Create in me a clean heart

Part of my family lives in Minnesota, so you can understand why what happened there recently really hit home. {For those of you who aren’t familiar with what’s going on in the states, here it is…

George Floyd was a 46-year old black man suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill. He died after a white officer held him down on the ground with the officer’s knee pressing down on Floyd’s neck. Floyd pleaded with him – stating that he couldn’t breath. He died after being held down for approximately nine minutes. This was all caught on video and has been shared via news media and the internet. The officer was first fired, then later charged. Protests have taken place everywhere – some peaceful, some are not.

As the days have gone by since that day, there’s something that really pierced my heart. Not to deny that there is a racial problem, but this is what consumes my thoughts: The way the police officer held down George Floyd, and the fact that the other officers stood there watching reflects an attitude or belief that life doesn’t matter when someone has done something wrong. Maybe that’s not true for every one of them that stood by, however, it’s the message that was sent.

Friends, where would we be now if God handled us in such a way? Time after time I have sinned – we ALL have, yet He still loves us. There are consequences to our actions, but there is also hope for tomorrow. Better yet – forgiveness. I still have to do my part and repent and stop doing whatever it is I’m doing wrong, but God continues to give me the tools that I need to overcome.

How did we develop this attitude that WE are the judge? All you have to do is look at the comments after a FB post is made.

For example, have you known someone who was arrested for drugs, underage drinking, or for stealing? Did you think ‘they’ll never change’ or did your heart fill up with compassion and pray to our creator for that person and their family? Have you tried to come up with solutions that would help those who struggle with addiction etc., or do you write them off as losers and find yourself muttering these words: They’ll never amount to anything.

There is a place where we all can find the wisdom, hope, and encouragement that we need for today – and that’s in God’s Word. People sin – and their selfishness, pride and jealousy causes them to hurt people – physically and/or mentally. Look what happened to Joseph. His brothers were jealous of their own brother – so they sold him into slavery. He later had the opportunity to destroy them, and yet he chose to forgive them. Instead of developing a bitter heart, he saved them and many others. When we allow the love of Christ to dwell in our hearts and stop judging, love wins. Change happens.

There’s one more story that I have to share. It was about a man who was betrayed by his own friends, falsely accused by others, and was tortured to death as many stood by – cheering. He was an innocent man. You might have heard about him – his name was Jesus.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

”Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8

”Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command:Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:20-21

Does Jesus Still Perform Miracles?

“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “it was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.” John 9:1-7

What an amazing story, right? A miracle. I can’t imagine what the blind man experienced the moment he realized he could see! Did he wonder why Jesus healed him? Did he wonder why it took so long? Why now? Or – was he so amazed at everything he saw that he didn’t question anything.

I recently heard a sermon on the above scriptures from the book of John. I love how people have that gift to explain scripture in such a way that we can see how it provides important lessons for us today.

How about you? Are you like me and get so wrapped up in something that’s painful that you miss seeing the obvious that God is making something right?

Whatever it is that you’re going through, God is up to something.

Reflection: Is there something in your life that has changed that would glorify God? Perhaps that’s your miracle.

A New Life

In this time of uncertainty, I long for God’s presence more than ever.

What seemed so real and dependable, you know – those things that filled our time up with memories, are now suddenly gone. Vanished into thin air. So now we experience the emptiness of life and we grieve the loss of our normal. There’s no hiding the truth that this transition hurts. It’s difficult. It’s confusing. It’s convicting.

The encouraging truth is, however, we need not suffer from hopelessness – because our God lives. And He’s taking us to a new land. A new life. We just need to trust Him.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I can’t do this

One of the benefits of getting to watch church online is that I now have the opportunity to watch my favorite pastor, who happens to be my husband, share a message and then listen to several other ministers preach as well. For example, I’ve recently been blessed to watch a high school friend preach, and then I worshiped with another friend as he shared the gospel from his basement. Who would’ve dreamed that I would watch three different sermons on a Sunday morning?

Here’s the thing, I agree that we are the church. That phrase, in my opinion, has been used way too much. It’s like listening to the weatherman say the same thing over and over again when there’s a storm coming. WE GET IT! When you repeat the same thing 50000 times, it causes a person to stop listening and change the channel – or turn it completely off. I know It’s not the building, the pews, or the history behind the church building that makes us love God — but there are some things that do make me love worshiping with others.

Just in case you’re not following me, this is what I’m talking about…

I miss those moments when I get to hug someone and say, “Hey, how have you been? I noticed you weren’t here last Sunday.” Or, when someone walks up to you and says, “I need to talk to someone,” or maybe they let you know that they’ve been praying for you. There’s something about making eye contact — it allows you to see and feel their pain or joy.

And there’s more.

I love those moments when you hear a newborn baby’s cry echo in the Sanctuary, the crackling of candy wrappers in the pew behind you (because it reminds you they are there), soft whispers from a parent to their child, the closeness of the Holy Spirit that fills a Sanctuary while you listen to a Senior Saint recite a prayer from his heart, and when someone unexpectedly walks forward for prayer or to be baptized. One of my favorite memories was getting goosebumps when I heard Mark’s grandpa sing from his heart just a few pews away from me. No one sings like that unless they love the Lord. What a witness. All of those things draw me nearer to God.

With that being said, I am beyond thankful for all of those people in the ministry who are stepping out of their comfort zones to make sure people are still hearing the gospel. They are working tirelessly in different ways to encourage people to dig deeper in the Word and draw close to Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit. Maybe all of this is a hard lesson to remind people that It’s all about saving souls. Thank you for your willingness to be servants, for stepping out of your routine and what you’re comfortable doing — all for His glory.

If you have been discouraged or simply drained, here’s something I heard last Sunday. My high school friend, Danny, talked about Paul. He said that there will be times when we will say “I can’t do this, but the important thing to remember is this – but Christ can. Christ can do it through me.” Phil. 4:13

Are you eating that second sandwich?

“Before you ask for healing, make sure you are willing to give up what made you sick.” @RealTalkKim

When I was a freshman in high school, I became obsessed with my weight. All of my friends had a gymnast’s build, and there I was – everything but that.

Looking back, I really didn’t look that bad. However, it seemed so at the time. I remember standing at my mom’s bedroom door, crying, because I was tired of being “fat” — I remember hating the way I looked. The ironic thing was, I had just started chomping down on my second sandwich for lunch while expressing my frustration. I can see the problem clearly now, but I was blind to it back then.

After a lot of begging, my parents finally caved and took me to a local athletic/work-out place where they would put you on a particular diet – weigh you each week, all for a lot of money that my parents couldn’t afford. I remember them telling the lady that gave us the scoop that they would need to ‘think about it’. I could see that they felt bad that they couldn’t afford it. I made sure to tell them before they could tell me it wasn’t possible — I didn’t want them to pay money for me to lose weight.

I became determined to find a way to lose weight. Eventually, I found myself going to the other extreme and would eat a salad or an apple at school for lunch, then a salad for dinner. I’m not talking about the huge salad you get when you order out today — it was a small cereal bowl type salad. Some days, I didn’t eat at all.

There were times during class when I would pop several pieces of gum in my mouth (sometimes a whole pack) because I was starting to get shaky. I couldn’t concentrate at all and my grades showed it. I was doing it all wrong, however, I was seeing the result that I desperately wanted. That’s all that mattered at the time. I let my grades suffer.

By the grace of God, I eventually stopped depriving my body of what it needed, and little by little I added other things to my diet. I remember when I first had a cracker with my salad. I felt incredibly guilty. It was like I was going to ‘ruin’ everything I had worked so hard for. I’m pretty sure I didn’t eat another cracker again for at least a year.

As an adult, I’ve had other things that have consumed me. Have you? Those habits that we lean on to make us feel like we’re in control, good about life, or that fill in the gap for what’s missing?

Maybe there’s something in your life that has its grip on you, something that is destroying you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. How can we expect God to heal us (or anyone) when we allow harmful things to control our life? Do you depend on alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, overeating, not eating, pride, lust, comparison, or self-pity to make you feel better about your life?

The next time you go to the Lord in prayer — asking that He would heal you, ask yourself, “Am I continuing to do what I’m asking Him to take away?”

Are you eating that second sandwich?

How to move on when you’re in pain

If I were to ask you to tell me about your most painful memory, I bet you could tell me in a heartbeat. It doesn’t matter if it happened 30 years ago, I imagine you could still give me every detail.

I could sit here and share mine, but the truth is — I don’t want to. It’s not something that would be helpful to you in any way. However, it’s a heartache that I’ll have forever.

Here’s the comforting truth, Jesus knows. You don’t have to say a word, yet He knows every detail and how you have struggled with it ever since.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus endured pain like no other. One of the (many) differences is that the details of what He endured does make a difference in our lives today.

We often think about the physical pain when He was beaten and hung on the cross. That in itself is difficult to comprehend. However, we can’t forget that He also felt heartache and anguish like we do today. What did he do when He experienced it? He talked to His Father….

Luke 22:42-44. Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

We’ve all been there — in a place where we don’t want to move forward – pleading with God that He would take this (whatever it is) from us.

Jesus set the example for us. Pray, and then let it go. Pray, and move forward on the journey that He has for you. Just like that day in the garden, God will give you the strength to move on when you truly believe.

Looking forward to next season

{Before you read the following, please know it was all inspired from a good friend’s post on FB. He didn’t talk about sports, however, he focused on the following scripture and how what we are going through won’t last forever. I would never want to take credit for something that isn’t totally mine. Thank you, friend. Thanks for allowing God to work through you so these memories would touch my heart.}

Scripture reference: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

“There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.”

All three of my sons played sports. They grew up playing soccer, then decided to try different ones. One ended up playing football, one basketball, and the youngest stayed with soccer. They were all very competitive and worked hard to be the best they could be. Naturally, there were days when they complained about having to practice on a hot day or on those famous two-a-day practices. However, they loved the routine and the challenges that came from it.

One season, I remember when one of them played on a team that didn’t win a game. Zip. Not only did they lose, they lost by a lot. It had to be the longest season, ever. It was frustrating, discouraging, sometimes embarrassing (for the boys), and felt like it was going to go on – forever.

The only light at the end of the tunnel was the fact that we knew it wasn’t going to last forever. There would be a new team in the spring. A new season.

I can’t help but feel like that’s how life is right now. We are in a season that is going on – and on – and on- and on – and on – s-l-o-w-l-y. You can’t help but wonder if this stay at home thing is ever going to end. Will all the businesses be able to open back up? Like, is this really for real? We’re living in 2020! How is this possible? We live in America! DO something about it! Now! I’m tired of this, so I’m going to go do THIS! But doing something won’t change a thing. That’s like when my son’s team was struggling. If the players changed positions, hoping that would make a difference – it would only make things worse. How do I know? They tried it.

We are living in a tough season, and I pray you will find the strength to endure.

“Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace–because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26:3-4

Live, Laugh, and Let Go

Oh, my goodness. I love how a good ol’ unexpected belly laugh can make you feel so much better.

When I let my dog out this morning, I started my new normal routine. I got something to drink as I made the big decision about breakfast. Ha. Sounds very stressful, I know. Cereal did not sound good and we just finished off the waffles yesterday, so that left toast. Would you believe there were two pieces of bread left? Perfect, or so I thought.

My husband put them in the toaster while I walked into the other room to listen to the news. I hear this “Oops!” from the kitchen. The toast was ….toast. Totally black. Oh well, what do you do?

I hear our dog bark outside our kitchen door — reminding me that I hadn’t let him in yet. When I opened the door he looked up at me with such an odd look. Even his body was positioned differently. He normally runs right in, but he just stood there staring at me.

I finally noticed something sticking out the sides of his mouth, and as I began to ask what he had — he opened wide for me to see. A bunny. G A S P!

There’s no doubt about it, he was proud. His tail was wagging. His head was held high. Me? When it registered that MY dog was carrying a baby bunny in his mouth — I screamed! He quickly put it down (outside) and sat down. I think he was confused, like – why wasn’t I congratulating him?

As much as I love that dog, I knew I wouldn’t be able to touch that sweet face or allow him to “kiss” me until he was totally scrubbed down and was bunny-hair-free.

Hours later I was able to laugh about it — mainly because the picture of his response to me was priceless.

Thank you, Lord, for taking my mind off of what’s been consuming my every thought. You are so good.

Friends, let go of your worries. Those things we don’t have any control of – let. them. go.

Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”

The invisible enemy you need to know about

I am hearing a lot of people describe the COVID-19 as an invisible enemy. Just because a person looks fine on the outside doesn’t mean they aren’t carrying this invisible enemy around and unknowingly passing it on to others. I find that fact to be the most terrifying part of this whole thing. I’m not living in fear, but I am cautious when I have to go to the pharmacy or to the grocery store.

Here’s the thing, I don’t think I’ve ever heard about anything in our world that’s truly comparable to sin like this virus is.

  1. You can’t see it
  2. It spreads without you knowing (in your life and to others)
  3. It’s deadly
  4. It controls how you live

Even people who are spiritually “fit” suffer from sin that somehow makes its way into their life — unnoticed until they finally realize that it has such a stronghold on their thoughts and actions that it seems impossible to shake or conquer — causing them to believe there’s no way out or possibly no hope for tomorrow.

The good news is, we know where the root of all evil comes from. The better news is, we know what to do when we realize we are sinners. (Confess, ask for forgiveness, and so on)

We are all sinners. What we aren’t good at is protecting ourselves from sin and letting it develop a stronghold.

Friends, we have to wake up. It doesn’t matter if tomorrow is our last day or if we have 40 years left here on earth. We need to be aware of the spiritual battle that’s going on. Maybe the “symptoms” of sin in your life or how to protect yourself from it aren’t broadcasted on TV, however, it’s just as important to know because it can be as deadly as COVID-19 when left untreated.

I encourage you to do a heart check. I did mine. It may be a matter of eternal life…..or death.

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If you don’t have a Bible, here’s some Scriptures to help you. If you haven’t asked Jesus to forgive you for your sins, you can do it now — wherever you are! It’s the best life-saving method you could ever learn! He will save you.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Ephesians 6:10-12 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

1 John 4:4 “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.”

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Proverbs 28:13 “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

Mark 1:15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Marriage 101

It’s hard to believe I’ve been married for almost 36 years. We tied the knot when I was in the eighth grade, and it’s been uphill ever since. 😉

The truth is, I didn’t meet him until I was a freshman in college — and it has been a rollercoaster ride ever since! My life, and everything that made it seem safe and secure, was about to change. It was that year that I became a Christian. It was that year when I met my future husband. It was that year when I had the courage to peel off my mom’s apron strings and learn to make my own decisions.

I’ll never forget the day I met Mark. There’s no doubt that I was attracted to his natural leadership skills and amazing example of what a faithful follower of Christ looks like. I remember thinking, “I wonder if he even notices someone like me?” I was a new Christian and wasn’t brought up in a Christian home. He was an extrovert, and I was more like an introvert. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

In the midst of all the twists and turns that year, what I wanted in a soulmate changed, so I broke off a long relationship I had with a guy from back home. It was tough because I did love him as a friend and life sure did feel secure when I was with him, however, we both needed to look for another special someone. What I have learned throughout the years is what I needed most was a spouse who would love me, even when I mess up. And that, my friends, is exactly who I am blessed with. God knew.

I was recently looking for a devotion on my Bible App, and up popped a marriage devotion. I don’t normally do marriage devotions or even read books on how to improve your relationship because, honestly, I find them a little corny. Sometimes I have found them to have scenarios or topics I can’t relate to, so I stopped reading after a couple pages.

Well, I loved the devotion so much that I ended up purchasing the author’s book. It’s called ” A Lifelong Love” by Gary Thomas.

Listen, maybe you don’t think you need suggestions on how to have a good marriage. I get it. Let me tell you what, this book helps you look at your responsibility in marriage in a totally different way. I’ve experienced several “oh. my. goodness!” moments as I’ve read through the pages. All I can say is… I wish I had read this book a long time ago.

I admit I haven’t been the best wife throughout the years. There’s been a few times when I should’ve won Wife of the Year Award, however, I have failed in so many ways. Thankfully, I still have some time left to make my best effort to be what God wants me to be…. If you’re reading this, there’s still time for you, too.