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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.

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Keenly Knocking

Little girl shown in picture not actually Charlotte

My joy-filled six-year-old daughter Charlotte awoke one Saturday morning excited about her first horse lesson. She walked down the hall and knocked on Madelyn’s door (her older sister) asking what she should wear to her lesson. 

Charlotte’s enthusiasm was not matched by her older sister who did not appreciate being woken up at 6:00 am on a Saturday. Madelyn rolled over and tried unsuccessfully to return to sleep.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Jesus will come and knock at your door. He won’t force His way in, although He could.

He comes offering a better way, help, and peace. Most of us roll over and ignore Him thinking we’ve got this on our own, we don’t need help.

For those of us who rise, open the door, and invite Him in…. oh, the wonders that await you. You can ask for wisdom or knowledge or anything your heart desires. (Psalm 37:4)

If you open that door, put your seatbelt on because you are about to embark on an unbelievable journey. You are not guaranteed an easy path, but He promises never to leave you alone. (“God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9)

God will always be there to offer assistance, wisdom, discernment, courage, comfort, and more. Even when you turn your back on Him, He’s still there, patiently waiting.

My daughter’s enthusiasm for her horse lesson does not compare to God’s enthusiasm for you. He desires you to know Him. He has blessings to pour upon you, peace to give you, and an unforgettable ride to take you on.

Don’t roll over anymore at His knocking. Get up and open the door!

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Rest for the Weary

Last year I had a medical procedure done to treat the varicose veins in my legs. Genetics and three pregnancies had taken their toll.

I was on day two of my four-day treatment. The physician assistant Katherine told me to lay back on the bed, I agreeably listened, delighted to lay still for the next hour.

She chuckled as she noticed my enthusiasm at the idea of laying down. Katherine told me they have noticed how moms come into the office and are so elated to lay down and put their feet up. The fact they are getting poked and prodded with a needle is inconsequential.

I was paying for someone to poke my legs with needles and strip out the dead veins (gross, I know). Yet I was thankful to have a reason to rest. You would think I was at the spa.

This speaks to our weary state. We tend to go, go, go not paying attention to our internal barometers. Some of us are physically tired, others are emotionally drained, the rest might be spiritually empty. Or if we are really lucky, we feel fatigued in all those areas.

If you are like me, you put undue pressure on yourself. You wear yourself out from self-inflicted high expectations.

Jesus says “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28)

Do you feel burdened and tired? Thankfully God is there to receive the heavyweights we were never meant to carry. Turn them over to Him, and He will provide rest and freedom.

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Dilapidated Buildings

Note: This isn’t the actual building. The building we were looking at was in much better condition.

My husband drove us by a building once and pulled in. He told us about the vision he had for the structure and corresponding lot. He desired to buy the building and turn it into an area where people would congregate.

He saw a revived shopping area for folks who lived nearby; complete with a coffee shop, lunch spot, etc. He shared the extensive vision; sidewalks, stores, outdoor space, and how it all worked together. He saw the big picture. He saw a building with potential.

I saw an old, dilapidated building. I saw a structure in such bad condition they were using it as a haunted house during Halloween. I spotted rotted boards and old paint. I saw a shabby neglected building in need of ample repair, or a bulldozer to tear it down and start new.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Sometimes we can feel like that building. We can feel worn down, isolated, left alone, as if not much good is coming from us.

God sees potential in us. He sees the big vision with us thriving and fulfilling His plan.

We might have a past we aren’t proud of. We probably dealt with hurt and pain. We sometimes feel like that run-down building – not sure if we can be used for anything.

We have to remember our boards are never too rotted for Him. No matter how beat up and battered we are. He can tend to our cracks. He sees a beautiful vision of His making. He never abandons us even when others might.

Just like my husband saw possibility where I saw shambles. God sees potential in you. He sees the wonderful creation He made. Never forget you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14) God’s works are wonderful.

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Diving In

I recently took my kids for swim lessons. With summer approaching and swim team on the cusp, I figured it was the perfect time to refine their skills. It had been a while since they had been in the pool.

I looked up to see one of my kids diving in. The first dive of the season is always a little awkward. By the end of the season, she is a diving fool. The first dive is full of reluctance. It’s more like a jump with her head tucked and arms arched forward. She lands vertical, feet hitting the water first.

You can see by her form she’s intending to dive and after a few more practices, she enters the pool headfirst and exudes more confidence. The jumping dive is quickly replaced by a real dive.

This reminds me of our faith journey. When we ask Jesus into our lives and start reading our Bible, we nod our head at what it says. We agree with the words. We understand what to do, but when it comes to diving in, we are kinda like my daughter diving for the first time that season. We are awkward and not sure how.

We have our heads tucked and arms out, but we can’t plunge in headfirst. We do the same thing my daughter does, some kind of dive/jump. Or we don’t get in at all and just stand there reluctantly on the sideline wanting to get in, knowing we need to, but not able to take the plunge.

One dive at a time we get more comfortable. As we continue to seek God through prayer and Scripture, He continues to fill us with His plan, His courage, His will. Our first jumps are uncomfortable, but we do them anyway.

As we act in obedience, we see His presence with us. The dives become easier. We don’t stand on the sideline anymore; we dive in knowing He will take care of the rest.

The first time I sent out my first blog (in obedience to Him). I closed my eyes and cringed as I hit the publish button. It seemed so official. I hope I wouldn’t get rejected.

Now I hit submit, knowing if I mess up, I can go back and edit. If people don’t like what I wrote, they can delete it.

It’s not about me, it’s about Him. The more I practice obedience, the easier it becomes and the more I can be a vessel used by Him in this world.

Oh, our loving Father is so amazing.

Don’t stand on the sideline anymore. Take the dive! God won’t push you in, but He will show you the way once you take the plunge.