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Shedding the Clothes

Over Thanksgiving, we got the stomach bug. The timing was unfortunate. It started with one of the kids on Wednesday night. By the time she recovered on Saturday, the rest of us weren’t feeling well. Everyone had various symptoms but we were all suffering.

After a few days of laying around feeling miserable, I felt a tinge better. I went into my closet and removed the cozy sweatshirt I had been wearing for the past few days. I was tired of feeling crummy and done with wearing my sick clothes. Even if I didn’t feel dramatically better, putting on fresh clothes might improve my overall wellness. I was thankful I had the energy and desire to put on something fresh.

This reminds me of our faith journey. We are called to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

When we follow Christ, we shed our old ways. This is a process of course and takes the work of the Holy Spirit. Regardless, we are new creatures in Christ. We are to follow His ways and align our will with His.

We have the opportunity to be washed clean every day. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, our sins are forgiven. When we come and repent to the father, He frees us of our past burdens and allows us to march forward in Him.

The sweatshirt I wore while I was sick kept me warm. Once I started feeling better it felt like a hindrance, something I no longer needed. In Christ, we shed our old ways and put on our new self. We free ourselves of past sins, poor decisions, and start fresh. What a gift!

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Inquisitive wonder

At five-month-old, our puppy Blue looks at the world with such wonder. When he sees a bug moving on the ground he stares intently, watching its every move until he decides to touch or maybe taste the fascinating object.

When we take Blue for a walk, he is amazed at the falling leaves. He tries to pounce on them until there are too many for him to get, or until something else begs for his attention. He has such wonder for the world. Such curiosity. It’s similar to a little kid seeing fireworks for the first time or noticing an airplane in the sky.

This reminds me of our faith journey. When we are young, we are easily impressed with the world around us. As we age, the marvels of the world can become mundane. I appreciate watching my puppy explore the world. It reminds me how amazing this place is that God created. Do we still look at this world with wonder and interest? Do we marvel at the little things? Most importantly, do we gaze at the Bible with focus and intentionality?

While Blue’s attention span might be limited, his ability to notice the interesting in the everyday does not escape me. You don’t have to go out and buy a puppy in order to pay attention to the details of life. It just takes some intentionality and the ability to slow down long enough to observe the beauty around you.

I pray we all take time to marvel at the world around us, at God’s creation, and appreciate His works.

“How great are your works, O Lord!” (Psalm 92:5)

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Puppy Passion

We recently got a new puppy and named him Blue. Our three daughters adore him. My husband and I have also grown quite fond of him. Blue doesn’t deserve this love. In fact, he’s destructive and bites everyone non-stop. His actions don’t merit our unconditional love for him. Yet, we give it to him anyway.

Blue rips holes in our shirts, unties our shoes, and steals our sneakers. A few minutes after he is naughty we come to tell him how adorable he is. He can hardly do wrong in our eyes.

This reminds me of our faith journey. We can be like this puppy at times. We know what we are supposed to do but still choose to make poor decisions. We mess up all the time. We forget to praise the Lord. We don’t show gratitude and we lack trust and obedience. For all of our mess-ups, God is still waiting for us to come back to Him.

It’s amazing if you think about it. We sin over and over again. We only need to come humbly to our Father and ask for forgiveness. My family’s love for Blue doesn’t change based on his behavior. Neither does God’s love for us.

We hide from God embarrassed of our mistakes. God wants us to come to Him. Sin separates us from God when we let it. Don’t let pride or anything come in between you and our amazing Father. Repent and turn toward Him.

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Galled Goats

My girls and I were visiting Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. We were walking through a small animal farm admiring some goats. Of the three goats, the largest didn’t have horns. The fascinating part is I don’t think he realized he didn’t have horns. He would jump up and butt heads with another acting as if he had them on. All his actions and movements mimicked the other goats, other than he was hornless.

This reminds me of our faith journey. We are going to experience trouble in this world. In fact, the Psalms predict this. “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” (Psalms 90:10)

Our struggles are not against flesh and blood, but rather the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) This goat reminded me of our struggles with Satan. He will continue to attack God’s people, but the good news is God has already won the war. Satan may knock you down, but he can’t take you out unless you let him.

The goat we observed fought as if he had horns. Satan attacks us as if he were god, but he’s not. God tells us to “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” (Ephesians 6:13)

Equip yourself with God’s infallible word, and protect yourself with prayer. Don’t be surprised when the struggles come, but remember the hope that comes in Jesus Christ.  

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Suddenly Spraying

We were on a family vacation one summer and traveled west to a dude ranch. My sister-in-law and I decided to go on a hike. We were heading back to the ranch following the dirt road when I grabbed something out of my backpack. As I swung my backpack around, I heard a thump on the ground. We both looked at each other wondering what had made the loud noise. Before I turned fully around it dawned on me what the item was. It sounded like a soda can falling to the ground. Only we didn’t have any soda with us. The bear spray I had in the side pocket had slipped out, crashed to the ground, and popped open.

As this realization dawned on me, I took off running and yelled for my sister-in-law to get out of there. When we were a safe distance away, we turned around and watched the can spinning in circles. Thankfully, somehow when it popped open it was facing down and sprayed the dirt road instead of into the air around us. We were extremely lucky to have escaped its harmful ingredients. Of course, after we were out of harm’s way, we looked at each other and started laughing. How in the world did that happen?

We went back later to pick up the can and dispose of it. We were grateful to have escaped the situation. I was a little disappointed I had used our one and only bear spray container.

This reminds me of our faith journey. The way my sister-in-law and I took off sprinting away from the bear spray is also how we Christians should run away from sin and temptation as if our life depended on it. The Bible says, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)

1 Corinthians 6:18 states, “Flee from sexual immorality.” 1 Corinthians 10:14 says, “Flee from idolatry.”

The Bible is clear about running away from sin. May we turn and sprint from these things. We are called to, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” (1 Timothy 5-6).

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Arriving Ahead

One year we were on vacation with my family. My kids were having a blast spending time with their cousin. We were headed out to dinner and were a larger group, so some were going in the rental car, and the rest were riding in a shuttle van. The van showed up and was ready to load passengers. We were hustling around grabbing last-minute items before we left.

The kids (there were four of them) wanted to ride in the shuttle van so they jumped aboard. A few minutes later the van pulled away. We quickly realized there were no adults aboard the van. The kids spanned ages from thirteen to six and were a fairly responsible group (for children), but we never intended on sending them alone. The impressive (or scary) thing is how they convinced the van driver to leave without a parent. Once we realized the kids were on their way without us, we hustled into the car and hurried to meet them.

The kids, sure enough, were waiting for us at the restaurant. They were beaming with pride from their adventure and were surprised when we didn’t match their enthusiasm. We chatted with them about how we were glad they made it safely, but next time they are not to leave without an adult. We expressed our concern for their safety and explained why their decision to drive off without us was not safe.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Sometimes we like to forge ahead, we make our plans and ask God to bless our path. This usually turns out how the adventure with my kids went. We might reach the destination, but if it wasn’t God’s plan for us, something is usually missing. We rush ahead convinced we know what is best, forgetting to ask God to align our will with His will. When things don’t work out as we planned, we are disappointed.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

May we keep in step with the Spirit, for the steps of a man are established by the Lord. (Galatians 5:25 & Psalms 37:23)

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Flying with Freedom

How Christ’s sacrifice was meant to set us free from sin.

In the back of our house, we have a screened-in porch. The screen is starting to show signs of aging but there are no huge obvious holes. There are a few small slits, but it should keep out larger animals, or so we thought.

One day my eye caught motion inside the porch. When I went out to examine, I found a bird flying around fluttering from one corner to the next, obviously very distressed. I opened the door to the outside and walked at an angle towards the bird to entice it to fly away from me, towards freedom.

The first time this happened it took us by complete surprise. After the third one, my husband and I now take turns freeing the birds. I still don’t know how they make their way in, but I’m thankful we have been able to help them find freedom.

This reminds me of our faith journey. A lot of people find themselves like those birds, stuck inside four walls, not being able to find the exit. They fly around stuck in their sin not seeing a way out. Satan is good at helping us find this spot. He likes us here, convincing us we don’t deserve otherwise. God says something very different.

Jesus has ALREADY made a way out for you and me through His sacrifice! You don’t have to wait for someone to come open the door and let you out, He took care of that when He died on the cross. He made a way out for all of us! It’s pretty incredible if you think about it.

Are you ready to accept the freedom waiting for you outside those four walls? Are you ready to experience the path God has for you? Are you ready to turn over your sin to Jesus and follow him?

“For freedom Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1)

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Smothering the Scent

One evening I headed upstairs to put my kids to bed. As I walked into my youngest daughter’s room (who is seven), I was blasted with a pungent smell. She immediately started saying sorry and explained the reason for the odor.

She had opened a container of nail polish. She didn’t actually put any on, but the act of opening the jar had smelled up her room. In our house nail polish needs to be done in the bathroom, and usually with mom’s permission.

When she realized the intense odor, she came up with plan B. Plan B involved taking hand sanitizer, rubbing it all over her hands, and waving them around the room. When this only increased the aroma in her room, she went to plan C, call in re-enforcements (big sister).

When I entered the room, older sister is by an open window (in the middle of winter) and I had a hard time distinguishing what scent I smelled. The two of them were scurrying around the room trying to make the odor disappear. I was especially light-hearted about this incident after I realized no harm was done, no property was destroyed, and no one was injured.

This reminds me of our faith journey. We sometimes try so hard to cover up our sin to God. We act as if we can hide things from Him. Instead of humbly coming to God and confessing our sins, we cover over them, or at least try to, just like my daughter did (usually making the situation worse).

Jesus died so we don’t have to carry around sin and burden we were not meant to carry. Don’t hide your sin from God, take it to Him, and let Him wash you clean. Remember the sacrifice He made for us and live in the freedom He desires for you. “For freedom Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1)

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Hovering Horse

How God’s protection for us mimics that of a mare watching over her foul.

We had the opportunity to stay at a dude ranch in Montana. The ranch owned over one hundred horses. They had seven new fouls among the herd.

They begin training the fouls when they are very young to be comfortable around people. They separate each mommy and baby pair to work with the fouls individually. They halter the momma, and the foul scampers behind. It’s adorable to watch.

I snapped this picture one morning as I finished up breakfast. I observed the mare leaning over her young in a protective alert stance.

The foul was finishing a mid-morning nap. His mom never moved while he slumbered.

This reminds me of our faith journey. We are like that foul. Even if we have been in the Christian world for a long time, we still have so much to learn. God works with us a little at a time, teaching us more about Him.

Observing the mare watching over her foul reminded me of how God stands protectively over us. He watches out for us, keeps us from danger, feeds us, and cares for us. While the foul napped, her mom lovingly stood by to ensure its safety, just like God watching over us while we sleep.

Psalm 121:3 reminds us of His power and protection. “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

God watches over us when we rest, work, play, etc. No matter what we are doing, He has a watchful eye on us. What a wonderful God we have.

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Deliberate Dolls

What a children’s book and our faith have in common

One evening I was reading to my six-year-old before bedtime. We were reading The Doll People by Ann M Martin & Laura Godwin. This children’s book tells a story of a doll Annabel and her family. They live in a dollhouse but can walk and talk. They only move about when their human owners are asleep or not home.

In the first book of the series, Martin & Godwin informs us how the dolls are created and made “real.” The dolls decide if they want to be a regular doll (giving up human abilities) or a doll person (can walk and talk). If they choose a doll person, they must take an oath.

Annabel is informed right before taking her oath that being a doll person is harder, it comes with great responsibility. It also comes with fun and adventure.

This reminds me of our faith journey. The Christian life is not easy. Although we don’t take an actual oath, we do commit our lives to Christ. We promise to live for Him instead of ourselves. This is no easy task.

In the book, if humans catch the dolls moving, they are thrust into doll state where they can’t move or talk for 24 hours. There are also rumors of a permanent doll state for serious offenses.

As Christians, when we mess up, thankfully we aren’t thrust into a paralyzed state like Annabel. Instead, we repent of our sins to our loving Father in Heaven. He doesn’t reprehend us, but rather washes our sins away. He doesn’t chastise us and shake His finger in our face. He accepts our burdens and mess. He cleans us off, and helps us get back up again. What an incredible Father we have!

Just as Annabel forgets, or chooses to ignore her oath on occasion, we sometimes forget who we are living for. Or we choose to go our own way knowing it’s not God’s plan.

Being a Christian comes with responsibility and risk. It also comes with a great reward.