This one is for you

For the one buckling under bad news, for the one who tugs her sleeves over the track marks of her past, for all of us limping barefoot down the broken and narrow road, this post is for you. This post is for me.

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God invites the wretched to come. He takes all that is true in the enemy’s taunts and places it upon Jesus. In the greatest exchange known to mankind, He takes our sin and gives us Christ. We can’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, but He does it anyway. He is for you. His plans are good, even when this busted world makes the opposite seem true. His Word promises that beauty will rise from the ashes of disappointment and heartache.

The Gospel for Every Day

The gospel truth is life-changing not only in that first moment of salvation, but in every moment that follows. The gospel truth matters today because we need God today just as much as we needed Him yesterday and just as much as we will need Him tomorrow. The gospel is good news for the guilty, good news in the mundane, and good news for the shamed. It is good news for every day.

The gospel truth declares us clean, holy, righteous, and able to stand before the Lord because Jesus makes it possible. We can approach His throne with confidence knowing He hears our prayers, has gone before us and walks beside us even now.

Enough

He is good even when life is not. And when the shame of sin, the weight of guilt, the hugeness of needs overwhelm, God remind us that he is enough. He is more than able to cover sin, remove shame and meet every need perfectly. We praise the Lord. In all the earth there is none like Him.

The end of the story

When you don’t know how this trial ends remember how this story ends. God is victorious. Nothing can steal victory from Him and from all who believe in Him. If you belong to Him, you are cupped in the palm of his hand and no one can steal you away.  Thank you, Lord!

 

*from the archives

Mean what you pray

Lord, cause my children’s actions to reflect the true state of their hearts so I know how to pray for them. Lord, open their eyes to their need for you. Cause them to grieve their sin and lead them to repentance. Lord, do whatever necessary to save them. Lord, give me patience and wisdom. Create in me an urgency to pray for my children. Do not let me fall into a slumber of false security.

Pray what you mean and mean what you pray

I meant these prayers. I meant every word. But I was in no way prepared for God’s answer. I wanted the victory without the conflict. I wanted parenthood to be a party when it’s actually a war. Raising children in the ways of the Lord is an all-in, no-holds-barred, the enemy-fights-dirty battle and eternity is at stake. Sometimes, even after suiting up in the armor, we get speared right through the heart.

raising children is an

Parenting gets HARD. Not every day. But some days. Sometimes days and days and days strung together. And you’ll have to decide what you’re going to do when God’s answers to your prayers don’t line up with your expectations.

“God’s answers frequently do not look at first like answers. They look like problems. They look like trouble. They look like loss, disappointment, affliction, conflict, sorrow, and increased selfishness. They cause deep soul wrestling and expose sins and doubts and fears. They are not what we expect, and we often do not see how they correspond to our prayers.” ~ Jon Bloom, The Unexpected Answers of God | Desiring God

Am I really ready for God to do whatever is necessary to save my child’s soul? That is a scary prayer – yet it is the one that matters more than many others that slip into its place. It matters more than health, more than physical protection, and more than happiness. It’s the kind of prayer that only God can answer. Only God can transform a heart of stone into a heart of repentance. Only God can put back together a heart broken by sin. But before the heart can be rebuilt, it has to be broken. Nothing grieves a parent more than watching her child break.

The urgency to pray for my children increases as I see the battle escalate in intensity. This too is an answered prayer. There is no false security as swords clash in the spiritual realm and the kingdom takes ground in my child’s heart.

“We can feel like we’re going backward because we are not clearly moving forward. We cry out in painful confusion and exasperation (Psalm 13:1; Job 30:20) when what’s really happening is that God is answering our prayers. We just expected the answer to look and feel different… With regard to God’s answers to prayer, expect the unexpected. Most of the greatest gifts and deepest joys that God gives us come wrapped in painful packages.” ~ Jon Bloom, The Unexpected Answers of God | Desiring God

So, tonight, I choose to praise the Lord for answered prayer. I choose to believe He is moving mightily, and as I fix my eyes on Him and redirect my child toward Him, He will have his way in our family and in our home.

I’m am praying with GREAT expectation.

 

*from the archives

Fractured Bones Rejoice

An albatross of sin drives nails through innocence. You are blameless in judgment. Yet, my fractured bones rejoice. Steadfast love and fragrant mercy blot out transgressions. You teach wisdom and lead the penitent heart to repentance. You absorb my stain, leaving me clean. Not for me, but for You.

And I sing a new song, a song of righteousness, praising you and only you. I bring you the sacrifice of my broken spirit, my fragmented and contrite heart, myself brought low to you. I offer praise and choose joy when life is not joyful. I trust that you, God, and only you, are in control when life spins out of control. I worship you with a joy-filled heart and choose to believe you are good, even when life is not.

When I don’t feel your goodness, and when circumstances whisper you have betrayed me, my praise is a sacrifice. When I lay on the altar my unfulfilled desires and choose to trust the God I cannot understand – it is a sacrifice of praise.

sacrifice of praise

This joy is not happiness, it is not a bubbling of thanks spilling out in gratitude. It is a settled belief that you are good. That despite feelings, circumstances, uncertainties, and unanswered questions, you hold it all. And when I worship here, in the difficulty of now, my praise becomes an offering of trust and adoration that does not hinge on getting my way. It is a beautiful, full-surrender, that might be scary, but is oh, so good.

It is far too easy to show up every Sunday and never really show up. And Lord, I want to show up. I want to be present, invested, all-in, for your plans for your ultimate glory. I know it won’t be easy. I am trying to hold loosely. I tremble over what might lay on the road ahead. But I believe this is your calling for me – for all of your children – to praise you on the narrow road during the good and the bad, the hard and the easy, all for your glory.

It is my sacrifice of praise. These fractured bones rejoice.

 

*from the archives

Cracked Open and Ugly

How long, O Lord? How long until this suffocating weight lifts and lungs fill with breath? How far will the greedy fingers of darkness reach? How deep must I dig to bury grief? Crippled and raw, I drop at your feet weeping fresh wounds and blackened bruises. I cannot withstand this avalanche of calamity.

where are you lord

The winds batter your faithful. The tempest abuses your chosen. This reed drowns in the very water that once gave life. Where are you, Lord? Why do you wait? Where is your redemption? Why isn’t it now?

My cracked open heart spills out ugly. The short-suffering, inpatient, unloving, unforgiving, resentful, discontent, unrested, harsh-hearted sin that stiffens against accepting anything but good from your hand. And the wind blows.

But even here, You lead me. Even here, Your hand guides me. Even when the angry gusts twist and tear and push and pull, You are here. And I can no longer resist your presence. This empty heart ringing hallow beats chooses praise. Praise to the God who never changes, who never walks away. Who understands empty because He spilled out empty for love. Praise to the God who allows the hardship and tears – but doesn’t waste a single drop on the ground, who keeps count of my tossing, my sacrifice of praise.

Praise to the God who sees beauty in broken, who receives praise from fractured bones, who promises one day to press a nail-scarred hand to my cheek and wipe away every tear.

O Lord, do not tarry.

 

*from the archives

Be Overwhelmed

Be overwhelmed.

When my husband and I attended the 2018 Senior Pastor and Wives retreat hosted by the Great Commission Collective Doug Long, one of the speakers, opened with those words. “Be overwhelmed.”

He instantly got my attention. Sometimes parenting through a problematic moment overwhelms me. Sometimes it’s the unchecked items on my to-do list at the end of the day. Sometimes it’s looking ahead to the packed calendar and wondering where I will muster up the energy to not merely survive the upcoming month, but enjoy each moment as a God-given gift. Why should I embrace this feeling of being overwhelmed?

I asked on social media what overwhelms other people, and I received a variety of answers. They ranged from emotional struggles (loneliness) to physical hardships (finances, household chores, illness) to the general response: life. All of life overwhelms. And Long says we should embrace this?

No, he doesn’t. Stick with me.

Underwhelmed by God

The deeper issue is not that I’m overwhelmed by life, but I am underwhelmed by God. When was the last time the goodness of God, the fact that He intervened in my life and saved me, the way He sets my feet on solid ground, and makes me lie down in green pastures, and leads me beside quiet waters has overwhelmed me? Maybe, just maybe, when we kick the One meant to overwhelm us from His proper place every other circumstance rushes in to fill the void.

How can we cultivate a heart that is overwhelmed by God more than circumstance? How do we train our mind to go to God first in a crisis moment and common mundane moments? Long addresses this in his message. My paraphrase will never be as powerful as his exact words, but I’ll share what I learned:

We don’t want to be overwhelmed. We long for things to be comfortable and we pursue anything that makes life less complicated. We need to “get over” wanting to feel less overwhelmed and instead embrace it: be overwhelmed, BUT be overwhelmed by the right thing.

Be Overwhelmed

When was the last time the magnitude of your responsibilities overwhelmed you? Last week? Last month? Yesterday? We all likely have an answer, but can you answer this:

When was the last time you were overwhelmed by the love of your God?

When God goes into the background, circumstances take the forefront, but the opposite is true as well. When God stays in the forefront, where He belongs, circumstances remain behind Him.

“When we are overwhelmed by God’s love our theology dictates how we feel and perceive a situation, not our feelings.” ~ Doug Long

I asked those same people I polled on social media how they could train their hearts to go to God first. Although they didn’t use the words “train themselves” in their responses, there was a consistent theme: run to God. Practice going to God first to create the habit. Surround yourself with encouraging people. Ensure my heart is right before the Lord. Surrender to his plans.

They all seem to capture the idea of teaching our stubborn hearts through the discipline of seeking God through our trials to be overwhelmed by His love for us.

Be overwhelmed.

Psalm 63

I long to thirst for You more- yet a shaming lack of desire persists. I ache for depth and refreshment, but my flesh faints, proving my frailty. My soul clings to You because only You are God.

You lift my eyes from circumstance and onto You. You cause me to behold your power and glory. Your steadfast love is better than life. I know this, but do I live this?

Grandma's Special Herbs

Do I praise you? Bless you? Lift my hands to you? Do I find satisfaction in You and in your choices for me? When I do, everything changes.

You cause me to remember, and I meditate on You because You are my help. I hide in the shadow of your wings – not in front of You or behind You – but covered and protected by You. I sing for joy because I am more than satisfied. My joy overflows and bursts forth in praise. Your right hand upholds me, and I do not fall prey to my enemies. You will build your church. You will build me. I rejoice in You.

Psalm 63

Maybe I don’t have to parent perfectly

I remember when I thought my parents could do anything, and when my Dad was the strongest and smartest man alive. I remember when my mom’s word was law and how she never stopped moving, always cooking and cleaning. I grew up happy, safe, warm and loved. (That’s me on the far left.)

us as kids

Now, I’m a mom. I have kids that look at me with trusting eyes. They, like I did, believe that money grows on trees, the cupboards will always be full, and that they could never, ever, hurt my feelings.

Oh, the blissful ignorance of youth.

I’m not the strongest or the smartest. I struggle every day to gather the energy to wipe clean the messes, feed their bellies, and to smile through the tears as their sometimes hurtful words pierce my heart.

Just like my parents did.

I battle feelings of guilt, sure that I’m on the cusp of some irreparable mistake that will scar them for life. I work to exhaustion because there is never enough time, energy, or answers. I must lack what they need because, if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I have no idea what their real physical needs are. Not really.

Do they need to be homeschooled? Public schooled? Private schooled? Do they need more time with mom and dad? Less?

Do they need more social times with friends their age? More opportunities to shine outside the family unit?

Do they need firmer boundaries? Fewer boundaries? Consequences? Grace? I don’t know, and neither did my parents.

Maybe that’s okay.

Maybe it’s okay that this mom doesn’t have all the answers. Maybe what I really need is to spend more time praying, more time examining my own heart, actions, and choices. Maybe it’s less about what my kids are (or are not) doing, and more about how I am reacting to it. Maybe, what God is trying to teach me at this moment, is not how to be a better mom to my children, but how to be a more obedient and loving daughter to Him.

Maybe this season isn’t just about shaping them, but it’s also about shaping me.

My parents made mistakes. Their parents made mistakes. I’m going to make mistakes. But I serve a God who can take the ashes of my mistakes and create something beautiful.

 

*from the archives

If/Then: Conditional Blessings

Solomon’s prayer dedicating the temple to the Lord in 1 King’s 8:22-53 is full of requests for conditional blessings.  He prays: “If we pray, acknowledge, and turn from sin, THEN God hears and forgives.” “If we turn our hearts, repent with all our minds, and pray, THEN God hears, forgives and grants compassion.”

Solomon also makes it abundantly clear in verse 46 that every person sins against the Lord.

“If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—”(46)

Solomon didn’t just ask for blessings but made repentance a precursor to the blessing.

There is no forgiveness without repentance. There is no repentance without a desire to replace sinful habits and actions with God-honouring ones. And nothing changes until God grants the desire to pursue Him and the Holy Spirit transforms a heart.

How often do we pray for blessing and rescue but are unwilling to address our heart issues and repent? How often do we ask God for things, perhaps even good things—but still fail to repent of the actions, thoughts, and sin that prevent his blessing? I don’t know about you, but these questions are a timely heart check for me.

Oh, how I need to repent of the sin that prevents God’s power in my life! Oh, how I need to examine my choices.

  • What hobby or activity do I pursue more than Him?
  • What desire do I long for more than time in the Word?
  • What television program or novel pulls me from prayer?
  • What action do I KNOW I am called to act upon but have put off because of laziness, fear, or simple disobedience?

Oh God, open our eyes to hidden sin and misplaced priorities. I desire a closeness between us that will not tolerate sin or give it an opportunity to root. I want a soft heart so that as You reveal areas in need of surrender I will willingly release them.

It is not comfortable or easy to invite the Holy Spirit to expose our continual need for the gospel. But, it is good.

 

*from the archives 

Home from Haiti

As our driver transported us from the airport to the compound on which we stayed for the duration of our trip to Haiti, he pointed in the general direction of the beach that receives cruise ships and tourists. That portion of Haiti is separated from the rest and is considered by some to be the most beautiful section of Haiti.

But I disagree.

To be fair, I didn’t visit the cleaned up and polished beach just around the other side of the mountain. But I saw something most tourists do not get to see. I saw the people and visited several in their homes. I saw the determination and hard work that life requires from them. I saw a light in their eyes fueled by a love for Jesus. There is nothing more beautiful than a person on fire for the Lord, a person who is ready to be a light in a dark land.

We walked a mile up the mountainside to say hello to a man invested in the launch of Harvest Cap Haitian. This man hikes his mountain path numerous times a day several times a week so he can be part of the church God is planting.

 

We visited the school, the university campus where the church will meet, and we made new friends.

 

We sang along to familiar worship songs in English while the Haitians sang in Creole. We opened our Bibles and sought wisdom from the Word together. The sweetest moment was when my Haitian sisters in Christ prayed for the requests dear to my heart, interceding on my behalf.

 

God used this trip to knit together friendships through shared laughter, prayers, and a few screams caused by a hard-shelled insect setting up home in the girls’ room 🙂

 

God is doing an amazing work in Haiti. He has raised up a group of people that desire to proclaim His name unashamedly in a culture that can be very dark. This Sunday – yes THIS SUNDAY, you can be part of the launch of Harvest Cap Haitian! Their service starts at 7am and goes until 9am EST. Won’t you join me and the many others God has raised to intercede on behalf of this church plant in prayer?

  • Pray the Word is unapologetically proclaimed.
  • Pray that Jesus’ name is lifted high through worship.
  • Pray those in attendance come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour.
  • Pray those committed to Christ find that special way they can use their gifts to serve the Lord.
  • Pray that friendships deepen as the local people serve the Lord side-by-side.

We saw this banner stretched across a busy section of road on our way to the airport for our return trip to Canada. It made me smile. God is building His church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!

IMG_4983

A special thank you goes out to all who messaged me to tell me that you were praying for our team. Keep praying! God is on the move!

 

Going to Haiti

Next week, I will be in Haiti celebrating with brothers and sisters in Christ as they prepare to launch a gospel-preaching, Jesus-proclaiming church in a very dark place.

I have camped out in Ephesians 6:11-18 this week, reminding myself what I must do to prepare for this trip. Would you join me in these prayers?

armor

I must fasten the belt of truth and believe the truth of the gospel has the power to transform lives. I must believe the truth of Scripture that promises my God is everywhere – in Canada with our children and in Haiti with me. I must believe the truth that God has gone before me, will stand beside me, and fight for me. I must believe that I cannot do anything of value or significance on my own strength. Without truth, I am hopelessly lost and susceptible to the lies and schemes of the enemy.

Pray that I fasten the breastplate of righteousness, firmly trusting in the righteousness Jesus purchased for me at salvation. Only Jesus can protect my heart and soul from the enemy.

Pray that I am ready to share the gospel of peace, that I firmly plant my feet in the truth of the Word of God and boldly go where the Lord leads preaching the good news.

Pray that I take up the shield of faith, believing my God can extinguish ALL the fiery darts of the evil one. I am justified by faith, and my faith in the Word of God is my defense against the enemy. It protects me from attack and is also what goes before me as I charge into enemy territory.

Pray that I put on the helmet of salvation, trusting fully in Jesus for His complete work done on my behalf. Pray that I do not fear the one who can only harm the body, but that I fear the One who can destroy both body and soul. May my reverent fear of the Lord be what drives me, not tempory circumstances, no matter how fearsome they may be.

Pray that the living and active weapon that is sharper than any two-edged sword penetrates deeply into my heart. The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, is my defense. Pray that I wield it with power.

I would love to know that you are praying for my husband and I as we set off January 15th for five days. Please pray for our team of six adults. I can’t wait to update you all upon our return.

Go, Lord!