Let me tell you a little bit about a place located in Allentown, PA. It actually sits in Upper Macungie Township. One of the fastest growing townships in PA. Allentown is the fastest growing city in PA. This place has been doing ministry for 102 years in Allentown. Continue reading
I was reading this morning the parable of the Vineyard worker found in Matthew 20: 1-16. Jesus is telling the story of a man who owned a vineyard who needed workers. So he went to the marketplace to find workers. He hired them through out the day and promised them all a days wage. Continue reading
Its election time… election time is where people cast votes for the person they like the best and sometimes for the one they think is the lesser of two evils. Its election time here for me too. People will get to cast a ballot, they will vote yes or no. They will look at me under a microscope of what they want and cast a vote… the ballots will be counted and a decision will be made. It’s election time.
Its election time… one of the biggest group of people in the United States of America are called Christians. By definition that means one of these things (taken from dictionary.com)
1. of, relating to, or professing Christianity or its teachings.
“the Christian Church”
1. a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.
It’s election time…and this group of people in which I count myself are more divided than perhaps any other group. We don’t have a united voice. We throw rocks with our words and actions. We write blogs, facebook post, twitter and make a statements about who and who isn’t a Christian in this election.
You see it’s election time…The “American Christian” community will be divided and it is not the USA of we hurt because of our division…it’s God kingdom. You see we probably won’t agree on who is the best candidate but I am afraid we don’t even agree on what we are voting for or why? One man runs and the “conservatives” rally behind him because he is a good moral person and calls himself a Mormon. Another man runs calls himself a Christian and the “conservatives” are outraged because his actions don’t scream Christian.
You see it’s election time…Some will vote for social justice, other will vote for constitutional rights, others will vote because one’s gender. We will be widely divided when we should be holy united.
Abraham Lincoln said this in a speech in 1858 quoting from the words of Jesus found in the Gospels Mark and Matthew. “A house divided cannot stand” Sadly, we are a house divided. Our voice grows weaker and weaker as we lose sight of who we are representing…. Jesus!
We can’t even disagree with each other and still be friends. We block, unfriend, and shun because of differences of opinions. I just wonder if we posted as much about what Jesus is doing and what He can do in people’s lives if we would see more lives transformed by His grace and love. If we would see marriages saved, addicts freed from addictions, children cared for, the hungry fed, and the need for government intervention decreased. I just wonder if we started focusing more on “being the church” if it wouldn’t matter who was in the Oval Office as much. I just wonder if we took our concerns for these men and women running for office to our prayer closets instead of our social media if things would change quicker.
You see its election time…
My word for the year is trust. I should expect circumstances that help me grow in my ability to trust.
And really even though the plans aren’t going like I thought, I still do trust Him. I believe that He has the best in mind for all of us. I don’t doubt Him or His plan.
So I spent a lot of time thinking about my plans vs His plans. And really I believe that the plan that I had laid out was His plan, He just wanted to shake it up a little bit (or a BIG bit.) See my plan did include construction and prayer, just not now. It did include a makeover for the youth room, just not today. My plan did include prayer, just not on this level.
This is how life goes though. We have hopes, dreams and plans. God honoring dreams and plans. I know because my life has been filled with such things. And because we are human and only see the right now we make the best plans we can with what information we have. Sometimes we see the death of dreams take place so that better dreams can happen. But only hindsight shows us those things. In the moment we feel the sting, we mourn the loss, or we question the why?
Here is the key and a question only you can answer… Do you believe God has your best in mind? Do you believe that God really wants what is best for you, your family, your community, your church? And if I am honest, sometimes I just think I know what is best. Only to realize I don’t know what He does. And then….trust comes in the door. Faith takes root a little deeper… I read a quote by Nancy Willard…
” Live in your roots, not your branches”
I love that. If we live in the roots of our faith, we won’t be blown away when the plans change. Because we are safely secure in the roots of the One who created us, who loves us and has our best in mind.
So the journey of trust continues…
Have you ever had a really good plan? I mean you knew that it was the best next step and you were prepared to take it? This year I laid out a plan. I wrote out a calendar. I even shared it with a few others. I knew the plan. I knew the best next strategic plan for our church, for our family and I was so excited about it. I even prayed over it and about it. I sought counsel! I did all the things you are suppose to do….
Then all of a sudden, the plan isn’t working. Things happened. Big things. Little things. Medium things… and all of the sudden I don’t know the plan. I know Who is writing the plan and I trust Him, but the plan I had isn’t the plan anymore.
Instead the new uncharted unplanned plan is leading me to intense time of prayer. It is leading me to lead others in a time of spiritual renewal and seeking. Instead the new plan will involve a huge construction project in the middle of Easter Season. In the middle of what I thought I would be doing, I find myself on my knees more and learning to wait in the hallway of unopened doors. The new plan requires more faith than perhaps I have ever had. The new plan will ask me to take risk, make big decisions. The new plan will propel me, my family and my church into the next chapter a little quicker than I thought we would go.
Maybe like me you thought you knew the plan…and like me you find yourself just riding the waves of uncharted territory. I am thankful that even in the middle of the new plan I can rest in Him, Jesus. He is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), is He not? He knows what each chapter looks like from beginning to end, and He laid it all out before I even took my first breath.
Not even sure anyone still reads this… I myself let days, week and sometimes months go without as much as even logging in… Blank pages are intimidating… Words are powerful…and relationships are hard!
People write about all sorts of things these days. I find it unbelievable all the things people write about, take pictures of and do in our ever changing world.
For those of you who have read my blog for any length of time, you know that over a year ago, I lost all of my past blogs…maybe forever that is still unclear. And for some reason the other day I was thinking about all of them… all of the words that have been written that are simply gone now. Parts of me wants them back, so that I can see what they were, perhaps some were silly in nature, or angry, or trying to make some hidden point that really wasn’t all that hidden. I hope some were filled with Hope and Christ’s love.
Words are powerful. We are getting into that time of year that happens every 4 years where I want to shut off all types of media so I don’t have to see or hear all the people talk about politics…who or who shouldn’t be our next president. I see Christians and Non Christians alike start tearing people apart… and I think we give Christ a black eye. My hope isn’t any one in Washington DC. Christ came to bring us all a full life. We should pray for our leaders and I do! But Christ doesn’t change based on who is residing in the White House! Whew! Boy am I thankful!
These days I find myself focusing in on a Word… Trust! My word for the year. And I think this word is super powerful. My verses of the year are found in Jeremiah 17:7-9. And it is a beautiful word picture of what trust looks like.
Verse 7 Starts with blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. Those who understand that they can trust The Lord. But then it goes on to what I believe is another level. “whose trust is the Lord”. Its just not trusting him but all of our trust rest in Him. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we can trust him in everything… everything. When it hurts, when its hard, when we cry, when we laugh, when we get a new president, when we wake up and when we go to sleep. We can trust him. And when we do… we will be like a tree planted by the water, with deep roots, watered by the stream, when heat (worries, the hard times) comes we keep green leaves, and we are not anxious and we never cease to bear fruit.
Wow! Don’t we all want that? I do. This year, I focus on trusting him more. In perhaps one of the best and not the best times of my life. And yet you can have both at the same time. I trust him to lead me when and where he chooses. I accept the hard things as learning, discipline and growing opportunities. I rest in the fact that I can lean on him when I can’t stand anymore. I praise him for the great days that happen on regular bases. The answers to prayers, the life change, the Holy Spirit moments that are so powerful I can’t even put them into words.
This year I can’t script what will take place but this I know…He is already there and I can trust him! I can trust him without worry. I can rest in his unchanging grace and mercy. I can rest in his love for me… and so can you!
Gratitude…something we take for granted. The month of November somehow gets overlooked as simply the time and space between Halloween and Christmas. But November is the month of thankfulness. I try to be grateful everyday but I try to really focus in November on being grateful and not being caught up in the busyness of the Holiday season. To be intentional about slowing down and realizing how much I have to be grateful for.
Today, I am extremely grateful for my husband, Jason. He has been without a job for a few months and it has been extremely difficult on him and our family. But today I am grateful for a new opportunity and a new job that he will start in the next couple of weeks. The new journey is always marked with uncertainty but there is a peace that comes that God sees and walks this journey with us.
We take steps, we walk through the muck and the beauty knowing that God never leave us. Together, we find gratitude in each day so that we can live out faith. When we focus on gratitude we learn to embrace each day and each circumstance with a new appreciation for what God has done and is doing. So this November be grateful! Find something each day you can celebrate no matter how big or small. Live in gratitude…
Remember when we used to be friends? You know the kind of friends that see each other face to face. Plan time together that included coffee, laughs and sometimes a few tears. Or those times when a text or call would be the start of a long lengthy conversation solving the worlds’ problems. Do you remember when we could agree to disagree on our differences without fear of being called names? I remember… do you?
Now it seems we have been reduced to social media friends at best. We might stop in periodically to each other’s page to see what’s on your mind? But texts go unanswered, private messages sit staring that they have been read with no response, the phone doesn’t ring and the coffee dates are never scheduled.
I don’t think we meant for it to happen. Life has a way of stepping in and creating space and distance. But I wonder sometimes if it could be the way it used to be… I find myself asking the hard questions about our relationship? Did I do something? …or did we simply drift? Whatever it was I cherish the memories made.
In the midst of it all, our nation is divided on so many issues. Relationships are becoming more and more fragile. We begin to judge our loved ones and friends based on the blog, news article and status we share. We begin to see our differences of belief as reasons to discard each other and “unfriend” one another. We are no longer offering grace and leading with love. We want everyone to see our view and our view only.
I am not writing this to anyone in particular and writing it for everyone…if that makes sense. You see relationships are tricky. Relationships are at the core of everything we do. We can’t escape them…even when we try. I have been in ministry for 15 years and I have seen a good many relationships come and go. Marriages that I thought would last for sure…end. Marriages I thought for sure would not make it through the crisis…thrive. I have seen friendships that were as close as can be fade away to simply memories on the shelf.
I have spent countless hours counseling many people and at the heart of it all is relationships. Relationships with God or lack thereof…relationships with family members…relationships with spouses and children… I wish I could say that I have it all figured out. I wish that every relationship I had was perfect and what I wanted it to be…but I can’t. I have been guilty of neglect of the precious gift of friendship. I have been hurt by the casting aside of relationship. I have hurt people, and been hurt by people.
And yet I keep moving forward, asking forgiveness, forgiving others. I put boundaries in place where they need to be and pray that they are the right boundaries. I pray everyday that God would give me wisdom as I navigate through all the different relationships He has trusted with me. I pray for those who have a bad taste in their mouth when they see my name or face on their newsfeed or hear someone mention me. I try to offer grace because I am in need of so much grace!
I want the world to know what I stand for…and not against. And I am for relationships… I really believe relationships matter! I really do believe that God loves everyone. RIGHT.WHERE.THEY.ARE! I really believe that we can have relationships with people who believe differently than us. And I really believe that we can work through incredibly messy stuff to be friends, family and live in community.
John 15: 12-15 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
I say all of this to say, relationships take work. The work will include laughs, tears, and determination. Don’t give up! Keep moving forward! Keep forgiving and asking forgiveness! Don’t let pride, baggage and unmet expectations keep you from moving past the messy into the beautiful.
For all those mom’s and dads that find themselves this time of year looking over the past 18 years and asking themselves “where did time go?” “how did my little boy/girl grow up so fast?” This year is the second year in a row I find myself reviewing 18 years of one of my children’s life. We are on the home stretch of writing the final chapter of Jordan’s childhood…high school is days away from being done. Middle school has long since been left and grade school seems like a lifetime ago.
I do not just simply ask the questions that I listed above but I also ask “if I did enough,” and “is he ready,” or “what did I forget” to name a few… The reality is this chapter is closing. Our family dynamics change again. We send another child away but not away from our hearts or our thoughts. It’s like you know the day is coming but then it gets here… and your heart is so proud that it wants to burst, but it is also so sad that you cry tears from a deep, deep place. You drive away and you realize this is where faith comes into place. Maybe that does not make sense to you…but it’s where you have to trust Jesus to hold them on a different level than what the last 18 years were like. Now it is them making decisions, wrestling with their faith and my Jesus. So that it will be their faith and their Jesus. The safety net of your home and boundaries are now removed. Their freedom is unleashed.
The thing about writing final chapters is this… God is the author and perfecter of our faith. As one more child leaves my nest I can rest in the fact that God is writing their story. It will be their story…filled with lots of good things, sprinkled with heartaches, and faith building experiences. Proverbs 22: 6 (MSG) Point your kids in the right direction—when they’re old they won’t be lost. That’s a promise…so I write it on my heart, and pray it over their lives and trust the One who is writing our story as an ongoing story of His story.
I will allow myself to slip down memory lane, remember the fist time I knew I was going to be their mommy. The first time I looked at their face and called them by name. I will remember first words, first smiles, first days of school and everything in between. I will count my blessings of each day spent with them. I will look forward to the future they are moving into. Their location may change but their lives are imprinted on my heart, I will continue to lift them to my Jesus as they make Jesus their own and seek Him for their career path, their spouse, their place to worship and to serve.
I wrote about Margin in my last post. It’s my word for the year. Since then I have been walking the tight rope of scrambling and resting in finding my normal. I was recently speaking to some people who are allowing God to transform their lives in BIG, HUGE ways about how sometimes we hold on to things because it has become our normal…our comfort zone so to speak…and I thought back to my word: margin. I really think that I have held on to things that I should have moved away from because holding on to them was normal. I had become so used to being known as busy that I felt like I had to live up to it…its what I knew…its what had become…comfortable. Except it really was not comfortable – it was exhausting. Since I wrote the blog, lots of life has happened. It was like I was declaring I must put margin in place and Satan stepped up his game. The journey of finding the new normal became unexpected, unscripted, exciting, terrifying and left me a little empty.
Empty is an interesting concept, because I believe empty is how God really wants us. When we empty ourselves of “us,” we let loose of all that we have been holding on to so tightly and we simply come to God, it is then that He can truly fill us with Himself. When He talks about us being jars of clay to be filled with the Holy Spirit, he can only fill empty things.
I found myself empty and sick. Physically sick. Emotionally drained. Spiritually empty. It was during this time that I found some truths that I needed to be able to move forward. I know this was confirmed in those days…I have to have margins. I have to create space in my life so that I can sing and say and declare “it is well with my soul.”
No one can make my soul well except the Author and Perfector of my faith, and for Him to be able to make my soul well, I must pay attention to the soul. To pay attention to my soul I have to control my schedule, my time, my commitments…I have to be intentional about spending time in the presence of the King. I do not want to sleep through the wonder of His holiness!
“Those who live at the ends of the Earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy.” Psalm 65:8 NLT
I wish I could write that I have this all figured out…that I have achieved margin. I cannot! What I can write is that I am on a journey with the my Abba Father. He is writing my story. He is directing my journey, He is so faithful to correct, to encourage, to pursue, forgive, offer grace and mercy and hold me when it all seems too much to bear. He is filling me with things I didn’t know I needed and subtracting things I thought I couldn’t ever let go of. He is showing me that this journey is unexpected and unscripted only to me… He has not been surprised by one single step.
I am learning that whatever I face I can cling to Jesus, as so many who have gone before me have done. In the midst of whatever it is – saying goodbye to loved ones, letting go of hurts and anger, fighting unimaginable battles – we can cling to Jesus and sing it is well with my soul. It is not about the unscripted and unexpected. It is about trusting Jesus to see you through it…no matter what.
Challenging as it is…my soul has become my focus. My soul-care is vital to me being the daughter of the King He has called me to be. I choose to focus on Jesus and the full life he has for me…and when I say full I do not meet full of busy. I mean full of Him.
So this wonderful, messy, unexpected, unscripted journey continues…