White Christians & Black Lives: How can we do better?

God’s Word addresses the hard things.  It goes with us into the difficult places.  It leads, guides and carries us to what is good and right.  When we don’t know what to do, or say, or how to even begin making things better, His word has an answer.  So what does God’s word instruct us regarding issues of racial tension and social justice?  Read my latest post over at rockthis HERE.

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5 Ways To Hear God Speak (to you)

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them… Genesis 1:27-28 (emphasis mine)

Since the very beginning, God’s blessing of us has been made manifest through His speaking to us.  Mankind was only moments out of the dust of the Earth when our creator began establishing the nature of our relationship with Him.  He would relate to us, seek relationship with us, guide us, direct us and care for us, through speaking to us. But how often do we neglect this reality?  How often do we fail to listen or respond to this God who speaks? Do we even believe that He speaks to us at all?

I’m over at rockthis.org today with a post on hearing God speak.  Click on the image below to join me there!

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What’s the Word Wednesday: Far More Abundantly

4:30am.  I make my way out of bed, downstairs to the coffee maker, and then to my desk.  I’ve got all these words I feel the Lord prompting me to say, and so few hours to sit and write them.  When my boys come lumbering down those stairs, their eyes sleepy and their hair wild, my attention turns to them, but at 4:30am I write.  I write and I wait for the rest of the world to wake, and for their keyboards and smartphones to carry them to these words.  I write and I wait and I wonder, “God, what will you do with them?  What will you do with these words?”  And by 5:36am, I’m tired and hopeful and just a little bit scared that maybe these dreams that He’s put in my heart are actually coming to be.

But God gives no hope that the enemy doesn’t try to taint with fear.

“But will I be enough?  Will I prove able?” And over and above all my many words, all my numerous thoughts, fears, doubts and delusions, His words hit heavy on my heart and it’s always His promises that bring me back strong…

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory… Ephesians 3:20-21

Can you hear those words whispering straight at you from the other side of this computer screen?  Far more abundantly.  Yes, He is far more abundant than I could have ever asked or even thought to imagine.  And because He is so far beyond and abundantly more, I don’t have to be even one more bit than I am.  His abundance compensates for my lack every time.

Memorize Ephesians 3:20 with me this morning and then go out and do what God has set before you.  Not because you can, but because He is.

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What’s the Word Wednesday: No Great Burden

One of the very first things I remember learning about Jesus is that his yoke was easy and his burden was light.  And although those well known verses from Matthew 11 ring of ease and simplicity, I had absolutely no idea what they meant when I first starting following Christ and pursuing his word.

“28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 

I knew I fit the category of people who Jesus was calling:  burdened, restlessly laboring, and laden with weights and baggage of all shapes and sizes.  I also knew that I was in desperate need of the type of soul-rest that Jesus was offering.  So this verse had to be talking directly to me.  But verse 30 is where I always drew a blank.  What was the easy yoke and light burden of which Jesus spoke?  What did that even mean anyway?

One of the things I love most about studying the Bible is how one verse can all of a sudden and seemingly out of nowhere illuminate your understanding of another verse all the way on the other side of the Bible.  As I shared last week, I’ve been steeping myself in the truth of Isaiah 43 these last few weeks, coming back to it again and again.  This week it was verse  10 that took hold of me…“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord“and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.

And there is was – that light burden and easy yoke that Jesus would speak of thousands of years later.  Those two verses came together in a crash course collision that had been divinely planned since the beginning of time.  God makes no stringent demands of us.  He is not heavy-handed in what he requires, no his yoke is easy and burden is light.  He asks only that we would know him, believe him and position ourselves to grow in an ever-increasing understanding him.  God wants nothing more and nothing less than our hearts.  I don’t know about you, but after all that he has accomplished for me, that’s a burden I will gratefully bear.

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What’s the Word Wednesday: The Easy Way Out

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you may have noticed I’ve been posting Scripture Memory verses every Wednesday.  These posts have gotten a great response and fall in line with my heart and goal as a teacher:  To equip and encourage women to dig into God’s Word with their very own hands.  From now on, I’ll be sharing these shorter posts that center around memorizing a verse of Scripture here on the blog as well.  I pray these posts encourages you to lean in even closer to God’s Word.

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One of the reasons I am so passionate about women learning their Bibles is because we can’t trust in His promises if we don’t know them. The last few weeks have kicked me around something fierce. There has been disappointment and uncertainty and so much doubt and fear. I turned to Isaiah 43 sometime last week and literally just clung to it. I read it several times a day every day and just prayed that God would help me believe.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you. (v.2)

you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you (v. 4)

I, I am the Lord,
and besides me there is no savior. (v.11)

There were so many things that I needed to hear from that chapter, but this is the verse that I couldn’t let go of…

“I will make a way in the wilderness”

I began praying that God would do what he promised – that he would make a way in the wilderness; that he would make a way where there seemed to me to be no way at all. The longer I sat with that text, the more I began to understand that I didn’t just want a WAY in the wilderness, I wanted an EASY WAY in the wilderness.  I wanted God to give me an easy way out – but He’s never promised me that. I had began doubting that God was making a way at all because the way wasn’t easy.

One of the most valuable things about God’s Word is that it always reveals the truth to us, and about us. This morning I am thankful that he makes a way in the wilderness, even if the way is not easy.

 

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We’re all criminals on Good Friday

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left…One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:32:-43  

The criminal hanging by Jesus’ side represents the very best any of us can hope to be in the story of the crucifixion.  Like him, we are all guilty of our own sin, our hearts marred by impurity and selfish desires and evil deeds.  Like him, we stand condemned and rightly so;  each and every one of us.  Like him, we are all desperately in need of the only one who is truly good to bring us into salvation.  May each of us approach God this Good Friday morning with the perspective, humility, and bold faith of that criminal.  Understanding our guilt,  but completely convinced that He bore it.  On this day, the darkest day in human history, may we fiercely cling to Jesus’ promise to that criminal – understanding that it applies to us as well – because if we weren’t all criminals, there would be no need for the cross; “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

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February’s Four-Letter Word

I wrote “February’s Four-Letter Word” last year as a guest-post for Houston Moms Blog, which is a city-wide mama resource that connects moms in the Houston area.  Click HERE to get to the article on HMB and read my thoughts on February’s most controversial four-letter word. Don’t forget to share your own thoughts on all the Valentine’s Day hype in the comments section below the post on HMB.  I’d love you to hear your thoughts on this topic.  See you back here real soon!

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Barbie & our badly broken standards of beauty

The maker of the iconic Barbie doll recently announced the creation of different shapes and sizes of Barbie – including a tall, petite, and curvy version of the thin, busty doll you and I grew up playing with.  Upon the release of this news, I watched social media outlets explode with discussion of the new dolls, the overall sentiment from women being, “It’s about darn time!” We seemed to be simultaneously angry at the company that this redesign took so long, and grateful to them for finally pulling it off.  Apparently, women have been in desperate need for someone to change the prototype of beauty, and who better than a creator of dolls, toys, and other playthings to do that on our behalf?  Not to be glib, ladies, but it seems to me that we’ve been “looking for love in all the wrong places”.  The upside of all this Barbie brouhaha is this:  Perhaps in the frantic attempt to repair our badly broken standards of beauty, we’ll finally succeed in accurately identifying the problem.  That being: the only one who has the right to define beauty is the God who created it.

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Knowing this, I wish I could say I had long since abandoned my disquieting preoccupation with a more Barbie-like version of myself.  That I had pushed aside the slippery societal ideals of what it is to be beautiful in favor of more worthy pursuits.  The truth, though, is that I’m as guilty of perpetuating these false notions of beauty as anyone I’m tempted to blame.  I’ve willingly yoked myself to the culturally constructed standards of beauty I abhor; concurrently hating the standards for existing and hating myself for not meeting them.  I’ve demonized the body God gave me and I’ve idolized the body God gave me.  I’ve thought too little of it, and I’ve thought way too much about it.  Not because this is what culture has trained me to do, but because it is what I have chosen to do.  Like Eve, when given the opportunity to turn away from the lie, I instead took of it and ate, I greedily consumed.  And after more than 30 years of eating of the same tainted fruit, I am battle-weary from the war I’ve waged against my very own form.

Maybe you’re right here with me – weary from a battle that assaults our bodies and distracts our souls.  I assume there are countless of us gathered right here in this very place.  So what might happen if we refuse to partake of the lies any longer?

If we stopped judging ourselves and each other based on outward appearance?

If we resisted the urge to even describe ourselves in these ways?

If we refused to bow down to the idol of beauty any longer and used God’s opinion on beauty to rightly orient ourselves to it?

What might happen if we set our hearts intently on His standard of beauty instead?

So what does the one who has “made everything beautiful in it’s time” say about beauty, anyway?  Given the insane amount of emphasis you and I place on the topic, the Bible says surprising little about it, which is telling, in and of itself. However, the overall gist of God’s sparse words on beauty is that it has absolutely nothing to do with external appearance.  You hear that?  Absolutely nothing.  We were the ones who first linked beauty to hue of skin, color of hair, size of waist, or the shape of one’s body – not God.   Indeed, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). One of the few things that is said about external beauty in the Bible is that is vain, empty, fleeting at best (Proverbs 31:30), and that we should not overly concern ourselves with it (1 Peter 3:3-4).  God seemed to punctuate His feelings toward man’s great esteem of physical beauty by creating Jesus’ bodily form to be altogether unattractive.  In the only description of Jesus’ physical body in the Bible, Isaiah 53:2 describes Him as such; “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”  In a full-frontal assault against the enemy’s lies concerning the significance of outward appearance, the most lovely person to ever walk this earth was intentionally made not beautiful – as if to emphasize just how trivial physical appearance really is.

Despite the complete lack of commentary on what makes one’s outward appearance beautiful, God’s word is replete with descriptions of what makes one inwardly beautiful. Those who are poor in spirit, and pure of heart are beautiful in the eyes of God.  As are the merciful, the meek, the faithful, and kind.  Those who are compassionate, joyful, thankful and loving.  Those who walk in humility, forgiveness, gentleness and self-control.  This is the type of beauty that God esteems (Colossians 3:12-15, Galatians 5:22-23, Matthew 5:1-10).  What we must note about these characteristics is that they can only be attained through a deepening knowledge of God, because outside of Him there is no beauty and there exists no other being that can rightly deem anything beautiful.  In a world so heart-sick for authentic beauty that we attempt to fashion it for ourselves through the creation of small plastic dolls, you and I have the chance to reflect the only One who is truly beautiful.  Therefore, as beings created in His image, let’s push our playthings aside, so that we can more diligently pursue the one who created us to be beautiful.

Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. Psalm 45:11

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Mirror, Mirror

This is a topic I revisit often, because I so often find myself needing to revisit it. Here it is for you again, too. Follow me on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/earlymorningmama
for more from early morning mama each week.

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I’ve spent a lot of time staring into the mirror lately. I’m aware of how vain that must sound, but middle age is hard on a girl. Maybe it’s the result of having three babies in four years.  Or perhaps it has something to do with the twenty-seven total months of pregnancy that resulted in those babies, the three solid years of nursing said babies, or all the child-rearing, toddler-wrangling, middle-of-the-night-time-soothings and everyday-life-still-a-happening that went on in the meantime, but dang am I all worn out now.

With each passing year that pushes me deeper into my thirty-somethings, it is becoming increasingly more obvious that my body was better suited for youth. The boundless energy that I use to know has long since fizzled into a 9 o’clock bedtime (that’s for me, not the kiddos – God forbid). The natural brunette tresses that use to come, well… naturally, have started needing…

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Inhibited Love

Time and again, I have faced my own inability to obey the first and greatest commandment: to love God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my might. Not because I don’t want to love God in this way, but because the human heart can get pretty beat down in the process of living life. Can you relate? This morning, read the good news in God’s word written specifically for the weary-hearted like you and me…

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My six year old son jumped out of our car and ran alongside a stream of children rushing into school.  I paused for a moment as I watched him go, making sure he got safely inside.  At the door of the cafeteria he turned around, obstructing the flow of students, waved his arm high up into the air and hollered at the top of his little lungs, “Bye, mom!  I love you!  You’re the best!” He turned and walked away. The other children look my way briefly, curious to see this creature so worthy of a kindergartner’s adoration.  For a second, things stand still.  I ponder that moment in my heart.  Then time unfreezes, and everyone continues along their way.

With three young children in the house, such shows of affection are still common in our home.  We hug a lot.  Give tons of kisses.  Hold tiny hands.  Tickle.  Laugh…

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