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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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Mortifying the Mint

One beautiful spring day, I was planting flowers in pots. My eleven-year-old daughter came outside and joined me. We finished planting all the pots and decided to tackle the beds which needed to be weeded. Someone who lived in our house prior must have planted mint and it has taken over. Every year we try to exterminate the mint, but it proceeds to come back.

My daughter and I headed over to the beds and started pulling the mint up. You can pull it out, but underneath there are more roots you must find. Mint sends out runners that spread above and just below the ground. It quickly takes over an area. We discovered groups of it growing up into other flowers. We spent about an hour pulling up piles of mint. My daughter commented on how fun it was. Thankfully the roots come up easy and it’s very rewarding to make a lot of progress quickly.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Mint is like our sin. It will continue to spread and reappear until we mortify it. We must keep digging and digging until we find the roots, pull them up and dispose of them.

Pulling up the mint from our beds was tedious, tiring, and overwhelming at times. However, it was worth the effort. I can now gaze at the flower beds and appreciate how pronounced the flowers are without the mint resting aside them.

Unless we truly mortify our sin, it will continue to reappear and cause havoc inside us, spreading to areas of our lives we didn’t intend it to impact.

Thankfully we have a loving Father who can help us and is there to forgive us. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

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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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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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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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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.

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Set Free from Sin

Your childhood probably looked different from mine, yet most of us will agree that we made plenty of foolish decisions and experienced some sort of loss. Trust me I made a plethora of mistakes, just ask my high school and college friends. Better yet, don’t.

The great thing about our loving and forgiving Father is He does not hold our past against us. We can turn our sin over to God, say we are sorry and ask for His help going forward. That’s it. It’s that simple. His sacrifice on the cross made a way for our sins to be washed clean.

You and I have experienced much loss. My mom took her life when I was 20 and I denied myself from grieving for 17 years until the weight of it finally took me down. Thankfully, my loving God was there to catch me and help me turn over my pain to Him.

We all have sin and pain in this life. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t.

Here’s the good news. You don’t have to let it hold you back and keep you from moving forward.

The Lord’s transformative power freed me to share my story today. The heaviness of my sin and grief was preventing me from becoming who God made me to be. I thought I could handle everything in my own power. I was wrong.

As I learned to turn everything over to Him, He gave me freedom beyond words. I am free to write, to put myself out there, to take risk. I am motivated to be obedient to my Heavenly Father and trust that His plans are better than mine.

I am concerned with pleasing and praising God, not the world. I am thankful He loves me more than anyone on this earth, for His love is never fleeting.

Don’t let your past hold you back from the wonderful plans God has for you. Don’t deny yourself the freedom and peace that comes only from believing in Jesus.

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Skip the Song

I was working out one morning listening to a Pandora station. A song came on called, “Low Life” by X Ambassadors. The first line was “I’m nothing but a low life, thinking about my own life.” I was shocked at the defeatist lyrics. I guess I shouldn’t be shocked at lyrics these days, but I was.

How was this song going to motivate me to complete my workout, or get me prepared for whatever the day might bring? It wasn’t so I quickly hit the forward button to skip the song.

The next song was called “Keep your head up” by Andy Grammer. This song recognizes the challenges in life but is encouraging and uplifting.

How could two songs on the same station being played one after the other be polar opposites?

It reminds me of the battle that goes on in our heads every day. We can look at something with a positive spin and can find something to be grateful for, or we can focus on the negative.

I had the choice to listen to the self-defeating song and fuel my brain with negative self-talk. Or I can skip the song and listen to something that is going to encourage me.

Skip the song!!!! What do I mean? When those negative thoughts start circling, skip the song. Tell your brain to move on.

Can’t do this? There is one part of the “Low Life” song I agree with. The line, “I can’t help myself from falling.”

He’s right, we can’t do it on our own. Reach out for help beyond ourselves. Ask God for help.

You will be pummeled with bad thoughts throughout your day. The devil’s job is to get you down, depressed, unconfident in who you are and your abilities. Don’t listen to his station, skip the song.