Can I Truly have joy in 2020?

So, this about sums it up.

I knew we shouldn’t have raided Area 51! 😳

Here I was all excited about the new year and all the things we had planned…I don’t even need to elaborate. You get it. You totally get it. I mean, just imagine trying to explain to someone that just woke up from a coma what’s been going on for the last 8 months. I think I’d tell them to go back to sleep!

Seriously though, it’s been one for the history books. With that being said, how do we maintain peace and joy in a year when so many things have completely changed our way of life, when the world is so unsettled, and when everything is out of our control? We are quarantined without others to lift us up and help us out of our darkest days. I mean, COME ON! I haven’t even been to Target in 6 months!!! That’s how I know there’s a major problem.

Simply put, how do we maintain control when that said control eludes us? We get so caught up in our life plans that we forget to do the most important thing!

Ask God what His plans are and how He wants to use me!

Now, look… I’m just as guilty! I often wonder what is going on! It just seems like it’s all too much. The truth is that we do not wage wars of flesh and blood, but of the unseen. Social politics are at an all time emotional high and we are quarantined and unable to gather and pray together. We’ve been cut off at the knees!

The thing is, we get so caught up in our own troubles that we forget to look at the bigger picture. It’s not about us. Nothing revolves around us. That’s a hard truth. You’re welcome.

Instead, what are we supposed to do? Consider it an opportunity for joy? According to James, that’s exactly what we are supposed to do. Remember, it’s not about us. What’s happening here is so much bigger. How is God wanting to use us through this?

Look, it sounds unattainable and ridiculous. I know. But joy is a choice. It’s a choice to look up at the Light, hold His hand, and journey together. It’s a choice to hope. It’s a choice to be willing to let God use you in whatever way He will get the most glory! If my heart is all about that plan, I can’t help but chuckle and just say, “I’m glad You’ve got this because I sure don’t!”

The weight is gone. It’s not my problem. I can trust that I serve a God that delights in me!

The best part is that He gives us a simple formula. We don’t even have to figure it out on our own! He’s that awesome!!

There are so many verses that can encourage you! I can’t possibly even scratch the surface. All I know is that God is amazing. He delights in me. I want Him to have all the glory. I can rest in Him and give Him control (which I don’t have anyway!). My job? Rest in that, be full of joy, tell God what I need and thank Him for all He’s done and is doing in the madness. I will choose to focus my thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable — things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

If this is where my mind is, I am not spun up by the news and the chaos around me. I’m focused. I’m at peace. I’m full of joy!

Train up a child

We’ve all read the verse. Easy-peasy, right? Then I became a mom. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, (or 36 hours of labor…I mean, whichever you want to go with…) every bit of know-how seemed to vanish.

Why is he crying all the time? Why is he giving me attitude, crossing his arms and telling me “no” at 11 months old? He’s supposed to be so innocent! Are they trying to stay up later, or do they really need to pee? Did they just bully the kid on the playground? What are they doing on their phones?!

Okay, so I do need help. James 1 has my name all over it. Wisdom. I need wisdom. Everyone has something they are striving for, greedy for, willing to give up anything for. Me? I need God’s wisdom. Without it, I just make a huge mess. Thankfully, it’s freely available if we just remember to ask.

There’s this idea going around that really drives me crazy. I’ve heard so many pastors and teachers present the book of Proverbs as a “guide”. The idea that it is not a book with promises, but just a general guide for your life and what may, or may not happen. This is such dangerous territory! Who are we to pick and choose what is truth and what is a generality? It’s God’s Word!

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

I grew up as a pastor’s kid. Yep, a PK. I also grew up to be a single mother. A girl that loved to party. A girl that did not love Jesus. I was fine to leave Him back and home with my parents and move on with my life.

Of course, that left my amazing parents behind to clean up the mess. If you think that didn’t have any effect on them, their church, their ministry, their hearts, or their lives, you are so wrong. People threw this verse in their face. Some scoffing, laughing, so pleased to see failure. Others were confused, disoriented, and left to question all they had been taught. How could the pastor’s daughter be pregnant and unmarried? (Well, I won’t explain that part…)

My mom and her deep, deep rooted faith would answer ever so calmly, “The end isn’t written yet.”

She was right. The end had not yet played out.

You see, when your life is so rooted in Jesus and so intertwined with His heart, that’s what your kids are going to know. That’s what they are going to see. That’s what they are going to live.

The whole mothering thing just got a lot harder.

Basically, the burden is on you to intertwine God into EVERY. ASPECT. OF. YOUR. LIFE.

When my car breaks down, do I see it as an annoyance, or an opportunity to share God’s love with someone? When my plans get unexpectedly changed, do I throw a fit, or do I tell my kids how exciting it’s going to be to see what God has planned for us instead? When I have health problems, do I get frustrated and angry, or do I use that as a chance for compassion? How am I handling the things that I deal with on a daily basis.

So many families go to church and make big decisions based on God’s Word, but when it comes to the little things, that’s not so easy. Our kids are watching. They are little sponges that are growing up and learning how to react or respond to every situation. Are we teaching them to react with emotion, or are we teaching them to respond like Christ?

Of course there are so many mess-ups. I fail over and over on a daily basis. But, my kids know that and I am the first one to call myself out on it. I obviously need a Savior and my kids need to know that! That’s a good thing. My heart wants to do what God wants and that is a daily and hourly discussion. It’s not a foreign concept, but completely intertwined in our lifestyle.

My parents lived this kind of life. Their actions where completely in sync with their words.

So, why did I end up pregnant and away from God?

Well, that’s just it. I didn’t end up that way. Yes, I strayed away, but like the one lost sheep, God gently pursued me and brought me back. In my 40’s, I can look at my childhood and see that an act of sexual abuse by an outsider left me dazed and darkened for many years. It took God’s gentle hand and his outstretched arms to help me out from my hiding place. I needed to learn to trust Him. It took me years to see that He is happiness.

I want to encourage you to focus more on your relationship with God and your responses (or reactions) and get that aligned. Disciplining and raising your children are secondary to your heart. That is what your kids are looking at. Ask God for wisdom. I beg you! It’s there for you! I cling to that promise of wisdom to get me through life. God always delivers.

My kids often make up scenarios and ask me what I would do in this situation or that predicament. My answer, “Ask God for wisdom”. Oh, they hate that. I’m not playing along. Blah Blah. But you know what, they remember it. They know that’s my answer for a difficult situation. They will remember that someday. Now that my oldest son is a police officer, I sure am glad that’s how I answered all those times!

When we watch tv, there’s always a crisis point in the movie or show. Guess what I bring up? “If they were doing what God wanted, they wouldn’t be in this pickle! God doesn’t give us rules, He shows us what makes us happy and helps us avoid these problems!” Meanwhile, the kids, “there goes mom again” — laughing and joking. But you know what? It’s respectful and loving because they know I mean it and they know it’s true! They begin to see it themselves as we watch. They begin to see how it’s going to play out when someone makes a decision to go against God’s advice.

That’s what I want! I want them to see God’s love! I want them to see God wants the best for them! I want them to fall so deeply in love with God!!!! That’s my goal as a mom. I don’t care if they become a garbage collector, a port-a-potty cleaner, or a doctor. I only care that they fall madly and deeply in love with our Savior.

So, is it true? If I train up my child in the way that is right, he won’t depart from it? Yes. It’s a promise. If we are actually living our lives in such Light, there is no way that they will stay in the darkness if they end up wandering there. If we are living a contradicting lifestyle of words vs actions, they will run to the darkness and never look back.

Ultimately, their salvation is their decision. It’s just on us to show them how much peace it brings. How much joy. How much love. Why it’s worth it.

Praying for you, momma!

Israel – God’s Heart

by Ron Gafni and Kathleen Barrett

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Ron Gafni is a professional aerial photographer that has taken many beautiful pictures of the landscapes in Israel. Even if you have had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land (as I have), you will enjoy seeing it from a completely different perspective.

image2(1) I really enjoyed seeing all of the breathtaking views! So, for photos, I highly recommend. Unfortunately, I found that the narrative left a little to be desired. There were definite editing issues and I failed to really get how it all went together. It seems forced – as if they were trying to get a lot more theology in than what works with a picture book.

Overall, it’s fun to look at and I definitely recommend checking it out. The link to Amazon is in the first pic.

Thanks so much for this book! As always, this is my honest opinion. Here’s to many more!!

Want to see a flipbook of this? Check it out!

 

Happiness According to Jesus – What it Means to be Blessed

by Bobby Schuller We all know that the Sermon on the Mount is a very controversial text. To someone that has been a Christ follower, it is basically second nature to quote it. However, looking in on our relationship with God from an outsider’s point of view, it sounds like shackles.

Bobby takes a look at the flip side of that coin. What if following God’s “rules” was actually freedom? What if it was the key to happiness instead of the key that locks us in a cage? This is such an important topic and I am glad to see a book focusing in on it. I am a firm believer in the “Freedom in Christ” idea. This book breaks down the Sermon on the Mount and looks at the ways it can cause happiness in your life.

Thank you, Worthy, for this great book! As always, this is my honest opinion. Here’s to many more!!

The Three Heavens – Angels, Demons And What Lies Ahead

by John Hagee

Woh. If there is a book that I would recommend you pick up this year, it is this one.

In 2 Corinthians 12:2, Paul describes how he visited the Third Heaven. It would seem that if there is a third heaven, there must be a first and second. John takes us through the different “heavens” described in the Bible and what he believes it is talking about. He uses a lot of Bible verses to back up his beliefs and makes some really solid points.

He also goes in depth about how our battle is not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12). He shows a lot of verses to back up what a demon is and what it can do. How real the battle is for our souls. He has a number of stories that he has personally dealt with involving spiritual warfare.

Now, let me say that I don’t necessarily agree with every single thing that John puts forth in this book, but the basic truths are VERY real. I absolutely believe that it is so easy to open a door to the evil in this world without even knowing it. It is a difficult subject, but very encouraging to see how amazing it is to serve a God that we know will win this battle. It is amazing to really dig into what Heaven is and what things can be expected. I love that there is no fear in death!!

So, please pick up a copy of this book! You will definitely want to read it. It’s a game changer!!

Thank you, Worthy, for this incredible book! As always, this is my honest opinion. Here’s to many more!!

Dare To Answer – 8 Questions That Awaken your Faith

by John Busacker

In his latest book, John tackles some of the questions that Jesus asked while He was here on earth. Jesus was often responding to questions with a question of His own. He liked to make us actually think for ourselves…When John the Baptist’s disciples pointed Him out, Jesus replied saying, “What do you want?”. Ha!! I love that!

The layout of this book is great. John points out a question that might be easily missed in the vast text. For example, I had never noticed Jesus’ reply to those disciples. He then challenges us to really think about how to answer that. There are quotes from many good scholars like Oswald Chambers, Brennan Manning and St. John of the Cross. Overall, great book with eye opening statistics and stories. At the end of each chapter, there is a Reflect and Respond section to dig deeper.

Pick up a copy for yourself and a friend! Link is in the pic above. And, remember, you can “look inside” of a book on Amazon and see if it’s something you are interested in.

Thanks, Worthy, for this great book! As always, this is my honest opinion. Here’s to many more!!

The Day I Met Jesus

by Frank Viola and Mary Demuth

What a beautiful book! This is an in depth look at five different women that were affected by Jesus while He was here on Earth. We have the woman caught in adultery, the prostitute that covered Jesus’ feet with perfume, the Samaritan woman He met at the well, the woman that grabbed His cloak and Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.

To start with, each story is told from the first person point of view, then the actual Scripture is produced. After that, there is some theological musings on what transpired. I found it very interesting. I’ve never really seen a book written in this style before. I enjoyed it immensely.

Most of these stories are a mere few verses in the vastness of the entire Bible. Easily overlooked or breezed over. I liked taking the time to think about it and what it really meant. It is obviously in the Bible for a reason and we shouldn’t overlook it. I highly recommend this. It is co-authored by Mary Demuth and Frank Viola. It’s well written and will appeal to many genres. If you would like to pick up a copy, the link is in the picture above.

Thanks, Baker Books, for this great read! As always, this is my honest opinion. Here’s to many more!!

Thank You

God, thank you for my family. Thank you for a husband that is kind, attentive, supportive, seeker of You and imitator of You. Thank you for children that are becoming the same way. They are so selfless and in love with You. That’s all I could ask for as a mother.

I thank You for the freedom we have in this country. I pray it won’t be wasted, but used to worship You in everything we do and say. I pray that You are brought glory throughout the world. I pray people will see You in the flowers, the sunset, the clouds in the blue sky and in the beautiful rainbow You gave us as a promise and symbol of Your love.

I thank you for loving me. You loved me enough to give up everything and come here as a man. You humbled Yourself and made Yourself lower than anyone here on earth. You came as a servant. You came to love and serve others and to show us an example of how to live through the power of the Spirit and the Father.

You were fearful, crying and tortured. You bled, hung and faced the wrath of God for me. You, who knew what it was to see the wrath of God. You love me that much.

You rose from the dead and showed Your loved by returning to the very ones that left you alone in Your darkest hours. You still loved them. You are all I want. You are all I need. My heart belongs to you completely and fully.

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A Stab in the Heart

Today, I was reflecting on Jesus and His last hours on earth before the crucifixion. I was thinking about His terror and fear. In those last hours, before He was lead off to offer Himself up as the Sacrifice for all humankind.

As He prayed in the Garden, He was in his human form. He was terrified, frightened and begging His Father to show Him if there was any other way. Imagine Your God, giving up everything and coming to be in human form so He could feel what we feel and prove that He understands us. He could have easily just sacrificed Himself without going through a life of humanity. No, He came here, terrified in those last few hours. So scared, in fact, that he was sweating blood.

When He asked His very best friends to pray with Him, how could they not see the anxiety written all over His face, in His sweat and blood? How could they not? I don’t understand. They couldn’t even be there for Him when He was in that state. Not even then.

Here’s the kicker: During His best friends’ greatest betrayal, He offered Himself up still. In that moment of unbelief that they could be so selfish and not pray with Him, though He asked them many times, He still loved them. He still loved you. He still loved even me.

Unbelievable. Un-sticking-believable. I can’t believe that’s the awesomeness of the God I serve. ❤ Forever mine!

The Story of King Jesus

by Ben Irwin

What a sweet little story. So many children’s books are just full of “fluff”. I don’t usually buy them because people seem to think kids can’t grasp concepts, I suppose. It seems that Ben Irwin thinks differently and I love this. It talks about how we should love others and displays Jesus’ example throughout. A great gift for someone you know. (Link is in the pic)

The story is well written, it has bigger concepts than most children’s books and the illustrations are wonderful. I give it 5 Stars.

Thanks, netgalley, for this great read. As always, this is my honest opinion. Here’s to many more!!

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