When the Heart Kneels

My husband recently had a “bro night.” Apparently if girls can have girl time then guys have bro nights; you know, equality and all. Usually I’m not interested in whatever activity is taking place but it just so happens that they decided to go see a movie that I had been anticipating the release of for awhile. I find that the universal theme of heroism resonates no matter the age or gender. The movie industry banks millions, probably billions, of dollars a year on movies that show the selfless act of an individual towards another. So it is no surprise that the recently released movie “American Sniper” is destroying the competition and breaking opening records for this past weekend.

Now this is not a pro- or anti- military post. It is not pro- or anti- war. It is simply to be used as an example of our deep love of heroism. It can be found outside of the military lifestyle; in selfless acts of protecting others in school shootings, terrorist acts, or risking one’s life to save another from fires, car wrecks, or countless other life threatening situations. But seeing as how I pull from my personal experiences (ex-military family members, Texan, etc…) then this movie made me think the most about sacrifice.

If you had a chance to read my previous post “When the Heart Grows Legs” then you’ll know I was sharing the sacrifice our heavenly Father made to send His Son Jesus to a dying world. The heartbreak and anguish of a Father seeing His perfect Son given to the world for its sins. I wonder now if you would look at the Son and his choice.

Imagine if you will the son choosing to sacrifice himself for others. As a mother of two boys I can not imagine the anguish that would come with having to bury one of them. I wonder if the way they die matters? Would I feel less pain if I knew they had sacrificed themselves for the greater good? Would dying a hero ease the pain that would surely wash over me every day of my life? No. My answer is NO. The pain would not be easier to take. My son’s sacrifice would be saying more about who he is and less about who I am. I would take comfort in knowing the kind of character that defined him. I would relish the thought of him dancing in heaven and being with God. But the cost of that sacrifice would be incalculable to a me as a parent. So when I hear of religions that teach other ways to God implying that His son Jesus Christ is only one of many avenues to God then honestly I’m dumbfounded. When Jesus says, “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life. The ONLY way to the Father is through me” well, He’s clear on how many avenues lead to God – 1.

Jesus defines the term hero – selfless sacrifice for the greater good, disregard for one’s own life to save another, an act defined by humility, honor, and bravery. He was born fully man, fully the King of Kings, and with only one thought – the redemption of mankind. At any time of His life He could have lived as an earthly king instead choosing one of servitude. At any moment of distress, He could have called down a legion of angels to fight for Him or guard Him. At the first sign of hunger, He could have turned anything into food. Instead God’s heart, His son, willingly gave the ultimate sacrifice. He said and lived by His Word:

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13.

To sacrifice for your loved ones, family or friends, is a noble cause, however, He was sacrificing for the ones who would spit in His face, beat and torture Him, deny Him, mock Him,and eventually, murder Him.

I’ll close with this story:

On a rare sunny day in February, winds are blowing through the early season blooming magnolia trees, a scent of love is smelled and a feeling of warmth is created by the crowd. A man steps forward and begins to speak about love. He is frail but not aged, well dressed but not well spoken. He stumbles through his speech all the while glancing at a lady staring off into the distance. He knows what she is searching for across the tree lines, waiting in anticipation of the arrival of the one she is longing to hold.

Afterwards as the crowd slowly disperses, the man and woman stand rooted in one spot as though they are as unmovable as the magnolia trees around them. Then a young man approaches, a face of a teenage boy but the eyes of a mature man.  He holds out his hand to the man, “Sir, I wanted to thank you personally for your sacrifice.” As the young man continued in a shaky voice, “It was my life that was spared due to your selfless act of protection. I could never repay you for all that you have done for me. You will forever have my respect and love.” The father stood confused as the man turns to walk away. “Son? I don’t know you. Are you sure you are not referring to my son?”

The young man glances down as the casket is being lowered into the ground. “Well, I did serve with your son. He was a great guy. Always kind, generous with his knowledge and resources, and even willing to take the missions no one else wanted. Many around me spoke highly of him, some worshiped the ground he walked on, as though every think that came from his mouth was gospel. On that fateful day in March, it was my life that was saved as your son pushed me down to the dirt, taking that deathly hit to the heart. But I came to acknowledge your sacrifice. You and your wife did an amazing job raising him. Thank you. If there is anything I can ever do for you, please do not hesitate to call upon me.”

The father smiles, “Remember my son. That would be what we ask of you. Acknowledge him as the one who sacrificed himself for you.” The young man stares off, “I’m sorry sir but I can’t do that. You see, your son was just doing what he was told to do, it was his job to be wiling to sacrifice himself for others. I am certain there are many other ways in which I could show my respect and love for you.” The young man waited in anticipation of what other act that father would give him. A grieving father slowly shook his head no as a lone tear slide out of his eye, “The only way to me is through my son.”

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me.”


A Heart with Legs

Recently a friend of mine’s home was broken into while she was welcoming the birth of her first grandson. What a priceless time to experience such a violation. As I sat recanting the news to my husband, my son who is 8 years old heard our conversation. We used it as an opportunity to go over our family safety plan in the case of a fire or any situation in which we needed to get out of the house. My son said “But mommy what about you and daddy? Who will make sure you are okay?” I replied, “Son, you are our heart. Everything that is priceless to us lives in you. If our children are safe then we can focus on getting out too.” It seemed to reassure him and he had no additional questions but that conversation has stayed with me for the last couple of days.

I don’t live in fear. I anticipate that death will come for each of us at some point and I firmly believe that no man can rob me of my God given appointed time to die nor my children’s time. I am not being insensitive to those who have lost children. To bury a child must be the most….indescribable form of pain to endure. I have a few friends who have lost children and it is agonizing to watch them have their heart decimated into a million pieces. It is why the above quote is a powerful truth. Our children are our heart walking on the outside of our body. If you want to incite my anger do anything against my children. If you want to hurt me to the core then reject my children. If you want to have my undying gratitude then love my children. If you want to know me greater then know my children. All my successes and failures, my mannerisms and bad habits, will stand before you with the most mesmerizing smiles and eyes staring back at you.

As I stood there with that quote rolling around in my head and contemplating all the ways I could be devastated by my children being harmed, it was in that moment that a bigger, greater truth almost floored me. It literally took my breath away and I had no words to respond back as the Spirit released these words back into my existence: For your God, who so loved you, gave HIS one and only son to die so that you would have life eternal with your Father.

“There was a time when probably the best-known Bible verse would have been John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” It seemed as though everyone either knew this verse or knew a little bit about it.” (http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-bibles-most-popular-verse-95216/)

Use to be? As though it’s old news replaced by statements like “awe, yeah, I heard that already” or “yeah, I got it, he loved me.” But in that moment the other night, I got a tangible image of God’s love and sacrifice for me. His heart walking in flesh enduring ridicule, rejection, overwhelming responsibility, being hated, and beaten then hung on a cross for all to see. As His mother writhed in agony, never leaving Him, not being able to do anything to change the circumstances. God watching His son being given to the world so that each person would have the choice to accept him or reject him completely. A choice!

We live in times that say “Jesus can’t possibly be the only way!” That you can get to God without having to know Jesus. That the cross is a gruesome exaggeration. Or that you believe Jesus was God clothed in flesh but the death was tolerable because he was God. I’ve never met a parent who found the death of their child tolerable based on the circumstances in which they died, or whether they suffered much or little. God is drawn to the brokenhearted (Psalms 34:18) because He has been there. How could a father allow anyone to reconcile with him if they are still rejecting his son’s sacrifice? Jesus was the sacrificial love and He is the only way.

As a mother who types these words right now, I can say with certainty that I would give myself in a second for God’s will but I pray that the day will never come that I must make a choice to give my children’s life. (That is more end time teaching that I am not called to speak about at this time.) If you are a parent then I am certain you grasp what I am saying to you.  But even if you are not a parent, you are a child and I pray that you would take a moment to ask your Father to reveal His great love for you.

Ephesians 3:14-19 (NIV)

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Building Community Connections

Each of us are living in some form of culture whether it is based on ethnicity, economics, faith based, common interest based. Within your home there is a culture of ______ happening. I did not know until I moved to Hawaii from Texas that I had a culture. As I lived in this foreign place I realized I had very distinct ways, food, traditions that were ingrained in me. Those things competed with my current environment. So what could I do to blend both and stay true to who I/we are? When we find ourselves in a place that seems to be foreign, different than anything we’ve experienced before, God reminds us to build community. He is giving us the blueprint to succeed in a new culture. « What is your idea of community based living?» «Do you consider you and your family to be an introvert or an extrovert? And what do you do to connect with others?» «What one or two goals could you set to accomplish over the summer that would plug you into the community you live?»

Jeremiah 29:5-7

5“Build houses and settle in the land. Plant gardens and eat the food they grow. 6Get married and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons, and let your daughters be married so they also may have sons and daughters. Have many children in Babylon; don’t become fewer in number.7Also do good things for the city where I sent you as captives. Pray to the Lord for the city where you are living, because if good things happen in the city, good things will happen to you also.” 

25 Ways to Communicate Respect

Something I am always working on and I know it pays big dividends. Please love you husband with your whole being.

Loving Life at Home

Actions speak louder than words. You can say you respect your husband, but he’ll have a hard time believing that unless your behavior backs it up.

What does respectful living look like? Here are 25 ways you can communicate respect to your spouse without uttering a word. If you’ll make it your habit to do these things, the next time you tell your husband how much you respect him, he won’t have to wonder if you really mean it.

  1. Choose Joy
    It’s true: A happy wife makes a happy life. Please don’t use moodiness as an attempt to manipulate your man, but in all things rejoice, because that’s the right thing to do. (1 Thessaonians 5:16; Philippians 4:4)
  2. Honor His Wishes
    Give weight to what your husband thinks is important. Make those things a priority that matter most to him, whether it’s having dinner ready when…

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One Rebellious Donut

I love donuts. I’m from Texas and I’d have to say I believe every Texan loves donuts. You can find a donut shop in every large and small town across the state. Since moving to Hawaii, I have relegated myself to only being able to eat donuts from the grocery store and although sub par, they cure the craving.
So today while grocery shopping, I decided to give into my guilty pleasure and buy 2 donuts to eat with my Starbucks coffee on the way home. After checking out, I thought better of getting a Starbucks drink. I am doing my best to live a healthier lifestyle in 2014 and that combo seemed like trouble.
Every once in a while I’ll think to myself “I wonder how many calories are in this donut?” But I never actually inquire because well, I really don’t want to know. I just tell myself that it is a rare treat and I’m sure it’s not that bad.
Thing is, today, I asked myself that question while eating that delicious chocolate donut and replied to myself in my normal “you don’t want to know then you are accountable” thought. Then another overriding voice came into my mind. A thought that reflected more about myself than I wanted that donut to – That’s how I read God’s Word.
Yikes! Am I avoiding specific areas or truths of the Bible because I don’t want the knowledge that makes me accountable to choose the right path? When I scarf down those donuts then it goes against my desire to live healthier in my eating choices. I am responsible for the changes in my body because of that choice. Now maybe that means I cut something out later or exercise more to cover that guilty pleasure but either way, those consequences land solely on me.
The way I choose to study God’s Word, including choosing not to look into specific teachings, THAT shapes my spiritual body. Now I may be growing in other areas but the things in life that I am just saying “lalalala…don’t want to know” are producing spiritual consequences. Sometimes I feel like I keep repeating the same lessons over and over, maybe the truth is that I am repeating the same lessons over and over because I’m making a choice to NOT learn new ones.

Food for thought today…yes, pun intended! I’d love to know your thoughts so leave a comment below.

Practicing Protestant

I have this great new friend! I am so excited to be in the new beginnings of this relationship because it is similar to falling in love. All the newness: new stories, new perspective, new jokes, no offenses(yet), no disagreements (yet), no struggles (yet)…you want to hang out all the time and organize your life so you encounter each other more. I love it!

My new friend and I share so much in common. A passion for great TV shows, to become better mothers and wives, and most importantly – a passion to share what, who, and how much God loves. There is no subject that doesn’t usually lead us straight back to “And how does this work in His Kingdom and how do I model that Kingdom here?” I’ve vetted my new friend thoroughly by watching how she acts with others/her children/her husband, I have diligently spent an hour looking through and reading all her Facebook postings and photos over the last year, and even Googled her. This is a lady I hope to raise my sons around so I need to be sure that the influences I place around my children are solid in their love of God.

So imagine my surprise, a few months into this relationship, when she told me she was Catholic! Now, please don’t go off on me about Catholics are Christians too (I do know that) but I admit to being ignorant to what Catholics believe and most of my information has been based on movies. And those thoughts ran along the lines of solemn, quite, strict rule followers, ritualistic not relational about Jesus, etc…But she didn’t show up on my “nun” radar. As a matter fact, she is a kind of fresh breath of the coexistence of religious reverence and radical faith.

Here is a snippet of our conversation:

P: “So you know I’m Catholic, right?”

Me: “What???”

P: (laughing) “You didn’t know that?”

Me: “No. You don’t look Catholic. Are you a practicing Catholic?”

P: “Yes”

Me: (stunned) “I don’t even know what that means to be a ‘practicing Catholic’ I’ve just heard people ask others that question.”

And we are both laughing at this point.

Driving home by myself, pondering this great revelation, I heard a voice inside me speak “Are you a practicing Protestant?” I realized that we ask if people are “practicing” Catholics or Jews but I’ve never heard anyone ask if you are a practicing Protestant (or even more specific a practicing Assembly of God, Foursquarer, Baptist, etc…) . And looking at the country I don’t think any of us should assume that people are practicing any faith. It is a question that has been on my heart for the last week: Would someone say of me “she practices what the Bible teaches”? Sure, I got my checklist of good: Tithing (check), Regular church attendance (check), prayer before meals (check), christian friends (check), christian phrases (check).

It’s the issue of the heart, the one thing no person can see or judge but God Almighty. Do I mediate on His word day and night? Do I model it at home, driving, socializing? Do I seek it first in both joyful times and heart-wrenching times? Do I practice love, patience, kindness, humility, compassion, discernment, reverence? I didn’t like the answers being given to these questions – the true ones that I only answer in the silence of my heart and mind. I am thankful, most of all, that I don’t feel condemned but encouraged by the Holy Spirit. To wake up today, with new mercies and a blank slate, and a renewed heart to practice my faith.

What about you? Where do you need to start practicing today?

“Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.”

 Joshua 1:6-9 (Msg)

To Live In Marriage IS Choosing God

I’ve been pondering the idea of marriage. If you live in the United States then you are or have had to think about what defines the concept of marriage as well. We are all watching the country begin to shift toward a different legal definition of marriage. However, the concept of marriage and the origins can not be redefined.

Marriage, whether a conscience decision or not, is a spiritual one. And therefore to live in marriage IS choosing God. If that concept intrigues you, please continue to read and see how I came to this conclusion over buttermilk pancakes one day.

A friend and I met the other day and among the many things we talked about, we landed on the subject of getting married. We both married our spouses prior to becoming Christians. We discussed the issues that lurked in our hearts and within our relationships prior to dedicating ourselves to live as the Bible has taught us, and how to live it out with those issues still present in marriage. Through the conversation of broken homes, bad habits, and emotional bankruptcy within our childhood & adulthood, we realized that we encountered God in a tangible way the day we married. Both of us had very different circumstances and ceremonies to our wedding day but afterwards, whether we realized it or not, we had stepped into the heavenly realm, even if it had been accidental on our part.

When I was a kid, my friends and I did this crazy thing where we closed ourselves up in a bathroom with all the lights off and tried to say “Candyman” 10 times without freaking out. I’m glad I was in that bathroom because I was about to pee my pants on the 3rd time and by the 5th time we were all running out of the bathroom screaming. Later as a teenager, someone invited me to play a game on the Ouija board. I declined because I was a scaredy cat…still am. Then as as an adult I was invited to go to some sacred land and participate in a chant to the “gods” of that land. Again, something within me, was scared.

What do those examples have to do with the sanctity of marriage? In all three of those situations, I was being tempted to step into the realm of darkness. I was ignorant of it in my mind but my spirit wasn’t. I know people who accidentally stepped into the realm of darkness by shrugging these thing off as just “fun activities”. I have stepped accidentally into the realm of darkness by doing drugs, drinking excessively, viewing pornographic material, all of which have had some effect on me because I thought these would just be fun activities to participate in. But here is the good news, if you can accidentally step into darkness then you can accidentally step into the heavenly.

Now I realize I should define my use of “accidentally”. I mean I was not making a conscience effort to pick any side of spirituality. I was not thinking of God or the devil. I was just living and making choices that benefited me or brought me happiness, no matter how temporary it might have been. I went on the church bus occasionally as a kid when my mom needed some time to herself. It was okay; I got some little treat on the bus and everyone was always nice at the churches. I also use to pray for what was happening in my life i.e. “God please help me look hot so this guy wants me” or “God help my mom to be happy so we can all be happy” or “Oh Jesus, help me get an A on this test.” At 17 years old, I married my husband. There was a part of me that was just trying to escape my home life but mostly I married because he made me see good in myself and I loved him for that. In all these situations, I had stepped into the heavenly realm.

Marriage is a covenant. It is a biblical concept or promise created and maintained by God. He gave it to us to represent three very distinct things: the relationship He wants with each of is most represented in the concept of marriage (bride and groom), to partner in bringing life to this earth through childbirth, and to complement each other (men and women definitely think differently) on this journey of life on earth.  When you enter into a marriage, you are stepping into the heavenly realm.

Marriage is not a moral issue, or an institution. Both of those are dependent on how society views morals and a contract by law. Marriage is a biblical concept and it can only be fully enjoyed within the confines of biblical living. How many people have you encountered, or heard, of that were together for a long time or lived together, got married, and then divorced soon after? How many people do you know who married in a church but divorced in a court? Unfortunately, I know quite a few, and let me tell you, I was very close to being one of them. The fact is that most people say “oh I don’t need a sheet of paper to tell me I love someone” or “you get married and everything changes so ‘thanks but no thanks'” They are absolutely right!

You see, marriage is hard (that is not nearly a strong enough word) and when you step into the heavenly realm and the full weight of God’s promise rests within marriage, well, you either turn to the Inventor to see how it works, or you crumble under the weight of it. I am not saying people don’t do their absolute best to make it work, believer or nonbeliever, but I am saying that a biblical concept can only be lived out within the parameters of biblical living.

For those stepping into the institution of marriage as defined by the State, whether believer, nonbeliever, regardless of sexual orientation, you are committing to abide by the law of the land. But if you want to be in a covenant marriage defined by God, one blessed by God, then you have to be dedicated to living within the parameters set forth in the Bible. Like I heard said regarding your marital relationship: “You can be a 100% blessed by the State but 0% blessed by God.” You have to choose whether to follow the law of the land (meaning what has been made ‘legal’ by the country) or the laws of Heaven.

So let’s start cleaning house. Lets rid our marriages of anything not of God – Playboy magazines, strip club visits, (maybe watching True Blood), excessive partying (incl. drug use or excessive alcohol), degrading comments to and about each other, physical abuse, etc…we all know it is a long list and it may seem impossible to do. “But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Imperfect changes are slow steps of progress wrapped in grace…imperfect progress.”(1)

Phillipians 1:27 (NLT) Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic. Leave a comment below!

Additional Readings: Malachi 2:2-14 (AMP), Mat 19:4-6 (MSG) 
(1) Mrs. Lysa Terkeurst, Unglued: Making Wise Choices In The Midst Of Raw Emotions, pub. 2012, Ch. 1
*Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Institution – a significant practice, relationship, or organization in a society or culture <the institution of marriage>
Covenant – a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action.*  In the Hebrew scriptures, an agreement or treaty among peoples or nations, but most memorably the promises that God extended to humankind.