Mizzou, laying on the ground in front of Memorial Union at night watching the bat’s fly around the lights, Swimming at Finger Lakes, hanging out at his parent’s house on the trampoline, going line dancing at 54 Country (both of us not the best of dancers so stepping on each other’s toes all night.)

One of the first of these dates sticks out in my mind above them all. We decided to go for a walk on the Katy Trail, an old railroad track turned into State Park. We went to a friend’s family’s cabin to park the car. Then to access the trail, we had to go down this short incline. He went down first. Then as a true gentleman should, he turned and held his hand up to me and said, “Let me help you down.” I was 21. I hadn’t dated anyone since I was 17. I was used to living my life, my way, or at least I thought I was. I remember looking at him and thinking, “I could do this a lot better on my own.” But to humor him I took his hand and allowed him to help. I didn’t want to scare him off with my independence on our second date. Little did he know this was also the beginning of my struggle to submit.

Seven months later we were married. A whirlwind romance, then the real battle began. I wanted my way, he wanted his. I believed the Biblical model for marriage as the man being the head of the relationship, but I struggled to trust. My experiences before marriage had led me to believe that authority did not always do what was best for me (not with any ill intentions). So, believing firmly in the verse in the Bible about “not letting the sun go down on your anger”, meant some days of us dragging our butts into work after a late night/ early morning spent fighting and then making up. One of these fights he told me something that has stuck with me, “Janet you don’t understand, I love you! I would take a bullet for you if I had to.” OUCH.

Twenty-nine years later, the struggles between us have not been nearly as intense. I’ve learned through the years that as he told me, he has only my best interests at heart. He loves me, and we usually work to a mutual agreement. We live pretty harmoniously for the most part.

Enter the past few months. We have had an area of contention between us, and I, in my true fashion, have been struggling to admit he was right. I briefly went back to my 21-year-old self on the edge of the Katy Trail. I didn’t want his hand, help, or his wisdom. My fears of ‘what would happen if I trusted what he and God were saying was right’ were ruling. But finally, I caved, and I actually feel a lot better.

This morning I have been thinking about the parallels between my struggle to trust and submit to my husband, and the struggle to trust and submit to God. I am so very grateful that God is patient with me. He has always had the best interest at heart for me, but there are many times I want my way, because I lack the trust, I should have in Him. This lack of trust comes from not really knowing the heart of the Lover of My Soul. Submitting to Him is not because He is a tyrant that just wants His way. It is because I really don’t know where I am going and what I am doing in this life. The only way to wholeness is to stay close to the One who does and obey as He speaks what direction and how many steps to take. I may think that my best interest will be met by my way, but it is actually best met by HIs. The trust I lack comes through me agreeing with the truth, God is Good. God is Love. God is my Heavenly Father/ Daddy. God is Right in all ways. God is true. And quite honestly, just as my husband told me years ago, God “would take a bullet for me” in fact, He did. Jesus died on the cross so I could live free.

Supreme Authority, just typing it for me can churn up some uneasy feelings. It means me laying down my “rights” to “choose my own destiny”, and to OBEY, not only obey, but to continually depend on someone besides myself to take care of my every need. Here’s the kicker… It is true God is the only Supreme Authority. His purposes will be fulfilled whether I go willingly, or I choose to do it all my own way apart from His purposes. But just like I experienced on that day in late May 1992 I am being offered the opportunity to take the hand of the Lover of My Soul who wants to show me a life of His goodness and His love. I only have to take His Hand, go His way, and enjoy His relationship of Love. His way is BEST!

Too Many Voices

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say…?”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭3:1‬ NIV

We all hear “voices”. Before you think I’ve jumped off the deep end, let me clarify that statement. We are surrounded/ bombarded by so many opinions, statements, ideas every day. These are the voices that shout at us from the moment our eyes open until we close them in sleep, and if we are lucky, they don’t come to us at night in our dreams as well… nightmares. These voices are liars. They want to get us off course from the only way to get them to shut up, the Peace found only in Jesus.

Yesterday, I was scrolling through Facebook, something I do way too much of… But I happened upon a post a friend had reposted of someone who is struggling with Anxiety. As I read it, it was like looking of a reflection of something I was a few months ago. Statements like: “I need a break from my mind itself which isn’t possible.” “My mind is traumatized my memory is foggy and absolutely full of triggers” “I am actually just busy trying to hold it together in my safe box.” Stuck out to me. I’ve been blogging for quite a while. This all started because writing has been an outlet for me, a stuffer of emotions… Anxiety has been one of the hot topics for my blog. I have several entries if you go back and look at the history of what I have written. It has been a lifelong struggle, but I would say the most intense battles have been the past 4 years. But God has worked a miracle in my life since around September/ October. It’s one of those kinds of miracles that it sometimes seems like it is too good to be true. You know, “pinch me” so I can make sure this is real kind of deals. With each passing day, I am convinced all the more of how real it is. I am walking free! So when I read the post like I saw yesterday, or I hear of someone who is struggling with anxiety, my heart aches. Because I know just how many voices I listened to and how many lies I believed.

Satan is deliberate in his onslaught of anxiety that he has unleashed in my generation and the generations after me. From the first twinge of it until you find yourself being squeezed to death by it, he has a purpose and a lie that is not new at all that is the root of all anxiety. “Did God really say…?” I believe anxiety is satan’s way of getting us to doubt God, His goodness, His provision, His Love. I would not be surprised if it is the very force driving the “deconstruction of Christian faith” movement we hear about frequently in the news. If anxiety is ruling in your head and your heart, doubts begin.

Deconstruction Christianity is a false religion. You cannot have Jesus and not have the truth of the Bible. There is no me making a “better version of myself”

Then begins all the futile attempts to “fix ourselves”. Believe me, I tried them. Self help books galore, Headspace meditation app- started by a Buddhist monk, trying new hobbies (not a bad thing as long as it isn’t a replacement for crying out to Jesus), numbing it all with medicine, etc. The truth of it all is “I CANNOT FIX MYSELF!!!” All my attempts to fix my anxiety, outside of getting my eyes off of me and onto Jesus, only served to dig me deeper into a pit, a very ugly pit… The truth in the lyrics of the Switchfoot song “Mess of Me” rings truer to me every day.

“I am my own affliction
I am my own disease
There ain’t no drug that they could sell
Ah there ain’t no drugs to make me well
There ain’t no drug
It’s not enough
There ain’t no drug
The sickness is myself
I made a mess of me I wanna get back the rest of me
I’ve made a mess of me I wanna spend the rest of my life alive”

About a year ago, I made contact with an old friend from my college days. We began talking about some mutual experiences of abuse that opened us up to lies. One thing stuck out to me that she said in the beginning of our weekly conversations. “Janet, you have the Holy Spirit within you. You can hear the truth. You know the truth.” She had hit the nail on the head. I have been listening to WAY TOO MANY VOICES! (ME, a seasoned Christian of 39 years…”) Whether it was the lies of “what you have been will never change”, the lies of “You call yourself a Christian, yet you think these horrible things”, “try to find your ZEN”, “make a better version of yourself each day”, “the Bible does not hold the answer to what you are struggling with”, etc. Those voices only lead to one thing “DESTRUCTION”. Let me be so bold as to say that “Deconstruction of faith” is not a brave move. It is an opening to the very “destruction of ourselves”.

Here’s the deal. I cannot say do x,y,and z and you will find yourself free. I’m not 100% sure how I have ended up in this place of peace I am in today. The one thing I did do was I decided my listening to “too many voices” was not working. I needed to listen to ONE voice, JESUS. Tune yourself daily into that voice and refuse to allow even the hint of a whisper of the lying voice of anxiety to enter your ears. Let desperation for freedom cause you to RUN as hard as you can into your Heavenly Father’s arms. It is only there that refuge is found from all the voices that come against you. God is no respecter of persons, granting freedom to one and then not to another. If He has answered the cry for freedom that I uttered, He will answer you! He is just that Good!

The only WAY of Peace, Love and Wholeness- JESUS!!

Daddy, Abba Father

Although I have been present during the birth of all four of my kids (It would have been hard not to not be), I have never watched a baby be born in person. My husband did. He cut the cord for three of our four. (One needed immediate medical care.) Each one of the births was a moment like no other. For lack of a better word, I would call it magical. Those first few moments holding your newborn, listening to the first cry, pretty special.

Today is my birthday… for reasons not altogether known to me, it’s a day I don’t always eagerly anticipate. Not for the lack of celebration. My mom always made me my favorite cake, angel food with icing, when I was growing up. In recent years my husband and kids have made it a point to make the day special too: Surprise parties, dinners out at restaurants, etc. Each year I end up feeling loved and appreciated by them. It’s just getting there and getting through it that seems to be hard.

Years ago, my husband and I took our stab at song writing. I wrote quite a bit of poetry and he put a song or two to music on his guitar. I wrote a couple of songs as well that I came up with music for on the piano. This song is one of the songs I wrote. While sitting here this morning with my Bible and cup of coffee, I was praying about my birthday aversion, and I remembered this song. It’s been almost 15 years ago that I wrote it. I felt that still small voice say, “You know, I was there when you were born, and the way Rich felt for each one of your kids was born, I felt for you.”

Probably the reason I’ve not made too much hoopla over this song is the lyrics can be a bit uncomfortable. Especially if you’ve not always had an accurate perspective of God being a Good, good Father. Religion (not relationship with Jesus) has often left me and I’m sure others viewing Him as the God of lightning bolts for the ones who don’t uphold a very strict standard. But Jesus, Himself presented God as Abba (Papa) Father. Galatians 4:6-7 says, ” Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” The God that so many think is a God of punishment, lightning bolts, and tolerance of us, is actually a God of Tender love toward us. Tender love that watched with eager anticipation as we were born, but not only that, He intimately knit us together in our mother’s womb. He is the God that longingly desires for us to run to Him so He can show us just how great HIs lovingkindness towards us is. And even when we feel like our imperfections are glaring and disqualifying, He is known to be the Heavenly Father/ Daddy that Zephaniah 3:17 “Takes great delight in us” and “Rejoices over us with singing”.

So even when we feel like our birthday marks ANOTHER trip around the sun for us (ho hum). Our Heavenly Father sees it as a day special to Him, because He was there, and it was one of the beginnings of Him waiting for the time we would turn to Him and allow Him to show us just how much He loves and wants us to be in a close loving Father/ Daughter (son) relationship. He is just that Good!

Daddy, Abba Father (originally written March 25, 2007)

You were there when I was formed
There when I was born
You held me close when I breathed my first breath of life. 

You have drawn me to your side.
In Your Safety I abide.
I am deeply loved and cherished I know.

You are Daddy, Abba Father
The arms that hold me tight. 
I am Yours I know you never let me go. 

I am loved
I am your child. 
You are always there for me.
I can safely rest in You, my God. 

You are Daddy, Abba Father
The giver of my life. 
I am deeply loved, and I love you. 

You are Daddy, Abba Father
The arms that hold me tight. 
I am deeply loved and God, I love you. 

The God of a Billion Snowflakes

View off my front porch this morning.

The summer before my 8th grade year my mom talked me into going to church camp. She must have known it was exactly what I needed. Things weren’t easy for me my 7th grade year. There were the typical things: becoming a teenager, first year of junior high, trying to navigate all the changes of growing up. There were the hard things I went through too. The kind of stuff that sent me out for long bike rides on the regular each day after school. Blasting rock music into my ears as loud as I could to try to shut off my brain and deaden the feelings inside. I wanted to wear black all the time leaning toward going “Goth” when I didn’t even know Goth was a thing. Anyway, Mom convinced me to go to camp, though I protested much.

Camp Sharon held its evening worship services in what they called a tabernacle. It was a large open sided building with sawdust floors and rustic wooden pews for seats. I remember sitting through the first night of service feeling like God wanted me to come forward and pray during the altar call/ prayer time, but I was determined I would not go. The second night I sat there determined not to yield again, until they said service was over. Then I could take it no more. I went up to the front knelt in the saw dust and cried so hard I could not talk. The only thing I can remember thinking is, “God, IF you want me, you can have me.”

“IF”, I don’t know if you have ever approached God with the feeling of “If you want me” before, but I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that have. I believe one of satan’s biggest lies he spews to try to get us to not turn to God in our time of need is the lie of, “God does not want you.” “You’ve fallen too far. You’re not good enough. God tolerates your existence. God doesn’t see you or care about you. etc. ” If satan can get you thinking about God in “if you want me…” terms, he has succeeded in propagating one of his biggest lies. Thankfully, God has His way of tearing down that lie and breaking through.

As I sit here this morning with my heated throw blanket, cup of coffee, and laptop on my lap, I am watching it snow. We’re getting quite a lot of it for my neck of the woods. It is beautiful. A few days ago, when the forecast started talking snow, I started thinking about snowflakes. When my kids were little, we would take a black piece of construction paper out on a snowy day and catch snowflakes so we could see the individual detail of each one. Each one was unique. I remember us talking about the God of details. Then it hit me, this current snowstorm has millions, maybe billions of flakes, much more than I can count. And God has given each tiny flake an individual identity. He knows their shape. He knows their size. He knows the moment they will form and the moment they will melt. God cares that much about detail, and all this fuss over a tiny snowflake. Yet He never took the time to send His one and only Son, Jesus to earth so the snowflake could experience Him and His goodness. Not so with us, You and I are exactly the reason Jesus came. How much more then does this God of a billion snowflakes, actually care about me. To say He wants me is an understatement. The God of that much detail, took the time to zero in on a 13 year old Missouri girl out of the billions of people on this planet, to draw me to a place that I could say, “If You want me, You can have me.” It was there at that point that the layers of lies began to peel off. Some of them still slowly being removed some 38 years later. The God of a billion snowflakes wanted the heart of this one Missouri Girl. That is good news! He not only wanted me, but He wanted to have me, to hold me, and to show me what a Good, Good Heavenly Father He is to me. You and I can both be assured if the God who takes the time to design a billion snowflakes can step into my, one in the billions of people, world, He can take the time to step into yours. He’s just that Big and yet He comes to us individually in just that small of a way! He not only Loves us, He wants us! He is good!

The God of a Billion Snowflakes, made me.

For Love or Money? PASSION for God

My youngest son, my baby, turned 18 on Friday. A few weeks ago, he and I began discussing plans for his birthday party. My son is a huge people person. So long story short, we ended up with 14 teenage boys here at my house for a party and 10 of them staying for overnight. It was a night of bowling, playing pool, lifting weights, video games, watching “Napoleon Dynamite”, pizza, and homemade ice cream cake. They were laughing and having a good time into the wee hours of the morning. The next morning, I did the mom thing, I cooked bacon, scrambled eggs, biscuits, and gravy. When I yelled down the stairs to the basement that there was biscuits and gravy, it didn’t take much time for them to surface. They ate to their fill and thanked me repeatedly for the “great breakfast”.

While I was cooking it hit me, I really enjoy cooking for these kids. If you knew my history with cooking, you would understand why that stuck out to me. I was not much for cooking when I was growing up. My mom would try and try to get me to join her in the kitchen, but I had absolutely NO interest. I took home ec in high school and when it came time for the cooking labs, I would try to get in a group that had good cooks, and I would offer to do the dishes so I wouldn’t have to cook, but still get the good grade. When I moved out at 18, I ended up with a job as a cook at a nursing home. I had listed my youth pastors for references on my application. So during my interview, the dietician who managed the kitchen told me, “I’m a Christian, you’re a Christian. I can teach you how to cook.” A miracle… lol. God knew I’d end up married with 4 kids and a stay-at-home mom. He also knew I would need to learn to cook. When I called my mom to let her know I got a new job as a cook at a nursing home, she jokingly told me not to lie to her. “You never cooked when you were home, how on earth will you cook for a nursing home?” I told her, “There are two reasons I will cook, Love or Money. Someday I’ll have a husband and a family and then I will cook for love. For now, it’s MONEY!” I may have been trying to crack somewhat of a joke at that moment, but I realize now there was a lot of truth to it.

My boss taught me how to cook all kinds of stuff, and not just off a recipe, sometimes just throwing what I had together to make something tasty, I did it happily for 3 years. Then my husband came along, we were married, I quit the kitchen, and my cooking for love began. I wanted to impress him with my skill, since his mom also worked in a kitchen, and was an awesome cook. So, our first year was me trying my best to bring out the best meals from my repertoire of dishes I knew. Love or money… Love had finally won out! I’ve been cooking for love for the past 29 years.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit the past few months about my relationship with God and the motives behind what I do. As one who has struggled with the shackles of performance-based religion chained to my feet more than once, an evaluation of motives is a good thing from time to time. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” God wants me serving Him for the same reason I have cooked for my husband and kids for the past 29 years, love. There’s freedom in that. Serving for “money” or I do x, y, z and you reward me with whatever I want, or hope God will give me, is a business transaction with no heart involved. I become a slave of the need I am trying to get filled or the reward I want to receive. The more I strive, the more I receive. The hamster wheel of performance with the hope of an occasional treat drives me. When you are driven, you are a slave. When you love you willingly do things you would not naturally do, and you do it from the heart.

God is after our love. He has made it pretty clear that the things we think we can do to make Him happy with us are not enough. He compares our righteous acts to filthy rags, Menstrual cloths to be exact (gross). He’s not looking for us to come to Him with the latest and greatest of our performance tricks. He is wanting us to come to just come. He wants us to come to Him so we can know Him. I can believe that with confidence because Jesus’ life on earth is the evidence of that. Jesus said that when we see Him we have seen the Father. This means our Daddy in Heaven is the kind of God that would touch the untouchable, love the unloveable, heal the impossible, and restore the broken. It says in Acts 10: 38 “…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” Jesus and our Heavenly Father are not playing Good Cop/ Bad Cop with us. Jesus Good Cop/ God the Father Bad cop. Jesus did all the good He did because God was with Him. Our Heavenly Father loves it when we experience His goodness just as much as Jesus does. And His desire is for us to come to Him and interact with Him from a heart that Loves, not one that is just looking for a payout of some kind of “money”.

James 2 in the Bible has a lot to say about our actions and our faith. It gets as bold as saying that if we have faith but have no actions to back them up our faith is dead. This seems to be a statement of us “cooking for money” again. No one wants a dead faith, so we need to get busy. But I would like to propose that it is actually about “cooking for love”. God wants our faith in Him to be born out “PASSION” for knowing Him. “LOVE”. The kind of Love that can’t wait to get up and spend time with Him in the morning, not checking a box off our spiritual to do list. The kind of love that wants to tell others about Him, because they are just so blown away and excited by being Passionately loved by the creator of all. He wants our faith to be alive with actions that come from a heart motivated by LOVE for Him. This love is not something we just drum up within ourselves. If we lack that kind of Love, our faith could very well be dead. Thankfully our God is the God of the resurrection. He brings the dead, even our dead and cold love to life. A passionate love within us comes because HE LOVED US FIRST! and His Spirit has poured HIs love out in our hearts. It is a passion given by Him. HE DOES IT ALL! If I feel like I lack the love and desire for Him I need, I just ask, and He will give.

He wants us close to Him. That is why He came and why He still pursues us. He is just that Good!

Sunrise and Sunset Experiencing Him

“You know, I never paid attention to sunrises and sunsets, until you brought me here.” – Angel “Redeeming Love” The Movie.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8

The second house my husband and I owned was an earth contact (basement house). It was surrounded on three sides with dirt. It is super energy efficient, but if you’re a fan of having sunlight shining in your house, the lack of windows would not be your thing. This basement house was located in the middle of the woods with lots of trees around it. it was so shaded that we literally had no grass. It just would not grow. I have several happy memories in that house. It is where we lived when my kids were little before their teens. I would back the suburban out of the garage, crank the stereo in the living room and we had an instant roller-skating rink. We did nature walks in the woods identifying the trees that surrounded it, and probably one of the funniest memories was the deer running across our roof. An earth contact in the woods… makes perfect sense. Happy memories are a plus, but I really didn’t like that house. No windows in the bedrooms worked on my fear of house fires (my grandparent’s house burned to the ground when I was 11). And only 3 windows that were 2 sliding glass doors in the living room area and a kitchen sink window. This caused serious issues with my needing all the lights in the house turned on from the moment I woke up until I went to bed at night. Words could not express how happy I was when we moved to our current house, grass in the yard, windows everywhere. Since we live out in the middle of 23 acres, my first act as an official homeowner was to strip every curtain and shade off of every window with the exception of the bedrooms. I told my husband, “I don’t want any curtains. I haven’t seen outside for the past 7 years.” I didn’t put curtains up for 11 years. Three years ago, I put up some decorative ones much to my husband’s surprise, but they are never closed…

The two things that I had missed in the 7 years of living in our earth contact was sunrise and sunset. Quite honestly, I don’t remember watching a sunrise or sunset before that either. I just never noticed them. Maybe I was young, maybe I was busy, maybe I just didn’t care. I’m not really sure why I don’t remember really paying attention to them until I moved here. The view out of my dining room and also over my kitchen sink looks over our back field and faces west. It didn’t take too many evenings here to realize I had suddenly been given the most perfect premium seats for watching the sunset EVERY night. Then there is the front upstairs deck. It faces east. I quickly figured out I could put a chair out there, take a cup of coffee with me and enjoy God’s artistry of the sunrise EVERY morning too. The more I watched the sunrises and the sunsets, the more I began to appreciate how God made each one different and unique. I would contemplate how awesome it would be if I could paint such beauty. I’ve tried my hand at painting before, I’m pretty sure this is out of my expertise.

I’ve blogged quite a bit lately about the women’s Bible study I have been attending, WOW (Women on Wednesday). Today’s discussion in the class I am in got me to thinking about all this. We were talking about “Knowing God”. One of the aspects of knowing God was to “Experience Him”. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in my life thinking that experiencing God was always related to a “Goosebump” moment. It was something very emotional. I am not opposed to the emotional/ goosebump experiences of God that do occur occasionally. However, some of my sweetest experiences with God have not involved goosebumps or exciting emotions. They have occurred when I have paused and looked at the sunrise or the sunset. It occurred to me back when I started pausing to gaze that God truly is an artist. He paints scenery that cannot be recreated by human hands. But more than that, when I pause and look at what He has made, I realize that very moment, that very combinations of colors and shades were placed in the sky for me to look at and to stand in awe and wonder of God, who wanted me to enjoy what He made for me. God orchestrated it right then just for me. I whispered, “Thank you God”. Right then I experienced God. It was beautiful and it was simple. For me, a person who tends to overcomplicate things when it comes to my relationship with God, experiencing Him is an area that I easily overcomplicate. Pausing to simply enjoy His blessing and thank Him has been a source of experiencing Him like none other. It is beautiful!

This past weekend I went to watch the new movie “Redeeming Love” at the movie theater twice. One of the scenes involves Angel, a prostitute that had endured horrendous abuse at the hands of men from a young age, and Michael Hosea, a farmer who loves Angel with a pure love as they watch a sunrise over the mountains near their home. Angel recalls that moment and the tenderness of sharing something so beautiful with someone who loved her. “You know, I never paid attention to sunrises and sunsets, until you brought me here.” It was the first experience she shared with the first person who loved her with a pure love. It hit me, that is me and God. I never paid attention to sunrises or sunsets either, until God blessed me with the home I now have that has windows facing east and west. It was then, I stopped for a moment to watch the beauty of them, and I experienced God’s tenderness with me. He did all this so I could know Him better and get another glimpse of His great love and I respond with “Thank you my heavenly Daddy, I worship you”.

Amazing Sunset not far from my home. God is Awesome!