FLUID

It’s amazing how it sometimes takes a large majority of our lives to get to a point of actually understanding some of the simplest truths. One of those profoundly plain concepts has more recently carved a drastic new perspective through the process of my thoughts.

First, a little background to set the stage of understanding: I was raised with a strong influence of humble, farming grandparents who lived through the Great Depression.  You hold on to, reuse, and value every little thing. I have been into photography and journaling since I was barely able to read; I have this innate craving to hold on to every meaningful essence. I want to speak so that others can experience, I want to capture images so that others can feel. It can sometimes be an obsession that leads to endless worrying and incredible stress. What if I miss something? What if this all passes by and is forgotten? 

 

SO WHAT IF IT IS?

 

When my husband Mac and I first got married, two of our first major purchases were a vacuum cleaner and a recliner. It was painful to make the choice of which one to buy. They had to be perfect because, in my mind, they were going to be THE vacuum and THE recliner that would witness our entire lives though their basic service as items of use in our home. Wouldn’t you know, the vacuum broke within 3 years and though the recliner is still passionately abused in our living room, it is not going to make it past raising children! And you know what, that is going to have to be ok! And I don’t have to save a square of the recliner’s fabric before we toss it to, hopefully one-day, stitch into a quilt of our memories! It’s okay if it’s forgotten.

Money is another issue. We try to save it and store it up and hoard it. That doesn’t work for us anyway, not with four growing kids, but even if we stored it up to keep, it can’t be kept forever (Luke 12:13-21). One day, it will be worth nothing except the result in which we used it for Jesus. It is important to plan for the future, so I’m not advocating carelessness, but perhaps future preparation with a little less collection obsession.

Moments and memories, the millions of photographs that I’ve taken that include people I never knew to begin with or can barely remember after all this time, they do pass. I may look back one day and enjoy every one of the five hundred micro expressions from one of the kids’ birthday photo-shoots, but once I’m gone… once they are gone… who is left to care about those many repeated images? (Psalm 39:5)

 

CHANGE

 

As I’ve been pondering these things, it all summaries for me in this one word: Fluid. Everything is fluid. I constantly change, I’m not even the same person I was last year, life and circumstances have altered me. My children change, they grow and mature before my very eyes! The world changes, for good and bad. Our finances change, our social statuses change, our lives are relentlessly bending and moving and never resting. 

I grew up with the idea that I’d get my degree, get married, settle down, have kids… there is no settling down! Once we have survived one torrent, the river bends to reveal another. And so, in this manner, life continues.

 

WHAT’S TRULY IMPORTANT

 

My conclusion of the matter is also simple: in a world and a life that is fluid (sometimes a raging and destructive river of fluid), I also have to be fluid. I have to keep my mind and heart grounded in Truth, but open and flexible. The only things that last forever are God’s Word (1 Peter 1:25) and Man’s souls (1 John 5:13), so I need to alter my priorities accordingly. It’s ok if I never get the photo albums organized or make the boxes of mementos into scrapbooks. As long as I am doing what it takes to pass on the true essence of what makes those things important: God’s love, Truth, Family, Community, Intimacy, etc. the rest can come and go in peace.

 

LIKE A CHILD

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” - Luke 18:17

Usually, any reference to being a child or acting like one is not a great compliment.  It’s not often one’s goal to be thought of as a child or have childish behavior.  In fact, our education, jobs, and social upbringing all happen with the purpose of creating adults who will contribute to and better society.  And that’s what we want, isn’t it?  A society in which informed and experienced people lead the way to create a better tomorrow?  But is that what we’ve got?

One could make the argument that adults are the ones who have it all wrong.  Take stock and see what we’ve got, at least here in America.  A world of adults who continue to seek improvement in their lives by chasing after the next biggest and greatest.  A world full of grown up people who are out to get theirs and promote the idea of “self.”  A world full of “old” people more focused on themselves and getting what is “owed” to them.  Sure, there are a few good ones out there; a few who tend to put others before themselves more often than not.  I wish I could say that all of these people were found in the Church, but that’s not the case as often as it should be.  And this is where being a child comes in…

 

BEING A CHILD

 

If you were to ask the populace to describe what being a child looks like, you would most likely get a vast array of answers.  Annoying.  Needy.  Loud.  Attention seeking.  Always wants to get their way.  Dependent on others.  Whiny.

And while all of that may be true in describing children in an overarching way, I would posit that you can make the same generalizations of many adults.  But there are qualities about children that I think people have forgotten that are typically quite difficult to find in the average adult.

As I was thinking about this…the character qualities of children…I had to make myself really think about the positive characteristics that often get overlooked.  While children may have all the attributes listed above, I also think the following are present:

Trusting.  Joyful.  Creative.  Loving.  Honest.  Curious.

 

RECEIVE THE KINGDOM AS A CHILD WOULD

 

It’s these qualities I think Jesus had in mind when He said that whoever does not receive the kingdom of God in the way a child would, would have no part in it.  Jesus knew all the positive character traits that children have…He gave those traits to them!  Children possess such a purity when it comes to their approach to life.  And we’ve all seen it.

We’ve seen the trust that a child has in her parents.  They don’t question the intentions of the parents…they simply trust.  We’ve seen the way that a child has pure joy over the simplest things.  The curiosity of children is often unmatched as they figure out how to do things and continue to learn more about being a part of this world.  We’ve seen or heard the honesty of children, as brutal as it may be (“That dress makes your butt big,” “This food is disgusting,” or “You have whiskers like dad does, Mom.”)  And we’ve seen the devotion and love that a child can express with their favorite toy or stuffed animal.

 

WHAT IF?

 

What if we, the “adults,” starting acting more like children?  What if our approach to faith and service and our Lord was done in the same excitement and pureness of a child?  What if we trusted Jesus like a child trusts their parents?  What if we were as loving toward others as a child is with their toy?  What if we were as determined to share Jesus with people as a child is in getting their way?

Imagine, for a moment, a world full of people acting like children in the purity and honesty and loving way that God created them.

I, for one, need to start acting more like a child.

STAND IN THE GATE

“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 2 “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house and proclaim there this word and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship the Lord!’” 3 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.’” - Jeremiah 7:1-3

 

God asked Jeremiah to stand in the gate of His house and proclaim a message to His people. Unfortunately, this was not a once and done presentation that Jeremiah was asked to speak. For the next forty years, Jeremiah would preach the same basic word from the Lord – turn from your idolatrous ways. Don’t worship the false god, Baal, but instead repent and worship the One, True God of Israel. 

 

We could look into the words of Jeremiah’s message, but even before that, I am struck by the circumstance in which Jeremiah was called! What a daunting task the Jeremiah was charged with! In a way, it reminds me of hellfire and brimstone preaching. Though this might not be the most effective method of evangelism in our era today, even for Jeremiah, after being called specifically by God to do it, the people just kept on walking by and ignoring the caution to repent. 

 

CALLED TO SHARE

 

Standing in a gate does not seem very appealing. You’re neither truly inside being apart of what’s happening or outside doing something else. It makes me think of our door greeters on Sunday mornings. Their job is to stand at the door and welcome people as they come in, but instead of happily greeting them, they would be shouting at them to change their wicked ways. That would not be so pleasant.

 

However, I believe that just like Jeremiah was called to stand in the gate and share a message from the Lord, we are all called to share God’s message. Thankfully, for most of us, our mission will look much differently than Jeremiah’s and have a much better outcome (The Israelites ended up in captivity after ignoring Jeremiah for 40 years. Yikes!).

 

OBEDIENCE

 

But what can be learned from the Prophet Jeremiah and his outrageous assignment? OBEDIENCE! Over the course of 40 years, Jeremiah was obedient to be a Messenger of God, even when it was tedious, when his own life was in jeopardy, and even when literally no one listened to him. 

 

This may be going on a bit of a rabbit trail, but it is an important one for me at this point in my life. It is easy to consider what it would look like to live in a different house or work a different job or attend a different church. It often seems like different would be better or easier than staying where you are. And it could be, but we have to ask: is that what Jesus is asking us to do? It is not always easy to stay where you are and sometimes it’s just as difficult to move as He leads, but ultimately, obedience is what the Lord is asking for. 

 

I will be honest; there are a lot of changes happening in my life right now. There are growing pains in my family, and loss, there are some major modifications at work, there are various trials that our loved ones are suffering and that weighs on us, there are unexpected financial demands… I could respond in a lot of different ways and I could make many alternate plans. But God is asking me to stay put (to stand in the gate, if you will), even though it is tough and even when there are other enticing options.

 

STAND YOUR GROUND

 

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever struggled with being obedient where God has placed you? Do you see grass that looks greener and speculate or desire? If so, you’re not alone. I hope that you will find solace in the fact that others have been in the same place where you are. And I pray that while you wrestle with these things and wait for the Lord’s clear direction for the decisions you’re facing in your life, you will stand your ground at your gate and focus on being obedient regardless of the outcome.

A LETTER FROM AARON

As I sit in my office, staring out the window at the landscape I’ve seen for 10 years now, I can’t help but wonder what God has planned. Fear, anxiousness and doubt is welling up inside of me. I’m praying that God will fend them off. I’m praying that God will deliver me from the rising army of the unknown. I believe He will.

 

In the coming weeks, I begin a new chapter of my journey. In the coming weeks, I will be stepping away from Okolona Christian Church, my church home and my church family for the past 10 years, to embark on what I can only describe as a parted red sea. I’ve stood at the mouth of this divide wanting so desperately to cling to the rocks of the shore. But I have to admit, the Spirit can lay it on thick. :) I’ve prayed, begged, cried and wrestled with God on this decision, but what I know is that when He calls I have to step forward.

Beginning September 3, I will be stepping into the role of Worship Leader to Southeast Christian Church’s Elizabethtown Campus. A role that will be a complete change and challenge for me in both my walk and ministry. Within the next year, my family and I will be moving to E-town to fully invest in the community there.

 

THE WHY?

Some of you may ask the question of why are you leaving? You know, I ask myself the same thing. Why leave the place that has loved and cared for me for a decade? Why leave the family and friends that mean so much to me, who have seen me at my best and seen me at my worst and still loved me? Honestly, you can blame it on my wife. While doubled over in the confusion of a decision, she asked me a simple question. “What decision requires more faith?”  She stopped me in my tracks. Why did she have to put it that way? The reason is because there is no better question than that for me. See my whole life, I’ve been afraid -- afraid of what I cannot see and what I can’t control. It’s honestly been exhausting. If I truly want to live the way I challenge others to live then I have to let go of control and stop being afraid.

The reason I’m leaving is not because someone wronged me, pushed me away or because I’m angry. The reason I’m leaving is simply because of Jesus. I heard His voice asking me to walk in faith not in sight. When Jesus calls, we must step out.

3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize His voice and come to Him. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. - John 10:3

Faith requires us to look past what we can see and the comfort of where we are and follow blindly even if we don’t know what’s next. I didn’t want to make a decision because of anything other than God’s calling. Frustration, comfort, preferences, or even dislikes are not faith-based Knowing the voice of your Shepherd and following Him is faith-based.

 

THE THANKS

I say all of this, holding very dearly to the truth that I am where I am today because of the people of Okolona Christian Church. Thank you to all the people who encouraged me when I was a clueless intern. To all of you who loved on me when I didn’t feel good enough.  To all of those who celebrated with me in the growth of our family and ministry. To those of you who challenged me and pushed me. You will forever hold an irreplaceable home in our hearts. Please know that we love you and are humbled by your love for us.

I’m excited to see what God is going to do through OCC and I want to challenge each of you to come together and allow the Holy Spirit to work in this church. I’m so thankful to our leadership for giving me a chance and a home to do ministry. This church has been blessed by so many caring and loving people, especially our leadership.  Please don’t ever forget or misunderstand the wrestle that each one of them has in wanting to know that God is glorified and that you are mobilized. They lose lots of sleep from the weight of leading a large congregation. Be sure to love on them and encourage them as you have done to me and my family. Come alongside of them and glorify God in the efforts of this church.

I’ll leave you with this from the words of Paul:  

23 Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters, and may God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you love with faithfulness. 24 May God’s grace be eternally upon all who love our Lord Jesus Christ. - Ephesians 6:23-24

 

A VARIETY OF THINGS

As most of you know, and as I mentioned in a recent blog, this past March, Ron and I made a considerably big move. It all began when we had gotten rid of our property and had begun the search for our new home. I clearly remember us driving around one day when Ron said, “You know what I think we should do? I think we should go somewhere brand new. How would you feel about that?” My exact reply was, “I’ll go wherever you want to go. I’d follow you anywhere.” “Anywhere” turned out to be a house on 6 acres in Boyle County, Kentucky – more specifically between Perryville and Danville.

There were many reasons why we chose Boyle County. We’d traveled through this area countless times since it’s in the center of the state. Thus, moving here would allow us to be centrally located, which would make our travel with The Woody Series easier and would put us in a more rural setting - which we prefer. Without a doubt, the move has proven to be the best decision we could have made.

Through the move, we have learned – and continue to learn – several lessons.

GOD WANTS US TO TAKE RISKS AND HAVE ADVENTURES.

Don’t misunderstand – routines are a good thing. Although we are still meeting new people and learning new things each day, we have fallen in somewhat of a routine. One of those routines is eating dinner with our friends and neighbors every Friday night at the local café in Perryville, which happens to be inside a gas station, by the way. But that's a new adventure in itself!

You see, God has equipped with a desire to learn – to meet new people and participate in new activities. He gives us opportunities to say yes to things. Many times, we want to come up with excuses on why we should play it safe. We’re afraid that taking a risk will result in failure and disappointment, but many times the risk results in the biggest blessing. Look at what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes.

Follow the impulses of your heart.
If something looks good to you, pursue it.
But know also that not just anything goes;
You have to answer to God for every last bit of it.

Ecclesiastes 11:9 (The Message)

It’s okay to pursue our desires and follow our hearts as long as it is honoring to God. Even if the risk results in a failure, there will be lessons to learn.

THERE IS BEAUTY ALL AROUND.

One of the reasons we chose this area is because we had always been in awe of its beauty, but make no mistake, there is beauty everywhere. Why? Because God created this world and in it He made all things beautiful. He wants us to recognize it and enjoy it.

O Lord, what a variety of things you have made!
    In wisdom you have made them all.
    The earth is full of your creatures.

Psalm 104:24 (NLT)

He’s made a variety! Animals, sunsets, mountains, storms. So whether it’s looking at a horizon filled with skyscrapers or a valley filled with horses, we must recognize God has given us this earth – and all things in it – to enjoy and oversee.

GOD PUTS US IN CERTAIN PLACES AND TIME FOR A PURPOSE.

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. – Acts 17:26 (NIV)

That verse confirms that God has appointed our time and place on earth. Although we may not know why God has chosen us to be here at this time, we know He has a plan. What we are sure of however, is that we have the opportunity to spread His message to others. As we meet new people and make friends, we have countless occasions to show them His love. To do this effectively, we must immerse ourselves in the community.

Since the end of March, we have commuted back to OCC for church each week. Since Ron and I travel for The Woody Series, we didn’t anticipate the commute would be a big deal. However, the 3-hour round trip slowly began to take a toll. More importantly however, we felt convicted to be in church with the people in our community. Therefore, beginning the first Sunday in September, we will start the process of finding a church in the Danville area. And this brings me to my final point:

SAYING GOODBYE IS TOUGH.

Charlie Brown said it best when he said, “Saying goodbye makes my throat hurt.” I can’t begin to express how much we have cherished our time at Okolona Christian. I particularly have been so fortunate to be a part of the Cultivate Team. Whether it’s been playing keys or writing blogs, I’ve enjoyed it, grown from it, and have been immensely blessed. Although the time is coming where we may not see each other on a regular basis, one thing is certain – we are thankful for each of you. We are all part of God's family - brothers and sisters in Christ, with one Father. Besides, as a family in Christ, goodbyes are never permanent - only temporary. Thank you for being our family and for loving us and blessing us. We are eternally grateful.

 

 

HOUSE OF CARDS

A house of cards is truly a tough challenge to keep from falling. To make all of the cards stand on end and support the weight of others without changing the slightest angle of a card to cause the whole house to come crashing down. It makes me wonder how many of us are like a house of cards? We are all a deck of cards and we only show people what we want them to see. We hide our deepest, darkest secrets close to our center so that no one will see them but if someone pushes on just the right card we will crumble and we will fall. It makes me wonder how many of us have a secret in our heart or an idol that keeps us from truly experiencing God. For this conversation lets call this item or thing the Queen of Hearts.

WHO OR WHAT IS THE QUEEN OF YOUR HEART?

I believe that we allow junk to build up and take root in our lives. Sometimes things start out as just dabbling around in things we know we shouldn’t and other times we put ourselves in situations that can lead us down wrong paths that cause us to take our eyes off of Jesus. It’s at this point we allow something to become the Queen of our Hearts.

In Matthew 21 we see the story of where Jesus cleanses the temple.

Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”  - Matthew 21:12-13

Many of us have heard this story and we have been told that Jesus had a righteous anger, but did you know that Jesus was upset because instead of His Father’s House being a House of Prayer, they had made the temple into a commercial venture when the focal point of the temple was to worship of God.

A HOLY TEMPLE

So here we stand many centuries after when Jesus cleansed the temple and we ask how does this apply to us? 1st Corinthians 3:16-17 it says, “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” If we have received God’s free gift of salvation then the Holy Spirit dwells within us and we are His Temple. Yet, I wonder if we really understand the implications of that? We are a Holy Temple of the Lord. WOW!

It saddens me to wonder if we sometimes fill our lives -His temple - with things of this world instead of keeping our eyes on Him? I wonder if we have allowed things like the Queen of Hearts to setup shop in His temple? What do you think it would look like if Jesus showed up today and looked at the inside of our hearts, what tables would He be flipping? What would he need to prune within us to get the Queen of your Heart out of His Temple? See, Jesus doesn’t want to play second string or just be an Ace up your sleeve. No, He wants to be the King of Your Heart, and He wants our hearts to be a house of worship for everyone to see. Not just a house of cards.

 

 

 

 

 

IN THE WAITING

Can I just be transparent with you? I’ve been in a funk for a while now. It’s a place that I’m sure at one time or another, you too have experienced.  Yes, even someone like me who loves the Lord passionately, who helps lead worship on Sundays, who works for the church. Imagine that! And I get that with the mountains comes the valleys. I’ve lived long enough to know that life comes with ups and downs and the monotonous plateau in between. Kind of like that long forever drive up north through Indiana with miles and miles of those creepy windmills (just to give you a visual). Not a fun picture. But even as I realize this, it doesn’t make it any easier or any less trying.

REVIVE US, O LORD

So that’s where I find myself – in this dry barren desert of my soul that’s wanting desperately to feel a fresh gentle breeze. Feeling ineffective, going through the motions, sleep walking almost, but wanting so much to feel alive with His Spirit. When you feel that nothing is happening! When things feel at a standstill, gridlocked. When what you have prayed for feels as if it has fallen on deaf ears.  I know I’m not alone in this! I mean, even the Psalmist David expressed times when his soul felt dry; when he cried out to God to revive his spirit. When things just seemed quiet and devoid of movement, and he needed to know that God had a plan and was working it all out.

(Psalm 6:2-6)

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;

    heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.

My soul is in deep anguish.

    How long, Lord, how long?

Turn, Lord, and deliver me;

    save me because of your unfailing love.

Among the dead no one proclaims your name.

    Who praises you from the grave?

I am worn out from my groaning.

 

(Psalm 13:1-2)

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

    How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

 

(Psalm 85:4-6)

Restore us again, God our Savior,

    and put away your displeasure toward us.

Will you be angry with us forever?

    Will you prolong your anger through all generations?

Will you not revive us again,

    that your people may rejoice in you?

 

HOW LONG, LORD? 

So I find some peace in knowing that the heroes of the Bible, even the man after God’s own heart, had real moments when he questioned “How long?” when he too needed to know that God was listening, that He was still who He said He was even in the desert times… most especially in those desert times.

And although unlike David, I’m not fleeing from enemies, or fearful of my life being endangered. I’m just tired. I am needing to feel that God has a plan and purpose for me in this season. I want to know “How long?” And I trust that He is a Father who cares, even when my pleas are miniscule compared to most. I am exceedingly blessed and I do not take any of that for granted! But even in this, I am acknowledging to you that my soul is weary.

In this season of soul fatigue, I just yearn to hear from God. So, I find myself talking to Him constantly when I’m driving. It’s as if this time when I’m alone is prime time to pour my prayers and praise out to Him, as my mind is not distracted (other than focusing on where I’m heading). Well, ok, I have to confess, there are scary times when I haven’t the foggiest idea how I got to my destination because I was on auto pilot. But, that’s another story altogether! Regardless, in the car, I can just talk to Him and share my heart, and I know He’s listening! Typically, the only other sound is the low drone of the radio.

HE’S IN THE WAITING

Recently as I was heading home, a new song came on that grabbed my attention. In fact, just one lyric actually… “He’s in the waiting.” Let me just tell you that when these moments happen, right then and there, I say, “Thank You Lord!” Because I know He’s speaking directly to my heart. He’s affirming me and assuring me that He is with me in the waiting. He has not left my side for a moment! This song has become my new anthem, “Take Courage” by Kristene DiMarco/Bethel Music. 

I don’t know what God has in store for me or for you. I’m not sure of what He is leading me to, but I am confident that He is here. That as my life continues to unfold, I’m reminded again that He is faithful and unfailing, and His perfect will WILL prevail.

“Slow down, take time

Breathe in, He said

He’d reveal what’s to come

The thoughts in His mind

Always higher than mine

And He’ll reveal all to come

 

Take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul

He’s in the waiting, He’s in the waiting

Hold onto your hope, as your triumph unfolds

He’s never failing, He’s never failing

(“Take Courage,” Bethel Music)

COVERED IN THE DUST

In first century Jewish culture, if a Jewish man wanted to become a disciple of a rabbi — or teacher — he had to receive an invitation, only after he was learned enough and ready to do so proving to said rabbi.

Now, here’s where it gets crazy. The man was then expected to leave his family, and his whole way of living behind, and follow this rabbi everywhere.

Literally.

Everywhere.

24/7.

The new apprentice, or student — or disciple — would follow his rabbi every place he went. He would study with him, work with him, teach with him…  you get the picture. They were in an inseparable bond.

According to tradition, the family of the man leaving them behind to follow the rabbi would offer the man a blessing:

“May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi’s sandals.” 

The idea is this: the student was to follow so closely behind his teacher that he was to be “covered in the dust” of his teacher’s feet.

So, a question for us:

Are we allowing ourselves to be covered in the dust of Jesus’ sandals?

Our Rabbi?

Our Teacher?

Our Lord?

How closely are we following the ways of Jesus?

The student followed so closely to his rabbi that he began to become more and more like him.

24/7

Are we becoming more like Jesus? Or do we just like the idea of Jesus, and try to do and say and believe the right things the best we can?

That sounds a whole lot like religion to me.

But Jesus invites us to follow Him — truly follow Him. To be covered in the dust of His sandals.

Here are 3 ways that we can be covered:

  1. What we see in the Gospels is that Jesus’ heart was saturated with the Scriptures. At every point or crossroad, or decision, or trial, Jesus was quoting it. If Jesus was in the Scriptures, how much more should we be? Let us be a people who are steeped in the living and active Word.

  2. Intimate prayer characterized Jesus’ life. Often — as it states in Scripture — Jesus would go off alone, to a mountainside or a solitary place and just be with the Father. It is in prayer that we get in tune and in sync with God’s will. But, more so, it’s where we just have a conversation with Him: Father and child. What wonders and revelations could He be waiting to speak to us? Let’s be with Him and taste and see!

  3. Jesus made it a priority as His ministry began to surround Himself with other men to walk and do life with. He even had an inner circle of just a few more intimate relationships. Jesus outlined for us — as does Scripture at many points — the great and wondrous value that is in Spiritual connection, fellowship, and community. May we seek these types of people out in our lives! We need accountability, we need encouragement, and we need to gather around bonfires and meals and laugh and cry and hope and dream together. God has given us each other to do so. Through brothers and sisters in Christ, helping us along the way, and guiding us and speaking to us truth, we become more and more like Jesus. It happens in that environment and context — by design.

    Paul writes in 2nd Corinthians 3 that “the Lord — who is the Spirit — makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (emphasis mine)

    We become more and more like Him the more and more we are with Him.

    May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi — Jesus’ — sandals.

     

DO YOU HAVE THE TIME?

In the fall of 2003, a few short months after the first Woody book was released, Ron, Woody, Chloe and I traveled to Hopkinsville, KY for a presentation and book signing. At the event, we met a beautiful little girl named Ellen. Ellen’s grandmother, Wanda, had brought her to the event. After the presentation, Wanda bought Ellen a book that we signed, took a picture of her with the pups, and let her spend some time with Woody and Chloe. It’s our standard MO at events. Over the next several years, anytime we were in the area, Wanda brought Ellen to see the pups. In fact, Wanda coordinated many events for Woody in the Christian County area – all to see the joy on her granddaughter’s face.

I received a call from Wanda recently, informing me of Ellen’s passing at the young age of 19 years old. It was a tragic car accident that occurred one morning while Ellen was going to her younger brother’s school event. As one can imagine, words can’t describe the overwhelming sadness Ron and I felt. Although the accident happened many months ago, no doubt our grief paled in comparison to the grief her family and those who had the privilege to be close to her daily felt.

Over the years, this is the third time we’ve been notified of the death of a precious young person we’d met through Woody Three different young people – ages 3, 16, and 19 respectively – who had passed at a very young age. During the call, Wanda said, “I just wanted to thank you for spending time with her.” I assured her we were the ones who were thankful. We were the ones who’d been blessed by knowing Ellen. When the call ended, my mind raced with “What if?”

What if I’d been too busy to talk this little girl?

Remember the story of The Good Samaritan?” A traveler is left for dead alongside the road. A priest and a Levite come by but ignore the injured party. Yet a Samaritan comes by and assists the helpless gentleman.

We don’t know why the priest or the Levite didn’t stop. Maybe they were too afraid. Maybe they were on their way to church. Maybe they had something pressing at home or a deadline at work.

OVERLOAD

It seems as if we our society is in perpetual motion. A recent study showed we sleep less yet work longer hours than we did years ago. We are overloaded with activities, commitments, choices, media, and work. We’re overcommitted, overscheduled, overburdened. And this creates havoc in our life. Rather than accomplishing more, we underperform. Consequently, it brings on stress, causes our work to suffer and can put a strain on our relationships. It results in burnout.

I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil. – Job 3:26

MARGINS

I’m a firm believer in having a margin of time in our life. While Ron and I keep a schedule, we also have a large amount of time in our week that we don’t schedule any commitments. To rephrase, we have a large amount of time in our week that we schedule to keep open. That unscheduled time always results in something beneficial.

In his book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, Dr. Richard Swenson describes margin as the space between our load and our limits. He calls it a reserve for unanticipated situations.

If our time is filled with things – even good things – then we aren’t free to accept opportunities God puts in our path. Christian psychologists all agree the following steps will get us on the path to creating margin in our lives:

1.       Protect time with God and your family.  

2.       Set boundaries.

3.       Prioritize your life and goals.

4.       Don’t say “yes” to everything.

5.       Learn to say “no.”

6.       Learn to stop feeling guilty for saying “no.”

7.       Stop unnecessary time wasters.

8.       Work smarter.

 

Be still and know that I am God. – Psalm 46:10

It’s hard to be still when we’re overcommitted and running in several directions. When we have a margin of time, we can help the elderly neighbor on a moment’s notice, volunteer to babysit for the single mom, or have a conversation about Jesus with someone without having to look at our watch and rush off. We can stop and help the girl whose car is stalled on the freeway. We can get on our knees and look in the eyes of a child. Sometimes the biggest difference we make in a person’s life is by giving them attention. I wonder what blessing the priest and the Levite missed by not taking the time to stop for the Samaritan?

My challenge to all of us – myself included – is for us to evaluate our schedule. Are there areas we need to tweak? Do we have time in our lives to be still and talk to God, to help others, to enjoy our spouse and families? I’m sure there’ve been countless times I’ve rushed away from someone or a situation because I was overloaded. Yet there are times I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to relax, to lean in and listen to a child. It may or may not make a difference in their life, but I will be blessed because of it. Do I have the time to help others? Do you have the time?

 

 

 

 

 

 

AMBASSADOR

Imagine you’re on a ship, sailing to a distant land, destined towards an important mission. You have been entrusted to be a foreign ambassador for your king. You will be going into alien lands and will be the eyes, ears, and mouth for your king regarding all his world-wide affairs. Since telephones and internet has yet to be invented, all correspondence is through handwritten or verbal messages via messengers. As the ambassador, the king trusts you. Since he cannot personally be present, the king believes you will honorably carryout his needs in his name.

THE AMBASSADOR’S ROLE

In today’s society, we really don’t see the critical nature of the ambassadors’ role, especially when we have computer and telephone access to contact any country. The truth is, the internet is not that old. The World Wide Web was created in 1990 and even the telephone was not created until 1876. Before that, letters had to be mailed, which meant that information traveled very slowly. This included intelligence that was critical in making decisions. Sometimes, it would take months for communication to make it from point A to B. Being an ambassador was a vital and necessary assignment.

The media throws the terms diplomat and ambassador around like common jargon; and the value and importance of that position is diminished by our limited understanding of it. The position of ambassador was set-aside as one of the highest positions of importance. It is a noble and honorable station to be selected for. It is even more concerning that our understanding of this position is so limited because we too are called to be ambassadors for our King!

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. – 2nd Corinthians 5:20

ROYAL AMBASSADORS

Anyone who is a Christian is called to be an ambassador for Jesus. We are His representatives to all nations. We carry His message of love and truth to all men. We serve Him when we are faithful to His cause. You have been given a message that is life-saving and critical for all countries in all the world to hear. How we choose to live our lives will determine our effectiveness in this role. We must be set apart, we must be close to His heart, we must be ready to go with confidence to carry the message that He has given!

You and I are Royal Ambassadors for a Royal King. We have been given the honorable task of being His voice and His heart: His personal representative, to share His message with all the people of the world while He is not physically present in the same sense that we are currently able to be. It is vital that we fulfill our calling as Christ’s ambassadors so that others may to know Him as we have first been given the chance to know Him as our personal Lord and Savior.