Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmastime in Tennessee

Immanuel . . . God with us.  (Matt. 1:23)
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (Jn. 1:14)
Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, wise men, etc. are all parts of the Christmas story,
but JESUS is the central figure. 

This Christmas was the first time Miles & I were able to be in our home for Christmas day.  We are typically in Pennsylvania my family, but this year my family celebrated a few days early.  So we came home to TN looking to start some of our own traditions.  It was a little last minute to find a copy of The Nativity Story to watch on Christmas Eve, so we intend to do that in the future. 

Christmas morning we got up and read the Christmas story from Scripture.  The only tradition we were certain we wanted to have was to be sure that the day started with the reason for the celebration.  So Miles slowly read from Luke & Matthew as we took in the story again.  There were a few things that caught our attention this year . . .
1.  The story is often depicted that Mary & Joseph arrive in Bethlehem, and Jesus is born that night.  This may have happened, but it doesn't say that. They could have been in town a few days. The census was taking place, so Bethlehem may have been without a place to stay for several nights. 
2. The story is often depicted with an innkeeper taking Mary & Joseph to a stable, but that isn't actually stated in Scripture.  There wasn't room in the inn, so Mary & Joseph had to find a place to stay.  Now the innkeeper may have done so, but we didn't see it in Scripture. 
3.  The story is often depicted with a star over the manger, but the star led the wisemen not the shepherds.  Who knows when the star actually appeared.  In Luke 2:12, the shepherds were told that they sign will be finding a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger not to follow a star.  (And a common misconception is that the wise men were at the birth, but they didn't show up for awhile.)
#1 & 2 are more just speculation . . . but #3 was most interesting to us. 

I hope that as you had time off work, as you shopped, purchased, and opened gifts, as you and your families spent time together this Christmas that you took time to reflect on the King of Kings, the Son of the almighty, eternal God, being born in a dirty manger to poor, young, and inexperienced people willing to submit themselves to being used for God's purposes.  I love that God used them . . . His story is full of people the weak, uneducated, poor, submissive, and willing being used in great ways to carry out God's plan.  It takes alot of pressure off!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Unconditional Love

So it has been a crazy few months, as you can see I haven't blogged since July 24th.  There have been many things going on and many lessons being learned.  I will just share one with you.  In August, we brought in a new member to our family:  Max, our Lhasa Poo.  He is about 7 months old, and he has brought alot of fun into our home.  I have been told many times that pets become a part of the family, but I had no idea until we brought Max home.  He is my baby. 

Max is my little shadow.  If I go to the bedroom, he is right next to me.  If I get a shower, he lays on the floor next to the shower until I get out.  If I am making dinner, he is sitting under my feet (figuratively) or on my feet (literally).  Sometimes it can be really dangerous. I have tripped over him and onto him which can hurt both of us.  Sometimes it is just annoying.  I'm trying to make dinner, and he is under my feet.  One day, I felt him sitting on my feet as I was washing the dishes, and I was hindered from moving because he was on my feet.  I was about to yell at him to move, and God spoke to me.  "He loves you."

As I thought about it, I realized that Max loves me unconditionally.  It doesn't matter if I have just yelled at him, fed him, took him to be neutered; he can't wait to be near me.  He trusts me whether he is asleep in my lap (as seen above) or freaking out at the vet in my arms.  It reminded me of my relationship with God.   He will shine His grace on me, and as long as it is pleasant, I'm grateful.  But if it is painful or difficult or trying, I have a much harder time being grateful or feeling loved.  I don't love God unconditionally (at least in a practical sense).  I don't want to be near Him all the time.  If I wanted to be with God half as much as Max wants to be with me, I would be doing well. 

On the other hand, I'm so glad that God loves me like Max loves me.  I'm not trying to be disrespectful, but He longs to be with me. He is excited when I talk with Him.  He sings over me.  He wants to spend time with me. 

Unconditional Love . . . Do you love God like Max loves me? 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Journey to Contentment

Let me preface this blog with a disclaimer . . . My thought processes are very clear to me, but I won't be surprised if they are unclear to you.  Please feel free to ask if you don't understand me. 

I have spent a good portion of the summer helping a pregnant teenager manage the craziness that life brings as a mother approaches giving birth, delivering the baby, and adjusting to life at home. The teenager who longs to be married with a family, wonders why she made these choices;  for me, being someone that has longed to be a mother for many years, this was an bittersweet experience. I saw my first live ultrasound and the miracle of birth which I am still in awe of the God I serve from that experience.  It will be an experience that I will never forget.  I am forever grateful to God for allowing me to witness these things.  God amazingly made this experience mostly sweet, though I could have wasted much time in the bitter.  Why does God allow teenagers who don't want to be pregnant to get pregnant, when so many married people long to be parents and aren't able to be parents?

I used to be stumped by this and other questions, but God has begun to teach me this summer about expectations and entitlement.  The natural progression is get married and have children.   I often see Christians ask single people, "Why aren't you married yet?"  (As if they are less than normal because they aren't married.)  Am I better than another person and therefore deserve to be a parent more than others?  (And my ugly pride surfaces in entitlement.)  This "natural" progression may not necessarily be what God has for each person, and that doesn't make them any less of a person or any less valuable.  I don't think anyone would say that, but that is the message that is communicated to the person who isn't married or without children. 

For fear of this being a blog that is too long, I am going to try cut to my bottom line here.  Life is not about our expectations or sense of entitlement.  Bottom line . . . my life is not about ME.  The US has created a culture of entitlement, and it has creeped into Christianity.  I expect and am entitled to have children, good health, a husband, a full time, good paying job.  God doesn't promise any of these things.  He promises us Himself. He promises that He will meet our needs. He promises that trials and tribulations will make us more like Him. When we evaluate our expectations and entitlements in light of God and His Will, our expectations and entitlements must die.   

We think that being married should be an expectation, but Paul talks about it being better to be single than married because you can focus on the Lord instead of your spouse.  (I Corinthians 7:8) I think the same applies to children.  Because I don't have children, I am free to focus on the Lord and the ministry that He has to be done.  Poor health and poor paying jobs keeps us humble and dependent on the Lord instead of self-sufficient and prideful. 

I'll end with a verse that a friend shared with me today, and that was such an encouragement:  For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11. 

She quoted this verse, and God said to me, "See . . . I told you that I wouldn't withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly.  You walk uprightly, and I'll give you everything that is good for you.  Obviously, having a husband in good health, or having children are not good for you right now.  You may think they are, but they are not. Trust Me."  I need to rest there . . . in Him. 

So remember that God's goals are the only ones that lead us to contentment.  Evaluate your expectations in light of Scripture, and you will see the road to contentment as you let go of your self-centered goals. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012


I've been spending a week or so contemplating love.  Not romantic love or even love of a child . . . but agape love . . . godly love. The fruit of the Spirit is what God was bringing to mind for me to really mull over, but I have gotten stuck on love. 

This kind of love is difficult.  It is unnatural.  Which is why we can't conjure it up.  This kind of love is a result of living in the Spirit. 

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘ You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5)

Who can do that on their own?  No one. We teach our kids to avoid or fight back when someone is mean to them.  We say, "Why did that nice thing happen to them?  They aren't good people."  or "They were mean to me, so I am going to just pretend they don't exist."  These are not loving responses.  We have been so molded by our culture and Satanic attacks that we prioritize our selfish feelings above what God commands.  We need to pray for people who are mean to us.  We do need to love and do good to people who mistreat us or slander us. 

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

I often think, "but they don't deserve love, God!" He quickly reminds me that I didn't deserve it either.  I remember when Hussein and Bin Laden were killed, and I (along with the rest of the US) rejoiced.  Hussein and Bin Laden didn't deserve to be loved, but it doesn't mean that I shouldn't love them.  It was hard to imagine loving those men, but that is what God commands.  They deserved death . . . so do I.  It is easy to love people who are kind and loving.  Loving people like these men, or just the person who says false things about you, this is love that only comes from God. 

We love, because He first loved us.  (I John 4:19)

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

Love is good . . . it is a result of living in the Spirit. So spend time in the Spirit more and more every day, so that love for people flows out of us. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Christian Enmeshment

As I look back on my life just a few short years ago, I realized today that I lived a life of Christian enmeshment. defines enmeshment as "entanglement."  A few short years ago, I was a counselor and faculty member at a christian college.  I was heavily involved in my church, and all of my friends that I interacted with regularly were from one of those two locations.  Most of my life has looked like that to some degree.  Christian school, Sunday School, church, church camp, Bible college (undergraduate & graduate work), and all of my friends were from those places.  I worked in secular settings a few times and I would approach them as a battlefield where I would be underfire the whole time instead of seeing it as a place to go and take life to people.  I would hunker down, see myself as better than them, and try to get through it until I was back in the safety of my Christian bubble. 

In November of 2008, I began doing church with my husband outside of a traditional church building, building relationships with people who weren't going to a traditional church.  Most of these people would never step across the threshold of a traditional church building.  In August of 2010, I started teaching in a community college.  As I look back now, I realize how free I feel.  I came alive especially when I began my job at the community college.  There are very clear lines between who is a believer and who isn't.  People are surprised and grateful when I give grace, or care about their lives instead of expecting me to.  They talk to me about why I am so peaceful and kind when that is very different from other people around them.  In my Christian enmeshment, I found a lot of bickering over doctrinal issues, or gossiping about the sin people were in.  Neither of which was inviting or encouraging.  We would often get in the way of each other and the work that God was wanting to do.

A friend of mine today used the word enmeshed when describing my life before.  He was absolutely correct.  There is nothing good about being enmeshed.  There was a whole part of my life for Christ that was missing.  It is hard to carry out the Great Commission when you don't know any unbelivers.  It is hard to be a light to a dark world when you only isolate yourself in Christian environments. 

Please don't get me wrong.  I love my Christian friends.  I treasure those relationships where I receive truth, encouragement, prayer, and unity of mind, and I can pour into their lives as well.  I spend as much time as I can with them.  When I am around my Christian friends, I see them as an oasis. I value my time in the Word alone, with my husband, and with my friends (believers and unbelievers alike).  Seeing the Word through an unbelievers eyes shows me new things.  God teaches me constantly whereever I go. 

I'm so grateful for the work He is doing in my Jerusalem.  He encourages and grows me daily through it.  I'm so grateful for my freedom. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Prepare to Be Amazed!

Look among the nations!  Observe!  Be astonished!  Wonder!  Because I am doing something in your days--You would not believe if you were told.  Habakkuk 1:5

As I look around at the things going on in my life, I sometimes just call out to God saying, "What are You doing??"  I know He has a plan, and I know it is for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28).  I know that He knows and is in control, but it just doesn't make any sense.  Yet, I continue to trust and have faith in Him.  Why?  Because He is worthy to be trusted.  How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! (Psalm 2:12).  We have no choice but to trust Him!  We would be stupid not to.   Do I think I can do any better?

Well, this past week was especially stressful and weird, and I heard myself saying, "What are You doing?" and He reminded me again of all His promises.  He also reminded me that everything is for His glory, so I need to choose to give Him all the glory.  We took a risk, and daily reminded ourselves to do everything for His glory.  As each day passed, we saw God do some really cool things.  The cool things weren't what we were hoping for, but God did get the glory through everything. 

Through this process, Miles was reminded of the verse in Habakkuk above.  We have no idea what God is trying to do, but keep your eyes open and watch, because He is doing something.  We may not know what it is right now, but He will reveal it to us eventually. 

It is kind of like winter.  It can be disheartening and cold, but it is a time of dormancy to prepare for spring.  We must go through some time of preparation to see what God is going to do with us. 


Saturday, February 11, 2012


He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.  John Piper

This quote has intrigued me for years.  I liked it with my head, but as with so many aspects of Christianity and Scripture, it has difficulty making it into my heart.  The idea is great, but how does that happen. I had two conversations yesterday that helped shed some light on it for me.   

I was talking with my friend Lisa yesterday, and she was talking about two interesting passages of Scripture.  The first one:  James 5:11 "We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful." Even after living through difficult times, we can still say that He is merciful & compassionate.  And the second passage in conjunction with it is from Job, since the passage in James is making reference to Job: Job 42:5  "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You;"  We both acknowledged that we knew the Lord pretty well before our unique trials, but as Job says here, "But now my eye sees You." We knew things with our heads, but now with our hearts, or "our eyes of faith" as she put it. 

The second conversation was with Miles.  I was just saying that I feel like God has taken me to new depths in relationship with Him. He asked "What has God taught you that makes you feel like that?" Strangely enough I wasn't exactly sure how to answer the question. He has given me peace like I've never experienced in the midst of trial (vs. after the trial when hindsight is 20/20). There is nothing like being at complete peace in the midst of seeming chaos. I have typically been able to see that after the trial, but not during the trial. But it is more than that . . . I trust Him. There are passages of Scripture that don't make "logical" sense, and yet, it doesn't matter to me. I know that He is in control. I know that He has a purpose. I know that His ways are far higher than my ways . . . Hence why He is God and not me :). Miles said, "Yes. As we grow, He shows us more of Him and not more of what to do!" That is the point of Christianity anyway . . . to know Him . . . to bring Him glory!

So I'm learning more and more of God, and less about what I am to be doing.  Christianity isn't about "maintaining" my salvation.  God did that; it is finished.  It is about Him.  I can rest because I trust Him implicity.  I can trust, because He has opened my eyes of faith.  It is a very satisfying place to be . . . and according to John Piper, it is where He is most glorified.