Friday, August 25, 2017

Stand for Truth

My church--a place I love--was vandalized under the cloak of darkness.

While it wasn’t the only target--almost 20 other reports came in from around the county--it hits close to home.

When I first saw the photos, my heart dropped. My stomach sank. I felt sick. I wanted to cry. All normal responses to violation. Other people were angry. Shocked. Also normal.

I couldn’t stop looking at the markings. Whoever did this knows something of the Christian faith. Jesus. Blood. John 3:16. But that means nothing. The Bible speaks over and over that head knowledge DOES NOT equal heart knowledge. Head knowledge...even the evil one has head knowledge. It’s heart knowledge that counts.

And heart knowledge leads to heart transformation.

That is why the Bible--cover to cover, word upon word--it’s entirety, is vital. The Word is first and foremost about who God is, who Jesus is, who the Spirit is...we--humanity--are not the primary storyline.

Oh, we don’t want it to be that way. And until we submit to His authority, we fight it. So did the Israelites.

I am reading through the book of Jeremiah right now. There are so many similarities and parallels to the world around the church around me. But today I want to talk about some verses in Jer 9.

It is written:
“My people bend their tongues like bows to shoot out lies.
They only go from bad to worse.
‘They do not know me,’ says the LORD.

“Beware of your neighbor!
Don’t even trust your brother!
For brother takes advantage of brother,
And friend slanders friend.
They all fool and defraud each other;
With practiced tongues they tell lies;
they wear themselves out with all their sinning.
They pile lie upon lie
and utterly refuse to acknowledge me,”
says the LORD.” (v. 3-6)

The vandalism is a prime example of what happens when we rely on head knowledge and not heart knowledge. When we pick out John 3:16 and refuse to take in the WHOLE counsel of God. We refuse to stand for truth.

In this instance, it is OK for believers to stand up and say, “Vandalism is NOT OK. It shouldn’t have happened, and we’re sorry.”

It is OK for the Christian community to stand for truth.

Racism is NOT OK.
Oppression and abuse in marriage is NOT OK.
Violation of children is NOT OK.
Slavery is NOT OK.
Sexual abuse is NOT OK.
Bullying is NOT OK.
Lewd commentary is NOT OK.
Lying is NOT OK.
Brushing things under the rug in the hopes it will go away is NOT OK.


But where is the hope?

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, 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. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” (Romans 5: 6-11)

If, as Christians, we refuse to stand for truth...the WHOLE COUNSEL of it...we get head knowledge, not heart transformation. If we, first and foremost, refuse to see that God is above us...ALWAYS above us...we will never be wise. We will never mature. We will step off the narrow road.

But, if we fix our eyes on the WAY, the TRUTH, the LIFE...all of Jesus...even the Jesus who harshly addressed the religious leaders, who brought the disciples’ shortcomings to light and invited them to grow, who flipped over tables...we will find hope.

As I took a second look at the pictures of my church, now covered with head knowledge, I noticed something. Sun rays.

Those sun rays are piercing the dark. God is near. God is THERE. God is moving in my church body. And He promises to bring those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

His purpose is His WORD. The whole of it. The double-edged sword of it. The piercing of it. The discerning of it. The hope and the healing of it. The mercy and grace and love, but also the justice and righteousness.

So let’s rise o church. Let’s stand for truth. And the truth will set us free.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse glasses. What's the big deal anyway?

The 2017 eclipse wasn't an earth-shattering event for me at first. I tend to brush off anything that gets hyped. But as the eclipse date got closer, I started to buy in. And then I couldn't easily find glasses. Go figure.

But hubby came through, and I now have glasses. 
(nevermind that it is currently raining)

But, big deal, right? I'm not alone in my eclipse glasses ownership...and really, the struggle to get glasses isn't the story what is?

A few years ago, God spoke to my heart in a powerful way I clearly understood. I love it when He does that! All of a sudden, I had this term "Jesus Glasses" to weigh and ponder. That, for those of us, in the words of Romans 10:9--who confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead--the Father sees us through Jesus Glasses.

Perhaps it seems overly simple...childish imagine God wearing Jesus Glasses as He looks on his children...on me. Nevertheless, it was a very potent, visual lesson for me. And I needed it. I STILL love to think on it. 

And last night, as I prayed with my oldest, God once again used the visual. This time to make a comparison between Jesus Glasses and solar eclipse glasses.

The glasses are necessary. 

In order to look at the eclipse, the rule is...wear glasses! It is not safe to look with the naked eye. An eclipse has the potential to damage eyesight for life. Not a risk I want to take.

So too, for the Lord. He cannot look on us without the lens of Jesus. Without the covering of Jesus, we are far removed from His glory. We are in darkness. And in HIM there is NO darkness. The LIGHT cannot exist in the dark.

Like we need to wear specifically made glasses to view the eclipse, God designed specifically made glasses to usher us into His presence. Jesus. Always Jesus. Only Jesus.

1 John 1:5-10 (NLT) relays a powerful message. It is written: “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 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. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.”

My understanding of the implications of the cross continue to develop. There was a time when I believed in Jesus, but just didn’t recognize my own deep, flesh-life sin. I was missing out on God-Light shining on my sin because I didn’t want to see. I was so prideful. It’s still a sin that can easily trip me up. But, God continues His good work in me and He will be faithful to complete it.

So, I choose to do my part. To confess with my mouth and believe with my heart. For Romans 10 continues to say, "For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved." (vs. 10) I trust in that today. I trust that God looks at me through Jesus Glasses, seeing me as righteous before Him. 

Only God is light. Only Jesus was blameless. Like it or not, we’re all related to Adam and Eve, and it’s a learning curve to fall under God’s authority. We don’t naturally submit to anything or anyone. But submitting to God’s authority is the only way.

May you be covered under the life-giving lenses of Jesus today and always.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Enjoy the Journey | Lipstick & Pearls*

“Mom, can we go see the Superman costume?”
This, mere seconds after stepping out of the elevator shaft that had brought us 650 feet below the surface.
I had been down in Strataca salt mine before, so I knew where the costume--as featured in the orientation video--was located. At the end of the self-guided tour.
So wisely I said, “We will get there. You will need to be patient.”
We listened to a short presentation. And then I felt a young one come up beside me.
“Mom, can we go see the Superman costume?”
Now I knew. His excitement over the Superman costume would supersede any of the other museum features.
Eventually we would get there. And I would need to be patient.
I continued to put off his persistence. At one point I even tried to explain that if we become too focused on one thing, we miss out on the journey. Life lesson, right? For a moment, I thought he even understood as he briefly succumbed to a cease-fire.
But then, “Mom, can we go see the Superman costume?”... this time in rapid-fire succession.
Sigh. Sure, buddy. Let’s go.
We walked the length of mine to the underground vaults, winding our way to the final room. And then, there was Superman. And Batman. And a race-car driving suit. My boy was finally satisfied. But I’m still sad for him that he missed out on all the amazing machines he could have seen along the way. If not for the fixation, he would have many more memories of the day at the mine--he is blissfully unaware, but I am not.

As school begins again, it seems to be a good time to remember to enjoy what’s right in front of us. There are families gearing up for the college realm. There are seniors ready to experience that last first day of high school, and freshman who are going to start their first.
There are middle-schoolers trying to calm fears of getting lost or forgetting locker combinations, and parents who are shell-shocked by the lightning speed of the passage of time.
For our family, the days of babies, toddlerhood and library storytime have officially come to an end. Today, all three of my kids woke up to a new school year as a fourth-grader, second-grader, and kindergartener.
Unlike the summer before my oldest went to kindergarten, I haven’t spent this season in dread of the next. It’s not that I won’t miss them. Oh, to the contrary! Being a mother is more than I could have ever dreamed of! And I have pangs of sadness along with the “what if they’re NOT ready,” worries.
But this time, as a beloved chapter comes to a close, I find myself without fixation. I’m not constantly asking to go see the Superman costume.
I think the turning point for me was the realization that growing up is normal. I know. Not terribly earth-shattering. My guess is we all know that. But for me I needed to take the head knowledge and let it be transformed into heart knowledge.
For those who have been reading my column for its duration, you might remember the medical journey we were forced to join when our oldest was a year old. Her blood counts were nowhere near normal. She wasn’t growing like she should. And that was cause for concern.
Fast-forward to her first year of school where I caught myself wishing she wasn’t growing up so fast. How ironic. We spent months going from appointment to appointment to HELP her grow...and here I was wishing she wouldn’t?
Reality check for Mom!
I was fixated on what I was losing, instead of what I was gaining.
I’m not saying mourning isn’t appropriate. For me, there is a time of sadness as each chapter transitions to the next. I am shocked at the quick passage of time.
But I don’t want to lose my focus of what’s happening in the here and now. We might be beyond the 24/7 care of infancy, the intense demands of toddlerdom, even the challenging stubbornness that comes with 3s and 4s, but there are still lessons to be taught and lessons to learn.
As my sweet blessings head out the door, leaving me behind in an empty house, I hope to quiet my quest for the Superman costume and instead enjoy the journey, encouraging my kids to do the same.

"Enjoy the Journey" was originally published for my monthly column, Lipstick & Pearls, in the Aug. 16 edition of Hillsboro Free Press. Lipstick and Pearls is published every third Wednesday of the month.   

Friday, August 4, 2017

Finishing Touches | the hall

Welcome to the dungeon, cave...fine...hall. 
As I went back a few months to find before photos, I was actually shocked at what the hallway looked like when we bought the place!

When hubby explained that we would need to renovate the hallway before we could renovate our middle daughter's bedroom, which is across the hall from our son's already renovated room, I was a little disappointed. So was Miss Daughter. Seriously, what fun is a hallway? But, since we're doing our own flooring at our own pace, it was necessary to flow out of the shark room, into the hall, AND THEN into our daughter's room.


But nonetheless, we got to work. 
And everything took longer than anticipated. 
The laminate flooring was a beast to take out. The trim ended up being two different styles, so instead of keeping it, we decided to take the plunge and upgrade it, DIYing it of course 😜. The popcorn ceiling scraped easily, but needed patched in places. AND, we installed a second light.

Doing that work plus painting the walls plus painting miles of trim and cabinets ended up taking us from the beginning of June until the end of July. (But the process inspired my first in a series of Home Connection half full people! Read it HERE.)

The end-result makes me giddy.

What an impact! Insert lots of heart-eye emojis!

We still have things to do (of course), namely putting the last baseboard on {but that can't happen until we do the living room floors, so the corner can be properly fitted together}...painting all the doors...and hanging artwork on the wall. {I have a plan! Be sure to follow my writing page on Facebook for future updates!}

The floors are a continuation of our DIY hardwoods made from maple plywood that we used in our son's room. I can't even describe how smooth they are under bare feet! I have an aversion to touching wooden handles (ie wooden spoons for cooking, wooden paintbrushes for painting) and I also can't stand the feeling of "dry" wood under my feet (which is why I promptly put a rug on our back deck) for me to say I LIKE walking on this floor is pretty huuuugggge.

As I worked on the built-in cabinets, I fully intended to put the doors back on. But after I lined the back with contact paper, I decided to leave it open. The globe is a must-stay...the rest of the decor might get shifted. What can I say? I am always experimenting with things until I get the look I want!

The trim is another DIY project. Hubby and I came up with a plan for farmhouse-style trim. Then he cut it all and I painted. And painted. And painted. And then he painted. And painted. And the we painted. And painted. {Seriously...trim seems to multiply while painting}

I'm so thrilled by how this turned out. It was worth the wait! And now, we can move onto the bedroom. Here's a sneak peek (and it gives you a look at what the raw flooring looks like before we coat it with poly).

Before you go, take one last look at a before & after. You might get heart eyes, too!

See you soon! ❤

Friday, June 30, 2017

Home Connection | Layered

For those of you familiar with my blog, you know I have been writing a series called "Finishing Touches" for about seven years. (No worries...that series isn't going away any time soon!) In this season of my life, home reno has been a common theme, and I started Finishing Touches to document the changes our various properties have gone through during renovations. Those posts have generally been light-hearted and full of pictures. I plan to keep it that way.

But for me, renovations take on something more...they are a tool for me as work in progress. In the middle of those finishing touches, I've felt the urge to go deeper. And that's what Home Connection is all about. Taking those seemingly insignificant acts of work and pushing them further...right into scripture, my God and life.

For those desiring to go deeper into His DEEP, I pray this will be an opportunity for us to step together!


Let's talk sanctification. I know, it's a big, theological word...exciting right? 

I have been painting trim for days. If you have ever taken wood trim/cabinets/drawers/doors from a wooden state to a painted state, you know I am not exaggerating. The transformation seems to take FOREVER! 

I always start with a good base of primer. Coat 1. In the case of our trim, I am painting it white, so the next step is to brush on a layer of semi-gloss right over the primer base. Coat 2. Even though paint likes to say it is a one-coat wonder, I beg to differ. Coat 3. It's still not quite right. Coat 4. Depending on the lighting, it might take one more go. Coat 5.

It's a stretch to say I am sanctifying my trim...but it's not a stretch to compare the process. 

The Greek word for sanctification is hagiasmos. At its base is the idea that we are separated TO God. That gives me chills. You? Since sanctified means we are separated to God, that implies we must be separated from something, right? In this process we are separated from sin (a barrier to a Holy God, no matter what it is), and in Christ, we are brought TO the Lord. Amazing.

Blue Letter Bible defines it this way: " 'Sanctification' is thus the state predetermined by God for believers, into which in grace He calls them, and in which they begin their Christian course and so pursue it."

We begin our journey by the grace of Christ. By the blood of the lamb, we are covered. But that's just the beginning! And that's exciting!

In the New Testament, sanctification is used to describe the separation of the believer from evil things and ways. We find scripture saying that sanctification is God's will for the believer and His purpose in calling by the gospel...we also find that it MUST be learned from God as taught in His Word...AND it must be pursued by the believer without deviation. (Blue Letter Bible)

But here's the part that really struck me...individually sanctification must be "built up, little by little, as the result of obedience to the Word of God, and of following the example of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit." (Blue Letter Bible) 

Doesn't that sound a bit a lot like painting trim? 

For a reminder, coat 1, coat 2, coat 3, coat 4, coat 5...until finally you can do the trim-painting happy know, the sweet spot when BAM, you can stop painting.

Layer upon layer goes on the paint. Layer upon layer goes on our lessons, knowledge, the living, breathing WORD sanctifies us...changes be more like Christ.

At one point in my journey, I was asked if I thought studying God's word was dangerous. This was the context of our conversation: I had just given an impassioned monologue about how much I hungered for the I just wanted more and I felt like I wanted to understand everything in it.

To be asked if I thought that was a good that stage of my faith at least...took some of the wind out of my sails. I already wrestled with guilt and shame, and the implication that my hunger for the Word was somehow bad really rocked me. I don't know that I had an answer for her at the time. But years later, I do.

Is God's Word dangerous? Absolutely. It is dangerous to all sin, disobedience, complacency. It is dangerous to anything that doesn't bear fruit. It is dangerous to anything that separates us from God. It has power to CHANGE US...and that isn't what we might call "safe." 

But is it dangerous to study and hunger for the Word (in the way I believe was implied, that I should back off and that my desire for more of God's Word was inappropriate)? No. 
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says this: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (ESV, emphasis mine) 

Today, let's embrace the sanctification process as necessary. Let's embrace understanding of the Word as necessary. Let's embrace all the places God uses his word to teach, reproof, correct and train us in righteousness as necessary. 

As we get layered in this process, we become complete, equipped for every good work. And that truly is a happy dance sweet spot!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Book Tour | Whit Devereaux

I'm so excited to be part of my first online book tour today! Whit and I got connected through a Christian blogger group on Facebook, and she has recently published her first novel called "Not By My Own" (Lincross Publishing, 2017). In preparation for this post, I got to draw from my journalism background and do a fun interview. Please enjoy meeting author Whit Devereaux, and give her some love...she will be around to answer your questions and respond to your comments!

Your blog says that you once struggled with low self-esteem, faced abuse, and worked through teenage pregnancy. Please tell us how you became an overcomer: Growing up, I didn't feel attractive and always second guessed myself. The slightest bit of male attention affirmed me. It wasn't healthy for me to put so much of my worth in man's hands. It wasn't until I turned my life over to God that I was able to finally see myself the way He created me - fearfully and wonderfully made. Seeking God and counseling helped me to see my value and no longer allow someone else to determine that for me.

As a fellow trauma overcomer, I find great comfort in the words of Isaiah 61. Please describe some ways God has given you “a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit”: God has been so good to me! At one point in my journey I had become suicidal and diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I didn't look forward to doing anything and actually wished that I wouldn't wake up some days. He restored my mind. He gave me hope for the future. I am no longer depressed and when anxious thoughts try to get the best of me, I utilize the word of God as my sword. His word says, "He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind." His word is true.

In your author bio, you say you desire to inspire, educate and empower those who are in abusive relationships to be free and enter into a personal relationship with our Father in Heaven. What are some ways you do that? For years, I served alongside a great group of women through my church home. We specifically serve women that are impacted by Domestic Violence. I have helped to organize domestic violence walks and have sponsored women who were unable to afford to participate. Now I use my blog to educate others on domestic violence and also show them steps I took to overcome abuse and become one with God. My newest book, “Not By My Own” is further education, inspiration, and empowerment.

Tell us about the storyline in your new, debut novel, “Not By My Own”: It is inspired by the Bible verse John 5:30 which starts with, “I can do nothing on my own.” Devereaux Sawyer is a young woman dealing with feelings of insecurity and worthlessness who finds herself in an abusive relationship that later leads to teenage pregnancy. Throughout this book, you will see the challenges Devereaux faces as she fights to become free from the bondage of abuse and generational curses. She could not do it without God.

How do you find your own story weaved into the pages of “Not By My Own”? Much of Devereaux's story is my own struggle with overcoming abuse.

By telling your redemptive story through the pages of your novel, you are raising awareness for the effects of trauma. Why do you feel it is important for trauma overcomers to have a voice in public awareness of the effects of trauma? The Bible is very clear that we overcome by the words of our testimony and the blood of the Lamb. People need to see that it's possible to move forward in healing and most importantly they need to know the God who heals. There's no one better to share this than those of us who can testify on both accounts.

Before we get to the book links, is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself, or about your book? I am a firm believer that all fiction is based on some facts. Though it is categorized as a fiction novel, I'm sure many will be able to identify with Devereaux or even Bryce's characters.  It is designed to break down the stigma associated with domestic violence and get the discussion going surrounding the uncomfortable truth behind incest, depression and anxiety.

Thank you for sharing, Whit! I am excited to read your book, and more than that, your testimony. If you would like to purchase "Not By My Own," please visit the following links: