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Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12(NIV)

When you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. When the day seems as dark as the night. When you haven’t heard the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit in far too many days. When hope seems lost. When the answers don’t come. When the waters around you seem to engulf you.

“But God remembered Noah…” (Genesis 8:1).

Is the reader to infer that Noah had been forgotten by God? Maybe Noah and his family felt forgotten. Do you feel forgotten? Does your “new normal” seem unbearable? Are you sick and tired of suffering? Is there no relief? Is the same ‘ole same ‘ole depressing? Do you wander how much longer you are capable of continuing?

The real live story of Noah and his family, as told in Genesis 6-9, encourages me. Can you even imagine how ready Noah and his family were to get out of the ark? Talk about cabin fever! This ark by theologians has been described as being tomb-like, as well as like a prison. It was a dark place with no sunlight to warm their souls. We recall that it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, but did you realize they were in the ark for more than a year? After it poured from the sky for more than a month, they were not able to leave the ark until the waters receded and the ground dried up. Noah had been warned by God that it would rain for 40 days and 40 nights. But, did he expect to be in the ark for more than a year? Did he know to forewarn his family of the length of their stay in the boat? Did they trust Noah like God trusted Noah?

I wonder if Noah’s wife whispered ridicule in her husband’s ear, or if she yelled in front of the whole family her doubts about Noah’s faith? Did she criticize her husband and say God has left them to die? That God doesn’t really care. Did the wives of Noah’s sons question their father-in-law mocking the ark as being one of the largest coffins ever made? They all must have been so ready to get back to a normal life – to wash and bathe in private, to eat from the ground, to cook without holding on to everything. Ready to get a good nights rest on a bed that didn’t sway. Ready to feel the sunlight on their faces. How restless they all must have felt as they cautiously established a new normal on the ark. As days went on and on and so much rain – so much tossing and turning – and so many questions unanswered. When will they be released? Has God forgotten? How and where will they live after the flood? Will there be food? Would the sun shine again?

We, too, may feel forgotten by God. Noah knew about the timeframe of the rain; we don’t normally get the exact about of days a trial or tribulation may last. Our tribulation may have been forewarned by a doctor’s prognosis. It may also though have come completely out of the blue catching us in the most unexpected moment of our lives. We count the days. It’s been 3 days, then a week, then a month, then before we know it, its been hammering us for almost a year. Why doesn’t He do something for me? Where is He? Why can’t He just answer this one prayer of mine? How much longer do I have to wait? Does He even hear me? Maybe I should just take matters into my own hands.

“Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). Amid all the corruption on the earth, Noah had intimacy with God. Even though everywhere he turned wickedness prevailed, Noah walked with God. He sought the Lord, he heard from the Lord, he had a relationship with his Creator. Noah fellowshipped with His heavenly Father. He didn’t have a church family, accountability group, Christian radio, or Bible studies. He didn’t have access to Christian conferences, podcasts, retreats, devotionals, magazines, or books. And yet, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him” (Gen. 6:22). Don’t you love and admire that about Noah? God distinctly gave Noah instructions and he followed them unwaveringly. It took Noah 100 years to build the ark. I have no words to express a man like that’s patience, perseverance, faith, hope, and stability. Astounds me!

I think Noah lived like he wasn’t forgotten!

Oh, I am sure he wanted to escape the ark just as anyone would! He must have been craving for fresh air and open skies. He may have even felt sorry for the animals as they had no place to run free. But, he knew God had told him to build the ark. Then, God did just as He had said He would; God brought the rain and preserved he and his family from death. God had been faithful and would continue to be faithful. This is what it means to have hope.

Paul encourages Christians in their tribulations: “And we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us” (Romans 5:2b-5, NIV). The word “perseverance” is translated as “patience” in the KJV. The word in the Greek means to be “cheerful or hopeful.” It also means to endure and to wait. So, this word perseverance/patience basically means to not give up, to have hope, to keep on keeping on. In our suffering we stay hopeful because it builds our character, and then what is most interesting, is that the end result is where we find hope fulfilled. We begin in our sufferings with the mindset of having hope, knowing at one point, our hope will be experienced; what we expected will happen. We have confidence that God will come through for us!

I can’t help but think of a different mindset. During trials, tribulations, sufferings, we want to do the opposite. We want to give up. We begin to believe our situation is hopeless. We begin to listen to the critics who mock our faith. We doubt God. Some may even completely walk away from God and say He didn’t come through. That they gave this Christianity, this “God” a chance, but was abandoned by the One who said He would never leave us. Now being mad at God is all the relationship has come to. We live with a sick heart.

Did you know that one reason we as Christians have the Bible stories written down for us was to help us to keep the faith? “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

Noah is one of so many in the Bible who teaches us to hope. I also recall Joseph who was sold into slavery, Jonah and the whale, Abraham and Sarah, and the list could go on and on. They teach us that just because we don’t feel like God is working or it seems we can’t see Him, doesn’t mean He isn’t doing anything. “He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you and the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, or the moon by night” (Psalm 121:4-5).

“But God remembered Noah and al the wild animals and all the livestock that were with him in the ark…(Gen. 8:1). No, we are not to infer that God forgot Noah. The Hebrew word for “remembered” means “to mark (so as to be recognized), to mention.” It simply means at this point God is choosing to act on behalf of Noah and his family and the animals. I love the part of the definition “to mark.” Makes me think of marking time, kind of like we do with calendars. We mark our calendars for upcoming events, or we mark our calendars for something that happened that may not have been planned so that we will always remember the exact day.

One of my new favorite things about this account of Noah is that Noah patiently waited for God to tell him they could leave the ark. “Then God said to Noah, ‘Come out of the ark…'” (Gen. 8:15). Noah had sent a raven out of the window, then a dove 3 separate times in 3 weeks time. Noah was anxious to get off the ark! He knew it couldn’t be forced. Same for us. No use trying to force anything. Let’s use our time to enjoy God, to enjoy the life He has given and has planned. Trust that He sees us. He remembers you. Don’t be in a hurry to move toward the next thing. Be patient. God is working and has a plan. Even when frustration sets in and the thought of continuing is overwhelming, rest in God’s love and care and providence for you. Call upon Him to give you the strength and courage needed. Continue to wait with expectation.

“So Noah came out…then Noah built an altar to the LORD…” (Gen. 8: 18, 20).

Hope fulfilled! The rains stopped. The wind died down. The ark rested. The waters receded. The dove brought back an olive branch. The dove found a resting place. The Lord called he and his family out. They are saved. They are alive. They are free.

It wasn’t just a kissing the ground kind of moment and moving on with the rest of his life. This was the type of moment where it seems the heavens opened up, the type when you know God has outdone Himself. The kind of moment that out of sheer compulsion you are brought to your knees in awe of your Savior and Deliverer. Not to kiss the ground but to look up and give glory to the One who is faithful! You clap your hands when there is no music. You shout “hallelujah” at the top of your voice not caring who hears. You raise your arms in total surrender acknowledging you are not God and never will be. The moment you know in your heart you will never be the same.

“Then God blessed Noah…” (Gen. 9:1).

A blessing is coming. Believe it! Don’t forfeit what God has in store for you because of a lack of trust in God (Jonah 2:8).

I leave you with a prayer from Paul to the church in Rome.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

HOPE

Good Friday was yesterday. Jesus was in the grave three days. Friday is the first day. Today would be the second. Tomorrow we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead. May this story never become dull to our ears or our hearts or to our eyes.

woman crying

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angles in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. John 20: 1-12

Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early the morning of the third day, saw that Jesus’ body was gone and suspected that someone had “taken the Lord out of the tomb;” she ran to the disciples with this news. At this point, no one knew the real story. At this point, all they have to go on is an empty tomb. Even though Jesus had spoken to them about his death and being raised, their minds had not yet put it all together. The boys end up giving up and going back home to grieve (Mark 16:10). Not Mary Magdalene. She stayed at the tomb. Maybe to her going home was useless without her Lord, her Rescuer, her Deliverer, her Teacher. Why go home? Why go back to life without Jesus? Life was meaningless unless she had the Christ, the Son of God in her life.

She was the only one to stay at the tomb. She didn’t just stay there, but she wept. It wasn’t the silent kind of crying where tears stream from your eyes but no noise is heard. John records that she “wept” which means “to sob, wail aloud, bewail, weep” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). This same Greek word for “wept” appears a few other times in Gospels. In Mark 5:39 family and friends were “crying and wailing loudly” for a young girl who had died. Mark 14:72 states “And he [Peter] broke down and wept” over his denial of Jesus. Luke 19:41 records that “He [Jesus] wept over it [Jerusalem].” This expression of grief is when your whole body grieves. It is when one can’t help but to express it loudly. This isn’t your everyday run of the mill type of sorrow. This is the extreme type. Something so horrible has happened and it hits you like a ton of bricks and the only thing you know do to is to get loud!

As I think about Mary that day – “As she wept…” As she was bawling her eyes out, all alone, in complete confusion – she was doing the ugly kind of crying – the crying that has no answers, only grief. The crying that says “I don’t know what to do or even where to go.” I am sure the past came suddenly to her mind. Her times with Jesus. His words to her. How He taught her. How she was delivered of seven demons and was among several women who followed him along with the disciples and took care of His needs (Luke 8:2). How she was with Him when He was crucified (Mark 15:40). Now what would she do? How could He be gone? Did she begin to doubt? Did she wonder if all of it had been a mistake? Is He really gone forever?

Have you experienced this depth of grief? Have you given yourself permission to weep loudly? Do you need to be alone and pour your heart out to Jesus? Do you need to hash things out with Him? Do you feel helpless? Do you feel like your life isn’t worth living anymore? Do you feel lost and with no hope? Does your life suddenly not make sense? Do you wonder how anything good can come from the circumstances you are currently facing? Are your eyes swollen from crying so hard? Do you feel as if no one hears you?

“As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb…” (John 20:11). She bent over and looked one more time inside the tomb. What can you do again that before revealed only the bad news? For Mary, to look again into the tomb meant to see His absence. She didn’t avoid or deny the empty tomb. This was the last place she knew Him to be. Is He really not there? Why is He really not there? In her grief, she sought answers. She did something. She did something worthwhile. She didn’t crawl into bed and stay depressed. She didn’t run away from her life. She didn’t not grieve. She “bent over” and looked with her eyes into the tomb. Keep your eyes open dear one! Search for truth! Search for Jesus in your circumstances! Open His Word to find good things!

As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that is was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni?” (which means Teacher).

As Mary kept her eyes open and her heart soft, she experienced one of the greatest evidences of the glory of God ever witnessed! She was the first to see Jesus after His resurrection!

Dear one, weep and mourn and cry out loudly. But keep your eyes open to see the miracle God has for you!

As Paul expressed to the Ephesians, I leave his words with you this Easter weekend: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart maybe enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead…” (Ephesian 1:18-20a).

I am not one to spend time on YouTube, surf the Internet, watch videos when they appear on my Facebook feed, nor click on random clips just for fun. BUT, I will have to say that for whatever reason, I did hit “play” on this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKejPcknbko

I am glad I did! The look on the homeless man’s face was perfection! I could tell he was uncomfortable at first surrendering his bucket to a stranger, then uncomfortable again when the guitarist sat on the other side of him, then again as the young man shook his hand. Or was it shock? Shocked that someone noticed him. Shocked that someone cared. Shocked that someone wanted to sit next to him and touch him.

The phrase the young man asked the homeless man, “May I borrow your bucket for a bit?”, has not left my mind since I saw that video two months ago.

The homeless man was in a big city on a crowded street. Some people’s reaction to the homeless man could have been: “Get off the sidewalk- go to a shelter or something!” or “You stink! Move away!” or “Get a job!” or “You’re just a beggar, no one cares about you!”.

And yet, this young Christian man sat down next to him and asked the homeless man if he could borrow his bucket. The young, Christian man gave him an invitation. Hesitantly, the homeless man accepted. “May I borrow your bucket for a bit?” was the invitation.

His bucket. Reminds me of a current trend: having a “bucket list”. I have always been anti-bucket list. Never could sit down and write a list of things “I want to do” or “I want to have” or “I want to meet” or “I want to go”. Too many “I’s” for me. Something I have learned in this 40 + years on this Earth is that God can and will “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20).

Back to the bucket in the video clip. The homeless man was asked to give up temporarily one of his only possessions. It held his sleeping mat. Maybe on good days, it held lots of coins. His bucket represented his homelessness. The bucket represented something shameful; he had no where to call home. He had no where to lay his head at night. He had no where to invite strangers over.

The bucket is symbolic for anything in anyone’s life that reflects emptiness, neediness, loneliness, hopelessness, and shamefulness.

The one object that symbolized the homeless man’s lack, his need, his inability to even care for himself, was the one object that the Christian asked to borrow. The Christian invited himself to borrow the one item that symbolized the man’s hopelessness. It was an invitation the homeless man could have refused for the sake of pride or fear. But, he didn’t. He humbly gave to the Christian his empty bucket.

Do you or I need to give someone or Someone, namely Jesus Christ, our pride, our fear? Do we need to hand over our empty wallet, empty home, empty talent, empty marriage, empty dream, empty stomach, empty soul, or empty heart?

The Christian, young man in the video literally turned the homeless man’s bucket upside down! He turned it upside down and made beautiful music with it! The bucket was revolutionized. The bucket was revived. The bucket was profitable. The bucket was filled. The bucket in another man’s hands became a miracle story.

What once was a symbol of shame could be turned into a symbol of grace.

Instead of being the generation of “My bucket list” takers, let’s be the generation of “Borrow your bucket” fillers.

What can you and I do to fill someone’s bucket? What can we do to turn someone’s life upside down? What can we do to share the hope of Jesus Christ? What can we do to invite someone in their worst to show them we care and so does Jesus? What can we do to find someone who feels shameful and offer grace?

It is by invitation. If the person refuses your help, move on. Just as Jesus invites us to accept Him as Lord and Savior, we either receive or refuse. He doesn’t force Himself on us.

“Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live” (Isaiah 55: 1-3).

If/When God leads you to bless someone by filling his/her bucket, please feel free to share it in the comment section of this blog!

IMG_3709aIMG_2292I was working the concession stand the other day for my youngest daughter’s volleyball game (Broken Arrow freshman team), when I glanced out toward the gym and saw a little girl around the age of two playing on the bars by the gym seats. From the back the little girl totally reminded me of my oldest daughter, Braelyn, (who will be 19 this Wed.). In an instance, Braelyn’s life flashed before me! I stood motionless staring at this precious little girl who was oblivious to anyone around her -she was captivated by playing on the simple bars meant to help persons stepping down to a seat.

The background music at the time was an oldie by Miley Cyrus – one that when Braelyn was in middle school used to dance to – “Everyone Makes Mistakes”. I felt like I could go up to this little girl’s mom and tell her, “Everything will turn out better than you can imagine”. Even though this mom hasn’t even had the memorable privilege of putting her daughter in kindergarten yet, and even though the dreaded teenage years seem so far removed from the both of them, I felt like telling her that loving her little girl will be one of the most rewarding acts you could ever do in life.

See…Braelyn went to college less than a month ago. She is having the time of her life at her Dad’s and my alma mater – Oklahoma Baptist University. Before she left I had a lot of family and friends ask me if I was going to be alright with her going away. My answer was always, “Well of course!” This is exactly what we reared her to do – go away to a four-year college to continue her education and enjoy some freedom away from mom and dad. I was nothing less than ecstatic for her!! Moving day was a breeze…that is until her two sisters began to tear up.

Now…I am going through a grief I did not expect. Having three daughters in four years has been all-consuming! I felt as if I hadn’t come up for air since the day my first was born. I never imagined myself with an empty nest; it didn’t seem even remotely possible. I don’t want to come home to an empty house in four years which is when my youngest will be entering her freshman year in college.

Not sure I can actually pinpoint my grief completely. It may be a sense of gratitude of being all of my daughters mom and having had the blessing and oh so enormous responsibility of bringing them up in this oh so crazy place called Earth in the 21st century! I may not have gone to every game they played, ordered every school picture, volunteered at their school regularly, read to them as often as they would have liked, or given them all name brand clothing, BUT I do believe they know that I love them and that the One who created their beautiful bodies and knows them more than me loves them with an infinite love.

To all the moms who are just beginning the adventure of being a parent – I know the days are long, the messes are plenty, the money is short, and your energy is small. But know that your reward is great! Each small endeavor you invest into your child’s future really is no little thing! Enjoy as many moments in the mundane dailyness of life as you seek God in all things. He keeps you together!

Dear Braelyn,

Do you want to know why you can’t date until you go to college? You keep asking me “Why?”. You’ve asked me since you were 10 years old and you have been serious about this matter. You want to have the right to date whether you choose to date or not. It seems to me that not only do you wish you can date now, but that you also don’t like having this “rule” over you. You want to do what you want to do. You desire to have a say and a choice concerning dating in your teenage years. Somehow I hope to clarify to you my reasons through this letter.

Your Dad and I decided when we got married and before we had you -our firstborn that our children would not be allowed to date until college.Your Dad and I have not always agreed on things; he and I are opposites in a lot of ways. But, by the grace of God, when it came to the subject of dating, Dad and I are in agreement! Our children cannot date until old enough to handle their emotions and date persons whom they could one day marry. Now that I have been your Mom for 16 years, I have not changed my mind about when you can date. In fact, my decision today stands even more firm than the day your Dad and I agreed to this “rule”.

Braelyn, my feelings for you as a Mom run deep within my being. As your Mom, I held you in my womb for a solid nine months. I had you on my mind everyday of my pregnancy. I ate properly for you. I slept on my left side for you. I got “fat” for you. I prepared a room for you. I quit my job for you. I read books on how to be the best mom. When you were born, Braelyn, you were perfect. I mean that. You were (and still are) absolutely beautiful. Your little body was flawless. The shape of your head was just right. Your fingers and toes were not too long. Your skin was gorgeous. Your eyes were not too close or not too far away. Your nose was adorable and your mouth was like a rose bud. I was overwhelmed with joy to have you in my life. I carried this next thought, emotion, feeling, with me everyday…since you were born into this world so perfect and beautiful, I saw it as my responsibility to protect you from the world. It is difficult to put how I felt into words. I didn’t want anyone/anything to mess you up so to speak-to put scars on you, to hurt you, to put a mark on you. I felt it was my responsibility to keep you perfect.

I know that I am not a perfect mom and have made mistakes along the way, but this I did give you. I’ve been with you every step of your life. I stayed home with you during preschool years. Yes, you did go to preschool two days a week at our church. You needed that social and learning environment you couldn’t get at home. I have cared for you in every way possible. I have seen your needs and provided for you. I breastfed you for 12 months. I gave you solid food when you were ready. I bathed you everyday. I put you in cute, clean clothes and changed you every time you spit up or got dirty. I took you to the doctor for all your well appointments so that you could get your appropriate immunizations. I kept your room clean. I gave you the foods you liked. I loved on you, hugged you, and kissed you repeatedly. I sang to you. I listened to you. I got to know you. I knew what you liked, what you didn’t, and what you said when others couldn’t understand you.I watched you sleep at night and was there in the morning to pick you up. I played with you and watched “Barney” with you. For the first 2 years of your life(which is two whole years for me), it was just me and you while Dad was at work. I didn’t stop caring for you or giving you what you needed when Skylar and Landrey were born; it just meant that you had to share me with your sisters. When you were old enough to go to school, I got you ready by packing your lunch, snack, water bottle, and backpack. I watched you get on the bus and prayed for you while you were at school. I was at home when you got off the school bus to hear how your day went and to give you a hug and a snack. I made a home for you to come home to that was clean and orderly and had plenty to eat. Home was also a place to learn and have fun through games and toys. My life has been all about you three girls. My prayers have been for you. My main prayer for you is that you will love God with all your heart, soul, mind,and strength.

Braelyn, I write all of this to say, “I love you”. “I know you”. Braelyn, to just let you date and go out with a boy is a big deal. To be alone with a boy is a big deal! To think of a boy(who isn’t a man yet) touching you, hugging you, or kissing you right now at 16 years old – breaks my heart. After all I have done for you by caring for you since before you were born, how could I allow just a boy to be near you? I can’t bear for someone to treat you with nothing but the utmost respect and genuine love. A 16 year old boy is not worthy of you right now. Your Dad and I have invested so much in you so that you feel loved, are safe, secure, warm, and cared for. Why would I stop now just because you are 16? I love you too much to let you date. I know I can trust you, I know that. What you don’t understand is that guys can bring out a feeling you have never known which makes you feel good and then you think you are “in love” when really you just like the feeling you get when you and a particular guy are together. At your age, it is difficult to understand your own feelings, that is what I am protecting you from until you are older and can discern your feelings with what you know to be true and not just feel. I want you to be wise and well prepared for the day you find a man worthy of your love, time, affection, and devotion. My prayer is that your future husband is also waiting to date until he is older and wiser and can control his feelings. I promise you this (and you know I don’t make many promises knowing I can’t predict the future, but I feel confident I can promise this to you) since you are waiting to date, you will have one of the best marriages ever known and will no doubt marry your best friend and truly enjoy being together. You will bring to the marriage a bright future instead of heavy baggage from past relationships. As you are waiting, you are  learning more about yourself and what you like and dislike and what career path you want to pursue. Life is so much more than marriage. Having a relationship with Jesus Christ takes you places you never could with a man. Jesus is your soul-mate. He loves you so much more than I can ever imagine. He will never disappoint you. His embrace is pure. His touch comforts. His hand has your name engraved on it. His dance is inviting. His ride is wild. His thoughts are on you. His eyes see your beauty. His joy is in you. His presence is exhilarating. His words bring healing. His wings are your refuge. There is no greater love than Jesus’ love. “Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain. It is beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth. Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King. God is in her citadels; he has shown himself to be her fortress.”(Psalm 48:1-3)

The day you begin dating and find someone you want to date exclusively will be such a fun time of your life. The relationship will be healthy; it won’t bring you down. The relationship will make you a better person because the two of you will enjoy the ways in which you are alike and will appreciate the ways you are different. Your friends will approve of the relationship and will encourage the both of you to be yourselves. The two of you can grow in your relationship through different seasons and have mutual respect  for your ideas, values, dreams, and hopes. You will be honored to bring this gentleman to meet your Dad and me. There is no hurry in your life to find this man with whom you will spend the rest of your life. You have such a fun social, enjoyable, and likeable personality that many guys will pursue your attention. Take your time, pray, and stay focused on the dreams God has placed in your soul and spirit. The “right man” will only add to your dreams, hopes, ambitions – not fulfill them. He will be the person who is supportive in your God given purposes on this earth at this exact time on the Kingdom calendar. Your responsibility will also be to come along-side his God given purposes and add your insight, wisdom, and personality.

The day your Dad walks you down the isle on your wedding day will be one of the most beautiful days of your life. You will know beyond a shadow of doubt that the man waiting for you at the altar will be the man of your dreams and the one you will glorify God with together. You will be ready. You will be prepared. You will be beautiful inside and out. You will honor your King.

Your dating years will come. I promise you are not missing out on anything just because you are not dating in high school. Actually, I take that back. You are missing out on a few things: confusion, broken heart, wasted time, vanity, loss of friendships, depravity, insecurity, and low self-esteem. You are not going to be labeled as a “freak” because you aren’t dating in high school. I wholeheartedly believe you will be envied (Psalm 119:1-2)!

When you were a baby all the way to your 5th grade year, as I would pray with you and over you at bedtime, I made it a point to place my right hand over your forehead as I prayed especially that your sleep will be sweet and peaceful (which are the two adjectives God says He blesses His children with when they sleep in Psalm 4:8 and Proverbs 3:24).

Braelyn, today, March 18, 2012, I spiritually put my hand over your mind and heart and pray this blessing over you:

Dear Heavenly Father, You’ve known Braelyn even before You created the world. You know her fully well and adore her. She is your precious child; cared for and loved by You. Father God, preserve her very life. Protect her from evil. Surround her with a hedge of protection. Bless her going out and her coming in. Send your angels to minister and protect her. Let her know she is beautiful, love, safe, secure, pure, treasured, and esteemed in Your sight. May she receive the love you offer as well as the earthly love of her parents. Give her wisdom and discernment in all her relationships. I pray that in her pursuit of You, she finds the man You have ordained for Braelyn Ann-Mary to marry. May their marriage ultimately reflect Your love for the church, the Bride of Christ. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. To You be the glory both now and evermore. Amen.

In my research for my Bible study I am currently writing, I am reading The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen.  It has now become one of my all- time favorite books!  The book is deep to say the least.  It is absolutely fascinating that for years the author concentrated on the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15) that was inspired by a painting of the father and the son painted by Rembrandt.  I have never heard or seen of an inspiration like his!  I want to share some thoughts of Nouwen’s.  Please read slowly and embrace the revelation God, the Father, has to say to you. 

“It might sound strange, but God wants to find me as much as, if not more than, I want to find God.  Yes, God needs me as much as I need God.  God is not the patriarch who stays home, doesn’t move, and expects his children to come to him, apologize for their aberrant behavior, beg for forgiveness, and promise to do better.  To the contrary, he leaves the house, ignoring his dignity by running toward them, pays no heed to apologies and promises of change, and brings them to the table richly prepared for them.”

Nouwen raises a poignant question that I, in turn, ask you (as well as myself) – “Wouldn’t it be good to increase God’s joy by letting God find me and carry me home and celebrate my return with the angels?”

I don’t want to be like the older brother who didn’t want to join the celebration.  I join you in your celebration!  Will you join me in my celebration?

I want you to meet someone very special to me…her name is Marlee.  I began babysitting her twice a week when she was 2 months old.  She is now 17 months old.  She is the granddaughter of a godly couple in our church.  Marlee has 3 older brothers!!  When she comes to my house she gets a house full of girls except for Rich, of course!  The most beautiful thing to me about Marlee is that she has never resisted my love and care for her.  She receives my love everytime!  Since she was 2 months old, she lets me rock her, cuddle her, feed her, hold her, and kiss her.  She doesn’t try to push me away or cry.  She lets me love on her!  I can’t begin to tell you what a gift she is to me!  She blesses my soul.  I wish I could be more like Marlee when it comes to my relationship with the Lord.  He has so much to give and bless me with.  He has so much He desires to share with me.  What keeps me from His embrace?  Why do I resist Him sometimes?  Why do I doubt that He has my best interest at heart?  I believe the more I spend alone worship times with Him I will understand more of who He is and actually want more of Him!  His door is open and His arms are filled with hugs and kisses!!

 

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bird messenger

 

 

 

 

 

Last Tuesday I woke up feeling a little worried.  As I opened the kitchen blinds, I noticed birds eating from the ground in our backyard.  I paused to remember that my Heavenly Father knows about these particular birds and their needs.  I found comfort by remembering God’s compassion even toward birds and knew that He cared for me more.  It was a sweet moment between the Lord and I as I began my day.  About 30 minutes later as I dropped off my oldest daughter at school, on my way home, a bird flew into the hood of my car and feathers went flying everywhere!  I had never hit a bird before.  A deer, yes.  But, why today?  Why of all the days after that sweet bird/God moment, did I hit a bird with my car?!  I looked up toward heaven and asked, “Is this some type of warning?”  As I reflected on my strange “bird” day I realized that as a authentic believer in Christ I understand the importance of taking the good and the bad from the God of heaven.  I believe a lesson to be learned is that yes, God sees, God cares, and God knows and  no matter what comes our way -the good and the bad- we can say like Job in Job 1:21 “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Have you by chance learned a lesson from a bird?

Jennifer Johnson

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"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." -Revelations 1:5b-6

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