On a recent vacation, I was attempting to teach my 6-year-old son to swim. He is vehemently against learning to swim. However, it’s a non-negotiable life skill he needs to have.
So, we went to where he couldn’t stand, and I tried to teach him to float.
It went something close to this:
Him to me: Mommy, I can’t stand here!
Me to him: I’m here, and I’ve got you. I won’t let you go under the water.
Him to me: I can’t trust you!
Me to him: Why? Have I ever let you down?
Him to Me: No. But I can’t!
Me to him: I’m right here, and I am holding you. You can trust me. I’ve never let you go under the water.
God to me: Doesn’t this sound like something I have to say to my children?
Me to him: I’m right here. Just relax.
Him to me: I can’t! I can’t stand here!
Me to him: I have you.
God to me: I’ve had to say that too.
Him to me: Why do we have to come where I can’t stand?!
Me to him: Because if we stay where you can stand, you won’t trust that I can teach you and you’ll just stand up again.
God to me: And doesn’t that sound like something I have to say to my children, too?
Me to him: If you don’t learn to swim, you’ll miss out on some really awesome adventures and swimming is an important skill for you to have. It could save your life. You will use this skill for the rest of your life.
God to me: That’s like when I take you to where you can’t stand and you have to trust me. I can give you something that you will use for the rest of your life. And, you’ll have some really awesome adventures because of it.
Him to me: Mommy! I want to go back! I don’t want to have adventures! I’m scared! Take me back! I don’t care if I miss out!
God to me: That’s sounds like my children in the dessert. They wanted to go back too. They thought I’d leave them and wanted to return as slaves instead of go into the freedom I had for them.
If you are struggling with trusting the Lord, I want to encourage you. You are my child in this situation. God is me. I was there to hold on to him, to enable him to have a skill he can use for his entire life, and to make sure he was safe. God is there, holding on to you in the deep waters. And he understands our apprehension. But, we need to trust him. He is holding on to us, he is keeping our heads above the water. He is preparing us and giving us skills we will use for the rest of our lives. He will see us through, and we will come out all the better for it.
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
Last week I decided to clean out my van because I knew I’d be driving around a bunch of teens for a youth group event (and my kids can make my car gross). My daughter asked if she could help me, and I never turn down the offer. As we were working, she asked me if she could talk to me about something. Then, she laid bare her heart.
She asked me what the enemy says to me when he lies.
And I told her the lies he tells me. He tells me I mess everything up. He tells me I’m a bad mom. He tells me I’m a bad wife. He tells me I offend people. He tells me that I’m not good enough. He makes me doubt and he makes me question. He fills me with guilt and condemnation.
And he told my 8 year old daughter that she isn’t worthy.
I want to tell you, that he is a crafty beast. He will lie and manipulate you to a point to take your focus off of God and to tear down the work that the Lord is doing inside of you. He will fill you with guilt so you think you can’t be forgiven. But, he’s a liar!
There is no guilt or condemnation in Christ. I’m reminded of the adulterous woman. If you’ve never heard the story, let me fill you in (this is my rendition, the actual passage can be found at John 8:1-11 – provided below).
The chief priests decided to trap Jesus, so they set a woman up to be caught in adultery, knowing full well that the consequences of her actions would be death by stoning. They waited until they caught her in the act with a man, and ripped her from the home, scared for her life. They took her to Jesus while he was at the temple and a crowd was gathering, and tried to trap him. You see, they should have also arrested the man, according to the law…but they didn’t. They laid her sin down in front of him waiting for his response. But, instead of condemning her, he stooped down and started writing. He took a weak, vulnerable position in order to humble those around him. While he was stooped down, he began writing on the ground. No one, but him and those around him, knows what he started writing, but he instructed the priest who was without any sin in his life to be the first one to throw a stone at this woman. Then, he went back to writing. The priests must have been mortified and embarrassed because they started to leave. When at last Jesus was alone with the woman, he asked her where they went. She responded by telling him that they had left. She told him that none had condemned her. And Jesus said, “Then neither do I.”
Jesus did not condemn her! Jesus never laid a guilt-trip on her! He never told her she was worthless, or stupid! He said, “I don’t condemn you either.” He also told her to stop living in sin.
But, this woman, I’m sure was hearing the enemy say that she was surely going to pay the price for her sin. I’m sure that he told her that she was stupid for falling into an affair or that she couldn’t have any value to any value because she was a worthless homewrecker.
But I want to tell you that Jesus brought her peace, he brought her forgiveness, and he brought her acceptance like she may have never known before. He didn’t beat her down and he didn’t tell her that she was ok to live in sin either. He displayed the fruit of the spirit. He was patient with her. He loved her. He was a peace in the chaos for her. He was kind and gentle. He was faithful to God in his interactions with her and the crowd. He maintained his self-control. He didn’t shout, he didn’t yell. He didn’t call her names or cut her down.
He called her forgiven.
And he does that for us as well. In the love letter he sent us, he defeats all the lies the enemy tells us.
He calls us forgiven.
1 John 1:9 New Living Translation (NLT)
9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
He calls us loved.
Romans 5:8 New Living Translation (NLT)
8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
He calls us adopted.
Ephesians 1:5 New Living Translation (NLT)
5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
He calls us planned for.
Jeremiah 29:11 New Living Translation (NLT)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
He calls us new.
Revelation 21:5 New Living Translation (NLT)
5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”
I encourage you today to seek after the truth when the enemy lies to you. Don’t let the enemy cut you down or separate you from what God wants for you and what God tells you. Don’t let the enemy tell you who you are. Let God, your creator, tell you who he made you to be.
John 8:1-11 New Living Translation (NLT)
A Woman Caught in Adultery
8 Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
I know it’s been a while since I’ve written here. I’ve been asking God to give me the words to put on here, and I’ve heard him tell me to put nothing here for quite a while. But now, God’s been revealing a lot to me recently, and told me to share my experience here. He told me that sometimes trusting him costs us something.
I recently watched someone sort-of close to me have an experience that I have been dreaming about and praying about for years. Something that I know God put into my heart. And as I saw this experience begin for this other person, I started to pray about it again, but with more fervor than I had before. And God told me that it wasn’t my time. Then, he sent a pastor’s message talking about the timing of God to confirm that it wasn’t his time for me.
And I was still jealous! I told God that why shouldn’t it be my time?! God gave me this vision! God told me this is what he wanted for me! Why was this happening for someone else and not for me?!
And then God spoke to me. He said, “Heather, it’s not my time for you yet. You want this experience without debt. You want this experience to honor me. If you do it now, it won’t honor me.”
And I was broken. But jealous still.
I realized I knew a way to have this experience that I’ve been promise without debt, but not in God’s time. And I started talking to my husband about it. And I was still jealous.
I came to work on Saturday morning and got ready to grab breakfast. I went to put that first bite of food in my mouth and God said, “No Heather! You’re going to fast today.” And I was crushed. Why did I have to fast today of all days?! I typically have no issue with fasting, and will fast in order to pray over specific issues. However, this fast was a discipline from my loving father in Heaven. You see, I was not content to wait on God and his promise. I wanted my way and I wanted it now. And this fast cost me. My husband and I were supposed to go out on a date. And I was looking forward to eating with him. But God asked me if I could give that up for him. Could I let go of my preconceived plans because it wasn’t God’s plan. I had to pay the price of my jealousy in order to trust in God. I had to repent for not being happy with where God had me and for not trusting him to fulfil his promises to me.
I think all too often, we know God promises us something and we want to see the fruit right away. I’m reminded that Abraham and Sarah were promised a child but had to wait over a decade for that child. She was tired of waiting and took matters into her own hands. She gave her maid to her husband and ended with a step-child she resented, and a maid who resented her.
Then, I was reminded of King David. As a boy, he was promised to be king. But he didn’t storm the throne demanding to be given his place. He didn’t wait in jealousy of King Saul. He waited patiently, and served the Lord where he was.
I want to encourage you today to hold fast to the promises God has given you. But to do it in patience. I was so heartbroken over my discontented heart and how I grieved God. Hold on to hope, hold on to his promises, and serve him where you are until he takes you where he wants you next.
This past Friday was a difficult one. While nothing bad or major happened, I felt heart-break very keenly. I spent Friday wrapped in the grief of missing a spouse. I considered how good my life had been. I missed everything that had been taken from me. I pondered what would have been had my husband never gotten sick. I remembered how his disease changed him, softened him. I remembered how he grew closer to his savior in that 19 months than he had in the whole 27 years preceding his diagnosis.
Then, I thought of my baby, and how she would not have come to be if my heart had never been ripped out of my chest. Then, I remembered the words spoken to me about other children by my dying husband just months before he passed, when we thought we might actually be making ground against that horrible cancer ravaging his body. These words told me to have other children with someone else one day because I’m a good mom and a good wife. These words told me that the man I married, who never wanted any kids in the first place, loved his 2 children so much and would have given me 10 more if it was what I wanted, because he wanted me to be happy and because he loved me.
Lost in grief, I started watching movie clips of our life together. I saw him playing guitar, playing with our babies, filming me (unknowingly) and telling the camera how much he loved me, parenting our children, talking about his dreams and the things he loved in this world. I missed his voice. I missed his music. I missed his laugh. I missed him so much that I felt the pain of it like a knife in my gut. Our son heard his voice and asked me who that man was talking… and the knife twisted, hard. I don’t expect him to remember much of his father. He was only 2 when my husband died. But I can still hear him, clear as day sometimes. And it broke my heart that our son doesn’t remember his voice.
Then, the still small voice of my defender spoke into my heart. He said to me “I make all things new. I’m making this new. I’m bringing joy and hope.’
My new husband was brought immediately to my mind. As was our baby. I call her the tie that binds us. She binds us all together, melting our hearts into one family. This is new, and different. They both bring me joy. And so do my older children. We are all new in the works Christ is doing in us and through us. We’ve all been refined in this process, and made better.
In this process, I’ve found that God heals us. Psalm 147:3 says “He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.” And as he heals, he makes new. Isaiah 43:2, 18-19 says, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty,you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression,you will not be burned up;the flames will not consume you…But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new.See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness.I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Revelation 21:5 says, “And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’ And then he said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.’ ” And as he makes new, he brings joy. Romans 15:13 says, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” This joy is because of the hope we have in him and his son, our salvation.
I want to extend an offer to you. This offer is for the same hope that I have in Christ Jesus, my salvation. Being a follower of Christ doesn’t protect us from troubled times. But, it makes the troubled times able to be endured. He walks with us, carries us (sometimes kicking and screaming), holds us, protects us, defends us. If you haven’t accepted the hope that Jesus gives, I offer you now the chance. Jesus tells us (John 14:6) that he is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father, except through him. You can spend all of your days (here and in eternity) walking in communion with the one who made you and breathed life into you. If you confess your sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive you (1 John 1:9). Ask him today to forgive you from your sins. He will make you new as well. Believe that he can and will make you new, believe that what he has told us in scripture is true, and that he died an undeserved death so that you can be made right with father. Choose to follow his leading in your life, to learn about him and to allow him to change you from the inside out.
If you’d like to accept this offer of salvation and eternal life, but have questions or are unsure of what to say or do, I’d love to help. Please send me a comment and I would be happy to speak (or email) with you. After all, who doesn’t want to be made new and given a hope that endures?!
I’ve been really praying over what to write about next. I didn’t have some amazing story in the last 2 weeks to share from my personal life. It’s been sick kids, tired parents, sick parents, dance class and school on top of working plus working overtime. It’s been ordinary…mundane even.
So, I think I’ll share what God has laid on my heart from my pastor’s service one Sunday. There was one point, in particular, that has stuck with me and been constant on my mind. He shared that no where in documented history God was referred to as “daddy” or “papa” before Jesus called him this. Jesus called him Abba, which translates into daddy, papa. And I’ve been marinating in this ever since. He also said that no one before Jesus would dare call God, Abba. It’s too close, too personal, too intimate to call him Abba.
So, how can we be sure that we can view God as our father, our daddy, our papa?
To be quite honest, this was such a foreign concept to me. You see, I didn’t have a good relationship with my dad as a child. I can remember watching him being brought home drunk by the police, with lights flashing. I can remember him throwing my mom and I out of the house into the snow, and having to crawl in through a window my mom broke so that I could let her back in. I can remember being abused verbally, sexually. I can remember being neglected, like the summer when he kept me during the days when he worked nights to save money and only getting a glass of water at lunch to drink because he was asleep all day. If this relationship with my dad was any indication of what a “fatherly” relationship with God would look like, I didn’t want any part of it. I was just fine with God the shepherd, and God the rock, and even God the judge. But, God, the father? Nope, no thanks! I was so far against that relationship, I didn’t even pray starting with “Dear heavenly father,” deciding to use God or Lord in its place.
I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember. In fact, I don’t have a memory of every being saved. I remember praying as a child hoping that I was saved because I didn’t remember being saved. I don’t have a sweet salvation story with my anniversary known, like some. I don’t have a huge transformative story like the ex-drug lord or former thief. But that doesn’t make my transformation any less amazing. I was in to adulthood when my first husband and I found out we were going to be parents. It was amazing after 2 miscarriages, keeping a pregnancy into the 2nd trimester.
Let me tell you, I have never seen a father love a little girl like my husband loved our daughter. He would melt into a puddle on the floor when she smiled at him. He would have wrangled the sun and pulled it in if she asked him to. That relationship that blossomed between them taught me so much about how God loved me, like a daddy loves his daughter. But, it just gets reinforced in scripture. God pours out his love for us so much like a father does for his children. Well, actually better.
Check it out!
Psalm 68:5 Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
This shows us that he cares about those without a father. He cared about me when my dad was absent, and he cared about my children when their father died. In the last decade of my life, God has become both, my father and my defender.
Galatians 4:4-7 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.[b]6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[c] Father.”7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
This shows us he loves us and set aside for us an estate. This estate is eternal life. And conjures up images from the 90’s Audio Adrenaline’s “Big House” music video. He’s given Christ the job of preparing a room for me in his house. And if it weren’t so, Jesus would not have said it (John 14:2).
John 14:16; 26 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you….
But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative–that is, the Holy Spirit–he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
Jesus is telling us here that God is for us and has given us an advocate, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is with us and for us. This advocate speaks to God on our behalf, but is also our Comforter and our Teacher.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
God, like a wonderful parent, has plans for us and for our future. He’s for us and wants us to grow! And to prosper! He has plans for us to have hope!
But, below is the best part of all! This particular passage comes from Romans, hands down one of my favorite books in the Bible
Romans: 5:6-8 6When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
We were utterly helpless, completely lost in a dark world. Have you ever felt completely helpless or totally lost? I have, absolutely. But, God loved me, he “wrangled” the Son. He sent his child to die on a cross, broken and bleeding because I am a wretched person who sent him there. But, God loves me anyway, like I love my kids when they break my favorite piece of glass. And sent Jesus anyway. Because he wants me with him, the way I want my kids with me when they are over night with their grandparents.
If that isn’t a parent loving a child, I don’t know what is! And if that doesn’t give me hope, I don’t know what does!
Today was a seemingly normal day. I talked to my dad. I worked. I got ready to make dinner. But, around 2 o’clock I thought it might be nice to meet with my in-laws for dinner. I told my husband to call and crossed my fingers that they were up for meeting…after all, I wouldn’t have to cook in that case. We decided we’d head to the big church’s indoor play tubes just a few miles away for some playtime afterward. It had rained all day here, and the kids had been cooped up.
What I didn’t know is that God had an appointment for me at that restaurant.
We got in the car, headed the 20 minutes towards their house. We arrived without issue, sat down and ordered our drinks while we waited for my in-laws. Shortly after they got there, the severe weather warning went off on every person’s phone. Terror moved into my oldest’s heart. I could see instantly, she was on edge. Last summer, we experienced a tornado a few miles from our house. While we didn’t even lose power, she’s been fearful of them ever since. A few more minutes later, and another warning goes off and so does the power in the restaurant. A manager asked everyone to move to the center of the restaurant away from the windows. She sat at a table with a woman who looked to be about my parents’ age and tried to eat through her tears.
So, I prayed. I said, “Lord, I don’t know if this woman is a Christian, but I’m about to pray.” In that time, my daughter asked if we were going to get to go to the play place. This woman asked where she wanted to go and so I told her what we had planned. Her response was amazing.
“Honey, that’s my church! We go to that church. Are you afraid?” My daughter nodded, and she said, “Well, you know what we need to do? We’ll pray.” She called her husband over to the table, whose father was a pastor at that church, and we all prayed for peace and protection. We all laid hands on my daughter, and the Lord met us right there in that dark restaurant.
My daughter went on to ask about how we would pay for a new house if ours was destroyed in the tornado, and I told her that we have insurance, and that if our house was destroyed, then we’d praise Jesus for taking us to that restaurant and keeping us safe. And that God is good for giving us Christian brothers and sisters to pray with us and comfort us. And, we told her that if the beasts of the fields and the birds of the air don’t worry, we won’t worry either. That God never leaves us, nor forsakes us. That God hasn’t left any of us down yet…not even once. And, that if our house was destroyed, God would be in that as well. My son told her that we can use songs to help us as well. His little voice started singing He’s got the whole world in his hands. The rest of us joined in as well. I prayed that someone would be brought to God in that moment.
The storm passed, we said our goodbyes and came home…to a home completely untouched by the storm that just passed through. And my children learned what it’s like meeting God in the midst of the chaos, what it’s like having the Lord of heaven and earth calm your spirit when fear strikes the heart.
25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Happy Easter! Today is the day each year that my family celebrates the greatest hope of all, the hope of eternal life.
This hope is so incredibly important for me, and for you. Recently, I was discussing the reality of Jesus with a teenager. Could Jesus be real? Is the Bible accurate and trustworthy? Can we even find hope in a God who allows people to go through such heartache, heartache so deep and dark it seems impossible to believe in anything outside of ourselves?
I’m so incredibly relieved to say that yes, we can hope in Christ! In fact, he is my only hope! I could sit here and argue about how to prove the scriptures or scientific theories about why the Bible is in fact accurate. All of that can be argued. What can’t be argued is how I feel and what I’ve experienced. In my life, I’ve known my share of heartache. I’ve been abused by a parent and bullied by “friends” in school. I’ve lost pregnancies when all I really wanted was a baby, lost a sibling, lost a grandparent. I’ve lost a love to cancer. I’ve held my children as they cried over the death of their daddy. I’ve felt the wrath of family members for making decisions for my family that they disagreed with. I’ve gone through the diagnosis of a child with an autoimmune disease, only to be told that the road to recovery will be long and difficult. But none of that matters. Not really, anyway. What does going through all of that do for me? Or for anyone?
When I was a teen, grappling with the fallout from the abuse I experienced at the hands of my dad, it was because of my relationship with Jesus that I made it through. I felt him speak peace into my heart and was reduced to tears. After that encounter, I found it in my heart to depend upon his grace and with his help, was able to forgive.
When I lost 2 babies, I felt like I was defective and not able or supposed to ever become a mother. I remember weeping. In the bathtub. In water that had gone cold. I cried out to God for a baby! In my darkest moment on that journey, he put a salve upon my broken heart. Now, 9 years late, I’ve been blessed with 3 babies.
When my husband, ravaged by cancer and chemo, slipped from this life, I felt God drawing me into His side. He had prepared the way before me through my husband’s entire illness. He sent people to me to help me make it through. There were times when jars of money would show up on my doorstep (you have no idea how a widow with 2 little kids can struggle) and times when friends would pop up when I needed them most. There were late night tears and middle of the night fears and early morning dreams. There was a constant assurance that I was not left alone to drown in a sea of emotion.
Today, though, is a day of joy and celebration! Today is a day of an empty tomb, of a new promise, and of a resurrection of my savior! This man, Jesus, had been beaten, whipped, forced to carry his own execution tool and nailed to it. His crime was loving God and loving people. He’d not broken any laws, He hadn’t stolen anything, killed anyone, threatened anyone. He spoke peace and love and faith. He brought hope and forgiveness wherever he went. And 3 days after his brutal execution, some of his female followers went to his tomb to prepare his body. Except, he was gone! He had taken on the sins of all man because he loved his father in Heaven. He gave his life in obedience to God and gave me (and you!!!) the chance to live in eternity in communion with him, instead of suffering the consequences of our sins. I know that life has no promise of rainbows and roses and unicorns, but because of this hope I have of eternity with my Lord, I know that I can make it through anything. He is with me and he sustains me.