Stand Firm

Life’s unexpected challenges often knock us off our feet. We trip, we stumble, we land facedown on the concrete with our faces bruised and our nose bleeding.

I’m so glad the Lord’s tender hands are quick to comfort and mighty to save, and He is faithful to gently pick us back up and set us back on our feet so we can find healing and strength to keep walking.

Scripture offers us guidance for dealing with the less-unexpected challenges we face by assuming a strong posture to stand firm.

Stand firm when you’re afraid.

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. I will trust in you and not be afraid. Psalm 56:3-4

When a threat or danger comes, the “fight or flight” response compels us to either stay and fight against it or make a quick move to run away from it. When we trust God with those threats and dangers, we can stand firm and let Him do the fighting for us. A friend shared with me she likens standing firm to having a block of cement poured around our feet that gives us extra strength to stay standing, holding our feet secure, keeping us from running away or falling over. We can stand knowing God is in control- and as He holds us, He holds all the circumstances around us.

Stand firm when you’re angry.

Most of us have lots of reasons to be angry. Anger rears its head when others disappoint and frustrate us, or when we disappoint and frustrate ourselves, or when life in general disappoints and frustrates us. The challenge is what we do with that anger.

The fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.  Proverbs 29:11

Faith and the fruit of the Holy Spirit living in us give peace “that surpasses understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Cling to the peace as you allow God to address the issues that bring anger inside. He will never disappoint.

Stand firm when you’re ashamed.

The weight of all our sin can rest heavy on us. We can carry the burdens of our past and cast our eyes low to the ground, missing the forgiveness and hope and reconciliation Jesus brought. We can slouch in our sin or stand on the promises of the Cross. Jesus calls us to “cast all our cares upon Him” (1 Peter 5:7). He came to take the weight and burden of our sin so we can stand upright in freedom with our eyes lifted and fixed on Him.

The LORD turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:1-2

Stand firm when you’re attacked.

When we are attacked, standing firm can seem near impossible. We often want to attack back- striking out in retaliation. We can be attacked by lies and accusations we want to defend, or by people we want to defeat. And when the attack involves our children- beware of Mama Bear!  Standing firm means standing on truth, responding with confidence and grace, and confidently trusting the results to God. We can learn from Jesus when He was attacked before His crucifixion. Several times he remained silent- and other times he spoke gently but truthfully, not in retaliation. Jesus spoke in a way that respected those in authority, but also acknowledged the One who ultimately was in authority over them all.

Standing firm is not cowering over in fear, slouching down in shame, fretting to and fro in stress, lashing out in anger, or puffing up in pride. It’s simply having the strength and peace that God has you in His hands and His Spirit is strengthening you from within.

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.  He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword.  Deuteronomy 33:27-29

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13.

Josh Baldwin sings these strong words about standing firm:

When darkness tries to roll over my bones

When sorrow comes to steal the joy I own

When brokenness and pain is all I know

I won’t be shaken.

Shame no longer has a place to hide

And I am not a captive to the lies

I’m not afraid to leave my past behind

I won’t be shaken.

There’s power that can break off every chain

There’s power that can empty out a grave

There’s resurrection power that can save

There’s power in your name. Power in your name.

My fear doesn’t stand a chance, when I stand in your love.           

My fear doesn’t stand a chance, when I stand in your love.

He began the good work- and He will complete it

Baby books, photo albums, crocheted baby blankets, re-organized closets, fitness plans, weight loss goals, and an untold number of nonfiction and inspirational books. What do these all have in common? They are all projects I have started at one point, but never brought to completion. In scripture we see how very different God is. The works He begins He is always faithful to finish.

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Being confident of this- When Paul wrote these words to the young church at Philippi, he wanted them to be assured that He would keep working in their lives and through their church, despite many challenges. Like these believers, we face many challenges that tempt us to lose faith that God is working. Days when God seems distant or days when He seems silent can all cause us to lose faith that He is working. He calls us here to be confident that He is.

He who began a good work- God is good- and what He produces is good. A child once proclaimed, “God made me- and God don’t make no junk!” When He begins a work, even if we do not know what its end result will be, we can be sure it will be good. Good for His glory and good for His children.

Will carry it on to completion- The King James Version here reads God will “perform” it, and the New American Standard Bible reads He will “perfect” it. God is working in us a work He not only is willing to finish, but He is able to finish. He can and He will bring all his “projects” to their ordained perfection. In a sense they are a performance for him- showing the watching world His grace and love and power. He gets the glory!

Until the day of Christ Jesus- This working He is doing in us will not be done tomorrow. It will not be done next year. It is clear here that it will not be done until Jesus returns or calls us heavenward. He will still be working in us until then. We have been ordained to become like Christ, but that doesn’t happen until we are in His presence.

1 John 3:2 We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Michael W. Smith’s song Waymaker has these strong words:

               Even when I don’t see it, You’re working

               Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working

               You never stop, You never stop working.

We can rest assured that God is working- for our good and for His glory. He is working in our lives, in the lives of our children, in the lives of all those around us.

Philippians 2:13 For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.

You can read your name into this verse- and the name of each of your family members.

It is God who works in ___________________________ to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.

Do you believe that? Can you “be confident in that”? He will complete each work He begins.

Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him.

I love to crochet- and when time allows me to pick up an unfinished project and actually finish it, it brings be great joy. Watching the colors and design come together for their intended purpose (usually a new baby of a dear friend) makes me very happy.

God holds all eternity in His hands, and time is never an issue for Him. I have to believe working in our lives to bring us to our intended completion brings Him great joy.  

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The Greek work for workmanship here is “poiema”-  a masterpiece. He is writing into our lives a beautiful poem. The Master is shaping us to be a masterpiece.

May we have full confidence that He began the good work- and He will complete it.  

‘Contrary to Expectations’

The Greek root of the word ‘paradox’ means ‘contrary to expectations.’ A paradox is a statement that is seemingly contradictory yet is true. Writers use paradox to draw in a reader’s attention until the apparent contradiction can be resolved.

In many ways, the arrival of the awaited Messiah was written into the biblical narrative as paradox- contrary to expectations, intended to draw in the attention of millions who would read this story for thousands of years to come.

The birth of Jesus Christ was especially contrary to the expectations of those who experienced the story firsthand. Though scripture had hinted different, God’s people were expecting a mighty conquering King. They waited four hundred years for Messiah to come, end their oppression and restore their kingdom’s rule.

After these seemingly countless generations of God’s silence, an angel appeared with good news- spoken only at first to a humble young virgin who’d been chosen to bear God’s Son. Mary had been expecting a marriage and a simple life ahead. How could this be true?

Joseph had been working to ready all his family would need. What was he supposed to do?

The angel’s confirmation was sufficient for these two to set off on their long journey, filled with one paradox after another.

They headed to Bethlehem to register for the census called for of the entire Roman empire yet fulfilling precisely prophecy spoken hundreds of years before.

There was no room for them in the inn. The long-expected King was birthed into a cruel bed of hay in a cold and lonely stable.

The hoped-for help of all of Israel came as a helpless infant wrapped in swaddling clothes.

The Prince who would bring peace rested peacefully in his weary mother’s arms.

The Savior of the World who would die hung high a cross while many watched was born that holy night with the witness of only his parents and a few gazing animals.

The shepherds were out keeping the night’s watch over their flocks when an angel appeared with their unexpected news. This humble, unknown crew was ushered into the redemption story as they hurried off to Bethlehem searching for the baby.

These rough-edged sheep-keepers were the first to bow and worship before the One at whose name every knee will one day bow.

They were the first missionaries, taking the gospel good news back over their hills that would one day be heard throughout the world.

Yes, into that cold and dark and quiet night, the Light of the World made His appearance in a most unexpected way.

God Most High took on frail flesh and made His dwelling here among us. (John 1:14)

This child’s name was to be Jesus- He would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

He was to be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

He was to be Emmanuel- God with us (Matthew 1:23).

He who was to be all these things was born an infant on that first silent night.

God sent His Son.

For us.

Isn’t that a paradox in itself?

As I contemplate my life, as we often do this time of year, I can relate to “contrary to expectations.” It is quite easy to create a long list of all the ways my life has not been what I expected. Unexpected news, unexpected changes, unexpected challenges. How can this be true? What am I supposed to do?

Like Mary and Joseph, and the Shepherds, and the Wise Men who would follow after, our lives are filled with paradox. The One writing our stories uses these unexpected, apparent contradictions to get our attention, and often the attention of those around us. They draw us in to Him- so we may look to Him- until the apparent contradiction can be resolved.

This year especially has been not what we expected. Yet in this Christmas moment, the paradox of it all can be resolved by the reminder of the sweet presence and peace of the Savior of the world, filling our hearts and giving us strength to continue on the unexpected journey He’s already prepared ahead for us.

God uses the foolish things of this world to show His great wisdom.

He uses brokenness to bring His healing and wholeness.

God takes our weakness and gives His strength.

He takes what we can’t believe is happening and uses it to grow our belief in Him even more.

In my list of ways life has not been what I expected, God Himself has been ‘contrary to expectation.’ He has been so much more than I could ever have dreamed or imagined. And while that list contains things that have been less than I expected, truly it is full of many things that have been so much more than I expected.

God has been faithful, and He has been good. His grace and mercy have overflowed in my life in ways I never could have expected.

At Christmas this year, may we all see clearer this unexpected Savior and all the unexpected ways He has gotten our attention and drawn us into His story. May we allow Him to resolve the seeming contradictions- for our good and for His glory.

Mary Knew

And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  Luke 2:18-19

 Try to imagine this moment for Mary. Imagine the quiet and the stillness that surrounded her.

After their long and strenuous journey. After her hard and strenuous delivery. After the unexplainable visit of the shepherds and the unbelievable telling of their visit by angels.

All the sights and sounds (and smells) of the last few days had been nearly unbearable. And yet, in this quiet moment that followed, there rested Mary.

I imagine her holy newborn sleeping peacefully on her chest and Joseph perhaps off seeking a meal and his own moment of peace.

And I imagine in this moment, when all had come quiet, Mary’s breathing slowed, and her heart rested, and with a surrendering sigh, she just took it all in.

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

There was a stillness there- and there was a great fullness. All had come to pass just as the angel had told her. This faithful young woman surely had moments of doubt, even as this Spirit-conceived baby grew in her womb. But in this moment- in the fullness of this moment- Mary knew.

This child Emmanuel- was now with us. This child Jesus- had come to save us. This was the Messiah- come to set His people free. This was her Son- lying peacefully in her arms in that cold and crude stable.

The scripture tells us Mary treasured up all these things. To treasure is “to hold or keep as precious” or “to collect and store up for future use.” I think Mary did both. All these things she had experienced over the last nine months were precious to her. They brought joy and brought forth great gratitude and worship back to her God. I think also they were given to her to store up for future use. The mother of Jesus Christ, who would grow to serve and save the world, would need a big store of treasures for her long journey ahead.

We see this phrase used again, twelve years later after their family visited the temple. “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51). Mary needed a big store of treasures for all she would watch her son endure. Years later, Mary would watch this son she bore hang on a cruel cross. (What a precious moment there when Jesus entrusted her care to his beloved disciple John.)

The scripture also tells us Mary pondered these things in her heart. To ponder is “to think about, to reflect on” or “to think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeply.” I think Mary did all of that. In the rush of all that had happened, she hadn’t had opportunity to reflect on any of it. But here she sat quietly, soberly, and deeply pondering the goodness and faithfulness of God and the fullness of all He had done in and through her- of all He had done, and would do, on her behalf and on behalf of her family.

There were so many things in this moment and throughout Jesus’ life that only Mary witnessed. All these things given her to treasure and ponder- to fill her soul so that it would overflow with praise and glory to her God and Savior.

And Mary said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46)

“These things” she knew filled her soul so she could endure the hard journey set before her.

We have much to learn from Mary. We need to pause- if even for a moment on our hard and strenuous days- to rest and reflect. As hard as it may sometimes be to find- in a quiet and still moment, we can take in all that God has done in us and through us- and all He has done on our behalf and on behalf of our family.

We need to treasure and ponder the glimpses of God’s glory given only to us. Hold them in tight- store them up for the hard journey ahead.

“For the Mighty One has done great things for me- holy is His name.” (Luke 1:49)

“For nothing is impossible with God.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God…For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:34-37

Mary was given a very big assignment, but she was given that assignment by our very big God who promised to be with her.

A young virgin pledged to be married, whom we can imagine faithfully carrying out her daily responsibilities there in the city of Nazareth, was visited that day by an angel sent by God with miraculous news. For 400 long years of silence from God, generations of her family and all of Israel had waited expectantly for this news. Mary’s response shows us she also had been waiting for God’s Son to come and bring redemption for His people.

Mary was given very big news- unexpected and unbelievable news. With it came a big promise that the big God she served would be with her. His Spirit and His Power would bring forth this holy child in her. The long-awaited Messiah was coming to save the world through her womb.

“For nothing is impossible with God.”

Abraham and Sarah were also given a big assignment. They received unexpected and unbelievable news, that in their very old age they would bear a son, and there would begin the blessed nation God had promised.

“Then the LORD said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD?”  Genesis 18:13-14

Later, we read of Abraham’s trust in this big promise “against all hope.”

Yet Abraham did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He promised.´ Romans 4:20-21.

After all he had lost and learned through his time of testing, Job spoke his faith in God’s power in reply to the Lord, saying “I know you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:1).

In a time of upheaval and captivity under the Babylonians, Jeremiah prophesied of the redemption of Israel- a testimony to God’s unfailing love and covenant promises far above the sinful wavering of His children.

“Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah 32:17

Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”

Jesus later would be asked by a rich man how he could inherit eternal life. Jesus’ answer left he and the disciples questioning, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

What big assignment have you been given? What unexpected or unbelievable news have you received? Can you trust our big God to be with you and give you His big power?

As Mary was promised, so also have we been promised, that “the Holy Spirit will be with you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

In His strength, by relying fully on His power, we will see the impossible become possible.

Nothing is too hard for God. He has the power to do what He’s promised. No plan of His can be thwarted.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Two Kinds of Rest

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Come is a Command

This familiar passage opens with a command. We often read it as if Jesus has his loving arms extended offering a gentle invitation to come and find rest with him. But this ‘come’ is a command. Come to me! Come now! ‘Come’ is one of the earliest and most difficult commands to teach little crawling babies (and little puppies too!). ‘Come!’ requires giving up something we thought we wanted, something we were looking for or even chasing after. ‘Come!’ requires a voluntary turn-around we often resist making.

Many times, ‘Come!’ requires the one commanding it to go and literally retrieve the one resisting it- leading them to the place called for. In this case, the place called for is a place of rest. It’s a wonder we resist it so often.

Tired from Within- and With-out

Jesus commands the weary and burdened to come to him. ‘Weary’ means tired from within, exhausted from extended labor and effort. Weary is just flat worn out. Out of gas. Beat.

‘Burdened’ (or some translations say, ‘heavy laden’) means weighed down by a big load- tired from ‘with-out.’ It is a term used in describing ships carrying large amounts of cargo. I can relate to the feeling of carrying large amounts of cargo, weighed down by so many physical responsibilities and even more so, by emotional stress and anxiety. ‘Burdened’ is feeling like I’m sinking under that load. Barely able to keep my head above water. Going under.

Rest #1- A Temporary Rest

 Jesus’ command to come comes with a promise- that He will give us rest. The Bible dictionary says this ‘rest’ means, “to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect his strength.” It is a rest to recover- a refreshment or re-fueling- that will allow us to collect our strength and continue on our journey. Picture the neighborhood convenience store- where we stop to refill our gas tank and often grab a drink and snack- so we can go on about our business for the day. This rest is a temporary rest, and one God created our bodies to desperately need and depend on for daily sustenance and perseverance.

Rest #2- An Eternal Rest

 The rest Jesus offers us here in Matthew 11 is a different kind of rest. There is a rest He offers by extending believers the invitation to enter eternal rest through His death and resurrection. Our eternal rest is found in a person and a place, in Christ Himself and in Heaven where we will one day rest forever in His presence. One commentary describes this rest as “the heavenly blessedness in which God dwells and of which He has promised to make persevering believers in Christ partakers after the toils and trials of this life on earth are ended.”

Two rests: One that refreshes and re-fuels us so we may continue on in the toils and trials of this life. And one that comes after all the toils and trials are ended.  

 We need both rests. One to come into as many times each day as needed. One to look forward to. One gives strength for today. One gives hope for tomorrow.

Because of that day, I can face this day.

Because of that day, I can endure this day and finish this day, rest again and face tomorrow.

He commands us to come, weary and burdened, and find desperately needed rest for our bodies and our souls. Will we heed His command? (Or will we run ourselves all the way to empty, stranded on the side of the road, useless to ourselves and our families?)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Building Up or Tearing Down?

Proverbs 14:1 “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

This verse begs a compelling question for us as mothers: Am I building my house up? Or am I tearing it down? It says I am fully capable of doing both- and that should cause us all to consider which we are spending our days doing.

I am particularly convicted by the thought that I am capable of tearing my house down “with my own hands.” There are plenty of things in this world that will come and try and tear our houses down, but God forbid it would be my own hands. How could these dish-washing, diaper-changing, clothes-folding, toilet-scrubbing hands be tearing my house down?

The King James Version of this verse reads, “…but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.” The Messages reads, “tears it down brick by brick.” The idea is more of a slower un-doing than a total destructive bulldozing. I think it speaks to the little ways we can “pluck” apart our families and homes with two things- our motivations and our mouths.

Our daily tasks and the many roles and responsibilities we’ve been given can be done “for the Lord” (as Colossians 3:23 reads), or they can be done with a selfish motivation. Are we tending the dishes, diapers, clothes and toilets with bitterness or resentment? More out of guilt than out of joy? Are we looking to “pluck” appreciation from those we are serving (i.e. they’d better be grateful!)?

Then comes what I think is our greatest “tearing down” tool- our mouths. James speaks to the power of the tongue and says it can “set the whole course of our life on fire.” (James 3:6). By our words, we absolutely are capable of tearing down those with whom we share our homes. A careless word that stings the soul of a child, a frustrated criticism that cuts to the heart of my spouse, an angry or cold remark spoken in bitterness or resentment.

James goes on to say, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers (sisters) this should not be.” (James 3:9-10). Are my words building up my home, or are they tearing it down word by word, “brick by brick”?

Of course, we want to be home builders. We want our work to be done with God-honoring motivation, and our words to come from encouraging mouths. We want to build a home that protects those inside and where their character and strengths and hopes are all built well to hold up against the destructive forces of this world.

The book of Nehemiah tells a whole story of builders. God’s people were working together to rebuild the wall around their city so they could protect their homes. Their enemies were “very angry” and “they all plotted together to come up and fight against Jerusalem.” (Nehemiah 4:7-8).

So, catch what the determined Jewish builders did. Nehemiah 4:17 says, “Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other.” May we be mothers who build up- one hand on our work and, when needed, another hand on our weapons.

There are plenty of enemies working to tear down our homes from the outside. May nothing I do assist them by tearing it down also from the inside.

Jeremiah records a prayer of promise God spoke for His children Israel, and I think we can speak it for ours as well.

My eyes will watch over them for their good.

I will bring them up and not tear them down.

I will plant them and not uproot them.

God will give us all a heart to know Him.

We will be God’s people, and He will be our God.

(Jeremiah 24:6-7).

Strengthened through Struggle


weightliftingI hate it when my kids hurt!

All moms hate it when their kids hurt. And the worst hurts are the ones we can do nothing about. All moms know the deep soul ache of watching a child suffer, desperately wishing we could take the pain on ourselves for them.

In the midst of painful storms, difficult hurts and big disappointments with our children, we find comfort in knowing “this happened for a reason.” There is hope in knowing there must be some purpose for the trials God allows in our lives. But what is the reason? What is that purpose? Especially when what comes is so not what we expected and so terribly difficult that, as Paul says, “we despair even of life itself.” (2 Corinthians 1:8)

“No pain, no gain” is what athletes are told. To get faster and stronger, athletes train through pain, working their muscles to fatigue and even soreness. The not-so-technical explanation for this is that as muscles are strained with greater intensity, small tears are made in the muscle fibers. As those fibers heal, the muscle tissue grows stronger and able to work at higher levels. Over time, as muscles are worked, they grow bigger and stronger, able to do more work than before.

The scriptures tell us that this same principle is true with our hearts- with spiritual training. No pain, no gain. God uses trials to shape and sharpen us. And like a potter working his clay on the potter’s wheel, the pushing and prodding needed to transform the clod of clay into a beautiful vessel does not feel very good to the clay. So trials don’t feel very good to us, but some of the pain is soothed knowing there is a greater reason and purpose for the pain.

It is helpful to cast our struggling feelings against a backdrop of what we already know to be true. I find three things help me hold on through the hard.

  1. He is working all things together FOR US.

And we know that in all things God works together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28

We don’t need to see the good or know what it will be to trust God’s promise that that is what He is doing. He promises to work all things together- for those who love Him- for His purposes. As a weaver is working in different colors, textures and patterns, at times individual rows look quite ugly or out-of-place. But in the completed tapestry, all work together to produce a beautiful piece of art. We cannot see the completed work. We are only looking at this moment. But we can look at the Weaver and trust that He knows what He is doing.

  1. He is working IN US to make us more like His Son.

For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. Romans 8:28

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:8

 The work God is doing in us – and in our children – is molding us into the image of His Son. And He promises to complete that work. He wants us to be like Christ – wise and strong, compassionate and overflowing with unconditional love.

  1. He is readying to work THROUGH US to bring others to His grace.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Compassion and the God of all Comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 The struggles we face are not just for our good, but also for the good of those we will better serve in the future. We will greater offer grace and compassion when we have experienced them so greatly. Our hearts are softened to others’ struggles, and we more readily give comfort when we’ve been comforted. It may be years before we see this come to pass, but God will surprise us at the heart connections we will make with people facing similar trials.

God, show your mighty hand working for us, in us and through us. Even more, we ask you to show our children your mighty hand working for them, in them and through them in a way they can understand. May our hearts be strengthened through the struggles. Show your grace in the hard place. Write our story – and their story – for your glory.




Get Back Up On Your Horse


The barrel racing competition at the Red Ryder Round-Up Fourth of July Rodeo was thrilling! The beautiful young ladies took command of their faithful horses and guided them smoothly and quickly through the course. Their great challenge on this day was foot-deep mud from the afternoon monsoons. Fighting against the sloshing and slipping of the mud, they still made it through. (You should have seen the bull riders fall into this stuff!) The junior competition followed the adults, and – wow! – these little girls were incredible! Fearless and fast, their times came in in the same range as the adults. The youngest rider was 4 years old!

Brianna was 9 years old. Her horse flew around the barrels and then finished lightning fast. But then suddenly, the front legs of her speeding horse buckled under in the mud as they tried to stop short of the arena gate. Brianna went flying off over the front of their horse. Then a split second later, the entire body of that giant horse flipped up and over itself, looking to us like it would land upside down right on top of the girl. The stunned audience couldn’t process what was happening, but thankfully, as helped rushed to the scene, we could tell that the horse had just missed her.

Both Brianna and the horse were helped back to their feet. And before we could start a supportive (and relieved) cheer, a cowboy – I wonder if it was her daddy – swooped that little girl back up and set her up on top of that horse again! Then came the big cheer as we watched the limping horse walk away with his brave rider back in her place.

The image of that little girl being lifted back up on her horse will be in my mind a long time, even more so then the horse’s body flipping up and over itself.

Everyone agreed that was the best thing they could have done – for Brianna and for the horse. Whereas I’m the mom who would’ve wanted to just hug her and hold her and share a good cry, I appreciate now why getting back up on the horse was the right thing to do. A quick hug is of course warranted, but the wise parent knows to help a hurting child face their fears right away- before they escalate and settle in. Get back up on your horse!

My daughter is on the high school diving team. She was working on a difficult dive when she over-rotated and hit the water very hard face first and hurt her head. The coach helped her up out of the pool, then helped her walk over to the diving board and told her to do the dive again. Then once she had faced that fear and done it again, they tended to her needs. I understand better now why that was important.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.  Isaiah 40:30-31

Our children will stumble and fall, and we as parents can learn to help them face their fears and keep pressing on. We can err on the side of too much hugging and holding, which hinders their ability to overcome the fear and grow stronger through it. And we can err on the side of shame and blame, expressing our disappointment and lowering our expectations for their future. Or, with God’s help, we can give a quick hug of assurance, and help them push through the fears showing them that we believe in them. They need to know we have their best interest in mind, and they need to know without a doubt we are on their side!

Get back up on your horse- I am here for you! You can do this! Keep going!

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:13-14

So then I think about my own falls. And I think I need to learn this lesson for myself as well. How do I need to get back up on my horse- face my fears- and keep riding?

The image of the man lifting that little girl back up on the horse will remind me that my Heavenly Father is right there waiting to do the same for me. He knows what’s best for me and I can face my fears in the strength He provides. My flesh is quick to shame and blame myself, wallowing in the pain of the failure, throwing myself a pity party.

I am quick to get stuck down in the mud, when what I need is to lift my eyes to the One who is strong enough and wise enough to get me back up on my horse.

Get back up on your horse- He is here for you! He will give you strength to do this! Keep going!

I sought the LORD and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.  Psalm 34:4-5

Lord, help us look to you to get back up on the horse you have given us to ride today. Help us press on to what you have ahead, not stuck in what we’ve left behind. Give us courage to ride- and in that be glorified.





If the LORD had not been on our side


If the LORD had not been on our side- let Israel say- If the LORD had not been on our side.  Psalm 124:1-2

 Pause with me for a moment and consider what might have been, what could have happened, where we might have ended up- had God not been on our side. I can think about each member of our family- and imagine a completely different outcome in several of our most difficult situations- if the LORD had not been on our side.

It’s a little scary- well, actually, downright frightening- to imagine the pain and loss and tragedy the enemy may have wreaked in our lives- or we may have wreaked in our lives ourselves.

There are several scenarios the Psalmist considers:

“When men attacked us” (v.2)- The attacks of men take many forms- criticism, rejection, slander, or “anger flaring against us” (v. 3). Knowing the LORD is on our side, we are able to stand strong on truth, trusting that it is not men who define us but the God who created the universe. We are able to “take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the enemy.” (Ephesians 6:16). And ultimately, we are able to find healing from the hurt, and freedom found in forgiveness. The attacks of men leave deep wounds- but God protects us from hopelessness and provides for healing and even reconciliation.

“The flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away” (v. 4-5)- The storms of this fallen world beat against us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet, how often can we proclaim, “this could have been so much worse”? We see God sparing us from total ruin and disaster, even in the hardest circumstances.

Paul writes of these near-death trials:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed.  2 Corinthians 4:8-9

 We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  2 Corinthians 1:8-9

 Continuing in Psalm 124, a third scenario is described like this:

“Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.” (v. 6-7)- A predator has captured it’s prey, ready to devour it. But the snare is broken, and the prey escapes. Our predator is Satan himself, and just when He was set to devour us, His snare was broken.

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?  1 Corinthians 15:55

 Praise the LORD!  The death and resurrection of the Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus Christ Himself, broke the snare of Satan’s grasp on humanity. He died and rose again, breaking the power of sin and death- setting us free to live in all the fullness of the abundant life He gives.

If the LORD had not been on my side, I would still be striving hard after the approval of man. I would be struggling to find significance and meaning in this world. I would be seeking after my own glory- trampling on others all along the way. And I truly don’t know what I would have done in the countless tragedies that we have faced. I fear I would be lost in the hopelessness and despair, totally unaware that God is working all things for my good.

If the LORD had not been on my side, I don’t think I would have many friends, and I know I would make a pretty awful wife and mother. And maybe more than anything, I would be stuck in the shallow perspective of living only for this world, unable to see the greater blessings of an eternal outlook.

Praise the LORD! God Himself has been on our side. Let us all resound as we consider the what-might-have-been’s. Let us cling to Him and trust in Him and seek His glory in all we do.

What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? …Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  Romans 8:31-37