I love to go to the beach. With its sounds and smells, the feel of the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair, ahhh. It is so relaxing. And since I live fairly close to the beach, I can go pretty often.
When we lived in Florida, we went most often to the Gulf of Mexico. I remember lying on my towel and looking out at the water – the same Gulf that kissed the shores of Florida also touched Texas and, of course, Mexico. And when we ventured to Florida’s east coast, I looked out at the Atlantic and thought how amazing that ocean went all the way to Europe! I may not be able to visit England, but I could visit a body of water that touches England.
But the Pacific Ocean…that thing is HUGE! The waters I touch in the Pacific also touch the shores of Australia and China. My sister and her family, missionaries in Southeast Asia, over 8000 miles away, can see the shores of the same ocean that I visit. I can’t even fathom the magnitude of that much water. To visit my sister would take a day’s travel by plane and a passing through of 14 time zones! But the Pacific Ocean is both there and here.
Psalm 103:12 tells us “He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west.” When I read that verse, I think about the ocean. As far as the east – America – is from the west – Asia. That’s how far my sins have been removed. Some translators say this refers to the sun setting – as far as daybreak is from nightfall, that’s how far our sins are removed. Either way – our sins are long gone!
I might wish to take a swim across the Pacific and visit my sister. But, even if I weren’t ridiculously afraid of what’s in the ocean (Shark Week doesn’t help!), I could never make it. It’s simply too far.
I need to apply that same understanding to my sins. When God forgives me, that sin is long gone. I can’t reach it. It can’t come back for me. I don’t have to live with the guilt or shame of it. It is GONE. As far as the east is from the west.
What a wonderful, gracious God we have to take all our sins – every one of them – and toss them “as far as the east is from the west.” Let’s not live as if they are nearby, let’s not allow the Enemy to bring those sins back to our minds. They are GONE. Let us live in the joy and freedom of a forgiven life.
Having moved several times in my adult life, I am jealous of folks who have lived in one place their whole lives, whose parents, siblings, and extended families live close enough to share Sunday dinners and holidays. Sometimes, I get a little bitter that I didn’t get that story. I long for roots — deep, decades-long roots – in one place. Instead, I have shallow roots all over.
This week, God has been reminding me that I do have roots, I do have a home. The permanency I long for is a reality. At church on Sunday, our pastor spoke of Heaven and said, “Imagine…what is most precious here on earth is the asphalt of heaven.” In my Bible study, I am nearing the end of Revelation, where John describes the beauty and majesty of Heaven.
Far too often, I get too caught up in this life. I get overwhelmed with “to-do lists” and worldly concerns, with minor details and passing problems. I allow those temporary issues to keep me from focusing on the eternal. I live as if this life is all there is.
But this life is not all there is. Not even close. In fact, compared to eternity, this life is a blip on the radar. So why do I live like this life is all there is? Why do I worry about things I can’t change? Why do I get jealous of people who have “roots” here when I have the greatest roots ever? I get an eternity to live next to family and feast with my Father!
I don’t know about you, but I constantly need the reminder that I am not of this world. I am a stranger here. Someday, though, I will have my longed-for “forever home”.
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” John 14:2
As a parent, I hate seeing my children in pain. Yet, in the 17 years I have been a mom, I have had to do just that: three broken bones, two surgeries, a concussion, countless shots and skinned knees and cuts and who knows what else.
Sometimes, though, I have to make the decision to inflict pain on my children.
I had to do that today. My son needed oral surgery to remove an impacted tooth. If this tooth weren’t removed, it could have messed up his whole mouth, causing major pain in the future. But in order to remove the tooth, the doctor had to cut into his bone, extract the tooth, and stitch Thomas back up. You squeamish folks just got a little sick reading that sentence. Imagine having to sign the paper giving permission for it to happen? It’s awful.
But the alternative was worse. So I signed the paper. I took Thomas to the surgeon, sat and watched while he was put to sleep, and then waited impatiently until the nurse came back to tell me he was out of surgery. Tonight, I am feeding him chicken noodle soup and dreading the moment when the numbness wears off and the soreness kicks in.
What comforts me, though, is the knowledge that once he recovers, this won’t be an issue again. That tooth is out, his other teeth will be fine, and life will go on. This momentary pain really will be worth it in the long run.
Sometimes God, the perfect Father, has to do this for us. He allows pain because there are areas in our lives that are “sick” – relationships, or circumstances, or activities. We may not even know there’s a problem. But God does. And He loves us too much to let that problem fester and cause greater pain down the road. So he removes them or him or it from our lives, and we are left bleeding and hurting and confused. Why would a loving God do this??
When we told Thomas he would be having this surgery, he didn’t scream or cry or argue. He trusts Dave and me, and he accepted that this is something he needs. He wasn’t excited about it, but neither did he go in with a bad attitude.
If Thomas can trust his very imperfect parents to do what is best for him, why can’t we trust our very perfect Father to do what is best for us? God is good. He loves us. And He knows far more than we do what we need.
Maybe the purpose of the pain you are experiencing right now is for good, because God is protecting you from something worse. Trust Him. Cling to Him. He’s a good, good Father.
I watched the Tony Awards Sunday night. I love watching the Tony Awards – love seeing the performances, love celebrating the winners, love the theater. Always have.
I was a “theater kid”, and I had the amazing opportunity to grow up near one of the best community theaters in the country, surrounded by “theater people”. I spent most of my childhood and teen years on or behind or near the stage. The theater, for me, was like the baseball field for other kids. It was my happy place, my safe place. It was home.
But as I watched the Tony’s, I felt like an outsider. Even though I laughed and cried at the opening. Even though I know most of the shows – all the revivals – and could totally take James Cordon on in Broadway car karaoke. Even though I have loved theater for almost four decades and direct musicals in the Christian school where I teach because I want the next generation to love theater, too.
Even though I still identify as a “theater kid”, I feel like an outsider.
Why? Because I am a Christian. But not just any Christian. I am a “radical” Christian. I believe God is real and Jesus saves us from our sins, and the Holy Spirit lives in those of us who accept the forgiveness Jesus offers. I believe I am here on this earth for God’s glory, and that I must follow the instructions He has given us in his word.
I don’t believe in hate, but I do believe in Truth. I believe I need to live in that Truth and follow that Truth and point others to it because I believe that living in the Truth brings the greatest joy imaginable. I don’t “shove” my beliefs down anyone’s throats, and I certainly don’t call people names who disagree with me. But I do have firm beliefs that guide every part of my life, and if you are around me, you’ll end up hearing me talk about those.
In that way, I’m really not different than my theater friends. Or, for that matter, any other thinking person on the planet. We all believe in something, and most of us are passionate in our beliefs and think everyone else should believe what we do. We all talk about our beliefs and can get frustrated when others disagree with us.
So, theater people, if you’re reading this, please know: It is possible to be a Jesus-loving theater person. We exist. And we love you. And we don’t want to be mocked during the Tony’s anymore than you would like being mocked at our churches (which you’re not…not at my church!).
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll step off my soapbox and go back to listening to the “Hamilton” soundtrack…:)
This summer, my kids are seeing friends and family they haven’t seen in a year. The first response – especially for the younger two – is “Wow! You have grown so much!!”
And they have…well, the younger two. Dave, Emma, and I pretty much look the same. Emma hasn’t grown since 8th grade. (Neither have Dave or I, for that matter. Not in height, anyway!)
All this listening to folks in shock over how much my kids have grown physically made me think about spiritual growth.
It’s easy to measure physical growth: measuring tape and scales can tell us exactly how much we’ve grown. But how can we tell if we’ve grown spiritually?
We can tell in much the same way my kids discovered how much they grew — by asking others and comparing ourselves today to ourselves a year (or two or three years) ago.
You should have people in your life who know you well enough to tell you, honestly, where you are: parents, siblings, best friends, adults you trust. Ask them. And ask yourself: What was I struggling with last year? Anger? Consistent devotion times? Pride? Insecurity? Where are you now in those areas?
Don’t expect perfection – that won’t happen here on earth! But you can expect growth.
When I was growing up, I used to sing in church a lot. I used to come down from singing and all I could think about was whether or not people would complement me after the service. If they did, I was happy. If they didn’t, I was bummed. God did some major work in my life my first year of college – specifically in the area of pride. Sometime after that year, I remember singing in church and walking down off the stage and NOT thinking about whether or not people would complement me after the service. I really just wanted the words of the song to bless others.
I was so excited! Not that I was pride-free. But, through the power of God at work in my life, that particular sin area had been overcome.
There are lots more areas where I have seen God “grow” me. All are exciting to see, but none happened overnight. And there are lots of areas where God is still working. And some areas He hasn’t even revealed to me, yet, because He is far too gracious to show us ALL our sin at one time!
Maybe you’re still growing physically, like Ellie and Thomas. Or maybe, like Dave, Emma and me, you’re done with that. But you should always be growing spiritually. If you’ve been “stuck” for a while, ask God what you need to do to grow.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5
William Henry Brush, Jr joined the Army at the beginning of WWII and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel quarter of a century later. He won a Purple Heart during WWII for taking a bullet from a Nazi and still managing to carry a wounded soldier back to the base. He was stationed in Korea, Japan, Germany, Paris, and finally, Washington DC, where he worked in Military Intelligence (during JFK’s Presidency and assassination!).
He was a hero.
But so was my grandmother, Marie Brush. She stayed home and cared for my mom, the house, the bills…everything in the months that Grandaddy had to be away. And she packed up and moved…and moved…and moved when she needed to do that, too. Grandaddy was able to concentrate on doing the best job he could do because he knew all else was in the capable hands of his wife, a woman who sacrificed her personal comfort not just for her husband, but for her country.
Grandaddy went to be with Jesus over twenty years ago, and I still miss him today. Because he wasn’t just a great soldier, he was a great man. He was loving and funny and told great stories. He was a man of God and a man of convictions. He wasn’t perfect, but, to me, he was pretty darn close.
I am blessed to still have my grandmother here. She remains the strong woman God helped her become as a soldier’s wife. Widowhood was heartbreaking – she loved her husband dearly – but she knew how to continue on, even in difficult circumstances. She didn’t fall apart, but kept going. At 87, she still brings meals to the sick and visits friends in the nursing home and finds great joy in studying God’s word.
As I celebrate this Memorial Day, I celebrate this amazing couple. I am proud to be their granddaughter, proud of the heritage they handed down: love for this country and a commitment to the God of the Bible that this country was founded on.
“The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and inheritance of a great example.” ~Benjamin Disraeli
I need a schedule. I don’t like a schedule. I am not naturally a scheduled person. But I need a schedule. I need it because, when I have a schedule, I am forced make a plan to get everything done.
During the school year, I get up and have my Quiet Time. I have my class schedule throughout the day. After school, I go to the kids’ (scheduled) sports, or help them with homework or just hang out with them and my husband. I have my nightly routine and my regular bedtime. Then I get up the next day and do it all again. And I like that. I need it.
But today was the last day of school. It’s summer break! Exciting. But…that means no more schedule. I can sleep in, I can stay up late, I can wear stretchy pants all day long, if I so choose.
The danger is that I can also be lazy. Because I can do my Quiet Time anytime, sometimes I just keeping putting it off. I decide to read instead, or play Stop (so addicting!!), or watch Netflix. Suddenly, it’s bedtime, and I realize I haven’t spent anytime in God’s word all day long.
I find that, far too often, summer is a time when I stagnate in my relationship with God. But summer should be a time of renewal. It should be a time when prayer and study can go longer, a time when I can fellowship with other believers more. A time to slow down and listen and worship and just sit at Jesus’ feet and be still.
It really comes down to “scheduling” what’s most important. I would never forget to eat during summer, even though I don’t have a schedule to remind me to eat. Eating is important!! My time with God should be even more important. I need to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to “indulge” in time with Him during these weeks off. I want to come back to school refreshed and renewed in my spirit, closer to God then than I am now.
So I will enjoy my summer break, but I will not take a break from what is most important. My prayer is to be like David and say, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Ps. 42:1
We are one week and four days from the end of school. But who’s counting?
I am! And so are all my students. We have put in a full year – lots of work, lots of assignments, lots of late nights, lots of pushing “Snooze” on the alarm. But all that ends in one week and four days.
This is the time of year when everyone – students AND teachers – are tempted to get lazy. But, as I remind my students (and myself): We’re not done yet. We need to do our best to finish well.
Do we need to finish well because getting good grades is important? Nope…some lazy kids can get great grades and some hard-working kids can barely pass. We need to finish well because our character is important.
People of character finish well. Even if they’re exhausted. Even if they hate what they’re doing (i.e. Geometry*). People of character finish well because they desire to honor God in all things, to work for Him, not for an A, or for a boss’ approval.
People of character know that they are constantly developing habits, and they want those habits to be good ones. The habit of finishing well is a very good one. One that will reap benefits far into the future.
So, keep going, keep studying, keep resisting that “Snooze” button, keep pressing on toward the Finish line – wherever yours may be.
“Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.” 2 Cor. 8:11
*Life lesson: Geometry was one of two courses in HS that made me cry (Chemistry was the other). But I did not finish it well. I didn’t even start it well. As a result, I had to take a whole year of “Dummy Math” in college, where I had to re-learn what I failed to learn in school. A year. So when I challenge you to finish well and stay the course, I speak from experience. Learn from my mistakes. Or you may end up in Dummy Math. Just sayin’.
One year ago this week, Dave and I were finishing up a one-year contract with a Christian school in Florida. We had no clue where’d we go once that contract ended. We were, in fact, still adjusting to that move – a move that had taken us 45 minutes from “home” (Tampa, where we’d lived for a total of 10 years).
One year ago this week, we’d sent applications to Christian schools as close as Tampa and as far as South Korea. We had interviewed with several schools and none seemed like the right fit. I am an English teacher with a passion for AP courses and musical theater. Dave is a Bible teacher with a passion for digging deep into God’s word. We have three kids who love sports and the arts, and we want them in a school where both those activities are encouraged. It’s tough to find a school that can check all those boxes!
One year ago this week, I was job-hunting. As always, I put in the parameters “High School English and Bible” in the Christian school job search database. Calvary Christian Academy popped up. It was near San Diego. Dave always wanted to move back to California. The Golden State had gotten deep into his bones as a child living in the Imperial Valley – no Mexican food anywhere in the world tasted as good as the Mexican food in Southern California (this is true!). So I researched the school, and found, to Dave’s shock, the principal, Dan, had gone to high school with Dave in Long Island, NY over 25 years ago!
One year ago this week, Dave reached out to Dan and discovered this school had a need for an English teacher with a passion for AP classes and musical theater; they also needed a Bible teacher with a passion for digging deep into God’s word. The school also had sports for the kids – all the sports they love and then some.
One year ago this week, we had a Skype interview with the CCA administration. We were drilled on our relationships with God, our philosophy of teaching, and questioned why we would even consider a cross-country move to a school we knew nothing about. We, in turn, asked questions about the school, its academics, and why they would consider hiring a couple, sight unseen, who lived across the country.
A year ago this week, our world changed forever. Within a week of our interview, we were offered the job. We accepted after a few days of prayer and seeking advice from friends and family. A month later, we had packed up our house in Florida and began the 2400 mile drive to a school we had never seen, in a city we had never visited, with no house to move into, and no friends within a 100 mile radius.
A year ago this week – May 2015 – I could never have imagine what life would look like this week – May 2016. This week, my oldest will go to prom with her “squad” – an amazing group of kids who have taken her in like she’s been here forever, not just 11 months. This week, I’m watching my middle daughter play softball on a team that is virtually unstoppable. A year ago, she had no idea she could even play Varsity softball, and this year she has been a starter on softball and Varsity volleyball. This week, my son will help lead worship for the middle school youth group, playing an instrument he had never even picked up last year. This week, Dave and I will teach classes we love to students we love in a school that we love – a school that was just a just a position on a job search board a year ago.
One year ago this week, unknown to us, God would begin a process that would stretch us, change us, and move us in more ways than we could have imagined. The year has not been easy, but it has been good. We still miss Florida – we probably always will. But God has blessed us for our obedience in following His lead to California. He has shown us His power, His grace, and His mercy throughout this year.
What has God done for you this year? What does He want to do for you next year? Is He asking you to take a leap of faith? If He is, learn from us…take that leap. God is with you on this side, and He is waiting for you on the other side. God is good. ALL the time.
Teens today are saturated with the pressure that they should be prettier, stronger, skinnier, smarter. And they are collapsing under the weight of all that pressure.
Teens are pushed to be above-average. But the truth is that far more people are average than are above-average. That is, in fact, what average means.
And that’s okay. It’s more than okay – it is from God. God made us for a purpose. HIS purpose. He has works for us to accomplish, a career to pursue, people to impact, and, for many, a spouse to marry. And He gave us each exactly what we need to accomplish those things.
Some people need above-average intellect because the careers God has called them to requires that. Some need above-average people skills because God is going to use that ability in ministry. Others are given above-average appearances because the spouse God has chosen for them is also above-average in appearance. Does that make them better than those of us with average intellect, people skills, or looks? Absolutely not!
God gives us each exactly what we need to accomplish His purposes.
God calls most of us to be “average”. That doesn’t mean we don’t work hard or that we don’t seek to do our best in all things. It is not an excuse to be lazy. But it does mean that we STOP comparing ourselves to others. We stop getting down on ourselves because we aren’t prettier, stronger, skinnier, or smarter. We stop whining about what we don’t have, and we allow God full access to what we do have. We remember that He is in control, He knows best, and He is incredibly good.
The pressure from the world will not go away. But, friends, you don’t need to give into that pressure. You were created for a purpose, and you are perfectly equipped to accomplish that purpose. Be who God called you to be without embarrassment and without excuse. Stop allowing the world to tell you who should be. Listen to the Voice of Truth and follow Him.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer. 29:11