Verse Mapping: A fresh way to study your Bible

Apparently, I collect Bibles. I didn’t know this about myself until a few months ago when I was cleaning out my bookshelves. There are several translations from New King James to The Message. Topical, chronological and action Bibles. And of course, because I’ve devoted my life to children, I have the Jesus Storybook Bible.

I don’t know why it was a surprise to me that I owned so many. I do love the Word of God and exploring different versions. It helps me to better understand and remember it if I read it in different translations.

Having the realization that I have literally a whole shelf at my house (we’re not gonna talk about what’s at my office) devoted to Bibles, I was hesitant to be a part of reviewing a free copy of the NIV Verse Mapping Bible because do I really need one more? But, I was intrigued by the idea of verse mapping, so I took the plunge.

Let me say that at first I was a little disappointed because to me the term “Verse Mapping” invokes an idea of tieing certain verses of the Bible to other verses. It’s one long story, after all. I fully expected to learn ways that words in the Old Testament book of Isaiah were also breathed in the New Testament book of Matthew, for example. But that is not the case at all.

Verse mapping, I have learned, is the concept of writing out a certain Bible verse and then breaking it down. It’s another means of digging deeper by learning the Hebrew and Greek of certain key words, which I do find extremely valuable. It also encourages deeper study by way of using a concordance, and we won’t talk about how many of those I own.

The Verse Mapping Bible makes all of that much simpler by providing pre-formed sections for the reader to more easily organize their thoughts and study. Each section has five sub sections. One for the verse, one for other translations of that verse (helps eliminate all those translations on my shelf), one for the Greek and Hebrew translations and where to find in the concordance. And then two more sections for you to freely write (yes, write) in what you observe is happening in the verse and what you feel God is speaking  to or teaching you with that verse and how you plan to apply it.

It’s kinda like a study Bible that you have to actually show your work in. And I do love that because I do love to write in my Bibles. There are even margins for you to add your own notes in on each page. Loving that feature! I like to date my entries so I can go back later and see how God brought me, taught me or held me during that time.

 

Very Plain Front, but there are other versions and designs available on FaithGateway.com
Easy to follow guide on how to use your new Verse Mapping Bible
Psalm 46 map.
I would personally need to head over and use the journal for this, since 46:10 is not pre-outlined.
For your favorite verses without a pre-made map you’d need the journal. Or there are a few empty maps throughout the Bible. However, they wouldn’t necessarily be close to your verse.
Loving these margins though! Lots of room to write!

But what if I run out of verse mapping pages in my Bible, or I want to map a verse that isn’t already set aside? Ask and ye shall receive, my friends! There’s a Verse Mapping Journal for all my fellow journaling junkies. It has over 100 pages for you to journal and map your verses and record what God is teaching you. I’m kind of a journal snob and like a leather cover or a more compact feel so I can easily tuck it in my purse and go. This journal is not purse friendly. But, I do love that it will lay flat because it is spiral bound.

Lays flat, but it bugs me that when I open it up all my thoughts on one verse are not together. The splicing is off for my taste. I’d prefer a snapshot to look back at me at the same time.

I also recieved a Verse Mapping Bible for Girls in exchange for my review and I’ve thoroughly looked it over to see how it differs from the “adult” version. And really it’s just a different color and has a different graphic design around the page edges. I had originally thought it would be more for a pre-teen, but any adult would be happy with this version of the Bible if they like to take notes and dig.

Much prettier than the “adult” version, but it’s laid out exactly the same inside.

Overall, I really like these materials and will surely use the journal in addition to my new Bible. Anyone looking to dig and work through verses and deepen their Bible knowledge would appreciate these versions.

I received all of these materials for my fair and honest review because I am a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid and a #BibleGatewayPartner.

You can purchase any of these materials by following these links to the FaithGateway Store:

Verse Mapping Bible

Verse Mapping Bible for Girls

Verse Mapping Bible Study Journal

 

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A Cancel Culture Christmas

Is it just me or does Christmas seem to be just a little more, I dunno…, Christmassy this year? I seem to be humming a little more than usual. I feel a growing anticipation the last few days. Lights seem to be twinkling just a little brighter. I’m not sure why.

This year has been nothing short of disappointing all. year. long. It’s easy to get get bogged down by the disappointment and negativity. I’ve lost track of how many events I cancelled, shifted or redesigned. I’ll admit, I had a few weeks where discouragement got the better part of me. And, if I’m being honest, I’m a little gun-shy and not sure I’m ready for what’s around the corner in 2021. There just doesn’t seem to be much promise, does there?

So, maybe that’s why I feel a little like I’m 6 years old again. I haven’t felt like that about Christmas in a very long time. This year has stripped me down to my bare minimum when it comes to expectations. I’ve learned l can live without fancy graduation ceremonies, large celebrations and all the busyness that entangles the race marked out for me. We’ve all given up a lot this year, but the one thing that remained constant the entire 365 days was Christ.  Christmas is something we can count on. Christ is something we can count on.

Our lives have been interrupted in countless ways this year. And I think of Mary and how much her life changed the moment an angel told her she’d give birth to the Son of God. She didn’t complain, fret or try to change the outcome. She embraced the interruption with humility and trusted God with her circumstances, even though it would cost her so much. I haven’t lived that way this year. Have you?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how our Savior chose to come into our lives, and it wasn’t with a large party, grand gesture or elaborate parade. The King of the World chose simple, modest. The very fact that He loves us enough to leave Heaven to meet us in our filth is cause for embellished attire and fancy catering. And yet, He’s uncomplicated and mild. He’d not asking for celebration and merriment. He’s asking for adoration and love. And I can do that! I don’t have to cancel that!

So, this childlike anticipation I’m feeling must come from a place where all my crusty outer layers have been peeled off revealing a renewed tenderness, and a rejoicing gratefulness for the very basic parts of the Gospel.

God is Love. He loved so much that it overflowed from the outskirts of Heaven and rained down to Earth in the form of an innocent child. A perfect child. A sacrifice to redeem me if I choose to believe it. And because of a baby, I will live forever in gladness.

Nothing can cancel that.

 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

 

 

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Cold Prayers

I’ve had a couple people check in on me, and in actuality I was not ok. I scattered my family in a few different directions last night with my frustrations. I wouldn’t have wanted to be around me either. I try every year, but it never fails. As soon as the temperature drops, my fight or flight response is to fight. I mean, since I can’t get on a flight to Key West.

Here in North Alabama the temperature dropped with very little leeway. I had been out hiking without a jacket just 2 days before with my family. I spent the long Thanksgiving weekend so very thankful for my family, friends, church, job and the list goes on. There was no good reason for me to be so prickly.

Did I mention that it was only 35 degrees all day? With snow showers? Oh, and the heater broke in my car. The heater. In my car. Broke.

I need to pause right here and try to explain to you how being cold for me isn’t just an inconvenience. It makes me angry to be cold. Angry, tense and irritable. I just can’t relax at all.

My poor family.

So, to have my heater broken in my car on the very first day of what looks like could be a brutal #2020ish Winter…I was not in a good place. I had a mini melt-down. No pun intended. The heater wasn’t my only issue. Miscommunication with my husband, Cyber Monday customer service mix-ups, forgetting dance class, closing the school system in the middle of the day throwing me off my Monday game, not-so-great news from my doctor. And my heater.

Dinner was late, because let’s be real here. Dinner is always late when days go awry. It’s a bad day code I’m sure. Dinner must be late when you’re tired and hangry.

Anyway. I groveled for forgiveness from my very merciful and understanding family. I don’t deserve them. They know me and my weaknesses and love me in spite of them. That’s true love, y’all.

So, I went to bed, said my prayers and tried to sleep. And in case you are just tuning in with me you need to know I struggle with that too. Sleeping. But it was gracious to me also.

Until about 3:30am.

I’m gonna say that it was stomach pain that woke me up, because it was. But since I’m a believer I’m gonna know it was how God chose to get me up this morning. Because I was fine, except that I couldn’t go back to sleep. And you know that Christmas song, “Mary Did You Know?”. Well, it was stuck on a loop inside my head. Honestly, I’ve not ever really been a fan of it because, yes! She knew! Good grief, an angel came to tell her directly that she would be the mother of the Son of God. That’s kinda the whole story line. But I decided that if I couldn’t get the song out of my head that maybe God was trying to tell me something. So, I crept out of bed, scooted my baby dog out of my chair and snuggled in to read Luke and the story of Jesus’ birth.

I am always struck by Mary’s faith in the story. She doesn’t waiver at all. She asks “How can this happen, since I am a virgin?” But she doesn’t doubt. There’s a difference between curiosity and doubt. Mary just says, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be so.” And then she goes off to fulfill God’s eternal salvation plan. What remarkable faith!

Stay with me here because I promise this gets pretty cool.

There I am. It’s dark and like 5:00am. And I just want faith like that. I mean this year has been nothing short of ridiculous. And I am pretty sure that if an angel came to me today I would question the validity and maybe look for hidden fake-news cameras. We haven’t been able to rely on very much this year at all. It seems like every time I make plans they change. People are sick and dying. People are losing their jobs and livelihoods. No one trusts anyone else. It’s not hard to find conspiracy around every corner. We question everything we are told. And, did I mention it’s cold outside and my heater broke? I felt like I just needed a life line.

“So, Lord could you at least just fix my heater? I’m not asking much, but I am asking in faith that you will fix it.” It didn’t seem like a big request considering all the other issues. Surely this one would be easier to resolve than a global pandemic.

I went back to bed and failed to sleep until my alarm went off at 6:30. Sunlight revealed that my car had been covered in frost overnight. My phone told me it was 26*. So, I got moving knowing I would need extra time to scrape my windshield since my defrost function went out the window with my broken heater. I got dressed and went out to my car to start it. At least I could warm up the engine.

Y’all. My Father hears the small requests and cares for His children. Even when they have been grumpy and have lost faith. I reached in to turn the key in the ignition and “Whoosh!” My heater sprang to life as if it had never died!!

AND.

AND.

AND!

The lyrics poured out of my favorite station that I had left on the radio, “That’s what faith can do…” (Kutless) How amazing is that?!

I yelled, “You are SO BEAUTIFUL LORD!!” Then proceeded to jump up and down in my driveway like a toddler at Christmas!!

Because He is so beautiful and He is so faithful. He is the provider of every good thing and He delights in delighting us. What other God has the best timing and can answer prayers with so much precision and detail?

It may not have been a message from an angel to tell me immaculate news, but I know without any doubt it was a message from Jesus that He is still there, listening to every prayer. Every little prayer in faith. Disappointments, frustrations, illness, despair, cyber attacks; He’s got all of it. He doesn’t always answer tangibly, but He always answers.

 

How have you experienced God’s answered prayers? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Life Lessons At Dawn

It was one of those experiences that I knew would be awesome, but I didn’t expect it to be quite that intense. A quick recap for those just joining. I love the outdoors. It’s truly my happy place and where I hear God most clearly. He’s taught me dozens of lessons using His own creation. This last one was the most multi-faceted thus far, and I want to try and convey parts of it to you.

In my nearly 44 years on Earth, I have never made the intentional effort to sit and watch the sun rise. While I love the outdoors, I love it more in the evening, y’all. A morning person I am not!

So, one morning, while staying in a cabin atop a mountain, I finally paused and witnessed the day dawning. God revealed more to me in a single sunrise than He has allowed me to clearly understand in a very long time. No doubt it helped that I literally came to the table with an expectant heart and open hands ready to receive. I’ve learned that short periods of solitude are essential for my spiritual, mental and emotional clarity. A pray-cation. Isolation and quarantine are not at all the same, my friends. Not even close.

So, there I was on the mountain-top. Just me, God and the sun. Well, the sun got there a little later, but that’s kinda the point.

Notice the dark, sleeping world under a blanket of blood-red redeeming light. The sun has not yet officially risen… That could be another post altogether.
Now the Earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:2

The morning mist was so perfectly placed, as if the Spirit of God was hovering over something barely created. Like a brand new day. A fresh start. A clean slate. A do-over. Mercy. It was a new mercy created and handpicked just for that day. Not the same mercy from yesterday. Nothing left-over. It was made new.

I sat there at that secluded picnic table with a building anticipation. I wasn’t sure exactly when the sun would first breakthrough the oppressive darkness. I started to feel a stirring deep within my soul. I had an excitement for what was about to be revealed and the glory of light piercing the dark. And I couldn’t help but think that this is how we are to live all of our days. Focused and ready for the time, that blink of an eye when the Son will return to claim the ones who love Him.

While we wait for the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13

Who else is waiting for that day with more and more expectation? Especially this year?

As the light began to swell on the horizon, it became more apparent where the sun would appear. I held my breath and began to think of what it will be like to finally see Jesus’ face. My savior, redeemer and friend. The one who makes sense out of all the 2020-ness. I thought of all the heartbreak we’ve all endured over the last several months, the disappointments and rattled schedules. I thought about social unrest, anxiety and conspiracy. All the mistrust, misdeeds and missed opportunities.

And I was so thankful to have Jesus on my side through everything. There’s no way I could have gotten through without Him as my great advocate. My light guiding the way.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Sound like the sun to anyone? We must have it to sustain all life on Earth.

And then it happened. The sun burst forth among the darkness and light spilled through the trees. The sky lit up with indescribable colors as light cast out the night and woke up my soul from a deep sleep. I sat in awe for a moment, basking in the glory of something I’ve never seen, but happens every single day. Faithful. Loyal. Beautiful.

So beautiful I couldn’t stop gazing. And yet, there was no way to safely look at it directly.

What a lovely parallel. I find it so marvelous that God finds ways to point us to Himself that are so simple and so complex. The sun is readily available to all mankind. It’s so magnificent, but to look at it directly is impossible. Just like God himself.

He alone is immortal and dwells in unapproachable light. No one has ever seen Him, nor can anyone see Him. To Him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen! 1 Timothy 6:16

I couldn’t see Him. But I could certainly feel His effects. His attributes are obvious in the sunlight. Warm, gentle, exposing truth, steady, brilliant, dependable just to name a few.

I don’t feel I have given the experience justice through words. But isn’t that just His way? Relationships are personal. And there are parts of that moment that are meant to be held between me and my Lord. But I knew I needed to share some of this beauty with all of you. This world is filled with so much ugly it can be overwhelming. If anything, I hope it helps you find Him in the every day things. Like a steady sunrise.

This is why it is said; Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. Ephesians 5:14

 

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Making Mountains Out of Lemonade

It was really hard to look at all of your beach vacation pictures this week. I had to cancel my own trip to the beach for this week. It is 2020, after all. Over the last 2 years or so, my husband and I have had to cancel the last two vacations we booked. Neither of those reasons were COVID related. It’s just life. Nothing is to blame. 

Over our 21 years of marriage, we have learned that life is so much sweeter when you learn how to perfect your own lemonade recipe out of life’s lemons. And I kinda think that is what I love the most about us. Our personal lemonade recipe. We like things simple, uncomplicated and peaceful. We work hard to filter out the complicated, stressful, pulpy bits in order to enjoy a smoother, more refreshing lifestyle. 

So when this year’s vacation was cancelled we switched gears and turned inward to our own hometown goodness. We’ve lived here most of our lives and have never taken advantage of the mountain top state park located just 20 minutes from our front porch. So, we booked a cabin for two days. My husband could still go to work, I could still get the solitude my introverted soul craves and we could still gather in the afternoons for some down time. It was a smooth, simple lemonade recipe with lots of sugar.

Now, if you’ve followed me over the years you know that I connect with God the most in the natural world. Outdoors is my happy place. And while it’s true that God is everywhere, I believe that He’s much more tangible among His natural creation. I can almost physically feel Him when I am outside. He’s big and diverse. Outside is big and diverse. He moves. Outside moves. I can’t harness Him and there certainly is no way to harness the wind. To me, it just seems to correlate.

Deer outside our window one morning.

While I am an outside girl, I am not typically an early riser. I am almost ashamed to admit this, but I have never in my nearly 44 years witnessed an actual sunrise. Sure, I’ve been up with my babies as the sun came up, had to be up for early flights, or wrestled all night with insomnia until the first morning light peeked through the blinds. But, I have never made the point to be up to watch the sunrise. When I was a kid, I vividly remember my older brother (an early riser) trying to coerce me to get up to watch the sun rise over the mountain during a family camping trip. I refused. And I refused once more when years later, a friend tried to get me to do the same thing when I spent the weekend with her at her family’s cabin. I value my sleep, y’all.

But I realized this week that our cabin overlooked the Eastern bluff of the mountain. Sunrise side. So when my husband got up early to leave for work on our “vacation”, I decided to go meet with God outside before dawn.

It was one of the most spiritual events in my entire life. God spoke volumes to me during those few brilliant moments. So much so, that I have decided to write an entire blog post about it. If you’d like to read how God uses the sun to point everything back to Jesus, His son, join my other 1,300 subscribers so you won’t miss the post.

In the meantime. Enjoy your vacations, your lemons and the people in your life God gave you to love. Find ways to make the most of this one life. Put God first. Your family second. Ministry and life happens third.

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My Bible Was Ruined. {How I Handled The Loss}

One of my favorite places to read my Bible is on my patio. It’s quiet, free from distractions and I just feel closer to God when I’m outside for some reason. One particular evening last Summer, I accidentally left my Bible outside after studying it. It was wide open to Romans and a storm came through overnight and waterlogged the precious book given to me by my parents the day I graduated college 20 years earlier. My mother’s sweet inscription on the front page.

I was literally heart broken. I cried so much and couldn’t focus on anything. I even ended up leaving work early that day because I just couldn’t get over the grief. Literally decades of communing with God, feeling His words come to life from the pages, and pouring my heart out over that book were ruined. I’d prayed over both my pregnancies, a handful of job losses, deaths of loved ones, dozens of life decisions, and even more joys. I had countless notes, highlighted passages and underlined words. It was a real loss. I tried in vain to dry out the pages and salvage the ones that were already falling out before the storm, but it’s disintegration is inevitable. I still turn to it when I’m in battle and need the comfort of the familiarity of those pages. I’ll keep it until the day I die. But I still needed another copy for daily use.

So, I bought a really nice Life Application Bible to replace it, but found the footnotes and details to be too distracting. After a few months of reading it, I realized I just wanted a Bible and not much more. I need a place to get lost in God’s words. Save the commentaries for the scholars.

I am so thankful to be a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid for many reasons, but being able to receive a free copy of the new NRSV Simple Faith Bible, Comfort Print in return for my honest review has been a blessing. I love the accuracy and simplicity of the language. I’ve been an NIV girl most of my life, but this version feels natural to me.

What I like most about the Simple Faith Bible is that it’s just that. Simple. I can get lost in the chapters without interruptions. It’s not bogged down with commentary, which is great for every day reading.

I do, however, love the Ponder Points, which are simply highlighted scripture passages to meditate on within each chapter. I also like the prayer prompts offered throughout the text. And what’s even better is there is an index of features at the front of the Bible to point me in the direction of a certain topic or life applications written by former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter. These are great, simple prompts to help apply my reading to daily life.

Index of Features including Bible in Focus and Bible in Life, making it easy to reference certain topics.
Ponder Points and Prayer Prompts with Life Applications written by former President, Jimmy Carter.

I wish the words of Christ we highlighted in red, a feature I grew to love in my old Bible. And I’d like for the cover to be leather or something more sturdy than a regular hardbound cover. Still, I removed the dust jacket and the Bible fits nicely in my personal cover for ease of daily transport. I expect that will help it to last several years.

I didn’t expect to love it as much as I do, actually. It will never hold the same sentimental value that the one my parents presented to me holds. Still, I can see it becoming something I treasure for years to come. Hopefully filled with scores of highlights, notes and memories of when God spoke to me through the pages.

If you’d like to experience this Bible for yourself or share it with someone you love, you can find it in the FaithGateway Store.

Simple Faith. Simple Bible. I love it!

 

 

 

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We Finally Made It! {So Why Am I So Sad?}

First of all, I need to say thank you to my tribe who has sent messages, prayers and offers to bring my child things she may have forgotten as they are driving through her new college town. Man, you guys are awesome and have made this time in my life so much easier. For everyone else, if you don’t have friends like mine, get you some!

I don’t know why I didn’t expect the tears to linger. We have prayed for this day for two years. She worked hard to get the grades and the scholarships. Saved her money and worked all Summer long. And yesterday we dropped her off at her dream school so she could do great things. We wanted this.

So why am I so sad today? I find myself tearing up at the most random times.

We were so busy all Summer long with the shopping and the planning and a little global pandemic. We finally had a high school graduation ceremony and I barely cried then. Maybe because it was just such a relief to actually get to have one, it was more joyful than tearful. I just didn’t expect to feel so…strange today. It’s an emptiness. Truly as if I left part of my own soul on that college campus.

Isn’t that what parenting is? You pour your whole life into someone else. You dream with them and want what they want. You encourage and love them when no one else will. So, it does seem strange when suddenly everything you’ve done for the entirety of a person’s life changes.

This is the uncharted part and it seems a little scary. I can do scraped knees, name-calling peers, and disappointments about her part in school plays. I can hug that out and make favorite dinners like crazy. I’ve been perfecting that strategy for 18 years. So, maybe it’s a loss of control that I am grappling with. I dunno. Like I said, uncharted.

I don’t know how to not juggle her crazy schedule, or not set her place at the table. I don’t know how to not expect to hear her car driving up the street, or not buy her favorite things at the store. I don’t know how to let her do life without me there.

So, I am just going to try to do what I hope my now college kid will do, and that is to trust God. Those two little words are so easy to say, but so much harder to put into practice. College is hard and life is harder. But there isn’t a single day or moment among all of it that isn’t held firm and secure by our Creator and Father of everything good. Growing is good. Life is good. And I know that my daughter trusted her’s a long time ago to Jesus. He loves her more than I do, which I have a hard time understanding because I just wanna squeeze her so tight and never let go! But that would mean she could never fly and do what she was meant to do.

I’m  just gonna be kind to myself. I’m gonna let myself cry at the turning page, but look forward to seeing what the next chapter holds. Because, if the last one hadn’t been so awesome, I wouldn’t be grieving it’s loss. And I know that because God has been so faithful in the past, He’s gonna rock my socks off in the future.

 

 

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It’s All About You

Well, here we are on day #whoknows of social distancing and lockdown. Tomorrow is Easter and tomorrow no one will be able to go to church. Personally, I think that is great.

In case you haven’t been paying attention for the last month or so, church is still happening in the United States. It just looks very different. Pastors are still preaching, people are still listening and church leaders are still loving. The church is not a building made of brick and mortar. The church is a body made of Jesus-loving people. We still have plenty of those, so there is still plenty of church going on.

But that is not my point.

I have heard so many people say they are disappointed about not being able to go to church on Easter this year. No Easter dresses, no pageants or soul infusing choir numbers. And if you are like me, you even failed at getting a decent basket together for your children. Here in the South we are  even bracing for a dangerous weather day that, no doubt, will put a damper on any shred of home celebrations we have planned.

Again, I think this is great!

Because even in the disappointment of celebrating Easter at home in our pajamas, even in the storms that come our way, Jesus is still alive. It’s never been about flashy services or elaborate baskets. It’s always been about the humility of Christ, His sacrifice and His power over death.

How did the simplicity of what Jesus did for us become such a spectacle? One reason. It was us.

We really can’t help it, I suppose. How is it possible to properly express our love for such a beautiful savior?

But that is not at all what He requires and I dare say they’ve become somewhat of an idol. And if we can’t get our idols out of the way of worshiping the One true God, He has a way of removing them for us. And He won’t stop short of a pandemic, plague, locusts or tornadoes to make it happen.

God is a jealous God. Hear this, ok? He is not at all jealous of you. He created you and sustains everything about you. He has nothing of which to be jealous. He is jealous for you. There is a huge difference in being jealous of someone and their blessings, grace and stature and being jealous for someone’s time and admiration. Exodus 20:5

Your dance mom status.

Your position at church or in your community.

Your job.

The recipe you make every holiday that everyone raves about.

The graduation ceremony for your Senior honor student of whom you are so very proud.

Your church building. Your favorite song during worship.

The travel ball league that keeps you from coming to church.

Easter Sunday with all it’s fanfare.

None of these things are bad or wrong, but all of these things are idols if we put them in front of God. And all of these things have been stripped away for a time. I just can’t help but believe that God’s intention was for us to step back and lean on nothing but Him because if we are worshiping anything other than the God of Jacob we are idolaters.

He’s done us a favor. He’s made us slow down and lose sight of the things that we thought really mattered and focus more on the basics. If we don’t have our traditional Easter service, Jesus still conquered the grave. He’s still alive and always will be.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

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Can I Just Say This?

We’re not on vacation, and things are serious. But remember back when you were a kid and things were much more simple? You’d come home from school, grab a snack, watch a little TV and then go outside to play until you were called in to dinner. The entire family would sit at the table, have a real conversation and learn things about each other. There was communion there.

After dinner you’d go outside again and maybe play ball with the neighbor kids. Get muddy. Scrape a knee. Medicate your lungs with fresh air. Just before sunset, mom would call you in to get ready for bed. You’d pull on your favorite PJ’s and head to bed. Resting for another day.

Life was simple. Things were easy.

I know not everyone had a picture perfect childhood like this, but I know everyone didn’t used to be so busy. Things didn’t used to be so complicated. Children had time to waste and be creative. Boredom cultivated ingenuity. We didn’t rely on bells and whistles to get us through our days. We had time to think.

We are living in a very uncertain time right now. You may be worried about your finances, your health or your job. You may have to leave your kids to go to work somewhere that puts you and your family at risk. Your loved one may be very ill.

I get all of the serious. I’m praying for all the serious.

But what I also pray for is for you to have more time with your kids. More time to learn their concerns, what excites them and what their questions are. I pray for more time around your table together, bike riding lessons and time enjoying God’s creation. Exploring. I pray mostly for you to have more time to talk about the serious, and weave Jesus into that tapestry of conversation.

I’ve been getting up and going to work every day. I love what I do and the people I serve. I’ve been challenged in my ministry to think of ways to connect with preschoolers and their families when I can’t be with them. But can I just say this? It’s not my job.

When I can’t be with them is when you, Mom and Dad, step in. Which is 160 plus hours a week. I only see them two to three hours. A week. That’s all.

My job is to partner with you as you raise your child. I was never meant to be your child’s sole source for spiritual guidance or entertainment. You should not be relying on the church or anyone else to train your child up in the way he should go. I love finding and sharing resources with you. I love hearing your concerns and praying for you. I love, love, LOVE to hear your feedback when you have a victory too. I love you and your family. I am your #1 fan and your biggest cheerleader as you, mom and dad, raise your preschooler. And I am humbled to stand in the gap when you feel like you have not got it altogether. And I know that during a crisis, you are more likely to feel like you don’t have it altogether.

Sometimes a crisis isn’t always just a crisis. Sometimes a crisis is a reset button to point us back to what really matters.

What really matters to you? Is it your busy life where you can’t allow time to trickle just a little? Is it one more activity to spend fees on, attend meetings for or spend your Saturdays volunteering? Or is it simple lessons of faith? Treasures of hope? The acoustics of time?

I truly believe God is using a virus meant to harm, to turn it into something good. He’s pretty awesome like that. The good of the gift of time. Whether that looks like more time with your family around the Bible, or time with your family outside and unplugged. You’re never going to get these weeks back. Not ever.

We’re not on vacation, and things are serious. So, pause for just a moment. Pray. Trust God. Lean not on your own understanding.

I’m praying for you daily. I’m here for you daily. I love you dearly.

Now, go play with your kids.

 

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How Hitting The Snooze Button Can Change The Way You Pray

I woke up this morning, and it was raining. Again. Instead of cursing, I decided to ignore my alarm for a few more moments. I rolled over with grand delusions of not oversleeping and lied to myself about being able to wake up willingly in precisely 9 minutes.

Stop it. It could happen.

But, you’re right. I need to polish my skills.

I overslept. But no matter. My Senior can drive my Freshman to school. I can afford to lose a few minutes.

Except when I go to wake my Senior she tells me she’s sick. Again.

I begin to feel like the amount of rain is directly correlated to the amount of sickness we have had at our house this season, which is a lot.

And let me just say right here that it doesn’t matter how old your baby gets, it still affects your whole life when she’s sick. You ache to be able to make it better. You pray it’s short-lived. You block out thoughts of Coronavirus and try to keep calm.

And then you realize that now you are not only running late, you also have to drive your Freshman to school and you start to mentally recalculate your morning routine.

Finish putting on make-up. Make lunch. Dry hair. Pack my bag (don’t forget anything), and head out the door.

Unanswered texts. Miscommunications. Over communications.

Event planning. Birthday planning.

Worry over scholarships. Worry over finances.

Worry I am not enough.

I wasn’t having a bad morning, but it was all the little things nagging at me that made it all seem so big. It made me feel invisible and overwhelmed. I began to feel nothing short of desperate for time alone with Jesus. I really should not have hit that snooze button and opened my Bible instead.

So, I did what every normal person would do. I found an empty closet at work, locked myself inside it, sat down on I’m-not-sure-what, held my hands out and asked to receive whatever God was trying to give me today. He’s so gracious, Y’all. Because he gave me 1 John 5:14, which for all you YouVersion followers is the verse of the day.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

I felt like I had so many things to ask for and I felt guilty just giving God my laundry list of requests. I was lacking the confidence to approach God.

<Sigh>

“God…I need…” I couldn’t go any further. I was stuck there in the dark.

And then the gentle Spiritual nudge came;

“I need my daughter to be sick, so that I can know what it will be like to thank You for her healing.

I need the disappointments,  so that I can find joy in You alone.

I need strain in my finances, so that I can be content only in You and Your abundance.

I need to feel invisible, so that I can be seen by You.

I need to be overwhelmed, so that I can realize that You are enough.

I need this day that isn’t going my way to help me understand that everything is going according to Your plan.

Help me to lean on that, Lord. Help me!”

I left the closet with a much clearer vision for the day’s mission. I was still weary and I still encountered a few bumps along the way. But I know that verse was placed before me today to remind me that God hears me. Even on those days when all I can do is pray a list of my needs.

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