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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Bear One Another's Burdens

Aware: having general knowledge of a situation or a fact
Bear: carry or support; move, fetch, deliver, tote or lug
Care: concerned, attach importance to something; look after and provide for the needs of

Go with me to Galatians 6. In verse two it says, "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." In the Greek, the word burdens means to be hit in the chest, having the air knocked out of you, or struck by the enemy. Have you felt that way before? 

My husband and I have found ourselves in another season which has felt much like a sucker punch to the gut. I have continued to become sicker and weaker, leaving doctors confused and without answers and with me missing more days of work than I'd ever like to. My husband has been stretched thin trying to provide for us, complete his graduate school work, and take care of me. In addition to God's grace, it is the intentional care we've been shown by others that has helped us find courage for trials we are facing. 

There is a huge difference between being aware and having genuine care for others. It is easy to go to church and look up and down the aisles, aware of other's trials. Maybe you know of someone in a medical situation, a marriage crisis, a financial struggle, etc. It is the "Christian" thing to do to bow your head and agree with their prayer requests. Let's be honest, after that, you may or may not think of them throughout the week and offer a short prayer on their behalf. 

But do you care

In addition to prayer, what are you doing to care? Care is an action word that should be visible. Did you call and check on them - provide a meal - take them to coffee - mail an encouraging letter - offer to babysit without compensation? It is hard in this fast-paced society to do that anymore. We are so caught up with our own jobs, responsibilities and families that hands-on care of others is not the norm anymore. Intentionality is not easy to come by. To your grandmother, it was probably just the natural thing to do when someone was going through a hard time. 

The command in Galatians is to carry one another's burden - and so fulfill the law of Christ. You don't fulfill the law of Christ by simply saying a prayer when you see the person. You fulfill the law of Christ when you do something about it. When your prayers result in an action. When you go visit the person. When you help financially. When you bake some cookies. Send a card. Clean their house… 

'For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:35-40

It saddens me that as believers, this is an area we've has become so very lax. I have interviewed a few friends who agree that it's easy to be aware of the needs of your fellow church-goers, but do very little about it. If we are too busy or too inconvenienced to take care of the needs of one another, can we possibly be taking care of the lost who need Jesus so badly? 

Church, we are His hands and feet! My challenge to you is to use them this week to tangibly lift the burden of someone else in your circle. The needs are abundant. There is so much you can do! It doesn't matter how big or small the gesture. "Nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless." - 1 Corinthians 15:58

Maybe you are the one who has had the air knocked out of you. God will send people to you in your struggle to help you carry on. Receive the kindness of others without question. Let them help you. Let them bless you. Do not rob them of a blessing by being independent. Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is to ask for help - and accept it graciously. God did not design us to walk through this life alone. Lean on those around you and allow them to help lift the burden. 

Friends, bear one another's burdens this week. Take action. Go beyond aware and show someone you care. Lift the weight and allow your friend to catch a breath. There is always someone worse off than you - seek them out. In blessing them, you will find yourself blessed too. 

Thank you to my care team in this season: Daniel, I love you so. Thank you for loving me unconditionally. Mom & Dad  who have cooked, cleaned, puppy sat, marriage-counciled and served us faithfully. Nita, thank you for your sincere prayers and timely encouragement. Amanda, Rob & Kassie, for taking great care of my kids while I am out of the classroom. The West's for making us dinner, taking care of Flynn, watching our house and blessing us with baked goods! The Langford's for providing places to stay and meals as well as encouragement and prayers. My siblings for dessert and light-hearted fellowship. Rodney for helping us see Dr. K., George & Cynthia for being our Lubbock parents, Gertrude and Nanny for making me laugh so much! You all have truly helped bear this burden with us. May you reap what you have sown lovingly. Because of you all, we are feeling stronger, supported and ready to conquer the road ahead. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Embrace the Grit

Is grit really ever a good thing? I wondered that this week when I took a final sip of my coffee and inhaled a mouthful of grounds.  I'm not talking about tough and rugged cowboy grit. That is it’s own thing entirely! “Gritty” as an adjective usually doesn’t describe lovely things. No, it usually describes sandpaper or other hardware supplies...

From sanding down an old bookcase, to exfoliating in the shower (it’s a girl thing), grit is meant to remove what is there to create a fresh surface. While the result is always better than the original, the process flat out hurts. Can you relate?
 I’ve been in a “grit” season for a while. For the last six months, my husband and I have set out on a medical journey that has stretched and tested us like you wouldn’t believe. As unsurities mount, so do my emotions and concerns.  And if I’m being honest, so do the tensions. It seems as if every day we are getting rubbed the wrong way – pain is inflicted – a new struggle surfaces. Grit.

Did you know, the key ingredient in every pearl is dirt?

Dirt – grit – an irritant. That’s how the beautification process begins. Then a process occurs that – over time – takes that annoyance and makes something so beautiful that the grit is lost in the luster of the gem. 

Embracing something that is abrasive seems like a contradiction. However, if you are facing a “gritty” season of life, you must!

To embrace means to accept or support willingly and enthusiastically.

I will let that sink in for a moment. That challenge God has allowed to come your way, the prayers that seem to go unanswered, the relationship that hasn’t been restored, the missing finances, the diagnosis, the wounds that are slow to heal… that’s grit. Grit that God asks us to embrace with a voluntary and enthusiastic attitude.

It’s ok. I am really bad at it too! But, my brothers and sisters in Christ! We must stop merely surviving what God has asked us to decisively overcome. Romans 8:37 claims that we are “More than conquerors through Christ Jesus.” I struggle to understand what it means to be more than a conqueror… maybe it’s like demolishing the enemy – mercy rule type game. Whatever it is, it's fierce! 

When grit enters our world, it is our opportunity to prove the presence of God in our life – or to disprove it. 

The world is watching closely as you deal with this grit. Where is your faith? Your joy? Your peace? Your ministry? Did it get lost in the grit? Or is it still there? Being polished. Being resurfaced. Being made into something better than it would be on it’s own. Do others see what you're made of - the power and presence of Jesus Christ? Or, do the see you crumble and faint in the day of adversity?

I challenge you to be brave enough to believe God’s word from Isaiah 43:19 that says, “Look! I am doing a new thing! See, I have already begun. Do you not see it?” In order for something new to come to pass, the old must be done away with.  If God has allowed a season of grit to rough you up, be flattered. He is sanding away the old to prepare you for a fresh anointing, a fresh level of faith, a fresh hope in His promises.

But, if we continue to live as victims, angry that God would allow such a thing, the transformation we can expect to see won’t be a lasting one. Any carpenter will tell you that in order for the stain to take on the old bookshelf, the current stain must be stripped off and sanded down. If you skip that painstaking step, expect a messy, flaky semi-finished product.

You and I are so much more than a semi-finished product. We are the apple of God’s eye. Created in the image of Him. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Equipped for every good work. Don’t settle – embrace the grit.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

You Get What You Get and You Don't Throw a Fit

I teach 20 small people for 40 hours a week. In addition to multiplication and division, we are learning how to share and be thankful. At times the phrase, "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit," is a necessary reminder in my classroom. For some reason, my children seem to think they're entitled to what they want, when they want it. Remind you of anyone?

Recently, this phrase was necessary prior to passing out cupcakes. 
Let me tell you, if you've never
passed out colorful cupcakes to a classroom of 3rd graders, I invite you to try… Vanilla cake, chocolate cake, pink icing, blue icing, only a little icing. There are more options than you realize!

We were celebrating a classmate's birthday. The cupcakes arrived on a Friday afternoon with only five minutes to spare before the students were dismissed. To expedite the process of handing out the colorful birthday yummies, I made the announcement, "Class, you get what you get…" the students finished it, "And you DON'T throw a FIT!" 

I like to think my student's manners have improved this year. Many of them responded with gratitude when I handed them the cupcake. I made my way through the class quickly placing cupcakes on napkins. As irony would have it, I arrived at the last student's desk. I handed them a cupcake. "I want a chocolate one," the student whined. "I'm sorry babe. Remember, you get what you get? I didn't allow the others to choose today, so it wouldn't be fair if I made an exception for you. If you don't care for the one I gave you, you can just put it back."


The student continued to become so upset that tears were flowing and my patience waining. Now the child's screaming was audible down the hall. Prayerfully trying to maintain composure, I began to dismiss students to their after school destinations. The adamant student's fit was now a level 9 temper tantrum. Screaming. Hitting the desk. Hysterical crying. All of this over a cupcake. They didn't get what they wanted so it seemed appropriate to throw a fit. Never mind the delicious, free, beautiful cupcake on the desk. It wasn't exactly what this student wanted. 

I was about to absolutely lose it on this student when the Lord pricked my heart. "You throw fits like that too, Heather." Regardless of how much I tried to shake the thought, I knew I stood convicted. 

Selfishness is not a kingdom attribute. It seeps in so easily and unnoticed until it rears it's ugly head. Lately, I've had a list of "wants" I've submitted to God. For some reason, I feel as though I am entitled to what I want, when I want it. When I don't get EXACTLY what I desire, I throw a fit, get angry, whine, cry, complain. So, am I really any different than my exasperated 3rd grader? Nope. 

As I drove home that day with my eye twitching and my head pounding (It's May, folks. The days are loooonnnnggg.) My heart began to break. I knew how frustrated I felt dealing with this student; I was trying to give them a blessing. They refused it. How it must pain the heart of the Father when I reject the very blessing He is trying to bestow upon me! 

My reason for denying the student's request was that we were running out of time and I didn't have 30 minutes to pass out cupcakes to ensure that each student had the perfect cake flavor/icing color combo. I recognize that God's reasons are of much greater depth than my understanding. God's system for passing out blessings is always for my benefit. 

If He gives me something different than what I asked for, it's because that something is better than what I thought I wanted. 

Don't miss the blessing God is trying to give you. Be open minded, handed and hearted. Just say "Thank you!" for the cupcake He sets on your desk. Trust that He gave you what you really would have wanted had you known all the details. 

For the record, the student never ate the cupcake, continued the fit, and ended up smashing the cupcake to smithereens… the blessing was wasted. Have you ever wasted a blessing? I sure have.

Maybe it's the timing. Maybe you don't really know what you're asking for. Maybe there is something God is protecting you from. Maybe the Lord has something so much better in mind. "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit!" 

You, my Christian friend, get eternal life. You get freedom from your sins. You get the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You get countless promises in the Word. You get love that never fails. You get the hope of a future. You get peace that surpasses understanding. You get joy that turns into strength. You get beauty for ashes.  You get the armor of God, the fruit of the spirit…. 
Now then, is there really any 
reason to throw a fit?  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Do you SEE?

I remain in the waiting. It's amazing how a simple knee surgery has turned in to life-threatening blood clots, pulmonary embolisms, and a possible cardiac diagnosis. And I thought this surgery would be easy! At the present time I have five phone calls in to doctors awaiting answers. My return to work is still in limbo. My heart is tired. And I don't understand the purpose of this trial, yet. I'm still marching around my Jericho. 

Earlier this week, my mom and I were studying Joshua's conquering of the great city of Jericho as found in Joshua chapter 6. Moses is gone and now Josh is the man in charge. His first task is no small one: It's to defeat the great, fortified, powerful city of Jericho. Jericho - as in the first walled city in history. The Israelites had never seen anything quite like it. Scholars and Bible researchers believe the walls totaled seven stories high. (That's about 70 feet.) Can you imagine what the Israelites felt like that the base of those walls? Small, weak, insignificant, incapable, scared - probably. 

What struck me was verse two, "See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor." Next came the marching orders and how on the 7th day they were to blow their trumpets and give a great shout and watch the walls will fall down flat, giving Israel victory over the city.

But, at that point, nothing had happened yet. No victory. No organization of the army. Nothing. And the Lord says to Joshua, "SEE?" 

[See: perceive with the eyes or discern visually] 

No, Lord. I do not see. Quite frankly, I see a 70 foot wall. I see an army that makes me feel intimidated. I see the fear in the men I am leading. I see how impossible this situation looks. I don't even begin to see a victory yet!

Unlike me, Joshua didn't negotiate with the Lord. He confidently set about and followed the Lord's instructions. While he did not SEE the victory with his physical eyes, he could perceive it through eyes of faith. 

Joshua's confidence was a decision based upon what God had done for him in the past. 

Joshua was there when God parted the Red Sea. He saw manna fall from the sky. He was familiar with the cloud and pillar of smoke. Joshua watched water gush from the rock. He saw the glow of Moses coming down from the mountain… He was well aware of God's goodness and faithfulness to him and to the rest of God's people. If you stop and think about it, I bet you've seen God's faithfulness in the past too.

By faith, Joshua showed up to the battle. He followed the instructions and trusted God's timing. The unconventional battle style gave God 100% credit for the victory. I have found that more often than not, the God of this universe is moved to action by our faith. All He wants is our trust and obedience to show up, so He can show off. 

What is your Jericho? The impossible situation that you can't possibly conquer without the hand of God? Maybe a medical diagnosis. Depression. Addiction. Fear. Concern for a loved one. A marriage on the rocks. Bills that stack higher than your income. A broken family. Abuse... If you're human, you have one. Keep marching around it, trusting God to move.

We must learn to march in quiet obedience. 

There was to be silence during the march; except for the trumpets. We don't need to talk about how impossible our situation is. Or how crazy we think Joshua is for making us do something so dumb. Or how tired we are of walking. Or how scared we are. Or how long we've been at it. The command for quiet was for their own protection against the enemy of Satan. Quit talking about your Jericho for the world to hear. Quit posting it on social media. Quit confessing with your mouth how unhappy you are. Don't give the enemy a foothold like that! March quietly and obediently as you reflect on His goodness to you in the past.

Don't panic if you don't SEE the victory yet. Through your physical eyes, you will only see the impossibility of it all. As believers, we work every day to view life through eyes of faith. Eyes that see with eternal perspective what is possible by the hand of God. Activate your faith eyes to SEE. Rather than fear, act with confidence that demonstrates faith in God's plan for your life - and His plan for your Jericho. 

"The one who called you is faithful. He will surely do it." 

You may not see it now. The walls of your Jericho will fall. Hang on to the promises found in God's word. It may look majorly unconventional to you, even downright crazy at times, but the design of it all is that 100% of the glory for your victory goes to God. 

                               Victory only comes by God's power. 

Until then, keep marching around your Jericho. Obedient, hopeful, quiet, full of faith in God's goodness. Victory doesn't come by your worrying, striving, trying, manipulating, conversing… So, give it up. Chill out. Choose to SEE through eyes of faith. God is faithful. He will surely do it. Keep marching.  Wait and SEE.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sometimes It's God

Do I have a valid reason for not keeping my blog active? NO. So, I won't even try to defend myself and just admit that I have avoided writing and have avoided God's tug at my heart with a vengeance. There is no explanation… I just finally had enough nights in the belly of the whale and here I sit, begrudgingly obedient:

I find myself in another season of trial. Two weeks ago I went in for a routine arthroscopy of my left knee. The surgery was successful and I was home the same day. Three days later is when the calf pain began. Tests showed a blood clot. Then the blood thinners. Then the clot was gone and we stopped all meds. I still felt terrible. CT scan showed the clot blew and I am now dealing with five pulmonary embolisms in my right lung. Tests will continue to determine the cause of it all. I have been married to Fireman for only ten months... (Boy, he had no idea what he was in for, did he?) 

He sat with me on the couch one night after a particularly long and difficult day at the doctor's office. "I am so tired of these attacks," he said. "Satan, you have no place in our home. You leave us alone in the name of Jesus." While I am thrilled that my husband spiritually leads and fights for our family, I was somewhat surprised at my own response to his prayer. "Sweetie, sometimes it's not the enemy… sometimes it's God.

I sat and processed what I had just said. I was quickly reminded of the story of Jesus walking on water in Matthew 14

"Immediately (after He performed the miracle of feeding 5,000) He made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds." 
HE MADE them go. 
Kinda like when your mom MADE you wash your hands before dinner. Remember, it wasn't a choice - it was a command. There was no wiggle room for the disciples on this one. It would have made far more sense for the disciples to stay and dismiss the crowds and allow Jesus to escape, but noooo, Jesus always knows best (and often does the opposite of what makes sense to us.) He decided instead to dismiss the disciples from the miracle and send them on an adventure to the boat.

You'll recall the story. The boat ends up far from the shore and is beaten by the waves and wind working against them. This was no pleasure cruise. The disciples were all awake - all hands on deck - working to keep the boat moving the right way. Meanwhile, Jesus was up on a mountain, overlooking them, praying. I imagine He was praying for them. 

Sometimes the storm that you find yourself in is a God-SEND. Nope, that's not a typo. God was the one to SEND you into it. There is something He desires to grow in you. There is a part of your faith that wouldn't come alive if you were on the mountaintop. 

Often times, when bad or difficult situations come up in our lives, Christians are quick to blame them on the enemy. Caution: that's not always the case. Sure, the devil has tried to take elements of this trial and plant fear, doubt, miscommunication, etc. just to stir the pot. But, without a doubt, I am 100% confident that the Lord is the one who sent us in to this one. His presence has been so evident through it all. Never once have we felt abandoned. 

The disciples seemed to have the storm under control. Kinda like us, huh? We've got this! They were seasoned fishermen. They had worked the waves before; and by-golly, they were handling it just fine! Fear didn't sink in until they saw a ghostly figure approaching them in the darkest hour of the night. (Let me also point out once again - the terrifying ghostly figure wasn't Satan!) It was their LORD! When things get even darker and scarier, keep your faith. That's often where Jesus shows up. 

He tells them, "Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid." The "it is I" is the same text found in Exodus 3 where the Lord tells Moses, "I am the I AM" In other words, "I will be what you need me to be." 

When Jesus walks on the water toward the boat is where we encounter the courageous story of Peter stepping out of the boat and walking on water with the Lord. GO, PETE!!! But then what happens next is the largest miracle of all to me:

Jesus gets in their boat. 

He got in the middle of their mess. In the middle of the storm. In the darkest part of the night. And peace is brought. 

Jesus is willing to climb into your boat too. Whatever your mess, whatever your struggle. Admit that you "don't got it" on your own. It tends to speed to process. He won't pass you by, deeming your mess too much for Him to handle. He is the I AM. Your Healer, Provider, Safety, Strength, Courage, Joy, Lover, Friend, Father, Teacher, Shepherd…. What do you need? He IS that for you. 

By an act of faith, recognize that sometimes He allows these tough things to come our way. 

I am confident the disciples got off that boat as changed men! The scripture tells us they recognized Jesus as, "truly the Son of God." They saw Him for who He really was. I am sure they had more than a few stories to tell! It's not every day you see a dude walking on the water… let's make that two dudes walking on the water. Oh, ya, and that crazy storm that stopped once Jesus' sandal touched the floor of that boat! You had bet the disciples were talking!  And, I'm pretty sure they were different men for having been in the boat that night. 

In exchange for the storm, God gives us a story.

I believe that some of you are in a God-SEND trial right now. Trust that He remains on the mountain interceding for you. You are never out of His sight. Trust that at just the right time, He will come to you. He will reveal Himself in a mighty way. And HE will climb into your boat and get you to the other side as a better and stronger version of yourself.  

If Jesus directed you into the storm, be confident that HE will get in your boat and steer you safely to your next destination. Hang on to your faith and quit blaming the enemy for the very thing that God is allowing to strengthen you and reveal Himself to you. Satan should never get that much credit…. Sometimes it's God.