Category Archives: Reflections

The Rudolph Nose

I had to chuckle the other evening as I drove home. I came across a deer-crossing street sign and someone had put a red nose on the deer. I said, “Look, it’s Rudolph,” as I passed by the sign. Then I pondered over what some may say when they see the same sign. I know that the sign is the property of the local government, and so technically the nose could be seen as defacement of property. Legal actions could be taken against the person who chose to apply the nose to the sign. At the same time, I found it comical. Please do not get me wrong—I am not in any way saying it’s okay to deface or damage property. What I am trying to express is how I saw this and had a laugh at the cute, comical image.

Over the years, I have found myself on a roller coaster ride with grace. When I was younger, I was happy about grace. I was glad that God gave me grace. I wanted grace. I was stingy and wanted to keep all the grace I could handle. As I got older, I started to learn more about the Law. I started to find myself a bit proud. I started to think better of myself. I sat myself up high. I was smug. I felt somewhat superior to some others. This grew as I attended university and increased my knowledge of the Bible. It’s interesting how we can grow in our knowledge of the Word of God, and separate ourselves so much from grace, because we stand on knowledge. We hold tightly to Scripture, but so tightly that we miss the common thread of love. We like the feeling of being right, being justified, being a child of God. We miss the “all fall short” and the “love others” and “honor everyone.” We become a Pharisee and can be blind to it for a long time, even years later.

As the years pass by, I slowly find myself more broken. I find myself understanding grace more. I find myself needing grace more. I look back on the person I used to be and see how God has changed me. He has shown me that I was sometimes a stumbling block when I should have been a bridge. He has reminded me that the grace I receive, is the same grace that I should pour out to others. He opens my eyes to love simply and deeply—to not make life so difficult and draining. I have long ago realized that the greatest threat to my relationship with God is not Satan; it’s me. I am a long way from the follow-the-rules-down-to-the-last-letter kid I once was in school. I have learned to live, to love, to laugh. I have learned that a Rudolph nose, despite the defacement of property, is funny. I have decided to love anyway, to laugh often, to forgive freely. Life is short. We need a few more Rudolph noses and a lot more love. We desperately all need Jesus. Oh, how sweet the sound of His amazing grace!

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” – Ephesians 1:7 [ESV]

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24 [ESV]

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The Non-Weight Lifters

I love going to the gym as much as my schedule permits. The gym is my happy place. I put on some music and spend an hour trying to push my body. One thing that bothers me at the gym is when people sit at machines and do not exercise. The last time I was at the gym, I was exercising on the elliptical machine and peered out to see a handful of people sitting on the weight machines with cell phones in hand. The people sat at the machines the entire time I was on the elliptical machine. I became curious as to why the people would even come to the gym if they were not going to work out.

The people who sat at the machines could tell people that they went to the gym. Perhaps some of the group checked in at the gym on Facebook. Perhaps some of the group will tell friends or family that they were at the gym. They will even tell themselves they were at the gym. But to be at the gym and to actually work out at the gym are two different things. Anyone can go to the gym, but not everyone uses the gym equipment. People can see the check in on Facebook and believe their friend is getting buff, and in the end, their friend was scrolling their Facebook newsfeed. To the blind eye, it appears the person is getting fit; reality says something different.

This same façade is true in the life of a “Christian.” There are many people who claim to be Christians but when outsiders observe their lives, they are not seeing Jesus. There are people who attend church on a regular basis and people who do good deeds, who unfortunately do not know Jesus. These people may know of Jesus, but they never had the blessing of enjoying the presence of God in their lives because they were too busy trying to show everyone they had everything in order, too proud to lean into God, or too blinded by their own façade that they missed the grace so freely poured out. It is sad how many people still today think that they must try to earn their place in heaven.

We are each on a journey. We all need Jesus. Let us not sit at the machines pretending to be Christians. Instead, may our eyes be fixed on Jesus. May our words and our deeds point to Him. May we stop trying to cling to the title of Christian, and instead invest our time in following Jesus by responding to the great commands to love God and love others. Love is not a façade. It’s honest. It’s real. It’s vulnerable. It’s messy. It’s certainly not easy. Love God. Love others. 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31 [NIV]

God Appointed

The book of Jonah reminds us that God is in control. Even though it was obvious that the Ninevites were off course, and it was clear that Jonah had some issues against following God’s command to share His message with the Ninevites, God knew just what was needed. He knew that the Ninevites were open to hearing His truth, and He also was prepared to pour out some grace upon His not-so-compliant prophet too. 

The word “wayman” means appointed or prepared. In the book of Jonah, we read that God appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah after he was tossed overboard. At first glance, it seems as if this big fish was a punishment, but in fact, it was a picture of the awesome grace of God. Without the fish, Jonah would have most likely succumbed to the stormy waters. Instead, he was safe inside the great fish, and able to enjoy some quiet time with God alone.

Later we read in Jonah 4 of more appointments. God appointed a plant to grow to provide shade. God appointed a worm to eat the plant. God appointed wind to provide more heat. Again and again, we read of God’s preparation—of His appointments. Now don’t misread the situation—not everything that happens is not some pivotal part in God’s grand plan. Some situations and circumstances are not meant to be signs or tests. However, God does ordain each one of your days. God does promise that everything will be used for His good purpose. God is in control today, tomorrow, and forever. He reigns! No matter what you are dealing with today, remember Who is above all. Remember your Father and trust in His Word. His Word never fails. Today, thank Him for His goodness, His faithfulness, and His great plan.

“And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” – Jonah 1:17 [ESV]

“Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’” – Jonah 4:6-8 [ESV]

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” – Psalm 139:16 [NASB]

All Your Might

I do not have words to express the past six months. There are seasons of growth, seasons of service, seasons of suffering, seasons of plenty, seasons of lack, seasons of rest. The list goes on and on. However, this last season has probably been the most confusing and yet eye opening at the same time. I find myself today as more broken, and yet more complete. Through it all, I have gained fresh eyes, yet old eyes. I have seen truth in new light. Yet the foundation is still the same. My life is forever built on Jesus. My family verse is still the same 1 Corinthians 10:31, which reminds my children and myself to do everything for the glory of God. 

As I read Solomon’s writings, I find this great reminder from the wise one. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Everything circles back to being all in—to surrendering all, to giving all, to pouring out all. This takes me back to my Grandma’s kitchen table, a bag full of pretzel nuggets, a deck of cards, and my aunt sitting across from me. As she tried to teach me the game of poker, and we put wagers in place that consisted of pretzel nuggets in our possessions, it was obvious that if you wanted to get the most return, you had to be all in. You couldn’t let fear dictate your moves. You couldn’t let a lack of resources keep you from acting in confidence. Now yes, when it came to that day long ago, the game ended only because we both ate all of the pretzel nuggets. We both won; we both lost. But in life, if you are not all in, you miss out. You have one opportunity. You have one chance You have one moment. Life is but a breath.

If you live your life in fear, not taking the step to be all in, you miss out. You won’t have a fulfilling relationship if you cannot be all in. You cannot be the parent you were designed to be if you miss out on the opportunity to be all in. You won’t find as much success at your job if you are not all in. Most importantly, you miss out on great revelation from God when you hold back—when you do not lean into Him with all of yourself. Remember, if you lean into Him, He will draw near to you. 

So today, as you spend your day likely drowning in busyness, consider if you are an all in person. Are you using all your might? As a parent, are you devoting all your might? As an employee, are you devoting all of your might? As a child of God, are you living life with all your might (which actually includes God’s might – the Holy Spirit)? Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. To God be all honor, glory, and praise!

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.”  – Ecclesiastes 9:10 [NASB]

The Rose Bush

The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies.
Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential.
It seems to be constantly in the process of change:
Yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.
– Paulo Coelho

The gardener found a place with a perfect amount of sun to suit the cravings of the rose bush. He was cautious to dig deep as he planted his prized plant. He understood the importance of drainage for the root system, as well as allowing the rose bush room to grow. The gardener adored roses, and he knew if he poured out himself into the rose bush, there would be seasons of plenty.

The gardener watched over the rose bush, spoke to it, cared for it. He carefully inspected the rose bush. He could imagine the roses that would one day bloom. He placed banana peels gently alongside the roots to promote flowering. He kept the soil moist while keeping the foliage dry. He knew exactly what was needed for the rose bush to grow and bear a beautiful selection of buds. He cherished the rose bush. It was his.

As time progressed, the gardener allowed others to assist with the care of the rose bush. The people that helped the gardener were each related to the gardener, but each helper could never be as great as the gardener. The helpers could never love the rose bush as much as the gardener and so the helpers never poured themselves completely into the rose bush. Whereas the gardener focused attention on creating and growing the rose bush, the helpers were content for it to simply exist as it is—never seeking to help it be more, to help it be what it was destined for in life. The helpers barely glanced at the instructions given to them by the gardener.

One day, as a helper was watching over the rose bush, the aphids invaded. The aphids showed up early in the life of the rose bush and they reproduced rapidly. Each of the aphids took from the rose bush. They sucked the juices from the plant. The aphids damaged the rose bush, leaving it broken and lacking. The helpers never even noticed. The outward appearance of the rose bush never gave the helpers any excuse to look closer—again, the helpers were satisfied that the rose bush simply existed. The helpers could never love the rose bush as did the gardener.

Following the invasion of the aphids, the ants arrived. The ants were attracted to the honey dew that was left by the aphids. The rose bush was scarred and broken. The damage was done. The gardener could detect the damage done to his plant, but the helpers overlooked the streaked leaves and misshapen blooms. The gardener knew what his beautiful rose bush was destined to look like in full bloom—the helpers were satisfied with blooms of any kind. Apart from the gardener, no one noticed because no one cared.

It was now time to harvest. People came by in droves to take from the rose bush. The helpers enjoyed this because the harvest brought them attention, money, and pleasure. Everyone wanted to have their own collection to use for their own purposes. For some, it made them feel special to have some of the roses to display at home. For some, the roses were used to beautify an area where people gathered for a time. For some, the roses were used as a declaration of love or as a sweet goodbye. Everyone took from the rose bush to satisfy their own needs. 

As the harvest ended, the rose bush was nearly bare. It was clear that the rose bush was not in good health. The helpers never really cared for the rose bush. While pruning the plant, seeking out the healthy white centers, it was very evident that the plant was dying. What had become of the rose bush? Everyone took from the gardener’s beautiful plant. They took and took some more, until all that was left was a diseased, broken rose bush.

Now it appeared that this would be the last bloom. The pruning showed the plant was beyond help. The helpers, the ones who were supposed to care for the plant for the gardener, had instead took everything from it. Carelessly watching over the plant was to them all about what they could receive, what they could enjoy, what they could possess. What the gardener said to love and honor, the helpers decided to stampede and pilfer.

One last person approached a helper for a small collection of the blooms. He asked, “Please, let me have this small clipping. I adore the roses.” The helper was now wise to know that there was no chance left for the rose bush. He and his friends had failed to uphold what was entrusted to them. In a last-ditch effort, he imagined that perhaps this last person could treat the roses better and there could be redemption of their misdeeds. The helper clipped the final blooms from the rose bush and handed them to the man. The rose bush was now completely bare.

The man took this last bit of life of the rose bush to his home. He really liked the roses, so he said. Soon his declaration was shown to be false, as he only displayed them for a brief time. He stared at the roses and became aware of the imperfections. He saw the streaks. He saw the misshapen blooms. He became disgusted by this, the last collection of roses that remained. The man tossed the roses in the bin and deposited them outside in the trash the next morning.

All this happened while the gardener looked on. He looked on to see his beautiful roses destroyed by the helpers. He watched as the man became disgusted by the imperfections that resulted. He saw his cherished rose bush become nothing more than sickly mildew covered leaves, and branches that would grow nothing more. He knew of what was to become for the rose bush—what could have been, what should have been. If only the helpers could understand what it truly meant to love. If only the helpers could have seen the beauty in the broken. If only the helpers would have appreciated the rose bush and fought for the rose bush. 

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”   ~ Romans 12:10 [NLT]

Curb Cut

Until recently, I never knew what a curb cut meant. I actually have two curb cuts that I clear of snow and ice every winter season. Over the years, I have called them ramps as I tried desperately to ensure that the winter mayhem was removed from their presence. The main objective in my mind was to ensure that those who needed to use the ramp to get onto the pavement or to cross the street were able to do so with no restrictions or limitations. Trust me, the winter slop did not make it an easy task. The curb cut on the west side seems to flood more often than not.

This week, as I was walking my dogs, I came upon something new on a curb cut. Someone decided to place a portable basketball hoop directly in the middle of the passageway. It made using the ramp to get on and off the pavement impossible. The passage was completely blocked so the dogs and I had to navigate another way. 

In life, there are always many ways to navigate. As Christians, we are to ensure that the passageway to Jesus is open. We are not meant to allow our pride, our egos, our pharisaical beliefs and judgments, our personal agendas, our sinful nature, or anything for that matter, to block a child from returning to the Father through Jesus. Sadly, this is where we oftentimes fall short.

Today, ask the Spirt if you have become a stumbling block or if you are a bridge. Are you pointing people to Jesus or have you become a portable basketball hoop blocking the way? How can you be more of a bridge to Jesus? How can all that you do and say point to Him? Lean into Him and trust Him to keep the path clear as you seek His will. May all you do glorify Him!

“Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow.” – Proverbs 3:6 [CEV]

“When you eat or drink or do anything else, always do it to honor God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 [CEV]

My Standard

Facebook and I have a love hate relationship. I am thankful for the ability to keep up with friends and family; however, the constant demand for attention and the heaps of negativity and drama are draining to life. Over the past few years, I have only skimmed my newsfeed and I ignore Messenger even if the constant new message notification icon frustrates my OCD tendencies. There is so much more to life. Nonetheless, I enjoy still keeping up with my family and friends, and I especially love looking at my memories each day. There is nothing like taking a walk down memory lane. For multiple reasons, my memory (both short-term and long-term) is not good. Taking these daily strolls is always an adventure. But this week, I got a surprise.

In my memory feed, I saw some old photos of my children and dogs. I saw events and gatherings. I saw some quotes I shared. Then I saw a blocked post. A blocked post! The reason? It “goes against our community standards.” Community standards? What? This is the word of God. “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation” (NIV). This verse from Isaiah 12:2 was as important to me then as it is to me now. Such a powerful declaration, a memory that came on just the day when I needed to be reminded of it once again. But it doesn’t follow community standards. And what are the community standards? Safety, voice, and equity. 

The Word of God will always convict the world. Though His Word is Truth and should be our plumb line in life, where we hold everything up to the True Standard—His standards, the world will always see this as folly. But these community standards speak of our God more than the world will ever know. When we find that there is no true safety from the dangers of this world, we find refuge in Him. We find salvation in Him. When we find that the voices of this world are often sharing lies and agendas and hate and destruction, we can rest in Him and trust Him. He is our strength and our defense. When the lies are spoken about us, He speaks over us His truth, His love, His grace. When the world seems like there is no fairness, no justice, no equality, we find that He so loved EVERYONE, that He sent His only Son to pay the ultimate price so that we ALL have the opportunity to come to Him, to be free, to be redeemed, to be healed, to live out a great inheritance as a child of God, a son or daughter of the God Most High. That despite the doings of the father of lies and our own sin and shortcomings, we can have a loving, eternal relationship with our Father. He is my safety, my voice, my equity.

And so today, even while the world has community standards and wants to block the truth and keep you from receiving all that God has for you, reach out to Him. Draw near to the One who is Hope. Cling to the One who is Peace. Rejoice in the One who is King. One day, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess—JESUS IS LORD!

“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” – Isaiah 12:2 [NIV]

The Journey

Life is a journey. Over the years, I learned that a journey isn’t the same during each part of the journey. There are highs and lows, good times and bad times. There are moments of rejoicing, and moments of sorrow and tears. When one sets out on a journey, so often the sojourner thinks the steps have been set, the days are fixed, and there is a great picture of what will result at the end of the journey. Consider a trip to an amusement park. You know stops along the way for refreshments and bathroom visits are likely. You know that fun will be had with rides and games. You may even have an itinerary in place. In the end, you know you will leave with a collection of photos, overly hyper children overcome by sugar and fast food, and perhaps a slight case of dehydration from the heat of a sunny day. 

Life isn’t like that though. No matter how much you plan, how much you think that the steps have been set in place, that the days are fixed, life does not come all beautifully packaged. Yes, each of your days is written in the Book. Yes, all of your tears are caught in His bottle. Yes, He has a plan and a purpose for your life. Yes, there is a narrow path that few will choose. Yes, there is an end to the journey which culminates with the New Heaven and New Earth as we worship our King. But the journey—the journey is a journey of faith. And when you step forth in faith, you can only cling to the promises of God, lay everything down before Him, and trust that when the journey gets difficult, when the road gets hard, when people turn their backs, when eyes are opened, when jobs are lost, when health deteriorates, when the puzzle isn’t coming together like the picture on the box—that God is Sovereign, that God has everything beautifully orchestrated, and that nothing can snatch you from His hand.

As I sit here today, in the middle of turbulent part of my journey in life, I can certainly say that my mom never warned me of these days. There are days no one can prepare you for except for a life long journey filled with experiences—a journey filled with triumph and loss, pain and suffering, truth and lies. The scars of life, they sometimes feel as if they cover us completely—as if they will have the last say. But it is in the ashes, that we are reminded of God’s love for His children. We are reminded of the price that was paid. We are reminded that we will rise—that even when the days of this journey can be hard, and dark, and painful—that even when these days come—that God, in His infinite wisdom and His unfailing love, has victory. He has overcome. Now in Him, in Him we are washed. In Him, we find peace. In Him, we are made new. Over and over again. And one day, one day when our Lord returns, all will bow and confess, all will see His glory, and all things will be new.

“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.” – Psalm 37:23 [ESV]

“Even a courageous person’s steps are determined by the LORD, so how can anyone understand his own way?” – Proverbs 20:24 [CSB]

Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise)

March 7

March 7. Here it is again. I am sure I am not the only one with a day. A day is only a day in your eyes. As the world sees the day, it is very different from your vantagepoint. A day is filled with scars, with unanswered questions, with tragedy, with depth, with decisions, with memories that don’t quite add up. Today is my day.

When this day first became my day, it was a moment when my life forever changed. I had such dreams of what could be in my life; however, I found that life isn’t a Hallmark movie and what I had hoped would be my prayers answered and my white picket fence and my happily ever after became something different—something raw, uncontrollable, unsatisfactory to my plans. It was a day that began a long journey trying to process what was truth, what was the new normal, and what fears needed to be overcome to navigate the new waters. It took years to heal many of the scars, some of which went unnoticed for a long period of time. It required me to let God into the broken areas, to freely move, to reveal to me things I never wanted to see—so that He could repair—so that He could make new.

This was 2004. Every year since, I have celebrated this day. I rejoiced this day not because of what was lost and because of what I so desperately wanted to be truth back then. I rejoiced this day not because I lost my white picket fence and had to face reality. I rejoice because through the years I have been blessed to see God move again and again for my family. I have seen Him move mountains in my life. I have seen Him part waters when there was not a way to pass. He has provided me strength, comfort, and He has protected and provided for my family at every turn.

Today it was hard to celebrate. As I drove to the office knowing that this day was again another end to a season, I cried out the Lord. The brokenness and heartache that I felt back in 2004, has long since faded. I am not that same person. And the pain I felt that day is very different than the pain of today. It was strange as I was on my morning drive to consider that God knew even back in 2004, what would happen today. He knew when I was putting my hand to the plow, that this day would come.

But this day was different. In 2004, I didn’t have a real choice of anything. I had to get up off the floor, dust myself off, and press onward. It was either that or wallow for a time. But this day was a choice, a step forward that I have taken even knowing some of the brokenness that would follow. Sometimes we can see truth and we know it is truth, but we don’t want to receive it and be bold in faith. Sometimes we see truth but ask why God won’t change things so the truth could be different. Sometimes we are faced with the option of trusting God, stepping forward, letting go, and trusting that out of the brokenness He is still making all things new.

As I neared the office, and continued to seek comfort in Him, knowing that after today, so much of what was a huge part of my life is going to be changed, even seeing glimpses of those changes these past few weeks, Lauren Daigle’s song “Trust in You,” began to play. The lyrics reminded me of the battles over the years, reminded me of how things often make little sense when I’m faced with a road to take. It was in that car ride to work that I could continue to do what I’ve done each year on March 7th—celebrate Him! Not everyone will understand what I feel on this day. Not everyone will know all the hours of prayer leading up to this day. Not everyone will be excited for this day.

Even still, I rejoice. I rejoice in knowing that God is still God. I rejoice in knowing that He has a great plan, beautifully orchestrated. I rejoice in knowing that He is still Lord of my life, my Savior and King. I rejoice in knowing that He will still see me through these murky waters. Long ago, He gave me this calling to preach His Word. Following in faithful obedience to this calling led me up to this very day, and this very decision. As 1 Timothy 4:16 says, I must keep watch on my life and keep watch on my teaching and then in doing these things, may the hearers be saved. May I continue to be faithful to His calling upon my life. The Word will go out as He leads!

As this day, March 7thslowly ends, I question my verse for this season. The verse, 1 Chronicles 4:10, speaks of blessing and enlarging the ministry—praying that there would be no pain or harm allowed. None of these words make sense to me today. This doesn’t seem like the season I’m currently navigating; it seems like polar opposite. But so often, we do not know what He has planned. That is why it is called faith.

This is not a devotion. This is not a sermon. This is not a Bible study. This is not a poem. This is my day. This is my heart. This is my reality. May this testimony point to the One who is greater than I, to a Father who has never left my side, a Savior who paid something I could never pay, the Spirit who continues to reveal to me that I have a lot of growing yet needed.

Look to Him. Draw near to Him and watch how everything changes!

Living with Him

In Psalm 27, David demonstrates why he is known as the man after God’s own heart. The one thing, the ONE THING, that he sought from God above all else is the privilege of living with Him. We don’t read of a grocery list of wants and desires for material things. We don’t read of David wanting for his own safety above all else, despite David spending much time being chased or being involved in battle. Above all else, he wants to enjoy the presence of God.

This is what a true relationship with God is all about—about craving God, delighting in His presence, wanting to be near Him. If you do not have this desire for God and His Word, if you find it okay to not seek out God and spend time with Him for even a day, it is most likely that God is not first in your life.

If you are not yet at this point in your walk with Jesus, do not be discouraged. Draw near to God. As you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you. Be intentional with your time. Carve out parts of your day to enjoy His presence and dig into God’s Word. As you continue to meet with God, you will grow in your relationship with Him. You will begin to see the privilege of living with God. You will want to spend more time in His glory and grace. You will begin to enjoy the sweet loveliness of His face and crave Him above all else.

“Here’s the one thing I crave from God, the one thing I seek above all else: I want the privilege of living with him every moment in his house, finding the sweet loveliness of his face, filled with awe, delighting in his glory and grace. I want to live my life so close to him that he takes pleasure in my every prayer.”- Psalm 27:4 [TPT]