Wednesday, December 27, 2017

It's the Follow Through That Counts

It's coming up on the new year and you know what that means. New Year, new everyone. We all gonna be new. Except that we aren't. Good intentions and all that. I do try to make a commitment to God in a new way every year. To commit to pray for someone or something every day or to read a new devotional or part of the Bible. I usually let God show me what that commitment should be. I       hadn't figured out exactly where that will be. Today helped me with some clarity though.

Today has been a journey for me. Not a long one since I didn't go so far as to put on pants other than pajama ones or leave the house at all, but a journey nonetheless.

I cleaned out my closet and dresser. Heaven help, but I have a problem. I just don't like to let things go. Especially T-shirts. Keep ALL THE TEES. Don't fit? Doesn't matter. Holes? Character. Stains? Yeah, I'll work in that one. I'm not so much a collector as I am just a keeper. I have told you that I'm a control freak, but that tendency leads to not being able to let things go sometimes. I don't like to feel like I need something I just gave away. I don't hoard so much as I have controlled chaos.

I managed to get rid of a box of stuff and tidy up the things I kept. It's a good feeling. Now if I can just channel that energy on getting my accounting in order. Lord, but I hate this time of year for that. Anyhow, I just took the chaos that I had and made it look a little more controlled. Folded and stacked. Hid and tucked. Like when I put my pants on the day after Christmas. "Yeah, they fit...I got them zipped." she said while holding her breath.

I sat down tonight to do my devotional and found my heart so heavy, as it has been for a while. There aren't any particular reasons that I could articulate, it is just heavy. My mind swirls and blurs with stresses and worries that would be better given to God. The problem is that I can't calm the turbulence in my mind enough to make coherent thoughts. I can't bring them to my Savior because I can't put my finger on the exact problem. I can sort of establish the themes of my uncertainties, but I can't name them.

So I ready my devotional. And I read my Bible. And I prayed over them. And they, of course, spoke to me, but not in a way that calmed my anxieties.

As I began to talk with God about how I'm feeling He made something very clear to me. The problem isn't the swirling thoughts, it's not my inability to focus or form coherent thought, the problem is me. The problem is that I'm trying to "parent" God.

Let me elaborate. When you are a parent you desire the best for your little people. You want to teach them things and watch them learn and grow. You want to let them try, fail, and then succeed. But mostly you wanting to micromanage them. Because it's easier and it saves your sanity. You say, "Ok. This is what I want you to do, now try it." Then you watch as they totally put the sheet on upside down or throw spaghetti sauce across the stove and you lose your mind so you say, "No! Not like that. Here let me do it."

Seriously, I can't have my little people in the kitchen. I can't. I need to breathe in a paper bag when I'm watching them stir something or run the glue gun or make a bed. It is something that apparently disappears when you become a grandparent, but it works overtime when you're the mom. It is like listening to your first grader read...and they sound out the same word for 25 minutes and you're like "Spot. The world is spot! [deep sigh of relief]"

Please tell me you know what I'm talking about. I cannot be alone in this.

Anyhow...back to me being the problem. I'm doing this to God. I pray for something or someone or myself. I give it to God and He starts working on it. Then I see that it isn't going the way I think it should and I'm freaking out, "Wait, God...not like that...I can't do it, but this isn't how YOU should do it." and I didn't even realize that I was interfering.

That's usually how it is even though we don't comprehend we're doing it. Good intentions and all that.

While God is revealing my arrogance, I look at myself. I analyze my heart. It has cracks for people that are hurting. It has broken spots from times in my past. My heart has been stretched and pulled and expanded and deflated more times than I can count. My heart has a lot of hardening in places that should be soft. It's saggy in places that it shouldn't be. My heart is a lot like my December body. (Can I get an AMEN?!)

Our hearts will change with life. They will break, sometimes shatter. They will expand and fill and deflate with loss. Our hearts will harden at times, just so we can survive and soften at times when we allow someone to touch them. We have to guard our heart. In order to do that we have to trust God with it. We have to work at keeping it healthy. We can't let the world change what we've given to God and that is hard.

My new resolve is, if I plan to get back on the healthy train for New Year's, and if I'm gonna commit myself to God in a new way and work on a new aspect of my faith, I have to work on getting my heart back in shape too. I need to hand it over to God, right along with all of my prayers. I have to stop telling God how things should be done because while I may know what is best for my little people, I am God's little people. And I have no business telling Him how to run His business.

My heart is heavy because it's out of shape. It needs a tune up, about like my winter attitude (I hate cold.). And the only attitude adjustment I know will change me comes from God. His ways are higher than my ways, and much more effective. I doubt this will change my ability to let the girls cook supper or make the bed, but who knows, God works miracles, raised people from the dead, cured blindness and disease. There could still be hope for me. But only if I  quit trying to micromanage Him.

This New Year take a look at your heart, an even closer one than you'll take at your body. Make an honest evaluation. What does your heart look like? What does your faith look like? You might find commitment to those things more rewarding than losing a few inches. We all have good intentions, but it's the follow through that counts.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Attention Gettin'

****I find myself preaching the same sermon in different ways. I have added the beginning of this post as an afterthought. After I read my last few posts on my blog. After I knew that God was laying the same thoughts on my heart. The last post I made had some humor, but I'm having a hard time finding much humor in the fact that this message is continually in my mind. I'm writing it differently but using the same words and ideas. I'm sorry if it is as redundant to you as it is to me, but I'm gonna write it again anyway.****

Who is the ruler of the world?

We like to think that we are the rulers of our own world. That we have the ability to control our realities. 
As Christians, we like to say God is the ruler. He created it, created us. He formed our world from nothing, knit us in our mother's womb. He is the ruler of this domain and all others. But is that true?

I believe that God is THE Creator. He made the planets, the light, the animals, water, sky, and knit each of us in our mother's womb. He did all the things the Bible says He did. I don't have to explain it. I don't have to justify it. I am allowed my belief. I believe that the fall of mankind was in the Garden of Eden and it came at the hands of Satan and weak humanity. I believe that God gave us the free will to either live with the belief that this world is all that there is, or the free will to surrender to Him. In this case, I surrender, white flag. Not because I need someone to blame, but because my faith allows me to believe that good wins. That at the hands of The Almighty, evil is crushed. That the light overcomes the darkness and the darkness does not comprehend it. (John 1:5)

A couple of months ago I wrote about Lazarus. Maybe 65 people saw this post. I talked about the "If-fing" and how Mary and Martha told Jesus that "IF" He had been there their brother, Lazarus wouldn't have died. The last few days have reminded me of those verses. As we have seen yet another horrific tragedy unfold in Texas, I have watched unbelievers along with some believers ask where God was. How He could allow His people to be slaughtered. I have seen the "if" in the hearts of people. 

It all breaks my heart. The evil, the sadness, the "if," the turning on each other, and some loss of faith. I've seen how people think that prayers are useless because God didn't display His power through a miracle in that church. Do you know where else God didn't display His power? On Calvary. When He watched His Son be mocked, spat on, hanged from a cross at the hands of the very people He was giving His life for. Our God doesn't ever say that He will intervene on our behalf, He says, "Do not fear." He says that He is with us. He says, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) 
We are not promised a smooth ride, we are promised a landing to our final destination. The strength of our faith is measured in the trials of this world. 

In a couple of verses God talks about the "ruler of this world." He is referring to Satan, to evil. The Lord created this world, but He is not the ruler. The poor decision making of humanity allowed a new ruler and he places no value on life, yours, mine, or any other. 
John 12:31-32, "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." In John 14:30, "I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me."

Y'all, this is serious. If you are a child of God and you have faith in His authority, and you believe that God is allowing tragedy and trials in this world to get the attention of unbelievers, listen closely, YOU ARE WRONG. Oh He wants their attention, but not as badly as He wants ours. 

God allows much sorrow because we chose for this world to be ruled by evil and the only line of defense we have is that some of us have surrendered our free will back to God and we are followers of Christ. We have left a gaping hole in the game plan. God is allowing the evil to rear its head because we have backed off from our responsibilities. God is not trying to get the attention of nonbelievers, He is not making this happen to prove that the world should turn to Him. He is allowing us to destroy ourselves, because of our own choices, and we are standing on the sidelines blaming terrorism, bigotry, unbelief, legislation, or leaders. 

We are saying, "Well God, IF you had been there...." 

And you know what God is probably wanting to scream? Well, IF you were really turning to me. IF your surrender was true. IF you were living IN the world and not OF the world. IF you had faith the size of a mustard seed...IF you were loving your neighbor. IF you were as busy praying for souls as you are praying for your own successes...

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Philippians 4:6 
Pray for ALL THE THINGS. Give thanks for ALL THE THINGS. Be anxious FOR NOTHING. For none. of. the. things.

We have all the tools we need in the toolbox provided by God. But here we are on a job site using a stick and a rock to hammer a nail. The Bible has the answers for each and every believer out there. 

God wants our undivided attention. He wants us to not be anxious. He wants us to pray and exercise our faith in Him. He wants us to believe without seeing. God doesn't allow the world to be the world to get the attention of humans who aren't His children. He wants His children to remember who they surrendered their worldly will to. He wants OUR attention. Stop trying to find a reason, someone to blame, a place to point a finger, because just like when we were kids, a finger pointing out leaves 3 pointing back at us. 

These words aren't mine. They are Gods and we need to see them and put them to use in our hearts. John 12:44-47
"Then Jesus cried out and said, 
"He who believes in me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
Jesus didn't come to judge the world, but to save it. If He didn't come to judge the world, what in tarnation are we doing trying to judge everything and everyone? We are supposed to be a continuation of Jesus' light, praying for others, guiding others, abiding in the light. 

We are failing, but we have hope. We can walk in the light. We can do all things because the Lord strengthens us. We need to get it together. 

The ruler of this world won't win. He's already lost and that makes the battle today all the more fierce for him. He'll never win the war, so he gives his all in every, tiny, miserable battle. Don't be a casualty in a war that's already been won. The ruler of the world isn't the same as the ruler of your heart so don't give power to the darkness. Light it up, y'all. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Matters of Responsibility and Light Shining

What's wrong with the world?

How many times a day do you ask that?

What is wrong with us?

I have an answer.

We have a problem with responsibility.
We like to blame.
We like to finger point.
We like to bicker.
We like to complain and cry about what someone else is or isn't doing.

The problem is not with someone else's responsibility or lack thereof;
The problem is with SELF (personal) responsibility.

When things happen in your life, take a minute and assess the decisions that you made.
Say, "Self, how did I contribute to this?" or "Self, what should I have done differently?" And then own up to the fact that you probably could have done something a little differently.

***As a general disclaimer, this isn't applicable in every situation. I do understand.
The people who were shot this weekend couldn't have done anything different. Some circumstances are beyond our control without a doubt. Kids that grow up in bad situations can't control their environment. People can't control health issues, etc. I am not talking about those kinds of situations here so we don't need to discuss the obvious.***

Now that's out of the way, I shall proceed:

Let me tell you something that you don't want to hear:
It ain't your momma's fault.
It ain't your daddy's fault.
It ain't the school's fault.
It ain't the preacher's fault.
It ain't the president's fault.
It absolutely isn't the dog's fault. (What IS that smell?)
It wasn't the gun's fault, the hotel's fault, the political affiliation's fault nor was it God's fault.

When a shooter pulls a trigger it is THEIR VERY OWN fault.
When you tattoo your face and can't get a job, it is YOUR fault.
When you are running from the police and something bad happens, it is YOUR fault.
When someone leaves the gate open...well, that is always someone else's fault. Always.
When evil and hate rear their ugly head, it is MY FAULT.

Wait. Huh? What she say?

I'm going to take a minute to address the Christians in the house. I'm gonna call them out. If what I say doesn't bother you, you must be doing it all right. If it steps on your toes, GOOD, God has been kicking me in the knees about it and you need to join this fun.

Y'all, we have been failing for generations. We have been slipping. We have compromised our values, shifted our focus, and got flat out lazy.

I'm not even talking about hot button issues. I am talking about how we have let ourselves be IN this world and not OF it. We turn a blind eye to evil. We welcome hate. We have been watching the systematic decline of God in our lives without blinking an eye. And guess what we say, "Ooohhh girl, look at her. She needs Jesus. Whew. Does she ever. I'm glad I don't have any flaws like that! My sins aren't as bad as hers."

If you are a Christian, you believe that Jesus came to this Earth, lived a sinless life, died a painful and humiliating death all so that you can have an eternity with Him. And knowing all of that, you have willingly opened your hand and let His presence slip through your fingers. And by you, I mean me. I fail daily.

God tells us that the world hated Him, so it is going to hate you (John 15:18) why wouldn't it?
He tells us the world doesn't understand His light. (John 1:5)
God says in John 16:33 that the world will suck, but never fear, He's taken care of it.

I really enjoy the book of John in case you didn't notice.

I'll take the liberty of linking to a page of verses that talk about personal responsibility here. Just so you know, none of those verses say, "Hurry, find someone else to blame as quickly as possible."

Ok, back on track. We have stopped feeling responsible for the spreading of The Gospel. (Mark 16:15)

If you want to blame someone for the decaying of this troubled world, you have to understand that you play a part. You won't change the entire world with your personal change of heart and commitment to God and His plan, but you will change the world of the people around you. You will be different and everyone around you will take notice. Your heart will soften to things and break in ways you didn't think possible.
When you truly find your home in Jesus, you will learn what it means to love others.

Sidebar: I don't like everyone. Not even close to very many people, but in Jesus I am learning to love people because they are His.

My kids do not always like each other and that sometimes breaks my heart (and my brain) but they are both mine and I long for them to get along. Can you imagine what Jesus must feel like? How many times a day is he banging his head off a wall? He's probably thinking, these kids were already the death of me once, can't they just be nice and love each other before they put me in another grave?!

Christians, we are complacent. When we see that someone else is a sinner so we don't seem to think we need to do any better because Lord knows we aren't as bad as so-n-so over there. Bar on Saturday church on Sunday. Bless their hearts.

Bless ours, y'all. Bless our hearts. SELF RESPONSIBILITY, take some. We all sinners.

It is not comfortable to be different. It isn't easy. We don't blend in when we are light in a dark world.

You know what we've done? We've made our 4 year old selves ashamed. Yes we have.

When we were 4 we sang a song: This Little Light of Mine. And we meant it, until we didn't.
And now we've done gone and hid it under a bushel and let Satan whew (blow) it out, and we have failed to let it shine. We should be so embarrassed...

I shuffled some songs tonight while I controlled the chaos that is my home, and this song came on:
Courageous by Casting Crowns. Y'all click that link and listen to it...(The movie is excellent also)

"We were made to be courageous....The only way we'll ever stand is on our knees with lifted hands."

When did we stop seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God? That moment, THAT was when we not only failed God, but ourselves, our kids, our world. We were made to be courageous and we have just been cowardly. Someone might think we are different or weird or too much or too bright for the darkness and we let our light dim and flicker out.

We have to take some responsibility for the world we are living in.

If you aren't a Christian and you've managed to make it through this, thanks for sticking around. I know a lot of Christians aren't very Christian-like. They can be some pretty nasty people, I really, really know, I've grown up around too many to count. I hope that you don't base your opinions on those. I'd like to be the exception.  If you don't believe in God, that's your prerogative, you get to do that. We can still be friends. We can especially be friends if you are good people. If you know how to take personal responsibility and call it like it is, I like those folks.

Fact is, we live in a free country. We have rights that were handed down to us because people were brave and made sacrifices and shed blood for them. Freedom of religion is a favorite of mine. It is sad to watch us take that for granted.

I'm gonna leave you with a question:
If tomorrow the first amendment was amended to remove our freedom of religion and they came for your Bible and your basis of faith, how much of it would you know by heart? How much of it could you pass on to your children? If you never again had the opportunity to open that Bible that sits on your nightstand collecting dust, how useful would you be to God?

We were made to be courageous, y'all. How much courage have you shown lately?

Monday, October 2, 2017

Mountains & Valleys

Sometimes the only language we can speak is in tears.
I have words for days, but today my heart aches.

Evil has been in the world God created since Adam & Eve did their thing. Not a day goes by that I wish they hadn’t have done it. But let’s face it, you and I would have probably done the same thing. As much as I’d like to be, none of us are immune to the human condition. We are, however, called to be more.

I have a devotional that I read and sometimes share on my Facebook page. It’s called “My Utmost For His Highest.” It takes a verse or two everyday and turns it into a lesson that my heart needs to hear. It is always relevant. I’m not a theologian, just a child of God that believes the Bible is a living word when we allow God to speak Life into it. When I feel my living God speaking through His word I can’t help but share it.

The last couple of days have been about mountain top experiences.
Do you know about those?
They are the times where we are on the mountain top with God like Peter, James, and John were in Mark 9. Times when we are so close to God that we see His glory and are filled with joy and faith. Those are experiences we never want to come down from. 

Yesterday's devotional said this and it just struck a cord:
“The true test of our spiritual life is in exhibiting the power to descend from the mountain.”

On the mountain we are experiencing God. We are getting rest, basking in His glory. Coming down from the mountain is hard. We long to be nearer to God, but in the valley is where we battle for God. It is where we take our experience and spread the joy we obtained. In the trenches is where we learn lessons and share them with those who have never experienced time on the mountaintop. If you read on in Mark 9 you will see God's lesson to Peter, James, and John. He shows them why we need the valley through the man and his son who had an evil spirit. We must come down from our mountain top to fight the evil that lurks where we live. 

Life is a series of mountain tops and valleys. We have good times and bad times. 

I can't help but relate today's (October 2) devotional to the tragedies in the news. 
It is also based out of Mark 9. I'll just leave it here:

I'm going to tell you my thoughts from this morning as I woke to the Vegas tragedy. I prayed:
"God I am so sorry that your creation has fallen so far. I am so embarrassed that we, as humans, are capable of this amount of evil and hate. I know that people question your existence and intentions when these kind of things happen and sometimes my faith waivers. Help me to hold my faith firm and share it with those around me. We have seen natural disasters lately that have brought us together as a human race. We have seen you in everyday generosity and now we are distracted from you by the hate in one man's heart. I am so sorry for the human race. Please forgive us. Please help me to overcome my anger and show love."

Then as I read my devotional, I realized that today my humiliation comes from the amount of evil we have allowed into our world. The thought occurred to me that we spend so much time focused on the evil that we fail to see the good things. We are overlooking the hundreds of people who where praying. We are turning a blind eye to the people that covered others with their bodies and the responders that ran INTO the gunfire to save people. 

*John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."

In our face is a lot of evil, and it is unfathomable, but also in our face is the epitome of what God intended for us. To love our neighbor. To lay down our life for our friends. To trust in Him when we feel like there is no where to go.

One girl on GMA this morning told of her friend who was praying over the dead bodies. That thought, that gesture, moves my soul and gives me hope.  

There is good. There is good. There is good in this evil world. 

*John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid."

*John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace in the world you will have tribulation' but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

I serve a mighty God. A God that was hated and overcame. A God that was killed, yet lives. A God that is faithful even when I am not. 

We have mountain top experiences so that we can take them into the valley where there is trouble and tribulation, where we have to come face with it. Thankfully we don't have to face it alone. 

This world is full of problems, but make no mistake, those problems stem from evil, from hate, and from a self-loathing that is only created away from a God that has already won, a God of hope. 

If you don't know that God you have no idea what you are missing. 

If you are looking for joy, for peace, for love, for acceptance, or to fill a void that you can't seem to fill with anything this world offers, I have an answer. It has nothing to do with a pyramid scheme and it doesn't cost you a dime. My God offers hope and love and faithfulness. He gives peace and calms the storms. The wind and the waves know him. I wish for you to know Him as well.

God bless y'all. Hug your people. Tell them that you love them. Prepare them. It is a heartbreaking place, this world, but if we can share our joy from the mountain top, this valley becomes full of God. 

*John 1:5 "And the light sines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

If We'd Stop IF-ing: The Lazarus Story in my Words


It's a tiny word yet it can be powerful. 

We use it to tell of regret, to place blame, to wish, to hope, to make excuses. It's tiny but mighty. 

I was reading my devotional the other night (My Utmost for His Highest, Thanks, Daddy) and it was using a verse in John 11. I try to read the whole chapter of whatever verse the devotional uses so I can get good context and learn an extra lesson or two. John 11 is about Lazarus. You know, the guy that was 4 days stinking dead that Jesus raised? Yeah, that Lazarus. It's a good story. If you have time, go read John 11. The lord laid it on my heart to break that chapter down for myself and then share it with y'all. So if you get anything out of this post be sure and thank the Lord for it because I wouldn't have written it without His pushing. 

Here goes.

The Jews had tried to stone Jesus so he skipped town with his disciple buddies. They were going to lay low because the time had not yet come for Jesus to die. But Jesus got word that Lazarus of Bethany, brother to Mary and Martha, was sick. This family was close to Jesus' heart. One of my favorite stories in Luke is where Jesus is visiting Mary and Martha and He's teaching at their house and Martha is running around being a hostess while Mary's just sitting at Jesus' feet listening. Martha gets her panties in a twist and tells Jesus about how Mary should be helping her do hostessing stuff and Jesus tells Martha to chill her grill. Its in Luke 10, it amuses me. 

Anyhow, so Jesus gets word that Lazarus is sickly so Jesus tells his BFFs, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Translated: I'm gonna use this to glorify God.

He loved this family so much that in a couple of days he told His disciples to load up because they were going back to Judea again. They were like, wait? What? Those people just tried to kill you and you want to waltz back in there because of a sick friend? 
Lazarus had passed and Jesus knew it, so He said, "Lazarus sleeps." The disciples were like, well good, if he's sleeping then he'll wake up and get better. 

Sometimes we are so dense to what God is telling us that I bet he wants to knock us upside the head with something. Sometimes He does, with a lesson about trusting in Him. He's got this, our help isn't needed. 

Jesus said, Y'all....he is dead. And I'm glad for your sake that I wasn't there so that I can show you AGAIN that I am the Son of God, so load up. And then Thomas...oh Thomas...he's like, Y'all heard Jesus, let's go with Him so we can die too. I don't know if he was rolling his eyes or feeling brave when he said this, but either way, off they went. 

By the time they got near Bethany Lazarus had been dead for four days. FOUR DAYS. He was stankin, y'all. Lots of Jews (who were after Jesus) had gathered around Mary and Martha to comfort them. When Martha got word that Jesus had arrived she snuck out of the house and left Mary there. I'm unsure if Mary was perturbed at Jesus because she felt like He'd let her down and she wasn't seeing Him, or if nobody had actually told her that He was there, but anyhow she was in the house when Martha went out to meet Him. You know what Martha said to Jesus? She said, "Lord, IF You had been here, my brother would not have died." OUCH. She said, Jesus, this is YOUR fault. Do you think she and Mary had been having this conversation for the days leading up to Jesus' arrival?

Have you ever seen something happen and said, "Well IF God had done what He was supposed to..." 

So after Martha got onto Jesus for his absence, you know, excuse Him for not getting Himself stoned by the Jews too early and all that....He says, "Your brother will rise again." And she's all, Yeah, I know he will, in glory.... Once again, not what Jesus meant. He asks her if she believes that He is the resurrection and the life. And she said, Yes, I do believe that. Then she went to get Mary. 

Mary ran out of the house, leaving all her comforters behind to meet Jesus. Do you know what Mary said to Him? You've said it before and seen it before. She said, "Lord, IF You had been here my brother would not have died."

Well...if that doesn't guarantee that the sisters were a little peeved at Jesus I don't know what does. They went and said the exact same thing to Him using that tiny, but powerful word. IF..... Stings a little sometimes, doesn't it? Especially when several people use it in the same sentence, all but guaranteeing that they've been talking behind your back about your failure. 

After He saw Mary, Jesus asked, "Where have you laid him?" (v34) and they took Him to the tomb. 

When Jesus first heard that Lazarus was sick, they told him, "Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick." Jesus held Lazarus close, like a brother, so while he was THE Son of God, He was also human. He limited His divinity to experience humanity and I would imagine that sometimes emotion took over. When Jesus got to the tomb we get a glimpse of the power of His emotion. Verse 35 says, "Jesus wept."

He wept for the loss He felt. He wept for the loss that Mary and Martha felt. He probably wept because He had everybody "IF-ing" Him, doubting him. He might have wept because His time was coming. He probably wept because, once again, He had to prove to those who witnessed His miracles that He was the Son of God. He wept.

Ever since having children, my body's go to response is to cry. Angry? Cry. Sad? Cry. Happy? Cry. Frustrated? Cry. And it makes me so stinking mad when I get angry and cry. Good grief I just cry more because I'm angry and I'm angry that I'm crying. It's ridiculous and uncontrollable, but it's just what I do.

Jesus tells them to take away the stone. Martha is like, Jesus, it is gonna stink up in there because he's been dead 4 days. And Jesus probably wanting to roll his eyes so far back in His head that He could see the person behind Him, says, didn't I tell you that IF you believed you would see the glory of God? And they took away the stone. 

Jesus then proceeds to thank His Father (God) that He heard Him. We forget that part sometimes. We beg and plead, and ask God to grant us favor, and then He does and we just go on like we did it ourselves. Pat me on the back....(insert emoji eye roll here.) 

Jesus says, "Lazarus, come forth." (v43)

"And he who died came out.....Jesus said to them, 'Loose him, and let him go.'"

Things happen in life and we blame God. We say, "God IF you were here, this wouldn't have happened." "IF You had done what I asked of You, things would be better." "Lord, IF...." But IF WE would shut up long enough and exercise the faith He's been building in us, we will witness His glory and favor. 
And they saw their brother, wrapped up and stinking, walk out of his grave. 

Can you imagine what we would see IF we would lay down that tiny word and use faith instead?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

-Dash on a Headstone-

What is success? Define it for you personally. 

The Milkman and I have had this discussion. Our criteria doesn't always match, but what ISN'T usually does. Success is not lots of $$. It's not having the fanciest clothes, the most expensive cars, or the biggest house on the dirt road. (If you drive down my dirt road you'd understand why...folks are building biggo mansions.) Success is a far deeper, more emotional thing than material items for others to admire. 
Most farmers see success differently than the average Joe. Good weather is a success. A plentiful harvest, a high milk tank average are successes. And for us moms, sometimes making sure everyone is fed, mostly bathed, and still breathing is the biggest success a day may hold.   
We all have a desire to make our loved ones proud. This is a piece of the success puzzle for most folks. We want our tribe to notice that we have put our heart and soul into being the best at whatever we are. It's human nature and if that's what drives you, then get after it Miss Daisy. For some, the desire to make someone proud comes from deprivation. There are people out there who just want someone to tell them they love them, or tell them that they are proud of them. There are daughters that never felt quite good enough, sons that never quite met that unattainable expectation, and students that couldn't achieve enough to get the "I'm proud of you" they were searching for. Sometimes this spills over into adulthood and that person is still trying to define success by words from someone they care about. That, my friends, getting kind words from an unkind person, does not define success. 
I've made a lot of generational farming friends over the years. Most of these farmers are proud to tell you that they are second, third, fourth, or fifth generation on their farm. Success to them is not as simple as leaving a legacy to their children, it's much more. Success is taking immeasurable pride in those who have come before them. It is taking a gift that was handmade with blood, sweat, tears, & many prayers, and bearing the burdens and expectations that come with it, while doing their best to preserve it. 
These farmers are proud to take what was created before them and keep on keeping on. I am a firsthand witness to a farmer that would, on some days, like to stop the roller coaster that is farming and get off. There are years where you're stalled out on the upside down part of the loopty-loop, your hat fell off, and your change is raining down on the folks below. Those years are easy to think of giving it up, but you hold on tight and wait it out. Eventually the ride moves again, but you're left with nausea and a head rush. In those times the definition of success is elusive, but you hold onto the idea of the legacy you're carrying and you move forward.
In my years of meeting these farmers, and of being married to one, I've heard a lot of hurtful things. I've been told how its 2017 and we don't need animal ag, seen and felt threats. I've seen campaigns to end my livelihood, and had friends donate to causes that would like nothing more than to put me out of business. (Until I educated them, of course.) So much in the general public is hurtful and sad, but the thing that generational farmers face that is much more gut wrenching than all that ugliness, is when people seem to think everything was handed to them. That all the work they've put in counted for nothing. That "entitlement" landed them where they are. 
I'll bite. There are some situations where that is true. Sometimes farmers (and other occupations) are created out of necessity. Some people don't want to inherit a legacy, but they get it anyway. You know how to tell the people that are honored to carry on a legacy from the ones who spitefully carry it like they're driving a dead wagon? The difference is in the heart. It's in the work. It's in the passion. The difference is how they define success.
I am a lucky girl. I have parents that were never afraid to tell me how proud they were of me. They still do. I always knew that their definition of success had nothing to do with a bank account or possessions. The legacy my dad took on was one of evangelical flavor and the one he gave to me, is made of passion, fire, and Jesus. I'm proud of it, y'all. I love the gift I was given and it wasn't made of money or material. 
The Milkman had the calling to not make his own legacy, but to carry one built by his father and men before him. All he wanted to do from the time he could make that decision, was to hold onto the gift, wrapped in those prayers, blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice. He wanted to purchase his ticket and ride out the farming roller coaster. He wanted to be entrusted with something built by his family and honor them. The Milkman works hard, he plays hard, and he puts everything into making his people proud. I, for one, couldn't be prouder. 
If you need some inspiration defining success, check out Ecclesiastes 2. Solomon had it all. He had houses, riches, servants, singers, pools, flocks, herds, vineyards. He was smart and a higher status than everyone around him. It was his reward for all his labor. But in verse 17 he says, "Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” Solomon possessed the success defined by a dictionary and society, but he still did not find happiness. He knew the secret, that the earthly successes weren't success at all.

The Milkman and I want to leave our girls every chance we can. We want them to have what they desire because they put the work in. We want to give them an education and all that we've learned in our years. The legacy we want them continue isn't tied to a piece of land, but in behaviors and beliefs. Success is to see our farm flourish, our faith strengthen, and The Milkmaids to know how much we love them and how proud we are of them. We want them to have work ethic and compassion and be productive members of society. We want them to know The Lord. A successful life for us is to allow The Milkmaids every chance we were given, but we want them to define success by their own terms. 
My personal idea of success is leaving a legacy of passion, fire, and Jesus. It is laid out in kindness, love, and boundaries. It is learning to grow where you're planted, being happy and content IN my circumstances and not because of them. Success is in carrying on when it seems like everything and everyone is against you. It's knowing that I can do ALL things, not because of myself, but in Christ. Most of all, it is in leaving the best pieces of me to the people I love. 
My successes and failures will be nothing but a dash on a headstone, but the legacy I give my children is one that I hope they can be proud of. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

New Again

For some people the New Year is the "fresh start." A new set of numbers. The months start over. Goal setting and big life plans come to mind. For a farmer the New Year is just kind of the middle of winter. It doesn't signify much other than a new tax season. Our "new year" starts when things start greening up. The time comes to see if the fall planting survived what winter threw at it. 

We planted triticale for this year so we are chopping silage a little bit earlier than normal. It came quickly and took our equipment by surprise. But we managed to get everything ready and harvest a really good crop for our first chopping adventure of 2017. #silage17 is ongoing and exhausting. 

I love when stuff gets green and blooms. My allergies protest somewhat, but a little Zyrtec and Benadryl with a dash of Sudafed keep me functional. My other favorite part of spring is Easter. This holiday has the power to stir great emotions. It isn't about the bunny or the eggs. In short, it's the pinnacle of our Christian faith. 

Our God sent His son, whom he loves greatly, to live as a man without sin. Jesus poured out love and compassion. He taught the masses. He gave, He blessed, He shared, and He gave living water to anyone willing to drink. He washed the feet of His best friends. He was a servant. Our God sent His son to live and to die. Jesus was the sacrifice that paid for my eternity. In His death, He wrote a blank check that paid the price of every single human willing to believe in Him. 

It is important that anyone with faith to know the Easter story. Our God died a miserable, painful, humiliating death. He felt every stab, and every tear as He did. It was not a symbol. It was a sacrifice. You will find the story of His life, His death, and His resurrection in every church this weekend. Easter is about how Jesus not only died, but rose again. He promised to return for His people. And our eternal salvation is dependent on a belief in that. 

Now that I paraphrased that story as much as my wordiness will allow me to, I want to speak on another part of the Easter story that we don't focus on so much. Mary, Jesus' mom. This lady carried a baby that she didn't create or even ask for. She just told God that she'd do whatever He needed her to do. She had to tell her soon to be husband that she was carrying a baby that they didn't make together, but that He was going to be their King. She carried this baby boy and gave birth in a manger. April the giraffe had better accommodations, y'all. Wise men came and brought gifts. Mary once left Jesus in a town accidentally. I'm sure she had a slight panic attack when she realized it. It took 3 days for her to get back to Him. When she got back to Jerusalem, there He sat in the temple, teaching the teachers. He was 12, y'all. 

If I had to guess, even though Mary knew Jesus was to be our King as well as a sacrifice, she had to take some deep breaths to not beat that boy sometimes. Mary raised Jesus. And then one day 30 or so years into this deal, she had to watch her son, God's son, our Savior, be mocked, beaten, and hanged on a cross. Her sinless baby boy had to fulfill his duty. He gave His life in exchange for a sinner like me. 

I'm not sure if you've ever really studied it, but hanging on a cross is not a quick or painless death. I read an article once that told about the actual, physical, and emotional things that take place. It made me sick. It brings to light a whole new meaning to Jesus "hanging on the cross." If you feel nothing as a Christian when you think of what Easter signifies, you need to look it up and realize what Jesus endured for you. 

Back to Mary. I am a mom. And when I try to put myself in Mary's sandals, I imagine so much anger at God. So many times in life we don't understand why terrible things happen. We don't know what good can come of it. But Mary, she knew what the end result would be. She knew what good would come. She knew it had to be done, but the anger and the emotion still had to be strong. Y'all she knew that her baby would be sacrificed and she did all the things asked of her anyway. Jesus knew what becoming a man and a sacrifice would cost Him, and He did it anyway. God knew what He would have to watch His son endure, and He allowed it anyway. 

My God, my Savior died for me. He did not ask me to die for Him. Not once.

Jesus did what He did for you. God loved the world (the whole world, not just His people) so much that He made a sacrifice beyond comprehension. (John 3:16) Even knowing that Jesus would rise again doesn't soften the fact that God would watch Jesus suffer unimaginable pain. So much pain that Jesus thought His father, God, had forsaken Him. I truly believe that God never left Jesus. It was Jesus' last part of being man and the pain was beyond comprehension. I don't believe God watched it stone faced, either. Maybe he even closed his eyes and a tear fell.

There is a song that I have loved for many years now. It is the basis of my thoughts of Mary. It is on an album of songs inspired by the movie, "The Passion of the Christ." (Confession: I haven't watched it, but I think I will tonight.) It is called New Again by Brad Paisley and Sara Evans. This song makes my heart feel so many emotions. And it is beautiful. Please listen to it and feel what the words intend.

Jesus did all that He did to make everything new again. He was a baby, a kid, a teenager, and a young adult. He lived what we live. He had parents. He had friends, best friends. He taught and he loved. He performed miracles. The waves and the wind know His name and they roar and cease at his voice. The Creator of all things loves us enough to suffer great losses even though we are failures. And while I hate to be a failure, my joy comes from knowing these things. My hope is in The Lord and my faith is not in vain. 

Mary might be the strongest lady to ever breathe. I'm pretty awed by her faith and her commitment. Mary served her God well. And she was rewarded when she knew her boy had risen again and His purpose fulfilled. I don't envy her, but I'll bet she was proud.

I can't imagine farming without any faith. I'm sure people do it. But I know that every spring, God willing, our crops will sprout up out of the ground. Our momma cows will start having babies and we will witness the miracle of birth. Our kids will grow another year older, and so will our tractors. Every spring we watch new life and Easter reminds us that God makes all things new again. 

This year my heart is full and my joy overflows. Even though we are exhausted of the late nights, early mornings, and the allergies, we will celebrate our Risen Savior this weekend. The Easter Bunny will make his appearance and the eggs will be hidden, but I won't let that get in the way of sharing the real Easter story. I will think of Mary and how, as a mom, she must have ached. I won't forget to be thankful for the crops and new life. I won't hesitate to tell my kids, and everyone else, that Jesus is the reason for everything we have and that through Him, I have eternal life and so can you. 

Happy Easter, y'all!