The Father’s Arms Are Open Wide

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Saturday morning I woke up with the words from the following song on my mind, “Oh come to the alter, the Father’s arms are open wide. Forgiveness is bought with the blood of Jesus Christ.” The worship band played that Thursday night at CR, and the words had been on my heart for two days.

As I lay in bed I thought about those words, “come to the alter, the Fathers’s arms are open wide.” My mind always creates instant pictures. I thought of God and I imagined an old man, in flowing white robes with light radiating all around him, sitting on a throne. Then I thought of Jesus and I pictured someone in lowly robes, with long flowing brown hair, warm eyes, and children climbing on his lap.

I know these are not accurate images, no one knows what God looks like. My mind only imagines pictures I have seen, created by others. But those are what I see when I hear the words. I see those two images at the alter of our church, because when I think of the alter, I think of the church alter.

Then I thought about times I have come to the alter. Have I come as a child into a Father’s open arms? No, I usually come as someone dragging a burden. Whether it be the burden of sin, or a burdened heart, with a need for someone else or myself. I usually come downcast, rejected, or broken.

But this song says, the Father’s arms are open wide, with forgiveness. What if I came to the alter, not about what I was bringing, but what I would walk away with. I bring my burdens to the alter and I walk away with forgiveness and peace. That should make me excitedly run to the alter. To those open arms.

For a few years now the desire of my heart has revolved around the following picture. A little girl running to her Father, with outstretched arms and jumping into his arms. I watch Bella run to her Daddy, her Poppy, and her Papa. She runs to them holds up her little arms and says please. Knowing they will gladly pick her up. Knowing they are a safe, loving place.

I want to run to God with unleashed, uninhibited, excited expectations and throw myself in his arms. What about you?

Who Is Your Flock?

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1 Peter 5:2-3, “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you, watch over it willingly,……..lead them by your own good example.” Peter is talking to the elders of the church in these verses, but they can apply to everyone.

Everyone has a flock. God has given each of us people whom we watch over. You might be a Sunday School teacher, you might lead a small group, you might teach school, you might be a team leader at work, you might pastor a church, you might run a business. In life there are people God has entrusted to you.

One of the most important flocks God gives us is our children. As parents God entrusts our kids to us. We are to watch over them. Watch over them, what exactly does that mean? For Chris and KC as parents of a new born, it means watching Milo constantly, attending to every need he has. God has entrusted them to feed, bathe, dress, change and meet every need in his life right now.

For Brittany and Will, as parents of an almost two year old, watching over Bella means something different. They are still responsbile for providing food for Bella but she can now feed herself. They just have to watch and make sure she eats and doesn’t choke. Watching over Bella means starting to set up boundries for her. Making sure she is safe, yet allowing her to make choices and small freedoms.

As our children get older the watching becomes more about observing them and not doing for them. About allowing them to do things for themselves, and not doing it for them. There are times when just doing it is easier. Easier for us, than easier for them. When my kids were growing up, they were responsible for chores and had to help with housework. However, I really never made them do laundry. It was easier for my OCD to do it myself. I liked things folded a certain way and hung up a certain way so I liked doing it myself. Looking back that probably wasn’t the best parenting choice. They did not learn by me doing it, and that wasn’t a good example.

If you don’t want to be doing your child’s homework in high school, then watch them do it in grade school, don’t do it for them. If you don’t want to be calling in to work for your 30 year old son when he is sick, then don’t start making all his calls in his teens.

Your children are your flock, watch over them in appropriate levels based on their age, lead by a good example. It doesn’t work to just say, “do as I say and not as I do.” They are going to mimic everything you do. Bella repeats every thing you say now, and copies every action, that will continue for many years to come.

God entrusts a lot of people into our lives. But none watch our lives more closely, or more regularly than our kids. So, watch your kids, observe your kids, don’t enable them, and lead by good examples.

The Wait

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This morning, I was reading in 1 Peter 4: 7-11 “The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spirtual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himsef were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen!

There is a lot in these verses. That first sentence should generate some type of reaction from you, fear, excitement, confusion, joy? When I first read it my response was, “Am I ready?”

The end of the world is coming SOON. For just a few seconds my mind said, if it is really soon are you ready? Are you really one of the chosen? I believe there are a lot of “good” people headed to hell. They think they are ready but they don’t really know Jesus. There are people in all denominations playing church, that are not ready. So, what makes me think I am any different? Sometimes, like in those brief seconds, Satan likes to play with my mind, and make me doubt. Because, if I doubt, my energy goes to that, to the doubting.

So, what makes me think I am different? Because, I know Jesus died and rose again for me. I know by no power of my own could I get to heaven-only by the blood of Jesus. So, yes if the end of the world is coming soon I am ready. (If you do not know for sure please go to my home page and look under the picture, there is a link in the menu called Roman Road. Check it out.)

So, the end is coming soon according to Peter two thousand years ago. What should we be doing in the mean time, while we wait? According to these verses we should be praying, and he tells us how, earnstly and with discipline. Do I always pray that way? NO. My christian life is sometimes like my everyday life. Sometimes it feels like trying to keep all the plates in the air at one time. Some seasons my reading is good, sometimes my prayer life is good, sometimes my serving is good. But in reality I struggle with finding a balance in all areas.

Our church uses a great app that can help in that area. It’s called Echo. If you are part of Redemption and not on the app yet check it out. It will help you be more disciplined in your prayer life.

Peter goes on to say we should continue to show deep love for each other, because love covers a multitude of sins. Continue, that would indicate that I am already doing that. If I am loving others I am going to to be more compassionate, more patient, quick to forgive, less likely to judge, less likely to want justice when wronged. When I first read this I thought it meant my love for others would cover their sins. I think my love for others may cover my multitude of sins.

What else should I be doing in the wait? Sharing from my blessings, my home, sharing a meal. Brett and I were just talking about this while walking this morning. Someone we know just broke their foot, Brett said we should take them a meal. I said yes we should, we should take one to them, and the person we know struggling with cancer, the widow down the street, the couple with the new baby. Those are the types of things I should be doing in the wait, have I this week? Not yet.

Peter also says that God has given each one of us gifts. A gift from his great variety of spritual gifts. When I read this I had this funny image in my head. I imagined God standing in front of this big closet labeled spirtual gifts. As each baby is conceived God is standing there holding up different gifts deciding which one is right for each person. I don’t think that is quiet how it goes but, I do believe he does give each of us certain gifts. Robin Tarleton has the gift of organization, Robbey has the gift of evangalism, Brett has the gift of servanthood, my grandfather had the gift of giving.

Each person has a gift and when we use those for God everything we do will bring glory to God, through his son Jesus Christ. And, that should be our goal in the wait, to glorify God. Whether in my prayers, my love for others, sharing what I have or using my gifts. If I am doing this with all my energy and strength then the wait should be that, just a wait. A wait for something greater to come. Are you ready in the wait?

Bitterness Builds A Wall

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This is my third draft of this post. I have written it general, and vague, but that is not what this blog is about. It is suppose to be about being real and being more transparent. So, here goes.

Last Sunday as I was getting ready for church I was thinking about my relationship with Brett. It has been OK the last year but it hasn’t been great. As I thought about that, I admitted alot of that is my fault. I have let bitterness and jealousy build a wall between us. I have been bitter and jealous about his new job as a full time Pastor. How is that for honest? Great job as first year as a Pastor’s wife huh.

As I was getting ready I was saying, but God I have taken this to the alter many times this year. And that is a true statement. I have, but each time I walk away with it stuck to me, just like toilet paper stuck to my shoe.

I have been bitter and jealous, because he has Friday’s off and gets to spend the whole day with Bella just the two of them, having fun. He is pretty much free to make his own schedule and come and go as he pleases. I am stuck to a work schedule each day Monday through Friday. His job is different every day of the week. I do the same thing each day.

Ironically, those are our personalities. I like routine, and a schedule and knowing what I am doing. He is more go with the flow and what ever comes up. So, I know God has each of us in the right positions, some days his just looks better from my side of the fence.

So, as I was getting ready I said God I will take this to the alter this morning, and leave it there. God, spoke to my heart, and said no deal with this now. So I knelt down in my closet at my clothes hamper and prayed. I didn’t miss that I was kneeling over my dirty clothes. I was reminded of Isaiah 64:6 that our good deeds look like filthy rags to God. If that is the case, I wondered what my bad deeds of bitterness and jealousy must look like. I asked God to remove those thoughts from my heart, to tear down the walls I had build up, and help me love my husband completely again.

Later that day, I apologized to Brett. My husband is so easy going and forgiving all he said was, “Does this mean you love me again?”

I know why God had me kneel at my hamper, in my closet that morning. Because, I don’t see the alter where I knelt numerous times every day, but I see that closet and that hamper each day and am reminded to lay it down, if it starts to rear it’s head.

Bitterness is an evil thing. It must be something that God knew we would struggle with, because it is mentioned over and over again in the Bible.

Hebrews 12:15 “that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble” Ephesians 4:31 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you. Acts 8:23 “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness” Romans 3:14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness” Job 7:11 “I will complain in the bitterness of my soul” James 3:14 “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts”

The verses go on and on. Bitterness creeps in, you might know its there, but just like weeds if you don’t pluck it out when it first sprouts up it takes over. I knew I was jealous of Brett but I thought I could deal with it. My way of dealing with it was to let a wall go up between us.

I am not naive enough to think it will just go away, I know it is something I need to watch, and address right away if it starts to rear its ugly head. But as I step in my closet each day I am reminded, God gave me a wonderful husband, and I am one lucky wife, with a blessed life.

Are These Words True?

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It is one of those mornings where I feel like a deep thought is forming in my head but I just can’t catch it. We have a friend who is not doing well. I know this person is not afraid of dying, but I believe he is scared for those he will leave behind. What lies in store for them. I have another friend who just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy today. How exciting, but also daunting, to be totally in charge of a tiny human being.

Life and death, and the in between. What do we do with the in between? As those thoughts were tumbling around in my head I read in 1 Peter today. These verses caught my attention, 21-23, “Through Christ you have come to trust in God, and you have placed your faith and hope in God, because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.

As I read these few verses, I thought about how they sum up the christian life so well. I had one of those moments (maybe a moment of doubt), where I think, everything I believe in, everything I base my life on is build on trust that the words in the Bible are true. My life revolves around something I cannot see, I cannot hold, I cannot touch. The world would call that crazy.

I am reminded of something I read that says something to the effect of, “If I am wrong about God, then I wasted my life. If you are wrong about God, then you wasted your eternity.” If I am wrong about what I believe then there will just be nothing when I die. But if you are wrong then what?

So yes, I believe these words, and I believe these three verses sum up the very basics of my life’s believes.

I trust God, and what His words say.

I put my faith and trust in God because he raised Jesus from the dead.

I believe I was/am cleansed from my sins when I obeyed the truth and asked Jesus to be Lord of my life.

I believe God’s greatest command is to love him, and love others.

Because I am born again I believe I will live eternally.

Those verses sum up the basics of everything I believe. My life does revolve around believing everything in the Bible is true, believing something I cannot see, or hold, or touch, and if I am wrong, then when I come to the end there will be darkness and nothing. But, I believe I am right and there will be light and rejoicing. What do you believe? Will there be dark or light?

Daddy’s Hands

So this is one of my favorite newborn pictures of Milo. Partly because he is adorable, but mainly because of his and his Daddy’s hands. I love the way he has his little fingers wrapped around Chris’s finger.

I am trusting this is just the beginning of a lifetime of these two hands joined together. As Milo starts to pull up these fingers will be the first he grasps. When he begins to walk these hands will help him balance.  They will also pick him up and comfort him when he falls. Psalm 103:13 “The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.”

His Daddy’s hands will be there to encourage and support him, and discipline him when he needs it. Proverbs 13:24 “Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” Daddy’s hands will wrap around his small little hands as he learns to write, as he learns to swing a bat, maybe even as he learns to drum.

Those hands will teach, and mold, and guide and direct. Proverbs 22:6 “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” When he starts walking they will hold tight to keep him safe, to protect and shield him from danger. When he’s headed toward a road they will stop him. In a crowd they will not let go so he stays near. 

Those hands will wipe his bottom hundreds of times, and his nose just as many. Those fingers will wipe away tears when he is hurt.  They will tousle his hair when they are playing.

As he gets older I imagine those hands high fiveing, or giving fist bumps at many Cubs games. Clapping with delight as he learns something new. I hope his Dad teaches him to extent his hand in a firm handshake when he meets someone.

I see Chris teaching him to fold his hands as he bows his head to pray. Teaching him to carry a bible in those hands as he goes to church. There’s nothing that warms my heart more, than seeing Brett lay his hand on Chris’s shoulder when they kneel at the alter to pray together. I imagine seeing Chris there one day with Milo will be just as heart warming. 3 John 1:4 “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.”

God as Milo grows, I pray he always knows his Daddy’s hands are a safe place to run to. God I pray as Chris starts this lifetime journey of Fatherhood, that he depends on your example of how a Father’s loving hands guides his children. 1 John 3:1 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us.”

HAPPY FIRST FATHERS DAY CHRIS!

The Running Prophet

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As I finished reading the book of James, I came across the following verse in chapter 5. “Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield crops.” It made me want to study Elijah more closely. I want my prayers to be that powerful. So, I have been reading 1 Kings 17-19 over and over the past week.

There is so much in these three chapters. I know there are only three chapters, yet those three chapters cover a time span of at least three and a half years, because the drought lasted that long.

There are so many neat and miraculous stories in those few chapters. God sends Elijah away so he is protected from Jezebel. He sends him to a brook where he has a water source, and God sends ravens to feed him meat and bread. Daily birds come and bring him food. He stays there until the brook dries up.

Then God sends him to a widow, who is getting ready to make a loaf of bread from the last of the oil and flour she has. Her and her son are going to eat a last meal and then die. Instead, Elijah stays with this widow, and every day there is always enough flour and oil in the jars to support Elijah, the widow, and her family.

While Elijah stays with them the widow’s son becomes ill and dies. Elijah the prophet of God is able through the power of God to bring the boy back to life. Raising someone from the dead, one of the most miraculous miracles there are.

Next comes the contest at Mt Carmel, between Elijah and Jezebels prophets. Their gods against Elijah’s God. A contest involving calling down fire from heaven. I won’t give it away and tell you who wins but trust me it is worth reading. Look it up 1 Kings chapter 18.

Then in chapter 19 is one of my favorite passages. The part where the Lord speaks to Elijah. But God was not in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. God was in the gentle whisper. So often I look for God in the big and the bold, yet I know he comes in the whisper. When he whispers, I have to listen intently to hear.

In the middle of all these great and wonderful things happening, is the following verse 18:66, and God’s sense of humor comes through, the reminder to keep it light. That I serve a God who says don’t forget to smile. Because verse 66 says “Then the Lord gave special strength to Elijah. He tucked his cloak into his belt and ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot, all the way to the entrance of Jezrel.

God has done all these amazing things through Elijah, then he gives him the super natural strength to outrun Ahab’s chariot. I get this picture of Ahab in his chariot, with the fastest horse, and he is smacking the horse to go and Elijah just goes jogging past him. If it were a movie the theme from chariots of fire would be playing in the background. I hear Ahab saying, man that little prophet man sure can run.

I serve a God who is full of strength and power and miracles. Yet I feel he is a God who says don’t forget to smile and learn to enjoy life.

God may I see the miracles, hear you in the soft whisper, and always find the joy, in the funny things in life.