Where's Jesus?

Years ago, when the kids were small, Sunday mornings became something of a well-orchestrated exercise. It took two vehicles to get five people to church. I left early with my young daughter to set up for my Sunday school class, and my husband trailed a few minutes behind with the boys. After the service, we usually left in reverse order.

Following one Sunday morning service, I stayed behind arranging my classroom for something later in the week. My husband informed me he was going to take the kids home. I packed up my things only a minute or two behind my husband and headed for the house. Pulling in behind him in the driveway, I noticed the boys already playing with the dog but did not see our five-year-old daughter. My husband walked toward me with a jokey smirk on his face, while I sported the same.

"Where's Kaci?" he teasingly asked.

Thinking she had ducked down in the seat of his pickup, I answered, "Well ... I don't know? Where is Kaci?"

We exchanged this playful banter for only a couple more rounds, until it suddenly turned more somber.

"Seriously, where is Kaci?" we both anxiously inquired.

Immediately, I was sick to my stomach, realizing what we had done. My husband thought she had stayed with me; I thought she had gone with him. I raced back down to the church, expecting to find her little face and hands plastered to the glass of the front door of a locked church, screaming. Instead, she was calmly helping a dear woman empty the communion trays, but I still felt like we were the world's worst parents.

I wonder if that is how Jesus' parents felt when they learned they had left Jesus behind in Jerusalem

Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it (Luke 2:41-43)
Most likely, in the bustle of the feast and the crowd of people, they assumed Jesus surely was with someone in the large traveling group.

It would be three days before they reunited with Jesus; it was only three minutes before I found my daughter. They found Jesus in the temple speaking with the elders and teachers; I found my daughter in the kitchen sipping down surplus communion cups.

Have you ever wondered how Mary and Joseph could have possibly left Jesus, the Son of God, behind? How could they have traveled for so long before missing Him, but do we not do that ourselves? How often have we become so engrossed in the acceleration of our hectic lives that we really had not thought that much about Jesus for several days? It is easy to forego personal Bible study or Scripture reading because of a busy schedule, assuring ourselves that we will get back on track as soon as things settle down.

Perhaps we temporarily neglect our calling and leave the responsibility of keeping track of Jesus to a spouse or Sunday school teacher, assuming He surely is with him or her. Eventually, almost without notice, we lose focus and fear takes over. Finally, in a moment of chaos and panic, we recognize that we have walked away from Jesus.
 "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us" (Hebrews 12:1).
"Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV).
Praise God, Jesus will never leave us or forsake us, even when we walk away from Him.

He longs for fellowship with us every day, not just on Sundays or holidays. When Christ is our focus, He blesses us with the peace that surpasses all understanding.
"You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you" (Isaiah 26:3 NLT). 
Father, You are so holy. Worthy are You, Lord, of all glory, honor, power, and praise. Thank you for the strength and encouragement we receive from those who bear witness to Your goodness and mercy. Forgive us for taking our eyes off You for even a moment. Keep us in perfect peace as we set our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith. In Jesus' name, amen.

Read this story, along with others on the book site by clicking here. 

The Nest is Suddenly Empty . . . Now What?

I remember the day I held our firstborn in my arms, and suddenly our lives were changed forever. We weren't really sure we even knew what to do with this new blessing. But like all parents, we learned. In fun, I remember calculating the year of his high school graduation. At that time, 1999 sounded eons away. But then--we blinked--and it was here. We blinked again…and our middle son left in 2002. One more blink…and our daughter left in 2006. 

And as quickly as we became new parents, we became empty-nesters, and suddenly our lives were changed again. And again, we weren't really sure we even knew what to do with this new blessing.

Wings of Change

 (This began as a letter for our daughter on her high school graduation in 2006)


To our daughter upon her high school graduation:

          Oh my, how history repeats itself!  

          Do you remember “Delvin”, your second grade project of nurturing a caterpillar?

          We called it the Butterfly Wannabe. 

          You watched carefully everyday for small changes taking place in God’s creation that was now under your care. You grew impatient, as the caterpillar seemed oblivious to the orders nature had given him. Eventually, a cocoon formed and at times you even wondered if it had died, as the cocoon appeared motionless and unresponsive.

          Then, after what seemed an eternity, but was only a couple weeks, you awoke one morning to see that while you were sleeping, a beautiful monarch butterfly had finally emerged. 
We shared in your excitement of this “nativity in a jar” and we rejoiced like proud parents, calling family and friends who were aware of your project.  However, the reality now struck. You knew what it was time to do. 

           The final stage of the assignment was to tag and release him from the school parking lot. As you removed the lid from the jar, Delvin seemed to hesitate, as if he was comfortable where he was.  Nevertheless, as the fresh air made its way into his snug surroundings, his wings began to flutter wildly. It just seemed he needed a little help to launch. 

          Tears fell from your eyes as you reached in and lifted him from the jar, releasing him into the wide open space.  But the tears turned to laughter and cheers when you observed the power and strength in his wings as the breeze lifted him higher and higher, until he flew out of sight. 

          We now come to the moment I have dreaded since the day they laid your warm body, wrapped as tightly as a cocoon, in my arms. My dear child, I’m sure what seemed an eternity to you, feels like only a few short weeks for me.  But, as the winds of change stir your soul, may they lift you ever higher into the wide open space of your future.            
          The memories of your childhood will always warm your heart, but it will be your vision and dreams that will propel you forward. Let your mind be stayed on Christ, your Way, your Truth, and your Life, and your paths will be straight.  Moreover, know we are proud of the beautiful young woman who emerged before our very eyes.   
          May God bless and keep you and may His grace shine upon you as we release you into the plans He has for you, now and forever. 

Love, Mom & Dad

          Dear Lord, How amazing it is to compare our life to the caterpillar that is surrounded by the cocoon and struggles until it emerges a beautiful butterfly. I pray that as we all struggle through life's challenges, that we learn to lean on You and allow the cocoon of Your love to surround us and that the circumstances and trials help mold each of us into the beautiful creature You want us to become. Thank You for all You do. In Jesus' name, Amen.

What does INSECURITY look like?

What does insecurity look like? 

We typically assume that insecurity appears shy, introverted, fearful and anxious, with a weak voice and perhaps a stutter.

Not true. In fact, insecurity looks like many people who appear to "have it all together". It looks like me, and perhaps it looks like you.

Following is an actual conversation that took place about 30 years ago that struck me deeply enough to remember it after all these years. I was 23 years old and completely full of myself.

One cold and blustery day . . .

“You’re so lucky.” 
My pen froze as I looked up at the young convenience store clerk now leaning into my personal space as I wrote my check for fuel. (This was before pay at the pump)

           "Pfft. What do you mean? How am I lucky?"
“Well, what’s it like to be so pretty?” 
Embarrassed, I looked around to see if anyone else was close enough to hear. It was just her and me.
“Are you serious?” I replied. 
She nodded her sincerity, but how does one answer a question like that? 
“Your life seems so perfect,” she added.
"Seems" was the key word. 

Suddenly I felt a little guilty. I knew she gathered her perception by appearance only. I was dressed to the nines that afternoon—fox coat, nice jewelry, big hair, perfect makeup, nice car. (This was the 80s by the way) “If she only knew”, I thought. But, I appeased her sincerity. 
“To be honest”, I told her; “it is both good and bad. It has opened a lot of doors, but closed a lot of doors as well”. 

“And if you really want to know the truth, I am extremely insecure, and do not believe or trust most compliments.  But yours, I do accept. So, thank you.” 
I left, and chalked it up to the strangest convenience store encounter I’d ever had.

I look back on that encounter today, nearly 30 years later. I am no longer the fit “hard body” I once was at age 23. Gray has replaced the sun streaked hair of my youth. Time has etched its indelible tracks in the skin once so firm and smooth. The spring in my step creaks when I first get out of bed, feeling more like a tangled Slinky in the mornings; one that takes a little while to loosen. 

But not everything has changed. I still occasionally struggle with insecurity. Certainly not as much as I used to, but it still peaks around the corner at times, reminding me that I will never be good enough, listing every reason why I should throw in the towel.

I am not who I was at age 23 physically, emotionally, and praise God, spiritually. But even though my faith journey is more than 20 years old, insecurity is a battle I’ve yet to completely conquer. And like I once distrusted compliments, I find myself now distrusting God’s ability to use someone like me. Someone so broken and bruised. So undependable and untrustworthy.

I want to trust Him. I say that I trust Him, but my actions prove otherwise. I tend to measure myself against the skill and accomplishments of others rather than trusting God's work in me, giving me His desires and power to do what pleases Him (Phil. 2:13), and in His timing.

Recently, I revisited a favorite childhood Bible story of David and Goliath, but now through the eyes and heart of a maturing faith that hungers for God. 

David was the youngest son of Jesse, and still just a youth. But God had already chosen him to be king of Israel; a position he would not fill for many years. However, God chose him above all his older and much stronger brothers, especially his oldest brother, Eliab, an experienced and accomplished stud-warrior in the army of Israel. 
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his (Eliab’s) appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7)
God saw something of great value in David. He saw a heart after His own. David trusted in the Lord, fully confident that his strength came from God and not from his own might. (1 Sam. 17:45) 

Our greatest facades are often fashioned not to conceal our greatest sins, but rather, our vast emptiness. The hardest thing to conceal is that which is not even there. (crafted from an Eric Hoffer quote)

People are impressed with our strengths, but they connect with us in our weaknesses. (Craig Groeschel) 

Often, our insecurities come from an unhealthy preoccupation with “self”, with an “it’s all about me” mentality. Self-absorption and pride make for a lethal cocktail in relationships, and can hinder God’s work as well, as we often get in the way of what God is doing. 
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Romans 12:3)
True security comes when we recognize that God is the true source of our joy, peace, and righteousness (Romans 14:17), as well as the strength and work of our hands (Is. 30:15, Prov. 31:31, Ps. 90:17). God  promises that He will keep us in perfect peace when our minds are stayed on Him, because our trust is in Him. (Isaiah 26:3)  God will supply all our needs, not according to our assets, abilities, or resources, but according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19) 

Jer. 17:7 says, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord." Placing our trust in our strengths, abilities, physical appearance, or wealth only increases our insecurity for fear of losing it.

Every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17), and not of our own creation. God saw something of great value in David; He sees the same in you, no matter how blemished your past.  With open arms and a willing spirit, receive all that God has set aside for you. Polish it, practice and perfect it, using what God has given you for His glory and the empowerment and enrichment in the faith of others. 

Your thoughts?

Have you ever struggled with insecurity? 

Have you ever assumed someone else had it all together simply by their appearance? 

Divine Appointments

He loves His children so much and gives us each day just what we need for that day. 

One afternoon, a young man came to our home to install a new “high-tech” thermostat. Little did I know, or he, it would turn into one of those precious “God moments”. 

As soon as the contractor entered our home, I felt an instant connection with him, and he confirmed that connection within only a few minutes. He was a brother-in Christ. So we enjoyed our faith discussion on and off as he worked. 

After about an hour, he wrapped things up and prepared to leave, and with a deep sigh he added he still had a long trip ahead of him to another customer. He was tired. I felt I needed to ask if I could pray for him before he left. He eagerly accepted and removed his hat. 

I will admit to you that asking to pray for someone is still a bit difficult for me, and it truly is an act of obedience. However, it does seem the more I do it, the easier it becomes, and the more I also begin to see that it’s not so much about my words, but about God speaking through me if I allow Him. He can’t speak through a closed mouth. 
“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27) 
The words began to flow out of my mouth with ease, and it actually shocked me a little. I continued until I felt it was time to stop. 

“Amen and amen.”  So it is, and so it shall be. 

I looked up and the young man was wiping his face. He went on to share that the prayer confirmed what he felt the Lord was calling him to do. In addition, it gave him a peace and comfort regarding his life right now. He revealed that he had just lost his wife, the mother of their young children, two months ago to an aneurism, and times were very difficult for them. Now the prayer made sense. Once again, I stood in awe of the goodness and faithfulness of God and how He can use someone as flawed as me to bring a word of encouragement to someone in need.

Making yourself available to God can align you with some of the most awesome experiences.  With God, there are always hidden blessings. Just when I had begun to wonder if I was doing anything, or if I was making any difference at all, God assigned an appointment, giving me a booster shot, so to speak. Glory to God!

Give God permission to use you to comfort others and I promise you, He will provide the opportunities. Ask Him for the desires of His heart and He will give you those desires for your heart. And when He brings it, be obedient, and allow the Spirit of God to minister through you, and you will be blessed indeed. 
"Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak." (Col. 4:2-4, KJV)
Stay alert. Keep your eyes open. Watch with eagerness for those opportunities which the Lord brings into your day and often right into your path, even when you least expect it. Fine tune your spirit with prayer and a hunger to fulfill God's will for that day. There is an appointment coming with your name on it.

Lord of Glory, God of all comfort, thank you for Your goodness and lovingkindness. Thank you for the Prince of Peace who guards our hearts and our minds in difficult times. Help us Lord, to receive all that is ours in Christ today, for our specific needs. Use me, Lord, to comfort others as You lead. I give You permission now, in Jesus’ name, Amen and amen.