Good Offense

It’s fall. And in the South, fall means football. My son played football for years and it’s strange now to not have games and practices to keep us busy. But when he did play, some seasons we won almost every game; other seasons I would sit and pray we would at least score. I knew we had no chance of winning, but if we could at least score!


In those seasons, there was a lot of discussion about why we weren’t winning. Parents blamed coaches, coaches blamed players, offense blamed defense, defense blamed offense—and you would invariably hear—the best offense is a good defense. This made no sense to me. I think the best offense is a good offense.


Great defense protects, but offense takes ground. Sometimes we can get into places where everything around us is so scary that we hide under our shields of  “faith” and wait for Jesus to come for us. Now, He will always come for us, and sometimes it’s all we can do to sit still and hide under our shields, but we weren’t meant to live in those places. We are overcomers. We are victorious.  And sometimes that hiding place of original refuge becomes a place we get stuck in fear.


We are not meant to sit around and just wait for Jesus to come back; we are meant to actively bring His kingdom into every area of our lives.


My son always wanted to play offense. He was a running back, and he was fast. There was nothing he loved more than gaining yards and making his way to the end zone. The reason he loved it and the reason he was good at it was partly because he believed he could do it. During his JV season, he had new coaches who had no idea how fast he was, and they refused to put him in. He was small, and they were afraid he would get hurt. But my son knew what he was capable of, and he would stand on the sidelines next to the coach who was calling the plays, and ask the coach to put him in—over and over and over. During one particularly brutal game, the coach finally relented (only because the running back he was using was making no progress.) He sent my son in, and that was the end of it. Brandt was the starting running back from that game on.


Jesus wants us to be convinced we have what it takes to bring His kingdom into every area of our lives. Not because we are the fastest or the smartest or the most capable—but because we are His. We don’t have to live small lives or fear-filled lives. The God we serve wants to show up in us and through us. He is bigger than our mistakes; He is bigger than our fears. He has a purpose and a plan for us that includes victory—it includes us taking ground.


There are victories you are meant to win for the generations coming after you. Don’t give up now. It may be scary; it may be hard; it may even feel like you are in a losing season, but every piece of ground you take, counts. Every yard matters. Even if you have to take it inch by inch. Every time we show up and stay in the fight, we gain ground. Every time we believe He is who He says He is, and we are who He says we are, we gain ground. We are bringing His kingdom.


Right in the middle of your rescue...


That’s what I heard the Lord speaking to me this morning…that I am right in the middle of my rescue. I didn’t believe Him. Because I don’t feel safe and secure- I feel unsure and afraid and somewhat disoriented. Everywhere I look I see scary circumstances and things beyond my control – I want to curl up in a tight little ball and close my eyes until it’s over but He tells me to keep walking- keep taking the next step. And in the natural- I will tell you this looks nothing like a rescue. It looks like a death march. Off a cliff. Into crocodile infested waters. No chance of survival here- if the fall doesn’t kill you, the crocs will.


I wonder is this is how the Israelites felt when God parted the Red Sea. We think of that in terms of the victory. We sing about how glorious it would be…”you split the sea so I can walk right through it…” But I wonder what it was actually like to have the Egyptian army bearing down on you – the most powerful army in the world chasing you as you step off the shore onto the ocean floor with walls of water piled up on either side of you- nothing like anything you have ever seen before, nothing could have prepared you for this and you have no idea if this is an act of God or a freak of nature. Will it stay apart long enough for you to cross all the way across with slow moving children and animals… and if the water does hold- will the army overtake you before you can make it across? This doesn’t feel safe and secure. The Israelites could have decided to just stand on the shoreline and negotiate their safe return to Egypt as slaves. They could have wondered if in light of these circumstances, maybe that’s what God wanted, maybe this whole idea of leaving Egypt had not really been God’s will for them? So many doubts swirling in their minds- so much fear- and here’s the thing- God could have rescued them anyway He wanted. He could have transported them across the Red Sea. He could have made all the Egyptian chariots crash (I’m really picturing NASCAR here more than chariots in a desert but you get the idea… He’s a big God- He could have done this a million ways.) Of all the ways God could have rescued them, I’m pretty sure they never imagined this scenario.

I’m not sure if they realized they were right in the middle of their rescue.


We see this today as well. My kids were taught fire safety and part of the safety training involved a fireman coming in wearing all the gear they wear in an actual fire. Experience has shown them that a house can be burning to the ground but because the firemen look so scary in their equipment, the kids will hide from them. They will literally hide in the closet or under the bed from the very person coming to rescue them. When the firemen find them, they are confused and disoriented and scared – and they don’t realize they are right in the middle of their rescue.


Our eyes have to be fixed on the Rescuer of our souls because chances are we will not recognize our rescue. It will probably not come in any way we have imagined- but it will come. He always comes for us. And He enables us to walk right through the unimaginable to reach the other side. 

Pens, Pencils, and Possibilities

September is here and brings to mind all things fall- apples and crisp mornings and back to school. (Even though for some unknown reason Georgia started back to school in July this year- yes...JULY...but I cannot accept the start of school until near Labor Day so I have spent more than a month now in complete denial.) But at last it is September and the farewell to summer and hello to fall has begun. 

One of my favorite things about the start of a school year is new school supplies..specifically pencils. I love a good pencil. Mechanical pencils are great for their practicality- now that you no longer sit in a room with a heavy metal pencil sharpener attached to one wall for your pencil sharpening needs, the convenience of the mechanical pencil can't be denied. But I really prefer a good old fashioned #2 pencil. And you can't beat a freshly sharpened Ticonderoga. Oh how I love a pencil fresh out of the package with a point so sharp you could accidentally poke a hole in your own hand. The crisp lines, the graphite, the way it feels in your hand- it holds the promise of something unwritten begging to be put to paper, something unsaid longing for the words.

When I was younger though, I did not hold the same love for pencils. I longed for the day I could write in pen. Pen represented crossing the threshold from childhood to adult years. In elementary school- only pencil was allowed for every single subject. So oppressive. I hated the ridges the pencil left on my finger where it pressed against the skin as I wrote and wrote and wrote. Middle school began to open the doors to the coveted pen years. Now you could use a pen for certain assignments but NEVER in math. All math MUST be done in pencil. Teachers had so little faith in my calculations, I guess, that I had to make sure everything was erasable. Then high school offerred  even more opportunities to write with pens- so long as they were black or blue- no colors especially not red. And finally college where the rules went out the window because now everything had to be TYPED. What?? Twelve years preparing for college and not a single typing class. 

But now I am an adult and I can write in pen whenever I want. And  in whatever color I want. And you know what I want? I want to write in pencil. Crisp, clean, erasable pencil. As a child you have this idea that when you grow up- you won't need to erase things. You will know the things so when you give an answer, when you make a statement, when you make a plan- it will be written in pen because you know what to do. It is definite, it is firm, it is right. Because now you know all the things you spent your childhood learning (except typing). But then you grow up and you don't know the things. And the things you thought you knew- you realize maybe you didn't really know after all. I mean, you start out thinking you know and you put the plans in pen. You give the answers in pen. You make the statements in pen. But then you have to go back and see that statement that you have now experienced the reality of instead of the theory of and it's not so concrete. But it's in pen and you can't erase it so you cross it out. Then you scribble it out. Then you think maybe no one will notice the mistake if you can turn the scribble into some sort of shape or picture so you keep scribbling but it just gets bigger and bigger and never really looks like what you want it to ( a lion head...but it just looks like a giant misshapen cloud with words seeping through like a bad memory of a wrong belief that you want to forget but you just can't seem to leave behind you)

So after a few pen years, I guess I began to love the possibilities that pencils held. They represented a return to learning instead of having to know. They gave me permission to make mistakes without the threat of being surrounded by sad scribble clouds everywhere I turned. They offered mercy for mistakes and hope to try again. Pencils say "nothing is permanent" in the best possible way. I can learn and grow and change knowing the only One who has to be right all the time is Jesus. The only One who has to have all the answers to all the things is God. I get to be a child with Him for the rest of my life. I get to write in pencil - and with His help I get to rewrite the stories that went awry. He erases the mistakes of my past and rewrites my story with His love. So no matter how things seem, I can sit, freshly sharpened pencil in hand, awaiting what He and I will write for the next chapter. 






Fallen Trees

This has been the summer of rain here in Georgia. It seems like daily we have storms sweep through out of nowhere. Our backyard is mostly natural (read: messy) so when storms come through, lots of limbs come down and pinecones are everywhere. I am constantly walking the property and dragging limbs to our future burn pile. You can’t burn in Georgia in the summer because it’s too dry. (the irony) SO I am accumulating a mountain like burn pile that is waiting for October to hit so my son can do one of his favorite things in the world- light something on fire. Yes, this terrifies me. Not the actual burning of the pile but the deep LOVE of burning the pile. Boys.



Anyway, the surplus of rain has been a topic of conversation around here. My neighbor was telling me about her parents who have lived on the same 14 acres for her entire life and about all the storms that have come through in that amount of time. Then she said something so interesting. She said, “For 37 years, the trees fell away from the house.” Every time a storm came and took out trees, they always fell away from the house. For 37 years.


Sometimes all we see is the mess of a fallen tree. And they are messy as evidenced by my mountainous burn pile. They leave debris. They sometimes take our shade, or our favorite swing, or the legacy of our kid’s childhood when they fall and take down the treehouse that has stood for a lifetime of memories. Sometimes they take down our fences that have kept us safe and secure from the outside world. The storm and the aftermath disrupts our lives and our routine. And in the process of recovery we often forget to look around and realize that the trees have fallen away from the house.


2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)

We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.


The storms come. There’s no way around it. If you have lived any years of life at all, you know this is true. No matter how hard we work to keep them at bay, we all walk through the storms of living in a fallen world. The trees will fall. There will be messes to clean up. There will be damage and loss at times that can’t be undone. But if you are reading this, the trees have fallen away from the house. You are still here. The scripture says we will be in extreme difficulties- sometimes on all sides, it says we will be confused by things that are happening, it says we will be knocked down at times...but it also says we will not be destroyed. We will be preserved by the Savior that knows our name and sees our struggles.


Grieve your losses, take time to let your heart heal from the pounding it has taken in the storm. But as you breathe in and out (because sometimes that’s all we can do after the storm)- make sure you lift your head up long enough to look around and realize, the trees have fallen away from the house one more time. Jesus still has you. You will recover and you will rebuild. It may not look like it did before. It may not be what you thought you would be building. But it will be good because it will be with God.


Finding the Junonia

Summer is coming. I look forward to summer beginning January 2nd- as soon as the Christmas season ends I am thinking about summer. Maybe its because I grew up in Florida and its perpetual summer there. Whatever the reason- I countdown to spring break then to summer vacation. I’m not sure what I will do when all my children are grown and the school calendar doesn’t determine our lives anymore.


One of my favorite spring and summer destinations is Sanibel Island- it is like the seashell capital of the world. I love looking for shells- I actually have so many shells my nephew once told me if shells become currency I would be set for life. I think that may have been an insult but I was greatly encouraged by the thought! One year we decided to have a shelling competition (are we not the coolest people you’ve ever heard of??) The kids brought friends with them to the island and everyone was game. Now in Sanibel there are very common shells and then there are shells that are harder to find. We gave shells a point value based on their rarity. Whoever had the most points at the end of the week won $50.  Honestly, I wondered how could we take something as relaxing as looking for shells and turn it into a stressful competition? But we managed.


The most elusive shell on Sanibel is the Junonia. It is a white shell with a beautiful shape and brown dots. I have heard of it, I have seen pictures of it, but I have never seen an actual Junonia. We all secretly (or not so secretly) wished we would find one but had no real hopes of it happening. My son joked on a daily basis that he wasn’t sure the Junonia was even real- and the rest of us silently concurred.


Then one day, my daughter’s friend was walking down the beach and looked down and there at the edge of the water was a piece of a Junonia. Not a whole shell, just a piece. By now, between all of us we had found wonderful, beautiful shells in one piece- some pretty rare at that. But this jagged, fragmented piece of a Junonia had us more excited than any other shell we had seen.  Why? Because now we knew it existed. Now we knew it was real and if there was a piece of one- somewhere out there was a whole one.


I believe this is how we discover the beautiful secrets of the kingdom. We hear about them, we read stories about others experiencing them and we wish it would happen to us but mostly we have no real hope of actually experiencing it.  But what if one day you came across just a glimpse of heaven coming to earth? What if you saw not a perfect picture- but a fragmented, broken piece but it was enough to let you know it’s real. It’s out there. Jesus tells us to pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Jesus never told anyone to ask for something that was not a possibility. In our daily lives we see so much disappointment, so much heartbreak – it’s easy to give up asking. It’s easy to stop believing Jesus really does want to move here on earth not just someday in heaven. It’s not just a lovely idea. It is real. It is happening. And I believe if we really started to think it was possible- it would begin to happen even more.


It’s easier to believe in the power of the enemy to devastate our lives. We don’t want to admit that but if we were really honest we would have to confess that most days we believe in the power of loss more than the power of resurrection. We stop hoping because it hurts too much. We begin to settle for what will get us through our days instead of living the life we were meant to live. Not because we want to, but because life wears us down. So how do we recover? How do we grab hold of hope again? I wish I had a simple answer. I can only tell you what I have experienced and that is we must fight for it. We must refuse to let our circumstances dictate what we believe about God and instead let God tell us what to believe about our circumstances. We have to ask Him continually to open our eyes and our hearts to see what He is doing and when we catch a glimpse- we must grab hold of it and never let it go. The Word says that Mary pondered in her heart the things that God revealed to her. Whatever you have heard from Him or seen of Him- write it down, remind yourself. Tell yourself the stories over and over again…out loud if you have to!  Maybe you will feel crazy but you will recapture hope.


The Junonia is real. I’ve seen it. His kingdom coming here on earth is real. I haven’t seen as much as I would like, but enough to believe if I keep asking I will see more.


Clean Cups

I have a beautiful cup that has been sitting on my kitchen counter for a week now. It is deep purple – made of thick glass- the kind you can rarely find anymore. It is such thick glass and such a deep purple you cannot see inside the cup. The glass belongs to a set that came from one of the grandmothers in my family. Somehow the cups made it to my home. They are my favorites. And this one has been sitting here for a week. I have picked it up several times to use it because it is out and within my reach. And every time I look inside I am surprised to find someone poured some kind of grease drippings into the cup. I guess I keep forgetting because from the outside you would never know. It looks as lovely as ever. But there it is- nasty grease. As of right now, the cup is unusable except as a container for grease, but not to drink from which is the reason for which this lovely cup was created.


Jesus talked about cleaning the outside of cups. He told the Pharisees this is what was wrong with their religion. They had beautiful cups that were filthy inside. We can read this and feel so judgmental towards the Pharisees. Until we look at our own lives. Our own religion. Our own belief system. We all want beautiful cups. We think pretty cups mean pretty lives and doesn’t Jesus want our lives to be pretty?


Doesn’t Jesus want our family to be a picture of perfect love? Doesn’t He want our children to be successful and us to do well in our jobs? Surely He wants our homes to be lovely and our grass to be mowed. He needs us to represent Him well by serving faithfully in a local church and volunteering in our children’s schools. And we need to take care of ourselves physically so we should be eating well and exercising since our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. So now our jobs look good, our homes look good, our families look good, and our appearance is good. Everything is good. It is a beautiful cup.


But what about when it isn’t? What about when the kids are struggling? The marriage is struggling? The home is falling into disrepair because the job isn’t going so great so there’s no money for repairs. What about when you are handling one crisis after another and you pick up a nasty junk food habit and lose the gym habit? That cup takes some hits. The beautiful glass is dinged and chipped. It’s lost some of it’s shine. It’s actually not looking anywhere close to beautiful anymore. It’s looking rough.


I have met these women. The ones whose lives are not picture perfect. I am one of these women. I did not set out to be. I set out to have a beautiful cup. But somewhere along the way by the grace of God, I found out Jesus wasn’t looking for beautiful cups. He was looking to purify hearts and give us clean cups. These women I have met- they have dirt under their fingernails. They have wrinkles on their faces. They have tear stains on their pillows. And their cups pour forth some of the clearest, purest love of Jesus you will ever experience. Because somewhere along the way, they realized the beautiful cup was only good for looking at. It was a mirage. An ideal. A fantasy.  But a clean cup? This was useful. This mattered. Because people are thirsty.  They need a drink of something real and pure and hopeful. What’s even better about a clean cup? It comes from Jesus. Only He can clean the inside of our cups. We don’t have to do it. Maintaining a beautiful exterior is hard work. Exhausting work. Sometimes that’s the only reason some of us give up on it. We just get so damn tired.

But then Jesus. He meets us in the tired. He meets us in the hard. He says, “Let me take over from here.” And He takes the dirty greasy mess we are carrying around and He cleans it. He wipes away the grime and the heaviness and all the residue from walking through this world and He fills our cup up with something of value. Himself. Living Water. And now we see that maybe our cup may not be as beautiful on the outside as we had wanted. It may have cracks and chips and imperfections. It may be a little warped and lean too far in one direction – but it’s full of Jesus. And Jesus is what every person we will ever meet needs. He is what our kids need, our husband needs, our home needs, our workplace needs, our church needs, our schools need. And you get to be full of Him. You get to stop working so hard to have a put together life and you get to just start living life. Abundantly.



Pick Your Battles

There are very few Westerns I am interested in.  The last one I really remember loving was Tombstone. Yes, it was a movie not just a pizza, and now you know I am really much older than you thought.  Today the kids and I went to see The Magnificent Seven. First, it was great. But this is not a movie review. I only mention it because there was a line in the movie that really struck me. Not like “wow that was good” but like “Wow. That is truth.”

A small town is being taken over by thieves and a man named Sam gathers a group of men to help fight for the townspeople. Sam has a painful past and as the men make their way to the town, one of Sam’s friends asks Sam why they are going to enter this fight. Sam tells him the people need their help, but his friend knows Sam’s past and his response is stunning. He says “Just making sure we’re fighting a battle in front of us not behind.”


Just making sure we’re fighting a battle in front of us not behind. Wow.


So I ask you, are you fighting a battle in front of you or behind? If you aren’t sure, here’s a clue- if it involves regret or shame- it is probably a battle behind you. This is so important! We have to know what we are fighting and why. 


 As a believer there are a lot of battles ahead of you. I’m sorry if this is news to you. I hate to be the one to tell you, but someone had to. You are at war. You have an enemy. I will give you some strategy though. Pay attention to the battle you are in. The enemy loves to wear us out fighting for something that has already been won. Your past has passed. If you have sin that you haven’t confessed or apologies you haven’t offered- then go take care of business with the Lord and those He brings to mind. But if you have placed your sin and brokenness in His hands, then there is no place for shame or regret.


The battle over your past is a lot like winning an award. The award ceremony has happened, you have the trophy on your mantel, the newspapers have reported your victory on page 67 of the local section so that the only people you know that actually saw it are your grandmother and some distant aunt you only see on Thanksgiving. But still- it’s official. You have won. But your annoying next door neighbor stands in the front yard and tells you every day that the award isn’t really yours and you don’t deserve it. You clearly have it. It’s in your house. But he insists on telling you it was meant for someone else, that you are not worthy of anything that wonderful on your mantel. You don’t deserve it. But yet you have it…


The Apostle Paul said,  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14


If anyone had reason to get stuck in shame and regret it was Paul. He was basically a first century terrorist. He approved and assisted in the killing of Christians to the point he was known and feared by them. And here he is saying to forget what is behind. We cannot literally forget our past. I don’t think that would even be a healthy thing for us to attempt and sometimes we do have to revisit the past to allow the Lord to heal areas of hurt. But we don’t have to live there. We don’t have to do battle there. And we can let go of the shame and condemnation because our sins have been paid for by Jesus on the Cross.  And we can press forward- keeping our eyes on where we are headed and Who we are headed toward. Not looking back in regret and shame. That battle is behind us. It has already been won.


So I encourage you today to look at your battles. Are you fighting the right one? When we let go of the battle over our past, we have energy to fight the battle at hand. For our hearts and our families today. No matter what our mistakes or sins have been, no matter how much failure we have experienced or the brokenness we grew up in – our future is the same in Christ Jesus. The ground is level at the Cross. We all need a Savior. If Jesus can transform a Saul into a Paul, imagine what He can do with you. Pick the right battle. Satan wants to keep you in the past so you never step into your future. You have a glorious future in Jesus, not just eternity with Him beginning in heaven but eternity with Him beginning now – bringing light into darkness here and now on earth, defeating the powers of darkness. Your battle is now, today. And your victory is assured. 



Jesus, show us what battles we have been fighting that are behind us. Make sure we are fighting the battle in front of us. Settle in our hearts and in our spirits anywhere we are struggling with shame or regret and wrestling with things that need to be laid to rest at Your feet. Fill us with your peace over our past so we can press on toward all You have for us.

Butterflies and Grace

My youngest is homeschooling this year, which lends itself to downtime. In between subjects, when my brain is trying to recuperate from figuring out high school geometry (which, by the way, I do not consider to be real math... when the answer is in the form of a paragraph it is not math) to decompress, we sit outside and watch the butterflies.

We have two large butterfly bushes and although we have butterflies every year, this year has been something spectacular. Giant yellow and black swallowtails, along with several other varieties, have covered the bushes.

We watch them and photograph them and talk about them because...well, because we are basically giant nerds I guess. Something struck me though as we sat and watched the way they flutter and flit from flower to flower and bush to bush so gracefully and effortlessly.

These beautiful creatures began as caterpillars crawling on the ground. Fat, fuzzy, creepy crawly caterpillars. Not only do they now have gorgeous wings and colors, but they also no longer crawl—they fly!


Of all the superpowers, this is the one most people want. To be able to fly. But that is not even the most remarkable thing: the incredibly striking thing is butterflies never forget they are butterflies.

Not even for a second.

What if they came out of the cocoon with those dazzling wings and a voice whispered (or yelled) to them, You aren’t really a butterfly. Who do you think you are thinking you can fly? You are just a fat, fuzzy caterpillar that will never leave the ground. What if they heard that voice and in spite of the transformation that had taken place, in spite of the wings now attached to their slim, nimble bodies, they believed they were still what they once were and instead of taking off in flight, they walked away feeling shame that all that time in the cocoon, all that time waiting in the darkness, had produced nothing. Would they be any less of a butterfly? Of course not, but they would miss the joy of flight. And others, like myself and Halle, would miss out on the beauty of that flight. And not only would we miss out on their beauty, but our entire ecosystem would be thrown asunder without their performing their designed function for the world. So they would still be butterflies, but they would miss the joy and the purpose of their lives. All because they believed the lie that transformation had not taken place.

Are you believing the lie that you hear whispered in your quiet moments, maybe inside your head, or maybe it’s a voice coming from somewhere around you—friends, family ,church (because the only way we would believe those voices is if they came from someone whose opinion actually mattered to us)—the voice that whispers (or maybe yells), You aren’t really a new creation. Who do you think you are? You are just a big mess and no matter how hard you try, you will never leave the ground.

This is painful to even write because I know how often I still listen to and believe that voice in my own life.

And my failure at times seems to reinforce that maybe I haven’t transformed. Maybe all the time I’ve spent waiting in the dark was just that- waiting in the dark. Not a transformation, not a new creation. Just wasted time in the dark. But I know enough now to know this lie is what the enemy wants me to believe- that I am and will always be what I once was. That all my effort and all my trying has been in vain, that I will never get off the ground.

But maybe that’s not really where the transformation is supposed to take place— in my behavior.

Maybe the cocoon and time in the darkness that really matters is the time Jesus spent there: When He suffered and died, spent three days in the grave, and rose again.

Maybe He was resurrected for my transformation.

Maybe my transformation is less (okay, maybe not just less, but not at all) to do with me and more (okay, everything) to do with Jesus and the price He paid. Maybe the transformation comes with the believing more than the doing. If a butterfly spent all its time trying NOT to be a caterpillar- what a waste! It doesn’t have to try to not be a caterpillar. It’s not a caterpillar! If the resurrection of Jesus made me a new creation then I don’t have to try to be a new creation or to not be an old one. I am a new creation in Christ Jesus.

Grace. Grace. Grace. We must embrace grace. Not just embrace grace but truly and wholeheartedly believe grace is what we actually get. Mostly we believe we get a second chance. “Ok- you screwed this up the first time. Now I’m going to forgive your past- but going forward try to straighten up and act like a Christian.” How utterly hopeless for us if this is true! Thank God, it’s not.  But so often we settle for living according to a set of prescribed rules and trying hard not to mess things up again. And when we do- because we will, especially when we are butterflies trying not to be caterpillars- then shame becomes our closest companion instead of the Holy Spirit (Who is actually our Comforter and Teacher not the Shamer and Guilter). We think if we feel guilty enough or bad enough for long enough about our caterpillar behavior then we will finally get it together and get off the ground. So we keep trudging around hoping one day to be good enough to fly and ignoring the beautiful wings that are on our backs.

Jesus is my righteousness.Jesus is my forgiveness. Jesus is my new life and my future and my past all at once. Jesus says I am a new creation in Him. Jesus says I can fly now. Today. Not one day later on when I get all this religion stuff down- like memorizing enough scripture or praying without ceasing or all the nots and the shoulds. Jesus says right now, in this moment, in my weakness and failure and victory and glory (because we all have all of those on any given day)  right here I get to use my wings. Today I get to belong to Him and never be unworthy. Never be unloved. Never be left behind or left out. He is mine and I am His.

So why would I spend my life walking around with a new body and wings attached to my back and never fly just because some voice says I can’t? Jesus says I can. Maybe all I need to do is  believe Him. transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2)


Jesus, thank You for the finished work of the Cross. Thank You for loving us and believing we were worth the price You had to pay. Now help us to believe it. Help us to see ourselves the way You see us—new creations in You. Give us the mind of Christ. Help us to truly believe we aren’t just forgiven, but we are transformed simply by Your life flowing in us and through us. We don’t have to work hard or try hard or behave really well—we just have to believe You are who You said You are and You did what You said You did and that is enough. Give us a heart revelation of grace. Help us see we were made to fly. Amen.











The first Phelps

It is 2016 which means Olympics and elections. Thankfully it is Olympic season right now. I love the Olympics.(almost as much as I hate the elections) Love, love, love. The dreams being realized, dedication and sacrifice paying off, seeing the best of the best compete…it is inspiring on so many levels. Not inspiring enough to make me put down the cookie dough and start training for an event…but inspiring in other ways. 

This year was truly special because of Michael Phelps. Even if you don’t watch the Olympic games, you’ve probably heard of him. Greatest Olympic Athlete of all time. ALL time. Like in over 2,000 years of games, no one has ever done what he has done. That is amazing to me. 2016 was Phelps 5th Olympics. His very first Olympic competition was in 2000 and he walked away with no medals. By 2008, he was being compared to Mark Spitz who was considered the greatest swimmer of all time. And Phelp’s response to that was so interesting to me. He said, after being incredibly honoring about Spitz and all he had accomplished, “I don’t want to be the second Mark Spitz. I want to be the first Michael Phelps. I want to do something no one has ever done before.”

Wow. Just wow. I get emotional when I read that quote. Partially because we now see eight years later that is exactly what Phelps has done and we are so grateful he never settled for being another version of someone else. And partially because I know how often I would settle for being the second someone else- sometimes anyone else.  How many of us would be happy to be the next…Beth Moore? Martha Stewart? Condoleezza Rice? Too high a goal? Okay how about the next whatever you compare yourself to and come up lacking… the girl at the gym whose weight never fluctuates, the mom at church whose kids are always well-behaved and well-dressed (okay, they don’t even have to be well dressed-fully dressed would do- not missing shoes or socks or my personal favorite- their underwear), the mom of 5 who homeschools and runs her own business while volunteering for a local charity and still has a home-cooked meal on the table every night (she has to have made a deal with the devil hasn’t she?).

We spend so much time comparing and coming up lacking that we never stop to think about who we really are and why we are here. I was made to be the first Brooke Kireta, not the second someone else. I was created to bring a piece of God’s glory and character to this earth that no one else can bring. I was made to do something no one else has ever done. And so were you. I think so few of us ever do it because we spend our time trying to redo something someone else has already done and then beating ourselves up because we don’t do it as well as they did.

If we could really grab hold of our true identity and live out of it- we would stop feeling so threatened by others and start celebrating their uniqueness. Because if I don’t have to do something better than you’ve done it- or even do it as well as you’ve done it- then I can sit back and cheer you on in your victories and encourage you in your failures.

Phelps has won 28 Olympic medals, 23 of them gold. He holds the record for the most Olympic medals won, the most gold medals won, most medals won for swimming, most gold medals won in a single Olympic games, and he is one of only three Americans to win gold in the same event four times. This year at Rio, he had the opportunity to set another Olympic record- to become the only person to have ever won two separate individual events four times.

This was appointment TV for me. I would not have missed it. I sat in my living room and watched and cheered and cried as Michael Phelps swam his last 100 meter butterfly in an Olympic game and did NOT take gold. He lost to Joseph Schooling from Singapore. Phelps last opportunity to set an Olympic record and someone else won. I want you to look at the picture of Phelps and Schooling leaving the medal stand - Phelps wearing the silver and Schooling wearing gold. Do you see the look on Phelps’ face? Again, I cry every time I look at this picture. This is the look of a man who knows who he is, who swam his race well. Because being who we were created to be and doing something no one has ever done before doesn’t mean we win every time,  it doesn’t mean we are the best all the time, it doesn’t mean we are rich and famous, or popular and well-known. It is a place of confidence that we are living out of who we are and are doing what God put in us to do- and as we do we leave a legacy of  hope and courage for those who come behind us and beside us.

Schooling stood on the medal stand wearing gold – the first gold medal his country of Singapore had ever won. Joseph Schooling had just done something no one had done before. And he beat Michael Phelps to do it. He looked at Phelps at one point and said, “I don’t know how to feel right now.” Phelps said, “I know.”


Psalm 139:14

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful I know that full well.


Jesus, let us be the first us that you’ve ever made. Let us delight in Your creation and the goodness of what You make. Help us to lay down striving and comparison and step into our true identity- to celebrate that we were created to do something no one else has done or will ever do. Let us never settle for being another version of someone else. Let us be encouragers of one another as we run our race. Let us build up and not tear down. Let us know that someone else does not have to lose for us to take our place- that our place in You is secure – Your kingdom is always increasing and expanding. There is always more than enough room in a family. So let us truly belong to the family of God as we love ourselves and one another well.

Walking on Water

So my life is hard right now. I don’t want it to be but it is. I am walking through things I don’t want to be walking through. There are days I don’t feel like I’m going to make it. My heart is broken. I am tired. And I am asking Jesus not just what to do but how to even do anything.

Life is like that. We are in a world at war between God’s kingdom and the kingdom of darkness. Love and life and health are things we contend for in a fallen world. As I seek His face in all that I am facing- He led me to the story of Jesus walking on water which truly seemed totally irrelevant to me. But I read it and prayed about it and asked Jesus about it, and it turned out to not be so irrelevant after all.


Part of the reason I assumed it did not apply to my life right now was because I had heard the story so many times I had become comfortable with it and made certain assumptions. Like when you see pictures of Jesus walking on water or when I mentally picture Him in my mind- He is always walking across a placid lake and the only ripples are coming from His steps. The water is blue and inviting and the sun is shining as the disciples are looking on in awe as Jesus approaches with arms outstretched in some sort of “holy posture”. Why I picture Him walking that far with His arms out- I don’t know- because honestly if someone were to walk toward me with outstretched arms I would find it weird and creepy.


As I read the actual story as Matthew told it- I saw a very different picture. First- the disciples had spent all day ministering with Jesus. They had seen Him do amazing things. Jesus sent them ahead in the boat while He spent some time alone in prayer. The scriptures say that when Jesus was ready to join them- the boat was already a long way from shore and was buffeted by waves. Because the wind was against it.


Sometimes we are surprised when we follow God- that things come against us. The disciples were doing exactly what Jesus told them to do but the wind was against them. We can be right in the middle of God’s will and have the winds come so ferociously we aren’t sure we can withstand them. As if that’s not enough, the waves are happening on top of that!


Do you know what buffet means? To strike repeatedly and violently. Synonyms are batter, pound, lash


There goes the picture of Jesus walking across a crystal clear lake with tiny ripples coming out from each step He takes. Violent waves are battering the boat whilethe boys are being lashed by the wind.


Then the Word goes on to saythat during the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.


Do you know when the fourth watch is? 3 am. 3 o’ clock in the morning. It’s dark. Very dark. It’s the time of night you desperately want to be asleep. I have had those nights as of late when it is 3 am and I am still wide awake hoping and praying the night ends. Because sometimes in a storm it feels like it never will.


And this is when Jesus decides to come to them. In the battering waves and pounding wind, in the dead of night. Jesus goes to them. And He goes in the most unexpected way. He walks on top of the waves, through the wind, out of the darkness. Jesus went to them. That is the first and most glorious thing I noticed this time. Jesus went to them.


But as is the case with so many of us- the disciples were terrified when they saw Him because they didn’t recognize Him. So often Jesus comes to us in our storm but we are so disoriented by the waves and the wind and the fear that is already lurking below the surface that when we don’t recognize Him or understand what He’s doing- our fear comes out in full force, and instead of being filled with hope and reassurance, we are terrified and cry out in fear. And we believe that the God who is coming to rescue us is the thing that is going to destroy us. 


But Jesus speaks and the Bible says He speaks “immediately”. He answers their cry immediately and tells them to “take courage. It is I.” If we can recognize it is Jesus coming to us – we can be full of courage. I am still working on this part. Mostly what I want is for Him to make the storm stop. I want the peaceful lake with a nice balmy breeze. I want the sun on my face and to hear the birds singing. I want all to be right in the world. And if it can’t be right in the whole world- I atleast want it all to be right in my world. But in this story- that’s not what Jesus does- not right away.


Peter tells Jesus, “if it’s You, tell me to come to you on the water.”


I don’t even have words. First- is this not a man’s reasoning? The disciples think he is a ghost or a demon but Peter is trusting whatever it is to be honest and only call him out there in the waves and wind if it’s Jesus? I would have said “Prove you are Jesus then I will come out on the water to You.” This is very backward logic to me.

But Jesus tells Peter to come. And Peter does. He gets out of the boat in battering waves and thrashing winds and walks on the water towards Jesus.


And this is the invitation Jesus is offering me in this season. He is telling me to come and walk across the waves and winds of my circumstances. The problem is- I want to hunker down in the boat in a fetal position and just try not to die. But Jesus offers so much more. He says “Come out and live. Come out and see how much bigger I am than whatever this life throws at you.  Come out and experience Me in a way you never can on smooth seas or in the safety of a boat. Come out and know that it is I and you can be filled with courage.”


It doesn’t take courage to try and walk on a placid lake. The worst that will happen is you get wet.  But battering waves and howling winds are scary. They are dangerous. The stakes are high here. It has to be Jesus outside of that boat that I am walking toward or I’m not going to survive.


How do we know when to step out of the boat? Peter stepped out on the Word from Jesus. When we have His Word- His promises- His commands- we listen and discern His voice and we trust Him to tell us if it’s not Him. Because I really think Peter wasn’t trusting whatever he was seeing on the water to tell him the truth- he was trusting that if it wasn’t Jesus, then Jesus would let Him know. Because Jesus is faithful and true. If we are looking for Him with our whole hearts- we will find Him. And if we keep our eyes on Him- we will walk across the waves through the wind and into the arms of the One our soul loves.


So Peter steps out and walks on the water. For a minute anyway. Until he started looking around. At the waves. And the wind. Then he started to sink. Here is where I can really relate to Peter. In the sinking. I find myself hearing from the Lord in quiet moments and having peace fill my heart. Then I walk out of that time alone with Him and into daily life. And I see the waves and the wind. My circumstances look scary and overwhelm me. And I start to sink. It doesn’t take a major life crisis for this to happen, either. There are so many things that can cause us to sink- into despair and hopelessness, or fear, or anger. It can be relationships that are broken, financial situations, the state of our nation…whatever it may be takes our eyes off the One we are walking toward and the next thing we know, we are drowning. But Jesus is still faithful and true. Even when we forget for a moment what He has said and where we are going ,and we start to sink- He reaches out His hand and grabs hold of us. Because while He is the One our soul loves, we are the ones He loves. In the moments where we gloriously walk on water and the moments where we sink like a rock- His love for us, His heart for us never changes. He is faithful and true. He never sinks. He never forgets how to make His promises come true. He never loses sight of us in the wind and the waves. We are never too far for Him to save us.


There is a beautiful song by Jenn Johnson called In Over My Head where she sings, “Whether I sink or whether I swim, it makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head.”


I think sometimes we focus so much on Peter sinking that we forget something so important. Peter got out of the boat. No one else did. Just peter. Maybe he sank. But he also walked on water. He experienced the miracle of stepping out on God’s Word and finding it to be true. And he experienced being rescued by Jesus.  So in my fear and uncertainty over what my future holds- I am refusing to stay curled up in the boat. I am stepping out into the unknown, the scary winds, and dangerous waters because I am walking toward the only One who can save me. And He says I can walk on water. And I would rather risk sinking and being in over my head with Jesus than try to stay safe in a boat that only holds the illusion of control.


Scripture reference ~ Matthew 14:22-31

New Song

Worship is one of those things if you grew up in church- you just get used to. It becomes one of those words that can have very little meaning if you’re not careful. Like when we say “I’m praying for you” but we never think about it again. We say it because we’re Christians and we “should” be praying for others. Same thing with worship. We talk about the “worship” portion of our Sunday morning service. “We take up the offering after worship”, “We sang some great songs during worship” or sometimes it’s  “we sang that song way too long in worship”. “Worship was too loud today”…and somehow worship has stopped being a way of life and has become a segment of our service, a simple term to explain the thirty or forty minutes of singing after the announcements and before the message.  Maybe you are one of those who don’t like worship so you show up late to church to miss that part of the service. Maybe your church doesn’t have the greatest worship and you feel like if they would just get a new worship leader or a new band or pick better songs- then you would enjoy worship. And I get it. Somewhere along the way we have started to think of worship in a real churchy, religious way and in a way that is more about us and less about worship.

Over the last several years the Lord has been speaking deeply to my heart about worship. And even more so the last few weeks. I am not a worship leader, nor will I ever be. When my youngest child was two, I was rocking her to sleep and quietly singing over her and she ever so sweetly reached two chubby little fingers up, pressed them to my lips and said in her precious toddler voice, “Shh ,mommy, don’t sing.” Definitive proof I am not a singer. Not even a little bit. So as I write about worship, know this is from the heart of someone who is not a professional. My thoughts and opinions on worship come from what I have personally experienced with God not from any expertise on what it takes to lead a team of people and a church full of people into worship.

So if worship is not a segment of our service, what is it and why should you care? The Bible clearly states over and over that we are to worship God. If you are a believer, you are called to be a worshipper. Worship extends far beyond the realm of singing. Worship is a way of life. It is an attitude of our hearts. Worship says, “You are God and I am not.” Worship says, “You, God, deserve all of my heart and all of my life.” There are so many ways to worship God that I could not even begin to cover them. I want to focus on the aspect of worship that has become so familiar and so routine- the singing. Yes, the person who can’t sing is going to talk about singing.

Here’s what I know. If you hate worship- it’s not because of the worship leader, or the song choice, or the band. I believe we hate worship when we don’t understand worship. Who wants to do something they’re not especially good at over and over in a crowd of other people? Honestly, some Sundays I’m really just trying to make sure no one sitting near me is assaulted by my voice. But when we begin to understand what is happening during worship – then we are not satisfied to just sing to Him on Sunday mornings. We will find ourselves singing in the car, the shower, the kitchen. Everywhere. A song will begin to rise up in us at the strangest times. Because we will know something that we don’t know right now. We will know the power of our worship.


 Revelation 5:8-11

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll

    and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

    from every tribe and language and people and nation, 

and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

    and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands


When we lift our voices in worship, we are not just joining in with heaven but we are aligning with God’s purposes and character. So when you sing, “King of All Days, exalted above “ then you are declaring Him as King over not only your days and your family’s days, but over your community, your nation and your world. You are agreeing with heaven that He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do. You are a part of contending for “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. See- you are not just singing. You are prophetically declaring the truth of God’s kingdom. Think about what this means- one minute you are on the phone trying to convince the cable company to remove the $10 charge for the Starz channel you never subscribed to- you are feeling frustrated and pretty unimportant in the big scheme of things…then you turn on spotify or youtube and find some worship music and begin to agree with heaven for the plans and purposes of God and suddenly -you may be paying for Starz for another month- but you are changing the world with your worship. You are bringing heaven to earth. In your kitchen. In your car. So find your voice. Find your song. It may feel awkward and uncomfortable at first- but as you enter in faith, you will leave transformed. You will stop singing and start worshipping.

And on this earth, there are only a few things we can offer here that will be done away with in heaven. One of those things is a “sacrifice of praise”. When we are experiencing the pain of this life, the loss and heartbreak and hardship this world can bring, we have a unique opportunity to offer God a sacrifice- the sacrifice of praising Him with a broken heart. When we stand in our brokenness, our confusion, our disillusionment and disappointment, and we say like Job, “Though He slay me, yet I will praise Him”…I believe the kingdom of darkness trembles. How do you defeat a people like this? How do you separate their hearts from their God when they refuse to turn away from Him even when they don’t understand? This is the praise, the worship, that undoes the enemy and turns heaven’s gaze your way. 

New Year

There are four seasons around my house. That may sound like the same as everyone else but our seasons are not. Our seasons are a little different around here. Since my life has been governed by the school calendar year for the entire 41 years I have been alive- our “New Year” always begins in August. So while everyone is making resolutions in January- I am already 5 months into and over any resolutions I made about organization and productivity on August 1. There is no hope of reversing this until the next August brings a fresh page where I will dream about cooking healthy gourmet meals for my family (which if you know me- know that is truly a fantasy..more for my family than for me. For me it translates into a nightmare… the thought of spending that much time thinking about food and standing in the kitchen) but alas- somewhere in my mind, the “good mother” might surface in the coming school year and with her, all things vegetable. In my mind- this will be the year I keep my house clean and orderly, my desk neatly arranged, and the bills will be in something other than a large pile on the counter. I will be incredibly productive, achieving not just the dreams of my heart but helping my children and husband achieve theirs as well while simultaneously helping everyone be physically fit and being the awesome fun grandparent that everyone wants to visit. I will relate to each child in their stage of life – Kenzie as a young mother, Brandt as a college student, and Halle as new high schooler, seamlessly moving from one interaction to the next, never blurring the lines between my expectations for my child living at home and my children living out on their own. I will meticulously keep my house clean enough for company but not be uptight when the grandchildren come over and leave a trail of popcorn and sticky fingerprints across my freshly mopped floors. Because it is a new year and all things are possible.


As I said- that will all have to wait for August to roll around again because I am 5 months into this year and as usual, reality has reared her ugly head when it comes to my goals. First reality- I am not an organized person. No matter how many plans and purposes I set in place, I am fighting an uphill battle, swimming against the stream. I have things in my life that are organized but my life itself is just not orderly. It’s messy. Very messy. I think part of my struggle to organize things is really just my desire to tidy up life itself. I would like everything to be like a hallmark movie- pretty predictable and always assured of a happy ending tied up with a nice little bow. But that is not life, at least not mine.

Second reality- mothering is hard. You grow up thinking that when you have children, you will be a grown up and you will know what to do. This is a lie. Someone keeps perpetuating it, I think to ensure survival of our species, but nevertheless, it is a huge lie. You are not a grown up before you have kids. I think God gives us kids to make us grow up. I am growing up as my kids grow. Maybe it’s just me that feels this way but I don’t think so. We stop eating brownies for dinner only because we know we can’t feed small children that. And they’re watching us. We stop staying up until 1 am watching movies because we know they will make us get up at 6 am no matter how tired we are. And this doesn’t change as they get older. Two of my three children do not live at home now and I am still trying to figure out how to be a mother. I do blur the lines between childhood and early adulthood. It’s hard and confusing. I don’t like it some days. I liked being the boss of them. Very few people listen to me, but they had to!  So I’m stumbling along, asking God to cover with His grace and mercy all the things I mess up, all the things I still don’t know how to do. And He is faithful. At this point, all of my children still speak to me and spend time with me so He is obviously holding things together!

So back to our seasons. August is New Year’s. Then we move into what I call “Pre-Christmas” Season which runs from mid- August to Thanksgiving, then there is the Christmas season that runs from Thanksgiving until January 4th or 5th, just depending on what day the kids have to be back in school. Then begins “Pre Summer” season, from January until mid- May. This is a tricky season because it really feels like pre-summer should end when Spring Break ends but you have to hang on for 6 more weeks after that. It’s tough. But you finally make it though most of May, and the Summer season begins. This season keeps getting shorter and shorter because of the  school’s planning. It’s very unfortunate.


As you can see – we live a large portion of our year in anticipation. Waiting for Christmas, then waiting for summer. As believers, we live like this as well. We anticipate an end to suffering and sin. We wait for a day when we are no longer trying to figure it out but living in the reality of all Jesus is and all we are meant to be. We look forward to the day when life is as it should be, when Jesus returns to reign. But as we wait, as we anticipate, we must live in the messiness, in our mistakes and our failures. We must grow and learn and love. We cannot become so focused on the waiting that we forget about the living. We mark each year as it comes and goes, but our standard of measurement isn’t how we have reached our goals but how we have let Him have His way in our hearts. What will we give Him this year? What will we let go of that is weighing us down?

I know Jesus reads my goals and laughs. Not a mocking laugh, but a knowing laugh. The knowing that says, “Oh, Brooke, I know you long for things to make sense and life to work out perfectly and I know in your humanity, you somehow think organizing that desk drawer will help accomplish that…and I love that about you. I love how you long for my justice and my righteousness to reign. Let me be the Comforter of your heart in the meantime. As you wait, as you anticipate all I will do, lean into Me as you experience the fallen world, as your heart rejoices and as it breaks, experience all of life with Me.” That is my prayer for this year and every year- to experience everything with Him. Life makes so much more sense when He’s interpreting it.

A Christmas Blessing

based on Isaiah 9:1-7

I bless you as a child of the light. You are not a people walking in darkness anymore because a great light has dawned and you have seen it. I bless your spirit to fully embrace the light and as you do, joy and rejoicing will fill your heart. Be filled to overflowing with the joy of the Lord! Your yokes have been shattered! Your oppressors have ben defeated! You walk in victory because He came for you. You will not live in fear of current governments or rulers on this earth because you are subject to another kingdom and another King- the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Your King is on the throne and the government of all the world is on His shoulders. You do not have to ever again carry the burden of fear or worry over the state of the world!

 Your King is ruling! He has come for you!

Your heart is counseled by the Wonderful Counselor- you will never be without comfort again!

You are watched over by the Mighty God- you never have to fear again!

You are loved and adored by the Everlasting father- you will never be fatherless again!

There has never been nor will there ever be One greater than the One who knows you and came for you. I bless you to drink in the rich love of the One who saw you and left His throne to come and rescue you. He is pouring out His peace like a river over your life- an eternal river of peace that has no beginning and no end. Be immersed- be pulled in completely over your head until you are overcome by the Prince of Peace!

This God- the God of Christmas, the One who came for you- will reign forever and ever and His justice will be established through righteousness now and forever. You hear these words with your ears but let your spirit receive the truth so you may experience this in your heart. As you believe His promises for things to come, know this: Your eyes will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!  He did not just come for your eternity. He came for you here and now in your every day,  that you would know and experience all of who He is and how He loves here and now. Today. That is the blessing of Christmas. Him. Now. Today. I bless you to receive all He is and all He wants to be for you today, in this season and as we wait for the fulfillment of all He will do, that we will not miss the fullness of all He IS doing here and now.  

The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.



Everywhere you turn there is talk of war. If it's not the Syrian War and the resulting refugee crisis then it's the War on Terror happening worldwide. Or here in America- what is front and center in my world is all the talk about the War on Christmas and Christianity. It is really disrupting my Facebook garage sale shopping with my newsfeed being littered with opinions of Christians and non-Christians alike each heavily weighing in on the issues. I still managed to find a spectacular deal on an antique desk today despite everyone's best efforts to divert my attention elsewhere. But I did not leave the world of Facebook unscathed. I saw post after post of opinion after opinion of how Starbucks has single handedly ruined Christmas. And it made me wonder...can Starbucks ruin Christmas? Is Christmas really under attack?

I don't believe a corporation, although this one may have the power to cause people to pay copious amounts of money for meager amounts of coffee, can ruin a day that celebrates the hope of the world made flesh. Despite that, I do believe the war on Christmas is very real and much much more subtle and pervasive than red cups and a greeting of "Happy Holidays". How often do you struggle to have a heart that is full of hope instead of cynical and suspicious? How many times have you wondered if your life has any real purpose or meaning? Do you struggle with the senseless tragedy you see all around you and wonder how any good can come from it or if prayer really works?  This is the war on Christmas- the war for your heart. The war to lay down your hope and give in to the the hopelessness of this age. The problem is we cannot win a war that we don't even know we are in. 

I was watching TV with my daughter, Halle, a few days ago and a commercial came on that had people Christmas shopping and caroling and decorating- basically doing all things Christmas. When it went off, Halle looked at me and said, "Wow. The expectations for Christmas are really ridiculous." I asked her what she meant and she explained, "No one is that happy doing Christmas stuff. I mean, have you seen dad when he's putting up the lights?" We had a good laugh about it but it made me think about how true her observation was. Culturally we have created all these expectations about the "perfect" Christmas- not just what that means for us but what it requires of the world around us. "Everyone must celebrate Jesus like we do or they've ruined Christmas" is the mindset. Where is the reality in that? And what's more- where is the Truth? When Jesus came- He came quietly and for the most part unobserved. A few heard and came and worshipped but most had no idea that the Savior of the world had been born in Bethlehem. But the seekers found Him and worshipped Him and they went out to tell the world- not how they should worship but Who they should worship- the Messiah who had come to rescue them. The same is still true today- as Christmas approaches few know the true meaning of Christmas- few will come to bow down and worship in the quiet stable, but those of us who do are privileged. We know who He is and why He came and our honor, our commission, is to leave the place of worship and tell the weary, waiting world why they have reason to rejoice- not how to rejoice or when to rejoice- but Who is cause for rejoicing. The rest is between them and Jesus.

I have some dear friends who struggle at Christmastime. They have suffered terrible tragedies and this time of year the loss and pain is even more tangible. Another sweet friend is sad at Christmas every year and she's not sure why. She struggles to enter into the joy and excitement of the season. I watch them as they fight for their hearts to remain full of hope in a season that for them is so full of sorrow. I see them and I see the meaning of Christmas. Because this pain and this sorrow is why He came. He came to heal the broken-hearted and restore what has been lost. He came to Father us and comfort us. He came to rescue us all from the sin and brokenness- from the war we live in. If you struggle in this season- don't let the enemy heap shame on you but take the suffering in your heart to your Suffering Savior and let Him be your comfort and the keeper of your heart in this time.

Because while the enemy assaults our hearts and our hope of Christmas- the God of Angel Armies has  waged the greatest act of war this world has ever seen- He infiltrated enemy territory with the least likely of agents...a tiny baby who came helpless and vulnerable, born into a world ravaged by war, destined to die for the salvation of us all. So as we celebrate Christmas with all its tinsel and lights and packaging- let's never lose sight of why He came or how He came or who He came for. In this place of quiet adoration - we fight back against the war on Christmas- against the war for our hearts- and we worship the King who has come to rescue us all.


I struggle with the idea of perfection. Mentally- I know that nothing is ever really perfect and I also know that perfectionism is a cruel task master. But still- I notice how often I say, "That's perfect" or just, "perfect!"  Is it really? Probably not. We love for people to tell us something we did was perfect even though we know it wasn't. We want our skin, our hair and our makeup to be perfect, to accessorize perfectly, for our outfit to be perfect for the occasion. We want to have the perfect thing to say when someone is hurting or sick or upset. We want to give the perfect gift to people we love, to take our kids on the perfect vacation, to plan the perfect wedding and honeymoon. It's a lot of pursuit of perfection for people that know perfection isn't possible. Why do we love perfection so much? I think it's because we don't love the real or the authentic because the real is messy. It's just so, well, real. And when people see the real, they see the truest part of ourself. And that feels very scary and very vulnerable. People can reject the illusion of perfection we try to project and it may hurt our feelings but it doesn't cut us to the core because even as we show it to the world, we know it's not real. It's not the real you so they aren't rejecting the real you. But if we show who we are with all our faults and imperfections and glorious wonder- and people reject that person- well, we are not sure we can stand that kind of rejection.

I really like to watch The Voice- it is a TV show where celebrity singers coach other singers in a competition to find "the Voice." I like this show for many reasons but one is that they don't have judges- they have coaches. We have enough judges in the world- couldn't we all use a few more coaches in our life? The idea of a coach or mentor is very Biblical (i.e. disciples and their Teacher). These coaches pick the members of their team based on what they hear and the potential they see underneath it all. They come alongside these singers and encourage them - they tell them all the wonderful things about their voice that make them unique and they offer advice on ways to protect their instrument and strengthen their performance. For most of these singers, it doesn't even matter if they win because either way- win or lose- by the time they leave the competition- their life has been forever changed by the investment these coaches have made in their lives. 

Last week, I listened to one young girl sing her song- and it was very good. I'm no professional but I didn't hear anything wrong with it. But for some reason, I didn't care if I heard it again so I was thinking I would just fast forward when she sang it for the live competition. then her coach, Pharrell Williams, approached her on the stage to give his feedback. he said "That was really really good. It was technically perfect." Then he went on to say something really profound.."You need to take down the veil of perfection and let us see you." 

Wow. That's what was missing from her performance that I couldn't put my finger on. It was perfect. But it wasn't real. It was a veil that covered up her true emotion and connection with her song. You heard the right notes in the right places but something just didn't connect with your heart. It was perfect but not authentic. We never got to see her, her heart, her passion, her imperfection. Even a crack in her voice would have conveyed some depth of emotion that her perfect performance did not. 

So it made me think- in our pursuit of perfection- what are we missing? What are the people around us missing when they don't get to see the real us? We all have a song- our story, our life- is a song in a sense. Are we spending all our time trying to sing the right notes in the right places? Or are we free to live authentically and imperfectly as we follow our Teacher and learn from Him? He is a pretty encouraging Coach- He loves to point out the unique qualities we have that make us like no other in His creation. He will gently come alongside and show us how to take care of the song He has given us and how to grow stronger in Him. And in the end- if we have spent our life walking alongside our Coach- it really won't matter what we have accomplished or how perfect things turned out- because we will be forever changed by the investment He has made in our lives. And our song will be a beautiful song that no one else can sing.


I am tired. I realized that within the last two days.  One big indicator was that people wanting to talk to me was making me grouchy.  The ring of my phone causes a deep sigh because of the extreme effort I know it will take to engage in conversation with whoever is on the other end. Mundane tasks become exhausting. Some days sending a smiley face emoji is a stretch. I can see the strain on the face of my bright yellow emoji- she's tired too. 

The bad part about being tired is not wanting anyone to know. You want everyone to think you are handling the stresses of every day life and the busyness of your schedule effortlessly. It's like the ridiculousness of answering the phone in the middle of the night and the person asks "Are you sleeping?" and you say, "No! I'm up." ..."I mean, why on earth would I be asleep at one a.m.? I don't need to sleep! I just finished painting my bathroom, organizing my sock drawer, and I'm about to start a load of laundry. Don't ever accuse me of being asleep!"

But Jesus knows we are human. He knows we get tired. The dailiness of life can be enough to wear us out, then throw in the stress and pressures we encounter on a regular wears us out. And not just worn out like we need some sleep- worn out like our hearts are tired.  Feeling makes us tired, engaging emotionally makes us tired, being encouraging makes us tired. The kind of tired you feel in your muscles and your soul. The kind of tired that sleeping in and binging on Netflix doesn't solve. 

What do we do when we experience this kind of soul-wearying tiredness? Isaiah has some advice for us in Chapter 40-

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Even wehen we are tired- the Lord is not. When we get discouraged and beaten down, we tend to think God feels the same way we do. Like we think He is just as frustrated at our life as we are. But He is not like us- He is always full of hope. Because His hope is not in our ability to do things well or figure things out or muster up the energy to get back in the swing of life. His hope is in Himself because He is Christ, the hope of glory. He is the Savior- not us! We get to be saved and not do the saving! We get to be tired and He gets to renew our strength! All have to do is put down all our efforts to fix ourselves, to save ourselves or the world around us, admit we are tired, and wait on Him, hope in Him- and He will fill us up with all He is. 

So tonight I sit and wait - I tell Him I am tired. I tell Him I need Him and then I lay down all my attempts to make everything better- all my plans to motivate myself to answer that phone. I just wait on Him to come and fill my heart with all He has because He loves me and I know He will.


In Luke 8- Peter and the disciples are with Jesus. At Jesus' request, they are crossing a lake in a boat. A storm blew in suddenly- and not a pop-up thunderstorm. The NIV calls it a "squall" which usually indicates high winds. The boat was being swamped and in danger of sinking. So the disciples were not over-reacting. Their lives were in danger. So they appropriately freaked out. Then they woke up Jesus. He calmed the wind and raging waters and then He asked them - "Where is your faith?" to which they responded " Who is this?"

Now fast-forward to Acts 12. Peter is in jail. Herod has just had James killed. The people were thrilled with his death so Herod planned a similar fate for Peter. The Bible says the night before Peter's trial, he was sleeping between two guards when an angel appeared and freed Peter from jail. 

So what I want to know, no..what I need to know is what happened to Peter between Luke 8 and Acts 12. How did he go from a terrified disciple with Jesus right beside him to a man not afraid of death sleeping between two guards in a jail cell?

I think the key lies in the question the disciples asked in Luke 8:25. After Jesus had calmed the storm it says they asked one another in fear and amazement , "Who is this? He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him." They were disciples of Jesus but they still didn't really know who He was. Isn't it amazing how you can spend so much time with someone and still not really know who they are? The traveled together, ate together, ministered together...but they still had no idea who He was. I don't think they are any different from you and me. We are believers. We read our Bibles, we pray, we teach our children about Jesus. But most days we still have no clue who He really is. 

Do you think I'm exaggerating? I mean, we know Jesus. We love Him, we gave our hearts to Him. We believe He paid the price for our sins. The people who have no clue are unbelievers, right? But the Bible says the disciples asked who He was. They had heard His teachings, left everything to follow Him, watched Him heal countless could they still not know who He was? The same way we don't have a clue. 

Most of us cannot make it through the storms of our circumstances without freaking out and demanding He intervene, forget about giving our actual life for the gospel. But that's okay because the disciple started here too. We just need to know how to get from where we are to where Peter ends up. 

Somewhere between Luke 8 and Acts 12- Peter gets heart revelation of who Jesus is. It comes slowly over time as he lives in relationship with Jesus. Peter witnesses the transfiguration, the healing of a demon-possessed boy. He argues with the other disciples over who is the greatest. He ministers side-by-side with Jesus, then is sent out with others to minister without Him. He hangs out with Mary and Martha and sees Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. He listens to Jesus talk about how to pray- he hears the encouragement and warnings issued by Jesus. He sees Jesus love those no one else will love. He watches in amazement as Jesus empowers women, forgives sinners, and rebukes the religious elite. Peter breaks bread with Jesus at the Passover, fights for Him in the garden, and denies Him in the courtyard. But then the resurrection and Pentecost!

One thing you can say about Peter- the highs are very high and the lows are very low. He doesn't do anything half way! And this should give us great hope. No matter how low our lows have been- we can become fearless and free like Peter. We can sleep in perfect peace no matter the circumstances in our life- even as the enemy seems to have us surrounded. This kind of faith comes with the intentionality of just living daily life with Jesus. One day at a time.

C.S. Lewis said "But probably this will not, for most of us, happen in a day; poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship.”

I love that. This is how it happened for Peter and the same can be true for us. Our hearts will be transformed and our minds will be renewed with the reality of who Jesus really is until one day we no longer recognize ourselves. We "suddenly" have become fearless followers of Jesus- not because we have to but because His Words and His Personhood have set out hearts on fire for the world to know Him as we do. And we will be the evidence of His goodness and His faithfulness to a world that has no clue.



Friday I moved my son into his new apartment. This is the second time I have done this so you would think it would have been easier. This time he is fifteen minutes from home. I will see him frequently. But it still made me sad. While we were making one of many trips to his apartment that morning, my phone rang. A dear friend called to tell me a woman, a mother, someone I adore who has raised 5 amazing children despite losing her husband early in their lives - had experienced another devastating loss. The night before, her son and daughter-in-law and their 3 children who were home on furlough from their missionary post in Italy had been driving and were t-boned by a tractor trailer. Her daughter-in-law did not survive. Her grandchildren were now motherless and she would now watch her son walk through the dark days of grief she knew all too well. I was overwhelmed with sadness. I cried in the car and prayed for that precious family. I tried to pull myself together and go back to moving my son but the news hung over me like a cloud. A couple hours later I received a text from my oldest daughter. A family friend, a mother, found out her newborn baby will spend the first few years of her childhood in and out of specialists' offices due to a neurological disorder that could result in seizures and glaucoma. She is less than a month old. Then another call that a couple my family loves is divorcing.

At this point I wanted to throw my phone out the window. I wanted to scream and cry and ask God where He had been the last 24 hours of everyone's life. So I cried. I prayed. I yelled at my husband over something dumb. He looked at me like I was losing my mind which was not even offensive because it felt true. The rest of my day was filled with unpacking boxes, hanging curtains and pictures, and then getting my youngest daughter and her friends to a football game. I thought how strange it was that all around me life kept moving and I just wanted to stop. I wanted to be alone and be quiet and grieve over everything around me that made no sense. Then I remembered Thursday.

Thursday morning I was walking and praying. Over everything, over nothing. Just the normal daily stuff. Then I heard the Lord speaking to me about grieving. He was telling me how people don't grieve enough which I thought was kind of weird because most people are really sad. But then I heard Him say- the reason there is so much depression is because there is not enough grieving. If we knew the importance of taking the time to grieve- we would stop bottling up all the painful emotions that lead us into addictions, illicit relationships, and unhealthy patterns. As Americans with our staunch belief in the pursuit of happiness - we cannot stand the idea of grieving. We want to be happy all the time. It is our right as Americans. The only problem is- it's not healthy or realistic. There will come a day when every tear is wiped away and we know joy and peace that will never be disturbed but today is not that day. Today we can get phone calls that change our worlds in a matter of seconds. And we can take the time to process the pain and grief with God or we can pull up our boot straps and muscle our way through it. But eventually the straps break and our muscles give out. We cannot do this on our own. The pain is too much to bear. So we need a Savior. We need the One who rescues us on the days we cannot take one more phone call. We need the One who will let us scream and cry and accuse Him of missing it- then He will pull us close and whisper words of love into our ear- that He knows our pain, that He is grieving with us, that He will redeem everything but in the middle part- in the painful part- here between the beginning and the end of the story- this part where we live our daily lives- He is here. He doesn't miss a thing. And He will let us grieve. When the unthinkable happens- He is our Comfort. He understands because here in the middle of the story- He doesn't get  everything He wants either. He watches the pain that comes from sin and sickness- this was not the plan. He created perfection and we broke it. We continue to break it. The world is broken. 

Everything I experienced Friday was worthy of grief- all on different levels but still all a type of grief. My friend and her family will grieve the loss of their loved one and while their hearts will heal with the help of their Savior - they will miss her presence in their lives for their lifetime. The mother of the newborn will grieve the difficulties her sweet girl may have to walk through and all that means for their family. The couple will grieve the loss of their marriage and all that goes with the shattering of the dream of a lifetime spent with one another. 

And I will grieve the end of a season - the end of my son's childhood. It is sad and wonderful all at the same time. If I don't allow myself to grieve the end of one season I won't be able to fully embrace the next one. So I grieve the end of the little boy that sat in my lap to watch TV- the one who would ask for "a piece of my drink" and then look up at me with his big blue eyes and eyelashes so long they would get stuck together, the little boy that wanted me to make the van "fly", the one who sang "I believe I can fly" as loud as he could as he ran through the house...this was the theme song of his life, the boy that asked me questions I could never answer ( Like "if a warrior and a jaguar got in a fight- who would win?"....I always felt that would be answer "D. Not enough information" or "E. This is really not relevant to anyone's life"). And tomorrow or one day soon I will celebrate my college-aged son who is living on his own learning to be an adult and pursuing the dreams God has placed in his heart for his future. 

Whatever you are grieving- give yourself grace and space to grieve it. Don't bully your heart into happiness when it needs time to process pain. But also don't wade into grief alone. Invite Jesus into the pain and ask Him to teach you how to grieve. While you may have a season of grief- it is not meant to be a continual season. The reason we grieve is so that we can rejoice.

"Weeping may last for the night but joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5  

Joy is your promise on the other side of grief. 



I am a movie fan. I love, love, love to go to the movies. I don't even mind going by myself- which my family thinks is very weird. But honestly- it is one of the few places it actually makes sense to go alone. You aren't interacting with anyone- you are supposed to not talk- it's one of the rules. No talking. That's really easy to do when you are by yourself. Most of the time, though, I go to the movies with one of the boys- either my husband or my son. I also don't mind seeing a movie more than once. So if I think the movie is good- I can go back with whichever one didn't see the movie the first time around. Today was one of my repeat days. My son and I went to see Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. While I have already said I am a fan of movies- I am a super fan of action movies like this one. Not too violent, not too heavy as far as subject material,  and according to some people...not too realistic.

I hear this complaint about movies a good bit. I have several issues with this comment but today it especially hit me. I mean for goodness sake- the name of the movie was "Mission IMPOSSIBLE"! Emphasis on the impossible if you didn't catch that. Would you pay money to go see Mission Realistic? Or Mission Quite Possible? The problem moves beyond the movies though to a place where it hits me where I live. I want to see the impossible. I will pay money to see it twice in fact. There is a place in my heart that longs to know the impossible can happen- that I don't have to settle for realistic or the everyday. I serve the God of Impossibilities but most days I forget. I have prayed prayers that have gone years without seeing answers but instead of asking for Him to increase my faith- I lower my expectations. Instead of calling for my experience to line up with His Word and His promises- I look for "realistic" answers. I allow my experience to lower His Word to a place I can explain and understand.

But God is longing to be known as the Mission Impossible God- He says call on Him and He will answer and show us amazing and incredible things we did not know! (Jeremiah 33:3)

How long has it been since you've been amazed? (And I'm not talking about amazed at the ridiculousness that you see all around you- I mean the merge lane is a place for the ridiculously amazing every hard is it to merge?!?!?) But have you been amazed at the incredible things He has shown you? Have you been amazed at the impossibilities of God? What if we started to believe He really could do the Impossible? If I can sit for 2 and a half hours and believe Ethan Hunt can really hang off the side of a plane- can I not believe the Creator of the Universe can do what He has promised?

Let's invite Him into the impossibilities of our life. Let's believe together that He can set you free from the self-hatred you have carried since childhood. Could you really love yourself just the way you are? He says you can. What about the impossibility of being free from addictions - even if the 12 step program hasn't worked so far or countless rehab facilities and counseling have done nothing but put you in contact with better suppliers- today we could believe He can do for you what no one else can.  Or the impossibility of keeping your marriage together or restoring one that's already broken apart? The impossibility of breaking free from generational bondage that has followed your family line for generations? The impossibility of lost children finding Jesus? The impossibility of breaking free from the cycle of poverty? Or maybe just the impossibility of paying your bills this week?

The Bible says all we need is faith the size of a mustard seed and we will see the impossible.(Matthew 17:21) I'm not sure if you've ever seen a mustard seed but it is really really small. Like tiny. That's all we need. And if we don't think we even have that much- we can ask Him to give us the mustard seed. I will tell you- if you are brave enough to ask for the seed- you already have the seed! I know some are struggling because you have believed for so long and you are losing heart. There is a story in John, Chapter 21, about the disciples fishing. They had been out all night and had caught nothing. Jesus came in the morning and called to them from the shore and told them to throw their nets out one more time. You know they had to be thinking- "Are you kidding?! We have been out here all night! We are tired and this is pointless!" But they did it anyway. Sometimes- we are tired and it seems pointless to hold onto hope - but do it anyway. The story goes on to tell us that when they did what Jesus said- they could could not pull the net in because it was filled with so many fish! I don't know why Jesus waited until morning to appear. I don't know why all night as they prayed and fished and hoped and fished and watched other boats all around them catching fish- that He didn't send the fish into their nets. But I know when He told them to do it in spite of their frustration and hopelessness- not only did they catch the fish but they saw Jesus. Up to that moment they didn't know who He was. In our places of deepest pain and despair- we will have a revelation of our Mission Impossible God. He promises. 


I have been home from Romania for over two weeks now.  Our team went feeling prepared. We had talked with the missionaries, we had prayed individually and corporately. We had a solid prayer covering in place and felt like God gave us specific strategies for our ten days there.  My part was to train the leadership team in how to use the Joseph study as a tool for discipleship and inner healing as well as to lead the church body through a conference version of the study. I was prepared. I had taught the study several times and spent weeks working with Karen to adapt the material.  I wasn’t feeling overly confident but I felt like I had done all I could so I was at peace.

We arrived to find out our briefing from the missionaries wasn’t as all-encompassing as we had thought. We were under the impression the church was very traditional when in reality the leadership team had some traditional backgrounds but the church itself was made up of local villagers who had never received more than a first or second grade education. They could not read or write, most had never heard the Word of God because they were not regular attendees on Sunday mornings. The village had no electricity or running water. Most families were living in absolute poverty. The village had one water pump that dried up by around noon each day because the source was running out. The children played in the streets with horse poop. There was debate amongst our team the first day as to whether it was mud pies or horse poop they were playing with until we realized- there is no water to make mud.

The need was over-whelming. One mother of six followed us around the first few days begging for prayer for her sick children and weeping as we prayed over them.  My heart was broken.  We spent the week ministering to the leadership team and praying for people in the village. Friday evening we brought some bread and gave it to a few of the poorest families- the mother of six being one of them.

Saturday morning the Joseph study was to begin. I felt overwhelmed as I stood up to speak. The church was full of people whose language I could not speak, whose lives of poverty and hardship I could not relate to, and whose culture was completely foreign to me.  I have spoken many times over the last few years at Riverstone Church and each time I say that I am totally dependent on the Lord but I realized that Saturday morning how untrue that statement has been. Without even realizing to what extent- I have relied on my ability to communicate, to speak the same language as my audience, to share the same cultural experiences, to make them laugh to lighten the heavy moments- but here in the small village of Soard I had nothing. I stood in front of a room of blank faces and I told the story of Joseph in shortened words and broken phrases through an interpreter. I tried moments of humor but nothing translated. Nothing. Blank stares. The story is long and I start breaking out in a sweat as the room gets antsy. They are farmers, not students. They are not used to sitting and listening - especially the men sitting and listening to a woman. The plan was to tell Joseph’s story and then show illustrations I had made of Joseph’s life and my life. But I can’t finish. The whole session has felt like I am wading through mud up to my chest. They are over it- I am over it. It’s lunch time so I skip the illustrations, pray and dismiss them.

Our team goes to lunch but all I want to do is find a place to curl up and cry. This was not how I had imagined the teaching going. I was going to be funny and engaging and they were going to connect with Joseph’s life and their hearts were going to begin a journey to freedom with the Lord! Instead- the thought of having to teach two more sessions like that made me want to throw up.  It’s 11:30 am in Soard which means it is 4:30 am at home. I have very spotty wifi but even if I could reach out- I know no one is awake to pray for me. Then a miracle happens. An email  pops up on my phone from Denise – one of my prayer covering.  This is the first glimmer of hope I have felt since I walked out of the church to lunch. I email back and ask her to pray over the next two sessions and she immediately replies that she is praying.

When we arrive back at the church for the second session – it is chaos.  The kids are out of control- grabbing at craft supplies and knocking drinks out of team member’s hands. I find out the mother who had cried and begged us to help her children had taken the bread we gave her and sold it for cigarettes so her children showed up hungry again. An old man walks up and asks three of our team members to buy him medicine. We offer to pray but he gets angry and refuses. All he wants is money for medicine. The service is starting and worship begins. But I am done. I am so frustrated and confused. I really felt like I had heard from the Lord about bringing the Joseph study to Romania but it was not working. The church was full of even more people than before lunch but they were only there in hopes we would give them bread. I thought “We should have just ministered to the leadership team. This is a waste of time trying to teach the village.” And I was angry. I stood in the back of the church moments away from teaching and my heart was bitter. But as the room full of people lifted their voices in worship and as Denise lifted her voice in prayer, the Lord gently spoke so clearly to my heart. “Brooke, who cares if they only came for bread? How many times have you only come to me because you needed ‘bread’? All that matters is they came…Don’t despise their brokenness”

And I was undone. I stood and wept as they worshipped. I wept over the Lord’s goodness and patience with my brokenness and I repented over my lack of love. And then I taught the second session. And there was a shift. I felt the Lord as I taught- it was still a room full of blank faces but I knew that Jesus was speaking something to someone. I told them how Jesus wanted to heal their broken places and fill the broken parts with His goodness. At the end I asked them to close their eyes – which they didn’t- if you’ve never experienced this-it’s real awkward when you ask a room full of people to close their eyes and they just stare at you. I started to sweat again. I asked anyone that wanted Jesus to heal their broken places to raise their hands. In that church full of people – one man raised his hand. The man who wanted medicine but not prayer. The man who walked away angry. He was brave enough in a room full of people with eyes wide open, listening to a woman who was not funny or engaging , to raise his hand and ask for Jesus to touch him. And I was undone. Because he came for medicine but Jesus didn’t care. Jesus knew he needed the Great Physician and He was willing to meet that man in his place of need. Jesus knew I needed to see what His love really looks like and He sent me and He met me there in my place of need.

Because it doesn’t matter why we come- it only matters that we come.