As The Wind Blows

A while back, in the midst of cleaning the house and preparing meals, our toddler son brought in a beautiful bouquet of little yellow flowers from our backyard. He proudly walked up and held them out to me with a broad smile and his chest puffed out. He had picked these just for me and he was overflowing with anticipation for me to take his gift. I had been so busy and tired that day… as had pretty much been the case for every day previous that year as my husband was traveling much for business. But, something about the way he approached me caused me to pause. I knelt down and smiled warmly as my heart was reminded of a dream the Lord had given me years prior.

 

In this dream, I saw streetlights at night along a beautiful park. These stately lights then turned into burnt matchsticks that were bent over and smoldering. And from there, I could see dandelion seeds taking flight from the smoldering matchstick as the wind blew. At the time of the dream, I was preparing for the missions field and a foreign culture. Yet all the while, I had a strong sense that this dream would apply to a later time, but had no idea what it could mean. Then, after marrying my husband and moving to the Middle East with our precious ten-month-old son and our precious toddler daughter in toe, something struck a cord within my soul.

 

I was burnt out, feeling overwhelmed and utterly out of ideas of what to do with our littles in the day. I needed a break—so I thought. I needed to just get away and recharge—so I kept telling myself. Yet, as I would meet with a wise, older Christian woman about once a month, I was blessed to glean from her insights on life. And among them, she kept pointing out how much the Lord uses us mothers to forward the kingdom of God here on earth. And it is not simply on our “refreshed days”, but often times through our heartache and times of great need for intervention of His divine nature, that we are able to see and experience His presence all the more profoundly.

 

After another wonderful time with this precious older woman of the faith while still in the Middle East, I headed back to our home to my husband and our now sleeping children. I could not shake the feeling that I was missing out on something. That somehow I was focusing on the wrong things during our time abroad. And then, the dream of the dandelion seeds in the wind came back to mind as I thought of our children.

 

Because of Your adversaries, You have established a stronghold from the mouths of children and nursing infants to silence the enemy and the avenger.” Psalm 8:2 (HCSB)

 

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was that burnt out instrument and complaining rather than seeking the Lord’s guidance and continual renewal. I was that smoldering match. But, what encouraged my heart—and what was affirmed through prayer in that moment—was the reality that raising Christ loving and Christ following children is vital in combatting the enemies of God. Stay with me here….It is in such seasons of prolonged fatigue and sleepless nights that God was able to show Himself all the more glorious in my own story. It was when I was willing to cry out with my need for Him and claim the truths of His Living Word, contained within the Holy Bible, that I would find a renewed sense of focus, meaning and willful hope. Perhaps you too can relate. It is when I have been willing to say, “this one is so far beyond me, Lord…I just cannot go another step. Please take the lead. I just want to honor You”

It is there, in that very moment that the Lord intervenes in truly miraculous ways that astound the mind and baffle the senses.

 

“He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” Psalm 40:2 (NLT)

 

All these memories came rushing back to me as I hugged my son and thanked him for his flowers before he ran back outside to play with our daughter who was already on the rope swing. And as I walked into my husband and I’s master bathroom to place my new bouquet next to the very same type of flower bouquet my daughter had given me just the day previous, my eyes saw something that affirmed it all. Where the delicate little flowers had rested the day previous, now white little puffballs were bloomed in their place.

 

It was such a profound and meaningful encouragement to my heart from the Lord. Although I was indeed exhausted and trying to take care of two extremely active children, the fact remained—these children are my seeds.

 

As mothers, and women in general, we have the awesome privilege to not only physically, but also spiritually invest into the lives of our children. And whether it’s a “good day” or “bad day”, they watch us to see how we choose to respond to the circumstances the Lord allows into our day.

 

He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.” Psalm 18:33 (NLT)

 

Ladies, I encourage you this every moment, to ask the Lord above to breathe afresh upon you. He can take any situation and breathe life, hope and direction into it (Ezekiel 37). Acknowledge your need for His guidance, favor and continual mercy amidst the chaos (Psalm 71:20). Ask the Lord to breathe anew upon your soul to refresh you in this time of need—right where you are—so that you may glorify Him even in your fatigue and responsibility (Psalm 138:7). Ladies, please take this to heart, the care and guardianship of the next generation is of highest importance to the Lord (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 113:9, Psalm 127:3, Mark 10:14).

 

Thus, may we not only be in prayer for this next generation daily, but may we pray for the Lord to equip us to minister, mold and model lives that are sold out to the cause of Jesus Christ. May we be willing to follow the Lord in obedience and speak of His eternal glories to the little ones of this upcoming generation.

 

In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.” Psalm 18:29 (NLT)

Through the power of His holy name, we have been given not only the victory over hell, but over all forms of confusion, fatigue, inferiority, comparing and all other forms of evil that the devil would love to use to discourage us as mamas, and women in general. Take back what is yours, as a daughter of the Most High; take back the victory that was handed to you personally as Jesus Christ victoriously defeated evil and it’s many forms as He bore our sins upon the cross and gave us His healing (Isaiah 53:3).

 

“For Your faithful love is higher than the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. God, be exalted above the heavens, and let Your glory be over the whole earth.” Psalm 108:4-5 (HCSB)

 

Walk in it. Own it. Ask the Lord to blow upon the current situations in your own life and take His message of hope, restoration, peace and healing to all people groups who are in critical need of encouragement (Ezekiel 19:10).

 

May the LORD cause you to flourish, both you and your children.” Psalm 115:14 (NIV)

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Easter: Victory for the Soul (Part III)

The detachment of soldiers with its commander, along with the Jewish officials, arrested Jesus and bound Him (John 18:12). All of the remaining eleven faithful disciples then scattered and left Jesus to be taken by Judas and those who desired to bring Him to death; just as Jesus had prophesied (John 16:32).

Peter followed at a distance with John, as Jesus was then taken to Annas, the father-in-law of the High Priest that year, who was Caiaphas. Time had become a blur for the disciples as each soul-wrenching step of Jesus’ sorry excuse for a trial unfolded. He was beaten, slapped in the face, mocked and spit on (Isaiah 53:5, Matthew 20:28, Matthew 26:28 & Mark 10:45). Jesus was humiliated as He was dressed up with a military robe, made to wear a horrible crown made from twisted thorns and had a reed placed within his hand—as soldiers mocked him while laughing and bowing to their idea of a false king. They struck Him in the head repeatedly (Matthew 27:29-30 Mark 15:17 & John 19:2-3).

Within this depraved display of the rebellion of the human heart against the One whom in fact created all things, Jesus had been sent to Caiaphas, then before the entire assembly of the Jewish leadership, known as the Sanhedrin, where they met at daybreak and brought Jesus before them. The mighty Sanhedrin questioned Jesus as to whether or not He was in fact the Son of God (Luke 22:66-71). The Sanhedrin, as powerful as it was, did not have authority under Roman rule to crucify. Thus, Jesus was sent to Pilate to officially protest for the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ. Yet, Pilate found no such cause for death of this “King of the Jews” (Luke 23:4). Pilate, after learning that Jesus was a Galilean, sent Him to be seen by Herod Antipas, seeing as he held jurisdiction there and resided in Jerusalem (Luke 23:6-7). As a result of the cruel treatment Jesus suffered under Herod, Pilate and Herod (whom had been hostile towards one another up until that point) became friends that day (Luke 23:11-12). The badly beaten Jesus was then sent back to Pilate where three times Pilate appealed to the people that he found no grounds by which to kill Jesus—even stating that Herod found no cause to kill Him, hence Jesus had been sent back to Pilate (Matthew 27:21-26, Mark 15:7-15 & Luke 23:13-17).

The Jewish leadership and outcry of the people for Jesus’ death had won out over facts. A terrorist of the day and known murdered, Barabas, had been released to the people—as they chanted and shouted for the death of Jesus and affirmed their desire to have Barabas back within their society in order to ensure the death of Jesus (Luke 23:18-25). Jesus had been led out of the city of Jerusalem to the Place of Skull to be crucified with a criminal on either side of Him (Luke 23:32-33). On the way there, the brutally beaten, whipped and bleeding humanity of Jesus was unable to carry His own death instrument. Thus, a man by the name of Simon, a Cyrenian, was made to carry the cross on which Jesus would momentarily be nailed and killed upon—until the final destination was reached (Luke 23:26).

Once at the Place of the Skull, large nails were then driven Jesus’ hands and feet. This was the most brutal and barbaric killing instrument of that day. And it was reserved for only the worst of criminals. Yet, here was Jesus the Christ, proven to be innocent by even Pilate and Herod, and he was experiencing a criminal’s death. It could not have even been carried out upon a Roman citizen. Thus Jesus, as an innocent substitute for each and every one of the human race, bore the brutal punishment of death upon a cross (Romans 8:28). To speed up the process, at the urging of the Jews, the Roman soldiers were instructed by Pilate to break the legs of those upon the cross to cause the arms to stretch higher above the head, ushering the arrival of death quicker—seeing as the following day was the Sabbath (John 19:31-32). Yet, this was not done to the Lord Jesus Christ as He was not a victim of His circumstances, but rather He had willfully determined to go through the brutal death of humanity in order to ransom His creations (Isaiah 53:9-11, Romans 5:18, Philippians 2:8 & 1 Peter 2:24).

 

“This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.” John 10:17-18 (HCSB)

 

While enduring the cross and continued atmosphere of satanic celebration, the soldiers divided Jesus’ clothing by casting lots (Psalm 22:18 & Matthew 5:44). Jesus had publicly cried out to His Father in heaven to “forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He had also assured the penitent thief on the cross next to Him that “today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). When all had been accomplished to fulfill the prophesies of the Old Testament of the Lord Jesus, He cried out in a loud voice “It is finished!” and gave up His spirit (John 19:30).

The crowd gathered below was a mixture of demonic taunting and agonizing screams of horror and pain. When it came time to break the legs of Jesus, He had in fact already died (John 19:33). This fulfilled the prophesy of the Psalms and the prophets (Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12 & Psalm 34:20). The rocks split and the veil within the Holy of Holies of the Temple split from top to bottom as a result of Jesus giving up His spirit (Matthew 27:51). The punishment for the depravity of all humanity had in fact been paid in full (Matthew 27:45-53, Mark 15:33-38, John 3:16, Galatians 3:13-14 & Titus 2:14).

“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  1 John 4:9-10 (HCSB)

It was still dark out on the morning of the third day since Jesus’ death. Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Salome were heading to the tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, where the body of Jesus had been laid three days prior (John 19:38). It was now the third day since His brutal death on the cross. The women, with heads covered and ash covered faces, walked towards the borrowed tomb. It was daybreak and they were coming to place the customary spices upon the body of Jesus (Mark 16:1). They began to ask one another whom would open the tomb for them to complete their task; seeing as a large stone had been rolled across the entrance and Roman soldiers had been stationed in front of it to ensure it stay closed (Mark 16:3). Yet, as the women approached the mountain from which the tomb had been carved, there was a violent earthquake! The large stone—which had been secured by the Roman soldiers to avoid potential body snatchers (Matthew 27:64-66)—was no longer in front of the opening of the tomb at all! No, in this hour of daybreak, still from a distance, it appeared to the women as if the massive stone door had been rolled away (Matthew 28:2, Mark 16:4, Luke 24:2 & John 20:1)! The women hurried to the tomb, not sure as to what had taken place. But as they entered the tomb, not one of them could locate the body of their crucified Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, two men in glowing clothes appear next to them and the women fall to the ground in utter fear.

Why are you looking for the living among the dead? ” asked the men6He is not herebut He has been resurrected!  Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee7saying‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful menbe crucifiedand rise on the third day’? ” 8And they remembered His words.” Luke 24:5-8 (HCSB)

Mary of Magdala, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women ran back to alert Simon Peter and John of this terrifying and exciting news.

“So she ran to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him!” John 20:2 (HCSB)

Simon Peter and John simply could not believe what was being shared and they set out for the tomb themselves. John outran Peter and looked inside, seeing the burial clothes and no body. Peter finally arrived and also saw the burial clothes and noted that the cloth used to cover the face of Jesus had been folded up and placed separately (John 20:3-7). At seeing this for themselves, both Simon Peter and John returned home (John 20:10). Mary of Magdala remained facing the tomb of her missing Lord. As she wept, she stooped down to see into the tomb and she was amazed at what her eyes beheld! In the place of the missing body of her Lord Jesus, there sat two angels; one where His head was and another angel where His feet were! The angels asked her why she was crying. Mary of Magdala explained that her Lord Jesus’ body was missing and that she didn’t know where to find Him (John 20:11-13).

14Having said thisshe turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not know it was Jesus.

15“Woman,” Jesus said to her“why are you cryingWho is it you are looking for? ”

Supposing He was the gardenershe replied, “Sirif you’ve removed Himtell me where you’ve put Himand I will take Him away.”

16Jesus said“Mary.”

Turning aroundshe said to Him in Hebrew“Rabbouni!”  — which means “Teacher.”

17“Don’t cling to Me,” Jesus told her“for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to My brothers and tell them that I am ascending to My Father and your Father — to My God and your God.”

18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord! ” And she told them what He had said to her.”

John 20:14-18 (HCSB)

Jesus Christ’s resurrection over death and the grave is essential to the heart and soul of every individual to ever tread this vast planet. It is the most passionate expression of unconditional love, unyielding loyalty and determined redemption in all of human history. The Creator of all things, was willing to ransom humanity out of the place of depravity and eternal condemnation by taking upon Himself the shame, guilt and suffering due for each foolish, manipulative and sinful thing each and every person on this spinning rock have ever done. And in return—what’s in it for us? A new identity—complete reset. Forgiveness and pardon from every twisted and even unspeakable things we have said, thought or did. It’s all covered by the brutal price He was willing to pay—to show you, and each person alive—that your life has eternal meaning, your days have infinite value, a you are deeply loved by the God who made you.

As Jesus ascends into heaven, the baton had been passed in a sense. Jesus had charged His disciples to now GO into all the world and tell everyone about Him and the NEW LIFE that is available to ALL PEOPLE from EVERY NATION by calling upon the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior for cleansing and redemption (Joel 2:28-32, Mark 16:16, Luke 24:45-47, Acts 2:21, Acts 16:31, Romans 10:13). And the beautiful thing—this message of radical redemption is still available for one and all for all time. If you have never made a decision to follow the Risen Savior, Jesus Christ, I encourage you to do so this very day and get cleaned, forgiven and eternally set right with Almighty God. You are worth it…Jesus Christ proved it (Revelation 5:12).

Happy Easter, one and all. He is risen! Jesus Christ is risen, indeed!

Ways to “Get In the Christmas Spirit” this Christmas

Ways to Help Others this Christmas

Wanting to find a way to “get in the spirit” of Christmas? God has given us the greatest gift by giving us His own Son for Christmas! Try one or more of these Christmas “joy boosters” to experience the joy in giving as we remember the birth of joy, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Read the Text of Christmas from Luke chapter 2: Within the Holy Bible, the best way to get into the “Christmas spirit” is to understand what spirit was given at Christmas. This was the actual spirit of God, the God-Man, Jesus the Christ (meaning anointed one in Greek). This season of Christmas is marked by celebration over death, victory over evil and the revelation of God’s unyielding love for all of humanity as He sent His own Son from heaven, in order to redeem us–and restore right standing with God Almighty in heaven through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Lord and ruler of our life (1 John 1:9 & 1 John 4:9).

Give gifts or Christmas cards to a children’s hospital: As trauma and medical bills hit some families this Christmas season, some children within pediatric units will not receive a gift any other way this Christmas. A simple phone call to ask if your local hospital is accepting new and packaged gifts ($1-$5 range) is best. Print out Luke 2:1-20 and include this in the gift bags. This way they will receive the true story of Christmas this Christmas—even if they are unable to go to Church on Christmas.

 

Make cookies for a retirement community: Not all families are able to travel during this season. As a result, there are many older individuals whom spend the holiday season alone or without their loved ones. By bringing cookies or even your own smile to such a place, you may brighten a heart that is much in need, at just the right time.

 

Serve soup at a food bank or soup kitchen: There is such a great need to get involved with our communities. During Christmas, it is a sincere blessing to reach out to those without an address, as our Lord did. Remember, Jesus Himself was born on the streets…the Bible tells us that He was born amongst animals and laid in a feeding trough, because Mary and Joseph had to travel to obey the Roman Decree from Caesar Augustus. (Luke 2:1)

 

Share a meal with someone in need: God gave us His only Son, this is Christmas, and it is our privilege to open our kitchens and tables to others in the name of Jesus Christ.

 

Pack a backpack for the homeless: Include a Bible, blanket, coffee mug, gloves, knit hat, tooth brush and tooth paste and a tarp…the next time you pass a homeless person over the Christmas season…give this to them in Jesus’ name.

 

Spice Jar Christmas Gift of Gratitude-combine dry spices and fresh fruit for a stove top potpourri that will smell like classic Christmas pie. Combine 4 Tbs ground cinnamon, 3 Tbs ground cloves, 2 Tbs nutmeg, 1 whole apple sliced into rounds, 10 cranberries, 1 orange sliced. Put all into a pot of boiling water. Enjoy the smells of Christmas simply by turning on your stove!

 

Attend a Candle Light or Christmas Church Service-There is something truly beautiful about being in the presence of other believers as the focal point is Jesus Christ. Singing songs and joyous hymns of His birth is one of the best ways to worship Him in this season of exceeding joy!

 

Tangible Gifts of Thanks for Family, Friends and Mentors This Holiday Season

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:15-17 (NASB)

 

As Thanksgiving is upon us in only a matter of hours away, take a moment to assess your true feelings of giving thanks. Are they determined by a situation or by the unchanging status of our Lord, Jesus Christ? As I have reflected within my own life, I have come to the conclusion that the world only champions certain blessings. And for other types of godly blessings (e.g. heartache, difficulty and trials), the world looks on. What’s my point? If we aren’t focused on the Word of God and living thankful lives, as referenced in the Scriptures, it is easy to grow complacent.

 

The Bible speaks of many gifts the Lord has given to us through Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:3-11). Ladies, bottom line, we have everything we need to live a life that is pleasing to God and a blessing to others. I love that even in times of not knowing what to say or even what to pray, the Lord encourages us to come to Him for wisdom (James 1:5)! Thus, if you find yourself feeling a tad bit overwhelmed by the social pressures around you as the holiday season revs up—silence all devices and sit at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:39 & Luke 10:42). After a time of serious refreshment, check out these five gift ideas to express thanks to those who have made an impact on your life.
As you consider who you would like to bless this Thanksgiving season with an encouragement, the biggest thing is to pray for the person by name. Ask the Lord to bless and direct the steps of the individual.

 

Idea #1. A Ray of Sunshine Bottle: This is a fun way to create a memorable gift that will be treasured for years to come! Take fifteen to twenty paper strips and write out an encouraging verse or personal encouragement for the recipient. Fold the notes, or “rays of sunshine”, in half and place into a small mason jar or other glass container. Now add a little glitter to the jar, close it up and shake. Tie a ribbon around the lid, and deliver!

 

Idea #2. Shadow Box of Memories: Gather some little items that represent the times you have shared together. For example, little pebbles or leaves from a path you walk together. Arrange them within the shadow box and write a short card sharing something you have learned from the recipient on such a walk together.

 

Idea #3. A Steaming Basket: This is a great gift for those who enjoy a hot cup of something to warm up as the weather continues to cool off. Gather an assortment of individually sealed tea, coffee, hot cider and/or hot cocoa and display them in a small wicker basket, atop a pretty seasonal napkin or decorative straw. Wrap some burlap and ribbon around the basket and add a little verse to complete the gift (e.g. Psalm 18:46, Psalm 46:10, 2 Peter 1:3 & Matthew 6:10)

 

Idea #4. Bouquet of Thorns: This one may sound a bit unconventional, but it really is a blessed reminder of God’s faithfulness in the midst of difficulty. Inspired by a Revive Our Hearts podcast this past Thanksgiving. Go to the florist and ask for a bouquet of roses…without the rose heads. Ask for a beautiful bow to be tied around the rose stems. The bouquet of thorns signifies that there is beauty that comes out of seasons of discomfort, longing and even great heartache. Include a card to accompany the bouquet. Encourage the recipient that you are praying for them in their season of great difficulty for the Lord to provide His strength, steadfast love and ability to praise God in the midst of it all (Psalm 34:18, Psalm 145:18, Isaiah 57:15).

 

Idea #5. Three Ingredient Cupcakes: Ok, ladies, this is a total favorite in our home! Three ingredients…no eggs…super easy! Mix 1 cake mix (chocolate, vanilla, yellow or white) with one 15 oz. can of Libby’s Pumpkin…add 2 cups chocolate or butterscotch chips. Mix and put into oven. Cook for 20-25 minutes at 350F. Done. Delicious…instant win!

 

No matter how you choose to bless someone in this season, remember that you are a blessing in their lives—not simply the gift you bring.