Flaming Arrows

Your burdens you were never meant to wear, my child.

Give them to Me and I will give you arrows instead,

Arrows of prayer.

They are much lighter.

My yoke is easy &

my burden is light.

Prayers.

Flaming arrows shot in the heaven-lies.

That make the mountains move,

And the Earth shake.

That rattle chains of injustice.

That breaks the bonds of those suffocating under their burdens,

To weak to cry out for help.

Your arrows can send their rescue.

Never underestimate the power of prayer.

It is a gift.

It is a weapon.

Yield it well.

 

 

Gloomy Blessings

This spring we had a lot of rain in just a few days. No flooding, thankfully, but the ditches were full and the lakes were spilling over their banks. When the rain finally stopped the clouds lingered. For about seven to ten days our skies stayed gray. Everybody’s spirits felt gloomy and weighed down. I was no exception.

One day I was thinking about all the rain and remembered that in the Bible rain is a good thing, not bad. Rain brings crops and life to the land. Maybe I’ve been looking at this all wrong. Instead of looking at the clouds and giant puddles of water everywhere, I decided to look at the grass and plants. It was then I noticed everything was greener. The trees seemed to be standing at attention as they drank in the rain. The land was more vibrant. I had to choose to look at the benefits of the rain rather than focus on the gloomy, gray sky hovering over me.

Blessings are often thought of as joy-filled, beautiful gifts. Amazing experiences we wait for in expectation. While we should wait expectantly for the Lord we also need to be sure that’s not the only way we see blessings. Think about the blessings of life; marriage, a new job, the birth of a child, vacation, a new car just to name a few. These are examples of blessings but they certainly aren’t stress free. Sometimes it is through the gray skies that our blessings come. Sometimes it’s through the rain that we can drink more deeply in the presence of God.

cross picThe biggest blessing I have in my life is the gift of my salvation. That gift did not come through a sun-filled happy day. The resurrection was a happy day, that’s true, but first had to come the death of an innocent man. That Friday was a very somber day. Yet from that event came life, not just to Jesus three days later, but to all who accept Jesus as their Lord. The greatest blessing ever given came through the gloomiest day the world has ever known.

Maybe your like me and you need to readjust what you’re focused on. Are these really burdens or are they blessings and you just forgot what a beautiful gift you’ve been given? Is this really a gloomy day or is it a day full of vibrant life that has gone unnoticed? Don’t forget the Son is always shining, you just don’t always see Him doing His work, but have faith and believe He is there. He is doing His thing and He will work out all things to the good of those who love Him. He is in control. He always is and always will be. Rain blessing pic

 

Be Still

When we moved into our home I wanted to put up art with scripture on it. We’ve lived here several years now and I have only a few scriptures on our walls. I love drawing and painting so I decided to paint some verses that have meant a lot to me through my life.

Recently there was a death in my family that has left my head full of questions with answers that either weren’t there or hard to swallow. Family dynamics, that I’m not sure what to do with, have been brought out from their neatly packaged places in my heart and into the light, leaving my head in a whirl and my heart weighed down. With my head in a fog and a pit in front of me, eagerly waiting to consume me, I came to my breaking point. I looked to the heavens and cried, “Lord, help me! Please help me!” It wasn’t long before I heard two words echo in my head. “Be still.” For the next several hours I not only heard those words but I pondered on them. I knew it was a Bible verse and I remember hearing those words at other times in my life. I decided these would be great words to hang on my wall.

Be still…I painted those words on the canvas but it seemed so plain. It needed P1040793more. My intention was to put the rest of the verse but I found two similar verses. Which one should I put? Exodus 14:14 “Be still the Lord will fight for you” or Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”? I felt these were the same but didn’t know why. What does that mean anyway, know that I am God? I know you are God. What are you saying here Lord? As I dug deeper I began to understand.

Be Still

     Be at rest

           Cease striving

Quit wrestling, warring, controlling, or manipulating. Quit trying to figure it all out. Don’t fret or be anxious. Quite down, settle down. Be at rest. (If you’re at rest, you’re not anxiously stirring with your heart pounding through your chest.)

Know that I am God.                                                                                                     The Lord will fight for you.                                                                                              I, the Lord…the One who held mountains in His hand,                                                                 the One who weighed the islands on His scale,                                                       the One who breathed life into your lungs…                                              He’s the One who has the final say.

                                                                                                                                                        The final say about who you are and who you are not.                                         The final say about life and death.                                                                              The final say about your healing.                                                                               The final say about your victory.                                                                                The final say about which way to go and when you will get there.

Know that this…this problem or trial or situation, is not your weight to bear. Jesus already bore the weight of sin and death on His shoulders.

Be still.                                                                                                                          Know that I am God. I will fight for you.                                                                  The Lord will take care of you.                                                                                   He’s got this.                                                                                                                    Nothing is to hard for Him. Nothing is impossible for Him.                                  He knows the truth and He knows which direction to go. Your only job in this situation is to trust Him and let God do what only He can do.

Be still. P1040833

I still have unanswered questions and things I may never come to understand. Yet, I know that I can rest in the fact that God is good, He is in control, and He loves and cares about me. I can sit with a quiet heart, even in the midst of uncertainty because I trust Him.

Wasteland to Fruitful

My kids were learning the history of the Great Plains. I love history so this was right up my alley. I thought I knew what to expect before we dug into learning but I was surprised when I saw pictures of the Plains in the 1800’s. It wasn’t the clothes or the buildings that surprised me, it was the landscape. It was formless. There was nothing there. It was so odd to see no trees, bushes or plants. The only place trees grew was near rivers. It was barren, which is why it used to be known as the Great American Dessert. It wasn’t seen as fit to grow anything. It was simply a path settlers traveled to get to the west.

There was a similar situation in the Old Testament. The land often lay barren, overgrown with thorns when the Israelites were taken as captives to other lands. The ground seemed to be good for nothing. In the same way our hearts can become like a wasteland when we make bad choices. Sin can take root and grow thorns and weeds in our soul making our hearts an entangled mess. Who would really want to fight the thorns and weeds to make this ground fruitful again? Who would want to buy barren land?

In Matthew 13 Jesus is telling a short parable about a hidden treasure. In verse 44 we read, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Jesus is like the man who gave all He had and bought us. He gave all He had for us. Why? Because He treasures us! He doesn’t care that our hearts look like a barren wasteland. It doesn’t worry Him that we have a mess of sharp thorns and stubborn weeds growing. He loves us so much He gave everything that we could be free of all that entangles us. He went before us making a way for us to be free. He lived in victory from sin. A perfect example to us of how to live. His heart was in constant connection with the Father’s as ours can also be. We were made to be in relationship with the Lord. To be free of sin that so easily entangles. To be like a tree planted by the water that sends its roots by the stream. We were made to be strong in the Lord and fruitful for God’s glory. We were made to walk in victory through the LoIMG_1619rd Jesus Christ.

If you see the Plains today it is a stark contrast to the pictures of the late 1800’s. What was once thought of as a barren wasteland is now producing crops and sustaining herds. I’m so glad Jesus was willing to give everything for us. Without Him our hearts would surely be a barren wasteland. But when you make Jesus the Lord of your life and allow Him to go through the process of restoring you, we become as beautiful as any garden.

beauty for ashes

Stories through Genesis (part one)

p1040420I mentioned to my kids one day that many of the great Old Testament stories of the Bible are in Genesis. They looked at me like this was an amazing fact they’ve never heard. “Really?” They said. All they remember about Genesis is the story of Creation and Adam and Eve. The Lord had already been stirring my heart to go through the stories of Genesis with my kids and in this moment I KNEW I needed to.

Genesis holds the foundational stories for our Christian faith. It’s a good book to use to introduce kids (and anyone really) to the Bible and Christianity. I love going through this with my kids. It’s helped me look deeper into these stories instead of just reading them with little thought because I’m so familiar with them. It builds up my faith as I see the constant theme of the Lord’s faithfulness.

My kids have been in church pretty much since they were born. They’ve heard the Bible stories from church as well as me reading to them. I noticed that I mainly read to them out of children’s devotionals or children’s Bible story books. That’s a great start but I wanted them to hear it straight from the Bible. There are pieces most children’s books leave out. Some for good reason. Prayerfully I went to the Lord to find out which sections to leave in and which to skip over. Also, how do I keep the attention of four kids with an age range of 6 – 14? Of course the Lord was again faithful as He guided me.

So here’s a snapshot of how this looks for us. I give each of my children a pencil, eraser and their own notebook. We pray. I tell them the section I will be reading from and write it on the board. I encourage them to take notes which can either be what I write on the board, pictures they draw p1040384(only pertaining to the story that day), or what they were inspired to write down. I read to them the section for the day. If it’s a larger section I will take breaks and talk about it as I go. If it’s a shorter story, I read the whole thing at once then discuss. Beforehand the kids know we are looking to answer three questions so they can be thinking about them as I read. The three questions are:

#1 What is the story about? Here we are discussing the facts of the story. I then write the facts on the board in an easily worded form so they can writep1040377 it down and read what they wrote later.

#2 What can we learn from this story? Here we discuss how we can use what we learn in our life. I also write this on the board.

#3 Is God speaking something to me personally through this story? This gives them a chance to listen to the Lord and learn to hear His voice. They have the option of sharing that with everyone or keeping it to themselves.

Because it’s such a large age range I try to keep things interesting. Every day we do notes but some days we will act it out like a skit and I take turns with who gets to help me. I also have A Beka Bible flash-a-cards I use to help illustrate if I have the ones for the story that day. At other times I turn to Pinterest to find some coloring pages and have them color a picture that p1040424goes with our story that day. Using this combination helps keep the kids engaged. Let’s be real, they’re kids, so it doesn’t always work but it helps to have a few different approaches up my sleeve. Always, ALWAYS I have to remember to lean into the Holy Spirit to give me ideas to help them understand and keep their wheels turning. Of course that’s true for parenting, not just Bible class.

I encourage you to take your time. Don’t rush through. Answer all their questions or help them find the answers. Take time to explore the Word with them. If you sense it’s getting lengthy for them, save the rest for another day.

Here’s how I’ve broken down the stories in Genesis. This is may or may not work for your family (or class). Use what you can. There are some stories that are more difficult for kids. Like explaining a covenant or circumcision or Sarai giving Abram her maidservant. Always ask for the Lord’s direction. He’ll guide you how to present it in the way your child (or class) will understand.

I skipped creation and the fall of man with my kids because I went through it with them a few years ago and am planning on going through it with them again in the fall. We have only done half of Genesis so far. I plan on doing a part two to this to show how the other half was broken down.

Stories:

Cain & Abel                                  4:1-16p1040425

The Flood                                      5-9

Tower of Babel                             11

The Call of Abram                       12:1-9

Abram & Lot part                        13

God’s covenant with Abram     15:1-7

Hagar & Ishmael                         16

Reinstatement of Covenant      17:1-18:15

Sodom & Gomorrah                    18:20-21, 19:1-7, 9-29

Birth of Isaac                                21:1-20

Abraham Tested                           22:1-19

Isaac & Rebekah                          (23:1), 24:1-34, 50-66

Hopefully this has given you some ideas to teach your kids about the Bible.

The Power of One

One…such a little number. Some say it’s the loneliest number. I say it’s an impactful number. There is power in one. In speaking to one person. In pouring into one life. In praying for one. One life represents many lives because one person touches so many other people. One person has a mother and a father. Possibly siblings, probably aunts and uncles. One has grandparents. One person has coworkers, a boss and friends.

In John 4:1-42 we find the story of the woman at the well. Here Jesus has a conversation with a woman, not crowds, just one woman. A woman with questionable character and a shady past. Yet none of this made a difference to Jesus. He did not come to judge her but to show her that He is the anticipated deliverer and King of the Jews. The woman ended up telling people in the town about Jesus. They ran out to meet Him and many got saved. What started with a conversation with one woman ended up with the salvation of many.

I believe the Lord rejoices to see us speak to even one person about Him. The Lord cares about every person, every heart. It may be difficult as we go through the mundane routines of life. Daily we live a Christ-centered life in front of our coworkers. We do our best to raise our kids in the ways of the Lord. We continually pray for that one person. Yet with all these examples we may see nothing that tells us we’re impacting anyone. I encourage you to continue…continue being that light, continue praying, continue doing all God has called you to do. That is one seed reaching into one heart. That one moment reaches into eternity and forever changes one life who in turn plants a seed…and the circle continues.

In Zechariah 4:10 it says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin” The Lord doesn’t want anyone to be lost but wants everyone to come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9) Much rejoicing is done over one lost person who turns to Jesus.

You never know how much impact you may make. If God sends you to just one person, GO! Never underestimate the power of one.

Winter Care

2012_02_24_15_01Winter is my least favorite season. The days can get long and dreary. The cold air can sting the skin and those winter winds have a bite to it. I try to hide inside in my nice temperature controlled environment.

Apparently my skin doesn’t like the cold either. It gets so dry it cracks and bleeds if I don’t catch it quickly. Other times it’s annoyingly itchy. My son has a kind of eczema that appears in the winter. It makes his hands and feet leathery if he doesn’t take special care of them. Knowing this I was willing to try a bottle of body wash I saw at the grocery store that said “Winter Care”. We certainly can use a little extra TLC during the winter months.

Recently I was reflecting on the ups and downs of last year. I’m so thankful for the fun times and memories that have been made. On the other hand, there have been some relational issues that have left me scratching my head, unsure of how to mentally process it all. Situations that have made me feel as if I’m in winter with the cold harsh winds blowing against me, stinging my skin and making me start to feel numb. I became apprehensive about wanting to extend the hand of friendship to anyone.

The Lord has been so gentle with me as He has lead me through the pain, anger and tears. He has brought healing through different avenues. It’s been a season of pruning, molding and reshaping. All the while remembering to stay open to the Lord and not shut down to Him. He is the One who can, and is, healing my heart. He is the only One who can fully restore me. I’ve been humbled by my brokenness and even that I bring to the Lord.

One day my eyes caught a glimpse of those words on my bottle of body wash. Winter Care. Yes, that’s exactly what the Lord has been doing for me. Caring for me in my winter. That’s what He’s does for each one of us.

In our winter season, when life has treated us cold, the Lord adds His special care to keep our hearts from getting callused and leathery. He adds insulation of fat to animals, takes the weighty burden of leaves off the trees and will care for us as well. He hasn’t forgotten us in winter…though it may feel that way. Often the Lord doesn’t warm up the winter season for us by taking away our problems but He instead promises to walk with us through our heartaches. He steps into the cold with us. Walks with us. Blankets us with the warmth of His love and comfort. We bring Him glory as we go through it and our roots and relationship with Him deepen.

It’s easy to want to hide after cold winters have stung your heart. To stay control-tony-evanswhere it’s warm and where you have control of your surroundings. There is little we have control of though. If we try to stay in that bubble we will become isolated and ineffective. We must venture out to do what God has called us to. We need to trust God with our broken hearts and not let the coldness of life stop us from living or from loving others. Be warmed by the fires of God’s grace. Let His love lift you up and out of this cold. Take heart and know winter won’t last forever. Spring will come. Enjoy the peace and rest the Lord gives in this season.

matt-11-28

A Christmas Prayer

Do you collect anything? I used to collect Cherished Teddies. They are made by the same company that makes Precious Moments. They have the same idea as Precious Moments, except they are teddy bears instead of children. I was quite an avid collector. The bears were displayed everywhere in the small home I lived in. I had a collectors book listing all the figurines I had. I was careful to keep their boxes and name tags together along with any papers they came with. I even earned special points and was able to cash them in for members only pieces. Of course that was B.C. – before children.

I’ve gotten rid of most of them since then. There are a few favorites that have ventured the last couple decades with me. One of them being Liberty, a teddy bear figurine that looks like the Statue of Liberty. I’m not sure if she appealed to the patriotic side of me but for some reason I’ve always loved this one. She sits on my kitchen window sill right by our sink. Her flame was broken off a few years ago. All that was left was a chip of a flame. Thankfully I saved the rest of it so it could be repaired. A few days ago my husband glued the flame back on for me. I was so happy she was fixed. Then yesterday I accidentally knocked her down. Not only did her p1040058flame break clean off this time but part of her crown broke too. I was so bummed but I’m confident my husband can fix her as good as new again.

As I thought about my Liberty bear I was reminded that through Christ the Lord has clothed us in a beautiful robe of freedom. We are free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 6:18, 8:2) It rules over us no more. When we are saved we are made co-heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17) We are now His children. His sons and daughters. Princes and princesses. The crown represents a physical reminder that we are His. He puts the fire of the Holy Spirit in us and tells us to hold the light out for all the world to see. That we may be a beacon lighting the way for others to freedom.

As daily life comes and goes and the storms of life strike, our flame can fizzle to a flicker. Just like my little bear whose flame was broke off with only a chip remaining.

Distractions come and we forget to fan into flame our love for the Lord, our passion for His Word and our zeal to do what He’s called us to do. Busyness and the worries of life are two of the most common distractions for us. (Mark 4:19)

One of things that wears my flame down is a struggle I’ve had for years but only recently admitted to. That’s my battle with depression. In the past it has been much worse but slowly I see healing and restoration. Yet I still struggle from time to time. It has been suspected that I have SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Winters can be hard on me. I notice it especially when I go awhile without being around others. As a stay-at-home mom it’s easy for me to do without realizing it. I’m not a fan of the cold and would rather stay inside til it warms up but I can’t realistically do that in a climate where the temperature may not reach 40 for three months. I have to force myself to go outside. This isolation causes me to get blue because we need other people in our lives. The battle takes its toll on me causing my flame to not shine as brightly.

149-4Yet, just like that bear I’ve always been clothed in robes of freedom and crowned with victory. I need to fan into flame my fire. (II Timothy 1:6) Just about the time we rekindle our fire our prowling enemy knocks us down again, not only knocking out our fire but trying to take our crown too. Oh, the devil can’t take our standing with Christ but he’ll sure try to make you think you are unworthy, unloved and anything less than who God says you are. That’s why we need to know our true identity in Christ. We need to know what the Word says about us. Don’t forget that you are wearing a crown because you belong to the Lord. The devil can’t take our standing as a child of God but he’ll try to make you doubt who you are.

It’s ironic to think that it’s easy to lose our focus on Christ at Christmas time. There are so many distractions, from preparations and programs to food and gifts to cleaning the house and how we are going to handle those awkward relationships. Yet I am guilty of letting those things distract me. I have full confidence, however, that the Lord can restore what’s been broken. Help us fan into flame our fire and shine for Him.

Would you pray this prayer with me?

Oh Lord – Help me focus on You. Keep me in wonder and awe at what a miracle Your birth is. Help me never lose that childlike wonder that You came as a helpless infant for me. What an amazing God You are to willingly step out of Your glorious kingdom into our dark world to save us all. What kind of love is this that You should love us so much to live among us, as one of us, so that one day we could be with You for all eternity. What can I say but thank you.

Fan into flame my fire and passion for You again. Help me never forget I am your daughter. I am yours and I am free. Free from sin, death and fear. You have set me free. Help me to shine Your light, especially in this Christmas season.

In Jesus Name – Amen

king-is-born

Do you see what I see?

p1030900For Christmas this year I made each of my children a gift. For my teenage daughter I made a gift inspired by something I saw at my church’s fall women’s retreat.

At retreat there was a room you could go into with different tables set up. Each station had a way for you to go deeper with the Lord. At one of these stations you were to think of a lie you’ve been believing about yourself. Then you would write it on a small piece of paper and nail it to a cross. The other end of the table had a full length mirror. You were to take a marker and write on the mirror a truth of how God sees you – which would be the opposite of the lie you just nailed to the cross. In this way we were nailing lies we’ve come to believe to the cross and renewing our minds with God’s truth about us.

God used this exercise as a powerful tool for me. By the time I had got to the stations most of the women at retreat had already gone through. The mirror was full of revelations of how God sees these beautiful ladies. Soimg_20160910_134600 much more than the messages we hear about ourselves from T.V., magazines, and a gamut of other places. These women were beginning to see themselves as their Heavenly Father sees them.

I also noticed the things they wrote are things I struggle with too. All to often I feel alone in my challenges of life but we really are very alike. Each with her own story and perspective but our struggles are often the same. No wonder the enemy wants to keeps us isolated on our own island. When we do that we can’t encourage or sharpen each other.

The mirror made such an impact on me. I couldn’t get it off my mind. “Wouldn’t that be great,” I thought to myself, “if we would see these revelations of how the Lord sees us on a daily basis and have scripture to back them up.” That way when the enemy comes at us trying to chain us down with labels that aren’t true or with the past, that we’ve been redeemed from, the words of God will flow from our lips and our hearts would stay secure in our identity in Christ.

I began to think about my daughters and how my prayer for them is to have these truths in their foundation at a young age. What a shame that so many women wait so many years before discovering these truths. I was one of them. I want more for my girls. Though I know they will still have struggles to face my prayer is they can do so with a more solid foundation.

That’s when I saw it in my mind. I saw a mirror with my daughter’s name at the top. Around the rest of the frame were words of how God sees her. Along with it I would give a piece of paper with verses that match the words on the mirror. For example, one of the words is loved with Jeremiah 31:3 for a matching scripture. “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

In this way every time my daughter sees herself in the mirror, instead of hearing some ugly lie about herself she will see these truths framing her. Speaking words of life over her. Speaking truth to her. She can recall the verses and know these are much more than words on a mirror. They are the very truths of God.

Begin your own journey of discovery of who God says you are. Ask Him how He sees you. Listen for His voice and write down what He says. Memorize the verses He shows you and hold them close to your heart. I pray you see what God sees in you. May any lies you’ve believed melt away as God’s words fill your heart.

john-17-17

Labels

I’ve grown to love the ladies at my weekly bible study. For Christmas I wanted to get them something. It had to be something I could do on a budget though. I decided to give homemade sweet treats. But what would I put them in? Then I remembered all the glass jars I’ve been saving thinking someday they would come in handy. Today was that day.

p1030938There was an assortment of jars that had been used for different things. All of them still had their labels but I wanted clear, clean glass jars. So I filled up my kitchen sink with water and put a few jars in to soak. After letting the jars sit overnight, I pulled them out one by one. I cleaned the inside and took off the label on the outside. Most of them came off pretty well but there was always some sticky, leftover residue. That is when my task became a bit more tedious. I was expecting it so I was up for the challenge. With warm water and just the right tools, I would scrap off every bit of glue that so desperately wanted to stay on. After the jar was free of residue I would give it one more cleaning inside and out then dry it off. Now the jar was ready to be filled with inviting mouthwatering goodies. As a final touch I dressed them up with a ribbon. After finding the perfect gift bag they were ready to be sent out as gifts.

This was my process with each of the jars. It took some time to get them all done. I didn’t rush it though. I knew it would be worth doing a good job. As I stood by my kitchen sink scrapping away the gunk from the label that stubbornly refused to let go, it dawned on me that I am just like one of these jars. Life slaps labels on me telling others what I’m made of. Some labels try to define me or give adjectives to describe me. There are colors and patterns on the labels to get the world to experience what they think I’m about. Yet these labels, unlike jar labels, were not given to me by my Creator. They were set in place by my past, other people, or lies I’ve come to believe. Most of these “labels” are negative and not what the Lord sees in me.

The Lord is going through the same process with me that I was going through with the jars.He has selected me for a purpose. He sees the label on me but also knows what I will become. He takes me as I am and is pleased to have me soak in His presence. The label comes off fairly easy once I’ve been soaking in His presence. It’s there, in His presence, I begin to know who I truly am. Yet, there is that bit of label gunk that still clings to me. The Lord is not surprised and fully ready to complete the job He’s started in me (Phil.1:6). Firmly, yet lovingly, He scraps away all the residue that is trying to disqualify me from my purpose. Filling me with truth, the lies I’vegoldgift come to believe fall off. Before long I am clean and ready to be filled with God’s goodness. He helps me discover the gifts and abilities He’s put in me.

In reality this process often takes years and the Lord doesn’t wait til we are picture perfect before filling us. Praise God! He works through us even while He’s working on us. I must be patient with myself and with God.

What labels are you believing about yourself? How did it get there and what does God say about it? Soak in the Lord’s presence and let Him clean off any gunk that is trying to stick to you.