Ode to Mom!

“So soldiers cut the lifeboat and let it drift away.” Acts 27:32
The other day while I was studying I read the story of Paul’s shipwreck.  It’s a good read, Acts 27: 27-42.  This verse jumped out at me, I’ve been thinking about it for days.  The sailors are freaking out, so they put out the lifeboats “just in case”.  Paul tells them if they jump ship they will surely die.  They trust him and they cut the lifeboats and let them drift away.
The first thought that entered my head was, “What is my lifeboat that I need to cut away?”.  It just struck me that what Paul was asking them to do was to cut their ties to what the world would have them do and trust God.  I started thinking about all the “lifeboats” we have.  Things, people, places we cling to because we think they will keep us safe.  We think they will protect us.  But they won’t, they can’t.  Only God can do that.
Today is Mother’s Day.  I think for the majority of us, our Mom’s were or are our first lifeboat.  They picked us up when we fell down.  They kissed our boo-boos and told us everything was ok.  When our heart was broken for the first time, they held us as we cried.  When we accomplished anything, from taking our first step to graduating, they were and are our biggest cheerleaders.
My Mom was my hardest lifeboat to cut.  It’s not a cutting from your life, but it’s realizing she can’t protect you from the storms of life.  No matter how hard she wants too.  I think our storms are harder for her to bear than her own storms.  Watching your child suffer has to be the hardest thing a person can endure.
When I was in second grade I found a poem in my Mom’s Bible.  It had been read at her brother’s funeral. She had written on it that she wanted it read at her funeral.  It made me so sick to my stomache that day I missed school.  The thought of life without my Mom was unbearable.  I could live without a lot of things, but I couldn’t imagine living without her.
I was incredibly blessed.  My Mom and I had a very close relationship.  By the end of her life, she was more than my Mom. She was and always will be my best friend.  It has been three years since she passed.  I feel closer to her now than ever.
God helped me cut the lifeboat that was my Mom, but in true God fashion.  When I cut the rope, I didn’t lose her, I found her.
It was March 6, 2010 when we found out my Mom had Pancreatic Cancer.  She had a blockage in her colon and they were able to remove it.  The cancer had grown down into her colon instead of up through her body, which is what pancreatic cancer typically does.  She was 7% of the people that could have it surgically removed.  That gave us another 4 and 1/2 years with her.
During that time God transitioned my life.  I was 41 years old when that happened and had never been married.  On Oct. 21 of that year he brought my husband into my life.  My Mom was able to watch our relationship grow.  She was there the day we were married.  He was there the day she died.  God gave me a new lifeboat when He took away the old.  Or that is what I thought, until I started thinking about this verse.
The truth is God is all I need.  The people He gives us in life, they’re not lifeboats, they’re blessings.  It isn’t fair to put that much pressure on one person, even your Mom.  God gives us people to help us in life.  He gives us things that make life easier.  He creates places where we feel safe.  All of those are gifts from God, to be treasured.
It was because of God in my life I could accept my Mom was dieing.  It was because of God in my life, instead of fearing the future without her I enjoyed the days I had with her.  One of my most precious memories of my Mom is holding her hand as she went to meet Jesus.  I still see the smile on her face as she slipped away.  I didn’t cut a lifeboat, I let my friend enjoy heaven.
One of the things I know my Mom is most proud of me for is reading the poem at her funeral.  The same one I found in her Bible when I was in second grade.  The same one that made me realize she would one day die.  The same one that made me appreciate how great she was.
Now, when I think of my Mom I smile.  She is evident in every part of my life.  I hear her words come from my lips daily.  I watch her actions play out in my life.  I love my husband because she taught me how.  More than anything, I have a rich and full life because she introduced me to Jesus.  She set the example with her actions, not her words.  St. Francis of Assisi quoted, “Preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words.”  My Mom did that incredibly well, he would be proud.
I always say, if I can be half the woman she was, I’ll be doing alright.  Well Mom, you taught me how to do that by leaving me with your favorite Psalm.  A fitting way to end this post dedicated to her:

Psalm 121

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

The Hope Anchor

” Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4
I’ve just started the study, “Looking for Lovely” by Anne F. Downs.  In today’s homework she asks this question: “How different would your life be if you made a commitment to persevere-to not quit?”
My answer, I’d be 25 pounds lighter!!!!
Seriously, that is one area that I constantly struggle.  It made me think, we all have areas where we are constantly trying to persevere.  Every day I talk to friends or family who are all “persevering” through something.
Perseverance can be defined as a steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose; steadfastness.
Here’s the catch, in order to be persevering, that means in some way, shape or form you are suffering.  After all, when you’re having fun it’s easy to keep going.  It’s when things are tough that we want to give up.  It’s not so easy to be steadfast when you’re in pain.
Yet according to James 1:4, it is letting perseverance finish its work in us that makes us mature and complete, lacking nothing.
Perseverance takes work!
Perseverance is exhausting on so many levels, both mentally and physically.  It can leave you bone tired or emotionally spent.  There are days when it would be so easy to quit, then there are days when you feel like you could conquer the world.
What is it that makes people keep persevering?  What stops them from giving up? Why do I constantly get on the band wagon every time I fall off?
Is it because suffering leads to perseverance, perseverance leads to character and character leads to hope?  That is what Romans 5:3-5 says, that at the end of the road is hope.
Hope is why we keep persevering.   It is hoping that today will be different, that this time will be different.  It is hope that is the light at the end of the tunnel.
A single strand of hope is a very powerful thing.  It can move mountains, cross oceans, save lives.  Hope is the anchor to persevering, without it there is no reason to keep going.  Hope is what keeps us on course.  It is the belief that there is something better.  Hope is what gives us purpose.  Hope keeps us steadfast.
“…Hope is the anchor to the soul…”. Hebrews 6:19

Leaking Jesus

“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” John 15:12
I heard this question today:  “How do we leak Jesus into our environment?”  I’ve been pondering it all day. I’ve changed it to, “What is the best way to leak Jesus into our environment?”
I decided the best way to answer it would be to find the scripture that answers it.  I started ruffling through the index box in my head.  There is the Great Commission, go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19).  No, that’s not it.  Then I thought of my personal favorite, Mark 12:30-31 love God, love others.  Getting closer, but still not it.  Then John 15:12 came to me.  Love each other the same way I loved you.  Bingo.  That’s it, that’s how we leak Jesus into our environment.  Not only that, it’s the BEST way to leak Jesus into our environment. Love others like He loved us.
Think about how Jesus loved us.  There’s the obvious, He died for us.  John 15:13 tells us there’s no greater love than to lay your life down for another.  I’m eternally grateful for that act of love Jesus did for me, no pun intended.  In fact, that one act of love is what makes leaking Jesus into the environment around us so vitally important.  We want others to know how much Jesus loves them.
Which is another way Jesus loved us.  He didn’t discriminate.  There is no skin color in Jesus’s eye’s, there are only God’s children.  Jesus doesn’t care how much money we make, He loves us all.  There is no one who isn’t loved by Jesus, the murderer, the adulterer, the lier, the cheat. He loves us all.  He died for us all.  I love that Jesus didn’t discriminate.
I love that Jesus didn’t enable people either.  I always think of the rich young ruler (Luke 18: 18-23).  Jesus let him make his own choice, and he suffered the consequences of those choices.  Just like the thief on the cross did (Luke 23:39-43), except he chose better.  Of course, he didn’t have quite as many choices as the rich young ruler, but as his counterpart on the other cross shows us, he did have a choice.
Jesus was fun!  I think often times we miss this in the Scriptures.  Jesus rejoices a lot, and rejoicing is fun!  He rejoices when lost sheep are found (Luke 15:5-6).  He loves putting Satan in his place. (Luke 10:21).  He loves building faith in his friends (John 11:15).  And He rejoiced in anticipation of His resurrection (Psalm 16:9, Acts 2:26).  We can all rejoice about that.
Jesus is also very witty.  Think about some of his sayings. Take the log out of your own eye (Matthew 7:4), reallly? How about trying to fit a camel through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24)?  Or straining a gnat and swallowing a camel (Matthew 23:24)?  Come on, tell me that’s not witty?
Jesus was also very compassionate.  We all know the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
You know what all of this tells us?  How well Jesus loved.  He loved so well, that over 2000 years later we’re still talking about it.  I think Jesus leaked into the environment around Him.  I also think, if we love others like Jesus loved us, we’ll leak into the environment we’re in today.
Let’s leak a little Jesus!

Thank God for the Fleas!

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:18
This can be one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible.  It’s because of the word “in”.  People get that confused with the word “for”.  Often times people think we are to thank God “for” our circumstances, and that is hugely different than thanking Him “in” our circumstances.
The last time my husband and I experienced a flat tire along the side of the road, I wasn’t thankful “for” the flat tire or the delay in our schedule.  I was however thankful “in” the circumstance for my husband. He changed the tire and got us going again.
The reality is, we are all going to have “flat tires” in life.  They come in the shape of job loss, divorce, death,  or illness.  Flat tires can take many forms. They are usually unexpected and can be devastating.  None of us are immune to it.  Watching a parent struggle with a wayward child  is heartbreaking.  Watching friends surround and lift up that parent is life giving.  It is what you can be thankful for “in” a bad situation.
Often, it is the people that surround us in the midst of the flat tire that we can be the most thankful for “in” the circumstance.  Just as my husband changed our flat tire, when my nephew died he held me in his arms while I cried.  When  I lost my job, he lifted me up and supported me.  When he lost his Mom, I sat by his side as she slipped away.  Neither of us are thankful for the circumstances, but we are thankful we get to go through them together.
Whenever I’m struggling to find something to be thankful for “in” a circumstance, I always start with the fleas.
Corrie Ten Boom was arrested for hiding Jews during World War II,  along with her sister, Betsie. They were taken to Barracks 28 in Ravensbruck.  A room that was full of fleas.   When Corrie complained about the fleas,  Betsie reminded her of the verse they had read that morning.  1 Thessalonians 5:18, “be thankful in all circumstances.”  Corrie didn’t think she would ever thank God for the fleas, but they were thankful for the Bible she had hidden that the guards hadn’t found.
A pattern quickly developed in their life as they settled into their  new reality. After 11 hour work days they would come back to Barracks 28.  Each evening they read the Bible aloud to the other prisoners, and to the fleas.  At first they kept a look out, afraid the guards would find them.  Anyone caught with a Bible would be killed. The guards never bothered them, so they became more bold.  They started reading the Bible twice a day.  More and more women listened to the word of God being read in this tiny, cramped room.
Then, one day, Betsie discovered why the guards never bothered them.  It was the fleas.  They refused to come into Barrack 28 because of the fleas.  Corrie had no choice, she had to thank God for the fleas!
When I’m trying to find something to be thankful for in a difficult situation I start with the fleas.  I start small.  I find one little thing to thank God for in my circumstance, which leads to another thing, and then another.  It can be people, it can be objects, it can be fleas.
Look around, in the midst of the flat tire are there any fleas?  Start there!
 

God's Perfect Timing

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This verse has such special meaning for me.  I was speaking at a dear friend of mine’s memorial, Denny Finger.  He was such a wonderful man, in so many ways.  His marriage to my forever friend Claudine was such a shining example to me of what I wanted my marriage to look like.  The love they shared was such a gift from God.
I knew that day, how I was going to start.  God had given it to me clearly the verse and the words, but I didn’t know how I was going to end.  It was such an honor and privilege to speak for my friend that day and I was trusting God to come through for me.
He did!
It was about 10 minutes before I was to speak that this verse was texted to me, I knew I had my ending.  My dear friend had suffered so much here on this earth, but I knew now he was free.  He was completely healed.  He was with Jesus.  When I think of this verse it reminds me of that day. He is one of the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy things that comes to my mind. So grateful to have shared a bit of this life with you Denny.  Til we meet again friend!

Gleanings from Ruth

 But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.  Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”  Ruth 1:16-18
These are amazing verses.  The majority of people think they’re a wonderful wedding verse.  In fact, in my single days I cross-stitched this verse trusting God for a mate. It had a beautiful wedding dress draped over a hope chest and these words were written beneath it.  Lovely, right?  Except these verses aren’t actually about marriage or following the love of your life.  They’re about two women who had an incredible relationship and how they followed God together.
Let me introduce you to Naomi.  Naomi had a hard life.  Her husband moved her from her hometown with their two sons.  While there, first her husband died, then both of her sons about 10 years later.  That’s a tremendous amount of loss for any one person.  Her sons, however had married and that is where we meet Ruth and Orpah.  The Bible isn’t clear how long they were married. We just know this is how these women came into relationship with each other. They were in-laws. Naomi was also from a foreign country, so they were also foreigners to her.
Picture this, you’re in a foreign country, you’ve lost your husband and sons.  You have no money, you’re destitute.  You’re left with two women who are now your daughters-in-law.  (Let’s face it, mother-in-laws and daughters-in-law don’t always have a reputation for the best relationships.)  What would you do?
Naomi trusted God. In fact, Naomi was so devoted to God, that when she wants to move back home, they want to go with her. Why would they want to go with her?  That means that they are willing to leave all that is home to them to follow her into a strange land where they will be the foreigners.  They are willing to leave their gods for her God. Their very lives could be in danger and they could be subjected to unthinkable things. Yet they want to go.  Why?
There is only one answer.  It’s God.  It is God in Naomi.  It is how Naomi has loved and treated them.  It has drawn them not only into a close relationship with her, but with God as well.  That is incredible!  Eventually Orpah decides to stay, but Ruth is adamant, she’s going. That one decision, her choice to follow Naomi and Naomi’s God gave her a place in history no one could of ever expected.  She is in the lineage of Jesus.  She married Boaz and gave birth to Obed, who is the father of Jesse and grandfather of King David.
That all happened because Naomi loved God and loved those around her. Naomi suffered such tragedy. In fact, she changes her name to Mara “because the Lord has made life very bitter for me.” (Ruth 1:20).  Yet in her bitterness she still loved, in her sorrow she still trusted, and in her pain she still drew others to her and to God.
Corrie Ten Boom sums it up well:

“Life is but a Weaving” (the Tapestry Poem)

“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”

Corrie ten Boom

Looking in the Mirror

“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”  James 1:22-25

At 47 years old I finally understand this scripture, thanks to Andy Stanley!  It’s one of those ones I’ve just never quite got…how in the world could you look in the mirror and forget what you look like?  It just never made sense to me.

Then yesterday, as I listened to the most recent podcast from Andy, he finally explained it to me.  It was one of those moments where I felt peace about something I didn’t even know was giving me turmoil.

Here’s the deal…it’s not looking in the mirror after you’ve showered and combed your hair, put on make-up etc.  It’s looking in the mirror first thing in the morning, when you’re hair is a mess, there’s drool (maybe) on your chin and eye crusties hanging out…and not doing anything about what you see.  Not taking a shower, not putting on deodorant, not brushing your teeth.  It’s just walking out the door as is and going about your business.  That is the comparison here.  I never understood that until yesterday.

Why would you do that?  The truth is, you wouldn’t.  In fact, you don’t want to have anyone see you that way.  After you look in the mirror first thing in the morning, your first thought usually is, “I need a shower.”  We all have our different morning routines, but you get the gist.  You’ll spend anywhere from a half hour to hours getting ready before you’ll walk out the door, you’ll even be late to work, school or meetings before you’d let people see you not completely “put together” so to speak.  We spend way more time on the physical appearance than we do on the inner appearance.

That is exactly what this scripture is talking about.  When we open God’s word and apply it to our lives, it’s like looking at our reflection first thing in the morning.  We will see some things about ourselves, about something we’ve done, thoughts we’ve had that aren’t very attractive.  The problem is, we won’t do anything about it.  We walk away and forget what we just saw.

We forget that God tells us to forgive that person who hurt us, instead we’d rather hold a grudge.  We forget we’re supposed to tell the truth, instead we let them believe the lie.  We forget we’re supposed to love everyone, instead we pick and choose who deserves our affection.

The sad reality about the world we live in is this.  Most people don’t even open their Bible, it makes it a lot easier to avoid the mirror if we don’t look at it at all.  It isn’t always pretty what God reveals to us when we choose to spend time with Him, read His word and look into His mirror.  But the effects of applying God’s word to our lives, to our relationships and our circumstances will last longer, have more impact and change more lives than any amount of make-up we put on!

Look in the mirror today, God’s mirror.  Don’t be afraid, He loves you no matter what and let it begin to transform you into who He made you to be!