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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Courage to Encourage

Years ago, a friend said to me, "Ya know, so many times, I think something nice about someone when I'm talking to them -- like how nice they look that day -- but never actually verbalize it to them.  Why do I do that?  Why do I hold back my encouragement?"

Then, she looked at me and said, "From now on, I'm just gonna say it."

For some of us, giving encouragement takes great, well... courage.  We think it, but never say it.  Never text it.  Never type it.  Never release it. 

Maybe we think, "Surely, they already know what I'm about to say, anyway.  They know how smart they are.  They know how sweet they are.  They know..."

But, maybe they don't.

In fact, maybe they actually believe the exact opposite.  Maybe they are someone who is good at art or cooking.  Everyone else thinks and knows they are brilliant, but they over critique themselves so much that they believe they aren't much of an artist or a cook at all.  It's hard for many of us to see, sometimes, what our strengths really are.

And, that's where encouragement comes in.

In college, I remember someone sharing how his mom really didn't know her strengths or how she contributed to the world and society.  He was stunned.  "Mom, it's obvious.  You have a huge servant's heart.  You give and give..."  He went on and listed everything he saw in her through his life.  What was so obvious to him was just simply not to her.

So, let us be courageous.  Let us release our encouragement. 

We just never know how much it needs to be heard.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Icon or Friend?

I remember when Michael Jackson passed away, his sister, Janet Jackson, made a statement to the press.

Among her many heartfelt comments, she wanted to make one thing clear: Michael's death had a completely different meaning to her and her family than to anyone in the public.

She said something along the lines of, "To the world, he's an icon, but to us, he is family."

To them, Michael was not just King of Pop. He was little brother. He was friend. He was flesh and blood.  He was more than just a symbol.  He was a real person. 

I have to admit.  When I was younger, Jesus was only a religious symbol to me in many ways.  Similar to a musical rock star, I believe He existed, I just didn't know him on a personal level.  And, I most certainly did not know him as Friend.

But, then one day everything changed.  It is hard to find the right words to describe it, except to say that He opened the eyes of my heart and I saw.  I saw that He is absolutely real.  Was I stunned? Absolutely.  At that moment, I needed someone to pinch me.  From that day on He was no longer an icon to me. I could now say, for certain, that I knew Him personally.

And, this is what He desires for each of us.  He wants us to know that He is close.  He is real.  He is not a religious symbol.  He is a Real Person who is wanting a friendship with each of us.  He wants us all to be, like Janet Jackson, personally involved.  He wants us all to be able to stand up and say, "To the world, He's an icon, but to me, He is Family."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Behind the Mirror

Every week, I take my two little girls to swim class. Definitely one of the highlights of the week for them! I so appreciate how the swim school has their facility set up. They made an observation room for parents to sit in. I'm able to watch my girls swim by looking through two huge glass windows that give a full view of the pool area.

They are not your average windows, though. On the parents' side is a window, but on the other side it's two huge mirrors. This way, we can see the children but the children cannot see us.

I noticed one day, while I was sitting there watching them, that part of the tinted film was coming away from the corner of the window. The film is what creates the "invisible factor" for the children. Without the film, the children would be able to see us clearly.

Just to be silly, I decided to peek through the corner of the window where the film had pulled away. Just at that moment, one of my daughters looked up and saw my face. She knew that I was always watching her, but she smiled when she saw me and was reminded that I really was there.

And, what a beautiful reminder for us.

God sees everything. Nothing is hidden from his sight. He never takes His eyes off of us. We know it. We believe it. But, how we love when He pulls back the film that creates the "invisible factor". When He shows Himself and we are able to look upon Him. Those moments when we remember that, though we cannot see Him, He is always there, always watching, always with us.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Chance of Thunderstorms

I hate being unprepared when a thunderstorm hits.  Maybe I didn't get a chance or forgot to watch the weather report that morning.  Without warning, I'm suddenly looking around for a place to take shelter.  Ugh.

Our trials can come upon us like unexpected thunderstorms.  They blind-side.  They come without warning.  We are left feeling vulnerable and looking for a place to take Shelter.

Some have not considered up to this point that they would ever need a Shelter.  Maybe the Weather Report of their lives has been "Sunny with a light breeze".  How startled they are, then, when the Weather changes.  They do not even own an Umbrella.

But, for those who have found the Refuge, they do not fear any Weather Report.  They have come to understand that they not only have an Umbrella to take cover under, they have a Mountain in which to find Great Shelter in.

The good news is that the Shelter never closes its Doors.  It is available for those with and without an umbrella.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Beyond Just Thoughts

The other day I expressed to my husband some concerns I was having about people I love. I went on for several minutes blurting out rhetorical questions to him. When I was done, he looked at me and said plainly, "I don't know, honey. Pray about it."


How often I keep my thoughts for people as just thoughts. Or, like the other day, they are only expressed to someone else who is just as powerless as I am. Instead of spending several minutes talking to another human about it, I can spend that time talking to the God of the universe.

I forget that that's all that prayer really is. I don't have to make a big hoopla about it. I just talk to Him the same way I would talk to my husband about it. The difference, though, is that I can actually make a difference in the circumstance when I talk to God. 

Friday, April 12, 2013


Have you ever had a present for someone but you just couldn't seem to get it to them? 

Maybe they said they'd come get it but life got busy and they kept forgetting.  So, you made arrangements and said you'd meet them somewhere for the exchange.  You put it in your car.  You traveled out.  But, something got in the way and they suddenly had to cancel their plans with you.  No matter what you did, the present just couldn't get into their hands! 

You spent the money.  You took time to wrap it.  Their name is on the tag.  It's theirs.  It's not like you're going to give it to someone else.  In fact, you can't.  The gift happens to be engraved with their full name.  There is no one but them that can have it.  You have no choice but to hold onto it until it is claimed by them personally.

There are stories about unclaimed treasures and money.  Unclaimed winning lottery tickets.  Unclaimed inheritances.  Can you imagine?  People who are walking around maybe trying to figure out where their next meal is coming from, when all along they are actually rich but aren't enjoying it because they either don't realize it's there or don't believe it and never go after it and inquire.

How many of us are walking around spiritually poor right now?  Is that how God wants us to be?  Of course not!  If He wanted us to be, He would have never sent His Son. 

There are unclaimed things sitting in God's living room for you.  He made the purchase.  It is all yours.  It even has your name engraved on it.  There is no one else that can have it.  It is meant for you and you alone.  And, maybe He's been trying to get a hold of you and let you know what He's got for you.  That healing.  That Joy.  That Peace that you want more than anything else in the world.  Those amazing plans -- He's had those for you since before you were even born!

There are presents stored up for you.  Will you reach out and claim them?

Friday, April 5, 2013


It's funny how your perspective and reactions can change once you become a parent.

Before parenthood, a crying baby in a quiet place could be as annoying as an alarm clock that is unable shut off.  You cringe and mumble under your breath and want nothing more than to muzzle that thing!  You're not a baby hater, just a lover of peace and quiet, thank you! 

A friend visits with her toddler and the child makes a spill on your clean rug.  REALLY? 

There is no place in you that relates and you're therefore unable to sympathize with the situation or the parent involved.  You may even verbalize your irritation or disgust. 

But, then you enter parenthood, yourself.  Now, suddenly you're on the other side of the coin.  You take your little bundle of joy to its first public outing and he's inconsolable.  You look around and see judgmental eyes.  Those that, like you once, don't understand, don't relate and therefore show no grace or mercy.

But, if you look around a little more you'll see others.  Others with a sympathetic smile.  They know exactly where you're at and realize that the last thing you need is guilt.  They've been there.  They are moms and dads ,themselves. They are grandparents.  They are those who have raised or cared for children themselves and have walked this road.  You don't have to explain yourself.  They already know and they are already on your side.  Some may even approach you with a comforting comment like "I remember those days..." (As if to say, 'you're not alone and I understand'.)  They bear with you in love.  They bear with you, partly, because they remember that they were once in your shoes and needing the same grace, the same mercy.

Those who have been Forgiven much
(and remember how much they've been forgiven)
 are the ones that Love much. 
They are the ones that refuse to point fingers, refuse to judge,
refuse to condemn, and refuse to play the critic.
They are the ones whose words are gracious
and whose hands are more than ready to help. 
They are quick to forgive, refuse to hold grudges,
and bear with others in love.

They are the ones that never forget
how much they've been Forgiven!