Thursday, May 31

Living Hope

"For in this hope we were saved.  

Now hope that is seen is not hope.  

For who hopes for what he sees?  

But if we hope for what we do not see, 

we wait for it with patience."

(Romans 8:24-25)

Hope: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

I throw around the word "hope" a lot.  I encourage friends and family to hope in the Lord.  Hope for what they desire.  Hope for the best.

It's easy to say.

By definition, hope isn't something that I practice in my everyday life.  My brain gets clouded with doubt and inadequacy and all glimpses of hope fly right out the window.  There are specific situations in my life that I look at and think they are so far beyond repair.  I feel discouraged.  Hopeless.

I pray to God that he relieve me of these burdens and that these situations are mended.  But the truth is, I lack hope.  I don't rest faithfully on the fact that God will provide the very best outcome and his glory will shine.

"And hope does not disappoint us, 

because God has poured out his love 

into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, 

whom he has given us."

(Romans 5:5)

Looks like it is time for me to take my own advice and place my bet on the Lord.  God has put this word "hope" on my heart for a while now.  I believe he is nudging me to provoke some hope in your lives as well.

Are you with me?  Is there something going on in your life that you've given up on?  Do you think that God isn't listening?  It is so easy to get discouraged and to feel like you're stuck in a rut.  Satan loves that little trick.  Let me assure you right now, God is at work in your life and all he's asking for in return for his impending blessing is some hope.

Commit to hoping in the Lord today.  Whatever your struggles, whatever your needs, hope in the Lord.  Your path may look a little cloudy to you today but I guarantee you that once God reveals his mighty plan, it will all be worth it!

"Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, 

be constant in prater."

(Romans 12:12)

-Ashley K.

Wednesday, May 30

Sandpaper People

Read Luke 6:27-36

We all have them.

People who rub us the wrong way.

Either on purpose or by aggravating personality traits.

They behave badly.

They are unkind.

Being around them causes hives. Or heart palpitations. Or lockjaw.

We know we are supposed to be the better person, but oh, how they bring out the worst in us!

And to make matters worse, they are wrong. And we are right. And that's not just perception, it's reality. People should not be able to get away with behaving that way.

Let's consider for a moment that these people are not part of our lives so we can make them better people. Let's consider that it is entirely possible that all the kindness and prayer we return to these people will not change them. Let's consider that confrontation and returning the bad behavior will not alter their behavior. Maybe it will, maybe it won't, but what we are looking at is the possibility that these people are not in our lives for their benefit, but rather for ours.

They are Sandpaper People. Gritty and abrasive. Unpleasant, painful to be around. And if we let them, the way we learn to react to them can ultimately smooth out our own rough edges. Personally, I didn't know I was so bumpy I needed a belt sander.

Isn't this just a nice way of saying adversity builds character? Well, yes. And nobody wants to hear that. We want permission to retaliate, confront, attack, slice them out of our lives. We want permission because deep down, we know it's not the right thing to do.  Certainly boundaries are required, so it limiting your exposure to toxic people, but that other stuff... Sorry.

"Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you." We all know that part, but the end of Luke's passage bears some careful reading as well. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them... But love your enemies, do good to them... Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

Your reward will be great. Unfortunately, this is not a promise of earthly reward or that we get to see justice served on a platter. It's a promise that as a child of the Most High, you'll be blessed. When we return good for evil, we're storing up treasures in heaven, and that is not contingent upon the other person. Their long term behavior is inconsequential in heavenly accounting.  

Because he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. He's talking about our Sandpaper People, but more than that, he's talking about us. We are absolutely guilty of treating God like other people have treated us. We blame him for things that aren't his fault. We use his name falsely. We use him as a holy vending machine: insert supplication, receive blessing. We neglect our relationship, and only call on him when we need something. We don't say thank you. We don't acknowledge his presence. We defy his authority. The list goes on and on, right? 

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Mercy can be defined as not getting something you deserve. Do our Sandpaper People deserve kindness and compassion? Of course not. But then again, neither do we. God showed us mercy when he sent his son to die in our place. We must be merciful as well. Not in the hope that Sandpaper People will change for the better; not motivated out of watching the righteous hand of justice fall so we can be vindicated here on earth; but because in showing mercy we become more like Christ.     

It's still going to hurt. It's still going to be hard, but the end result is Christ-likeness, so isn't that worth it? Just a little? 

Monday, May 28

I Don't Feel Like It

Read Romans 7:17-25

"I have discovered this principle of life—

that when I want to do what is right, 

I inevitably do what is wrong."

Romans 7:21

Believe it or not, sometimes I do not feel like doing the right thing.

Believe it or not, sometimes I do not feel love and affection for my kids. I feel like yelling and screaming and behaving exactly opposite of what I know is good for them.

Believe it or not, sometimes I do not feel like being a good wife. I feel like being the wife who nags her husband so badly he hides out on the corner of the roof (Proverbs 21:9).

Believe it or not, sometimes I do not want to skip dessert even when I know that I need to lose extra weight. Instead, I want to eat a portion with the family and then make excuses to go through the kitchen 14 more times in the same evening so I can have "just one more bite." And then I'll finish off the rest of the dessert the next day. If questioned, I will blame the missing delicacy on the kids' eager appetites.

Believe it or not, sometimes I do not want to do one more household chore. Let the house fall down around my ears. We'll run out of clean stuff to wear and eat off of and the toilet will probably come alive by the end of the week. But I don't want to do one more thing for my ungrateful family. I will sit on the computer instead and waste time.

Believe it or not, sometimes I do not want to invest in my relationship with God by reading my Bible and praying. It's no problem to think of a dozen other things I would rather do and then I can say, "I don't have time." I will feel far away from God and complain that I don't have strength to get through this hard life.

I fail so often when I follow my feelings. And that brings me to my point. We can't live our lives by what we feel. Our attitudes change with the wind (or is that just me?). Hormones, stress, and even bad weather effect how I feel. Doing the right thing just needs to be done, whether we feel like it or not.

I was listening to a radio call-in show where a woman was seeking advice about her love-less marriage. She complained, "I don't feel love for my husband any more." She was hoping the host would say, "You don't love him? Divorce him!" But instead, the host said to act like she loved her husband, doing all the things she did when she felt love for him, and her feelings would follow.

It's true: we can actually change our attitudes and feelings by our actions. Even the smarty-pants psychology crowd agrees that attitudes are influenced by actions.

"One example of actions affecting attitudes at a superficial level involved a study on people nodding or shaking their heads while listening to a radio broadcast about an increase in tuition: those people nodding their heads agreed with the increase in tuition more than those shaking their heads." (Psypress)

If just moving our heads one way or another can influence our thoughts and attitudes, then maybe we can change a whole lot in our lives by acting according to what we know instead of what we feel.

Paul the Apostle, a super-star evangelist for Christ, had trouble doing the right thing too.

"I have discovered this principle of life—

that when I want to do what is right, 

I inevitably do what is wrong. 

I love God’s law with all my heart. 

But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. 

This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 

Oh, what a miserable person I am! 

Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord."

Romans 7:21-25 (New Living Translation)

Paul said it best when he exclaimed, "Oh, what a miserable person I am!" If you've felt like me and acted like me in my above descriptions, then you've been miserable like me too. Screaming at my kids, nagging my husband, lacking self-control with my eating, wasting time on meaningless activities instead of keeping my house, and avoiding a deeper relationship with God.... all these things feel terrible. They are the force within me that "is at war with my mind" (vs. 23)

The answer is Jesus Christ our Lord. When our feelings say "do the wrong thing!", we have the power to act in a different way. The right way. We do not have to live a life dominated by sin and actions that lead to ruin. Changing behavior instead of being guided by feelings will in turn give a fulfilling life.

Paul concludes this thought by saying that we do not have to live according to what we feel. We have hope in Jesus Christ.

 "Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, 

you have no obligation to do what 

your sinful nature urges you to do. 

For if you live by its dictates, you will die. 

But if through the power of the Spirit you 

put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, 

you will live. For all who are led by the 

Spirit of God are children of God." 

(Romans 8:12-14)

Written by Alysun P.

Friday, May 25

God's Timing vs My Timing

Read Proverbs 2:6-9

I’d like a peek at God’s clock.

All too often I feel like I have his timing all figured out. Other times I think that the timing of major life events are up to me.

I should know by now that God doesn’t leave the big stuff (or the little stuff) up to me. He already has a direction and course for my life far greater than anything I could ever scheme up.

If it weren’t for God’s crafty plans I wouldn’t be married to the awesome man that I am, have the three beautiful babies that I do, and be living in the most beautiful state He created. I dreamt of the white picket fence and he gave me the off white, slightly beaten up, sturdy, unfailing, fence. Aw shucks, what a nice guy our God is!

The point is, he cleverly plans our steps and he does it in the right time. He knows when we need what we need. He also knows when to make us wait. You aren’t going to experience the goosebump effect with God every single day. There will be lengthy seasons in your life where He is asking you to be still and wait for his plan to work its magic. Then when His miraculous plan comes to fruition you will know it and those goosebumps will make the wait worth it.

Right now my family and I are playing the waiting game. Waiting to find out about a potential housing transition, waiting to find out about a potential occupational transition, waiting to find out if we should add more babies to our team. Lots and lots of waiting. I have to be honest, I HATE IT! I’m not patient and I like to know the outcome. I’m not even patient enough to watch a movie without knowing the ending. Often times, I read the last chapter of a book first. I don’t like surprises and I don’t like being the last one to know.

What do you think God thinks about this personality trait of mine? I gotta say, it is probably not His favorite.

Right now He is calling me to be patient and trustworthy. He’s looking at his clock and waiting for the right moment to answer all of my requests.

He is not ignoring me.

He is not punishing me.

He is not stalling.

Well, maybe he is stalling a little bit.

But I know He is doing it all for His glory and for my benefit.

Is he doing the same for you? Are you waiting for him and his flawless timing?

I encourage you today to trust in the Lord. Trust in his plans and get through this day. Tomorrow brings a whole new bundle of possibilities. 

Take some time and reflect on the blessings of your life. When you look at your relationship with your significant other, did it happen when you expected it? If you have babies, did they come right when you wanted them to? Probably not. But it all happened when God’s clock said it was the right time. 

Take a deep breath. God has it all figured out!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart 

 and lean not on your own understanding; 

in all your ways submit to him, 

 and he will make your paths straight.

(Proverbs 3:5-6)

Written by Ashley K.

Wednesday, May 23

Playing it Safe

Read Exodus 12-13

Hudson Taylor heard the audible voice of God calling him to China. Despite sickness, poverty and nearly everyone telling him it was impossible, he went to China to serve and preach to the openly hostile Chinese people. Think literal riots. Think rock thrown at his head because his skin was pink. But Hudson knew he was where he was supposed to be. His biography inspired me right up until the part where he got married.

And he took his young wife to China. If a white, Christian man was in constant danger, a woman was even worse off, because women were reviled just because they were women. She went along willingly, knowing the risk. And she had 4, count them, 4 children. In China. In the 1890s. His wife and three of his children died there, of a disease nearly eradicated in England. And he stayed there. Determined to continue God's mission of reaching the innermost, impossible parts of the country with the Good News.

How could God ask that of him? Of his wife? They sacrificed a comfortable home in England. Wasn't that enough? He had to take innocent children so people who had no desire to learn about God could come to know how much he loved them?

Did Hudson Taylor have an obligation to keep his family safe? As a wife and mom, imagining the horrible conditions of turn of the century China, both politically and economically, I can't imagine what this man was thinking.

But he wasn't thinking. He was believing. Believing that God told him to go, and go he must. Believing that God is sovereign. His wife was well aware of what she was signing on  for when she vowed to follow him where ever God would take their family. He had, as our pastor said last week, the image of Christ burned onto his retina. God's agenda was so firmly set in his heart, that the rest flat out didn't matter.

You see, he knew that as long as he served at the center of God's will, nothing would happen to himself or his family outside God's will. He adopted Shadrach, Mesach and Abednigo's line: God is big enough to save us, but if he chooses not to, it's because he has a better plan. (That's my paraphrase).

I don't know about you, but I play it safe. When the opportunity came up to make meals for the homeless in our city, I dismissed it. My kids are too young. It's too dangerous. I can't put my kids in harms way.

Whose kids?

My kids.

Whose kids?

Your kids.

God's kids. God never plays it safe with his kids. He moved Abraham out of his homeland to become a nomad. He sent the Israelites to war--armed with horns and torches. He sent the Israelites to take a city by walking around it. He allowed his very own son, his very own self, to be born in a barn. To really, really poor people. He blinded Saul/Paul to get his attention. Not safe.

I believe he built us with the instinct to protect because he knew that a life devoted to him would never be safe. We need to be willing to take risks with our families, because God asks us to. Risks look different to everyone. For some, it's leaving a good job to stay home with your children. For some its trusting God to determine family size. For some it will be packing up for foreign lands, or preparing our children to serve the least of these, even though they stink and use awful  language and have all sorts of potential baggage.

Here's the thing: God is better qualified to run the protection racket than helicopter parents (those of us who hover nearby with bubble wrap within arms reach). When the Israelites fled Egypt in the middle of the night, I bet it didn't feel all that safe. But the book of Exodus talks about God "keeping vigil" as they left. He detoured them from war before they even made it to the Red Sea dead end. And not only did He part the waters, he set himself, in the form of a giant cloud, between the enemy and His children.

Psalms 91:4 says "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."  

As parents, we must make wise decisions for our families, but sometimes God's way doesn't at first appear wise. It is no wonder every person Hudson Taylor met before he set out told him he was nuts and that he would die in China. But God told him to go, regardless of the cost. Including the cost of his wife and children. And he did die in China. As a very old man. An old man who founded an organization called China Inland Mission, still operating today as OMF International and responsible for sending thousands of believers into places hostile to and ignorant of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

As parents, we see the bigger picture. As God, God sees the biggest picture. Seek his face, especially when his way doesn't seem like the safe way, and you might just find out that He already know that.

At the end of the day, weather your mission is suburbia or darkest Africa, as long as we are in the center of His will, nothing will happen that He hasn't planned for.

Friday, May 11

Erasing Judgement. Embracing Love.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, 

do also to them...” 

(Matthew 7:12) 

My husband and I were at Wal Mart one evening when I spotted a potentially impoverished man. He appeared to be very dirty and was talking to himself. I saw a woman dodge out of his way and roll her eyes as she pushed her cart passed him.

 “Hey Steve,” the man said to my husband as he walked towards us.

How on earth does my husband know this man? I hope people don’t think we are with him. I thought to myself.

My husband stopped what he was doing and had a very friendly conversation with the man. As I stood there, feeling judged by the people passing by, the whisper of the Holy Spirit grabbed my attention.

“Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” 

Leave it to the Holy Spirit. Always budding in!

As my husband and I walked away I was overcome with shame. I felt a lump in my throat and a queasiness in my stomach. How could I respond that way to someone that my God created? He was no less deserving of my love and attention than someone that appears clean and put together.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. God isn’t going to saturate our lives exclusively with beautiful people that don’t have any baggage. Everyone that crosses our path isn’t going to have a personal relationship with him. It’s our job to be Jesus to everyone He introduces us to.

My husband has invited this gentleman over to our house a few times for dinner. He may not look like us, talk like us, or share our beliefs, but he needs to be fed physically and spiritually just as much as we do. Who are we to deny someone the Lord obviously wants us to reach out to?

The next time you come across someone that looks like they are down on their luck, don’t make it your job to judge why they are in the position they are in. Maybe they are an alcoholic, maybe they aren’t really homeless, maybe it is all a ploy, but that’s not your business. Your calling is not to asses their situation and deem them worthy of a blessing. Your job is to simply be the blessing. 

 “...let your light shine before others, 

so that they may see your good works 

and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” 

(Matthew 5:16)

-Ashley K.

Wednesday, May 9


Carrie was too young.

I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 

She had a husband.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2 

And a four year old daughter.

I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence Acts 2:25-28 

Cancer had no business messing with her.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36 

But cancer led her to Jesus.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16 

Jesus took her fear and gave her hope.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11 

Jesus took her anger and gave her peace. Then Jesus took her to heaven.

Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Psalm 98:1-3 

Why? We can flounder in why. We can drown in why.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolation he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46 

I could ask why. Or I could look at what I know. He is God. I know his salvation. I know I cannot know his mind. I know he knows the path and he made the plan. Therefore, I will rest in hope.

For Carrie Roach November 1973-April 2012

Thursday, May 3

Beating Myself Up

Read 2 Peter 1:2-9 

“Grace and peace be yours in abundance...” 

(2 Peter 1:2) 

Sometimes I feel like life is flying by before my very eyes and all I can do is watch it pass. When I’m not busy with appointments, play dates, or errands; I’m busy with laundry, dishes, and sweeping.

When I intentionally neglect housework to pay more attention to my babies I feel bad. But when I choose to do housework over reading to my kids I feel bad. I can never win with myself. I’m my biggest critic. It’s so much easier to forgive someone else that has wronged me than it is to not feel like a failure for not getting everything crossed off my checklist.

The fact is, I can’t do it all. There are not enough hours in the day to do it all.  Instead of drowning myself in chores, I must prayerfully prioritize my days and accept the reality that some things will have to wait until tomorrow.

You can’t expect to tackle every thing life throws at you. Sometimes you have to watch the dishes pile up and be ok with it. At the same time, you’re not a horrible Mother if you tell your child that you can’t participate in doing a craft with them. They’ll survive. The trick is to not make a habit of it.

No one told me that becoming a Mom came with all sorts of Mom baggage. Guilt, worry, and anxiety were never addressed at my baby shower. Guilt of not being able to do it all or give your child everything you never had. Worry that they may not grow up to be the perfect angel you want them to be. Anxiety when your husband hoists them up on his shoulders and stands too close to the railings at the mall.

God doesn’t want us to overwhelm ourselves.

“Be anxious for nothing...” 

(Philippians 4:6) 

He wants us to fix our gaze on Him and allow Him to put everything into place.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, 

and all these things will be given to you...” 

(Matthew 6:33) 

Stop beating yourself up for all of the things you didn't get to.  Do the best that you can and stand proudly behind your hard days work. Call on God for the preparation and the energy to do what you need to do and don’t think for a second that He’s going to hold it against you if you leave the laundry in the dryer until the morning.

Give yourself some grace.

-Ashley K.

Tuesday, May 1

More Than Enough

Read Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, 

what you will eat or drink; 

or about your body, what you will wear.... 

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap 

or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. 

Are you not much more valuable than they? 

Can any one of you by worrying add a 

single hour to your life?" 

Matthew 6:25-27

We live extravagant lives. The more the better! The bigger the better! So much so that we forget to be thankful when "just" our needs are supplied.

The other day I was craving a soda and took care of my need want at a convenient drive-thru window. I didn't want very much, just enough to quench my thirst for carbonated deliciousness. I ordered the value size thinking it would be small-ish for the price. At the window I handed over my money and the fast-food gal handed me a full-to-the-brim cup the size of which reminded me of a water tower on the horizon of a rural landscape. Enough to quench the thirst of a small town.

It didn't fit in my cup holder it was so huge.

We are used to extravagance. God lavishes us with big, beautiful blessings. Those are pretty easy to be grateful for, yet I still find myself praying for "more" every day. I need more patience. I need more time in the day. I need to get more done. I need my kids to be more obedient. I need more sleep. 

I recently gave birth to my 4th child, so you can imagine I'm not feeling very rested. I long for more sleep. I crave it. I even feel frustrated and bitter when I am up most of the night and then can't take a nap. It's just too hard! I can't get through the day on so little sleep, I say to myself (and out loud the few people who will listen).

A dose of reality and a reminder of God's goodness came in a card from a friend. She said, "Instead of praying for more sleep, pray that God supplies enough for your needs each day."

Enough. Not too much, not crazy-soda-pop huge. Just enough.

The Lord's prayer puts it simply as "give us today our daily bread" (Matthew 6:9-13). Please God give us just enough to take care of our needs.

How God must grow weary of only hearing thanks for His extra-ordinary gifts. I remind myself of my children when they complain about every-day details. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches aren't awesome or good enough for a "thank you". They want something more. 

And I'm guilty of the same thing. God never promises us a lavish lifestyle. In fact, he says the Christian life will be hard, but He will always take care of our needs. Today I am concentrating on wanting less, being thankful for more. Instead of craving more of everything, I can say "thank you" for my needs being supplied. Even the few hours of interrupted sleep I got last night. They are enough.

"My God will meet all your needs..." 

Philippians 4:19