I know. This is a very loaded word.

My kids do this one a lot. It usually goes something like this:

Me: Boys, who made that stream of water in the hallway?
Aidan: That's not water...Duck did it.
Declan: No, Aidan did!

Even as adults, too often we want to take the credit, but never the blame. It takes a lot of humility to be able to accept blame when responsible for something, and even more so when not responsible.

My brother died about 5 years ago. Many of you know the story, but what you may not know is that one of the first things that I did was yell at God. "Why him?" I screamed, "He suffered so much, so young...he fought for our country...he won souls for You...he was just starting to enjoy life. Couldn't You have done something?"

Of course, blame is one of the natural stages of grief. We need someone or something to hold responsible for our hurt; even if deep down we understand that sometimes life just sucks...we still need a scapegoat.

But even though I knew it was normal, I still felt a little guilty that I pointed the finger at the very One who had held me together through it all.

Last week, I had lunch with a mentor. As we sat and talked, conversation turned to a situation where someone going through a hard time had lashed out at those around them. "It's like...instead of blaming God like the rest of us do when something bad happens, this person is blaming those around them," she said.

Whoa! I had a mind-blowing epiphany through that one simple statement.

It seems we all blame God at some point. Why is that? Is it lack of faith? Or lack of knowledge?

Or...what if it is just the simple fact that we need to put blame on Him in order to maintain fellowship? Think about it...if blame is such a natural response to grief and loss in our lives, wouldn't it stand to reason that some aspect of this exchange is necessary for us to get through the trial?

For example:
Us: Why, God? I mean...what were You thinking? I don't even know if I can trust you anymore...

All the while, God knows that these thoughts and feelings are inside of us. Imagine if we had those thoughts and instead of going to Him honestly, we took them and blamed the next person to cross our path. Did anything get accomplished? Did our relationship with the Lord grow? It seems to me that we have only made a bad situation worse by dragging someone else into our funk.

We must have that moment of honesty before God to maintain our fellowship with Him, don't you think? Otherwise, we put the blame on someone else...maybe even multiple someones, denying the real origin of our anger, frustration and ultimately--our hurt. And all this leads to is a whole lot more hurt--and usually not just our own--when we don't deal with our true feelings of who we think is to blame.

Because deep inside, we feel like it was God who let us down.

But, what if we just let it all out to God? Would He really be shocked? Or displeased? If we are honest, and truly want to know the purpose and will of our Father, then our honesty will only help our relationship with Him. As we turn toward Him and release those thoughts, we will find ourselves face to face with the One who will comfort, sustain and mature us through that difficult time. Our anger will begin to subside and we will see that grace has a face...and that the hand of God is extended toward us to show us that grace and not to show us pain.

The God who gave us His Son, gave us everything just to mend our broken bond with Him...what He wants most when we are hurting is to draw us nearer, to have the chance to take our pain on Himself (again) and make us a little more dependent on Him, a little more like Jesus. And that may just require us to throw out all the blame that is inside of us onto Him. I'm confident that He can handle it.



Do you have any nerdy friends? Wait...if you're reading this, you're probably my friend, so don't answer that.

My nerdy friends and I like to have conversations like:

-If you had to choose a zombie apocalypse team with one Disney character, one character from Harry Potter, one character from Lord of the Rings and one television crime scene investigator, who would they be?

or (my personal favorite)

-If you could have one superpower...what would it be?

Often people are surprised by my answer, but I would definitely choose invisibility. I have many reasons--most of them aren't creepy at all. My biggest reason? I love to people-watch and analyze the way they do things and body language, etc. The only problem with that is if people notice you watching them it can get awkward...

I think there would be lots of benefits to being invisible. You could avoid "that one person." Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. You could check your BO without grossing people out. You could mess with people's minds in sooooo many ways...

Seriously, though...when is invisibility not an awesome thing?!?!

When you don't want to be invisible.

Tonight, as I was shopping in the grocery store, I was almost run down by a shopping cart at least three times. One guy stepped back into me and I had to jump to get out of his way. Twice, I stood waiting for someone to notice I was trying to get through before they moved (slightly) out of the way.

Then, as I was turning onto the chocolate aisle (don't judge me), I couldn't turn in because a woman was blocking the aisle. She even looked at me and still didn't move over. Finally, I said (super sweetly, I swear), "Excuse me!" She moved her cart an infinitesimal degree and I squeezed through. I hate the feeling that people don't see me...or that I'm just in everyone's way wherever I go.

About halfway down the aisle, as I'm praying about this and having an attitude check, I say to God: "You have no idea how it feels...do you even know what it's like to feel invisible?"

Immediately, I stopped in the aisle and began to cry. I had an instant playback of how most of my days go. Oftentimes, when I am busy, I just plow through my day with barely a nod of recognition to the Creator of the universe, the King of kings and the Spirit that dwells within me. Too often, I treat the Holy Trinity like the shoppers in the grocery store treated me tonight (seriously...did they have a meeting?). Like I wasn't even there.

It's so easy, though, isn't it? I mean...He kind of IS invisible to us.

Oh, but when I am intentional and I pursue His truth and teaching...when I bow my heart down to His will and purpose for my life...when I choose to follow Him instead of inform Him of what I plan to do--even in the little things...that is when a seemingly invisible God finds visibility through me.

That is when I look like Christ. That is when He can be seen...through me. And that is when I will gladly choose to be invisible and lay down my 'right' to be seen--so that people will be able to look at me and see only Him.



One of my favorite moments in The Wizard of Oz is when Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man meet the Cowardly Lion and he sings his song about courage. He is definitely my favorite character. See!

I've been through a lot in my life...too much to go into detail here. In the midst of these times, people have always told me that I am brave. A good friend of mine even gave me a Willow Tree angel named Courage when my brother died. Heck, I was even Merida from the Disney movie, Brave, for Halloween this year.

But I don't feel brave today. 

Today, I feel very very tired. Almost too tired to keep believing that I'm ever going to feel well again. I feel like a failure. First, because I can't seem to do any of the things that I need to do or want to do. And second, because I can't seem to access the faith that has always come so easily to me.

As I looked to the Word for answers on how to be courageous, I saw a lot of verses telling me to be brave, but none that told me how! So I decided to look up the word courage at www.blueletterbible.org. After browsing through the different definitions, I found this one:

courage: (v.) (2) to adhere, to hold fast to anything

Right now, I don't have the strength or capacity to do much at all (much less roar) but I can adhere to the hope that the Holy Spirit will intercede for me. I can trust that He will strengthen me to believe, to have faith that this is not the end of the story. This is just a growth spurt, and sometimes that comes with growing pains.

As the quote up there says, I will try again tomorrow. I'm so thankful that I will not be alone!

"And the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, and remind you of all things that I said to you." -John 14:26


Crossroads, Waiting and Spontaneously Combusting

At a crossroads? This is yet another word that I am hearing in conversations all around me...

I remember during my teen years, my youth pastor would say something like, "Life is a series of choices. From the kind of cereal you're going to eat, to the friends you hang out with, to whether or not you're going to live your life in this moment for God." And he would be right. We have many decisions before us in this life as to how we will choose to respond to the things that come at us.

But here I am, a "grown" woman, and I have come to understand that sometimes...there just isn't a choice for me to make. Sometimes, I don't get to choose what happens in this moment. Sometimes, I am simply at the mercy of my Lord and must trust that He has this moment and me in the palm of His hand.

Maybe you've heard of this. It's referred to as waiting. And I freaking hate it.

I'm sure most that read this are perfectly adept at this precious and saintly virture and this doesn't even apply to you. To be honest, I'm actually a rock star at waiting when it comes to my meal out somewhere or a phone call or in line at the grocery store (I lead a very glamorous life).

My difficulty? Waiting on God for instruction on my next move in an area of my life. I suck at this.

I feel like I am at a crossroads. But instead of just looking down each road and determining where to turn and keep on trucking, I am at a standstill. I am waiting on further directions. While everyone around me knows exactly which turn to make, I sit here wondering how long a human can actually wait on an answer without spontaneously combusting or foaming at the mouth.

This morning I opened up my bible to Psalms. Then Proverbs. Then I considered chucking my bible across the room, but I thought that THIS would probably be the straw that broke the camel's back and sent me to hell. So I didn't. I just slammed it onto the table really hard.

All kidding aside, I was angry. Why don't I have answers? What am I doing here, God? I don't feel well, I don't sleep well, I don't remember things that I want to say or do. I'm stuck here just WAITING.

As I prayed these things to God, the word crossroads came to mind again. So I sat down to write. And I really wish this post had a happy ending, but there is no resolution...yet.

By faith I choose to believe that my answers are coming. I choose to trust that God is in control and has a plan. I choose to rest in my mind and heart, knowing that my worrying and wondering will bring me nothing but more frustration. And I choose to hope that my agonizing wait will speak to someone and maybe tomorrow when God has shown up and taken care of everything like He always does, and I look like a jerk for complaining today, someone will see the glory of God in all of this and trust Him more.


Two kinds of grace???

It has been a long time coming. Grace has been on my mind and I have asked people everywhere: What is grace to you? How do you define it? How has it changed your life?

Through my research, I stumbled upon the catholic teaching of grace. According to their teaching, there is both common grace ("For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike."-Matt 5:45) and actual, or saving, grace ("For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God."- Eph 2:8), which is unique to those who (through the conviction of the Holy Spirit) come to a place that they receive it personally.

Their claims lead into some teachings that I personally do not agree with, but I can agree with the idea that we are each always being extended some measure of grace, even if we do not choose to abide in it.

But let me back up a little bit:

What is grace, exactly?

I received many excellent definitions recently when I asked this question on facebook. Many said "Grace is God's unmerited favor toward us." And that is what I have always been taught, as well. A few answers were very beautiful and personal examples of God's grace shown to that individual.

But one answer stuck out.

Grace is getting what we don't deserve. 

G.od's, R.iches, A.t, C.hrist's, E.xpense.

-Bill Sparks

Now, Bill is a friend of the family, but he is also a pastor, so I'm sure that he actually stole this from someone else! ;) Seriously, though...I appreciate his and all of the answers that were provided. Back to Bill's take on grace, I normally find acronyms like this to be terribly cliche and bordering on Velveeta, but in this case...I believe it accurately and appropriately sums up how most define grace.

Our pastor spoke on Sunday about leaders who warn the church against "abusing" grace, as if it were something we could run out of--its source depleted as we draw from our "grace account" until nothing remains. He challenged our church to stop looking at grace as if it were something that we withdraw from only when we are bankrupt, but instead see it as something that God adds to our lives no matter where we stand or what we have done or how much we have already been given. No matter how many times we have received grace, we will continue to receive it.

If we are breathing, we're being shown grace.

So how can grace be abused? If we are living our lives by grace, we are living in God's Riches At Christ's Expense. His riches fulfill our every need. His riches are good, perfect, healthy, and bring glory and honor to His name! We can't abuse that! If we are seeking to fulfill our needs outside of that, then we are not living by grace. If we say, "God will forgive me if I...", that is not living by grace!

That is religion.

Think about it. If I walk in grace, my focus is on Christ's expense and example. I am motivated by the price that He. Already. Paid. I can do nothing to acquire that grace, because it is mine if I am His. So the blessings flow and my motivation is to live out of a heart of gratitude for what He has done for me--apart from what I have done to myself. It is truly unconditional.

But if I choose to sin, believing that God will forgive me afterward and all will be well, I do not believe that God's riches are mine already. I believe that what I want or need in that moment must come from what I think is best and that it will fulfill me. And ultimately, I believe that He will not.

Um...doubt, unbelief, mistrust, anxiety, self-sufficiency, idolatry, entitlement. These are not the basis for a healthy relationship.

And yet...grace keeps on giving.

Imagine the possibilities if we were to spend our energy enjoying that grace and extending that grace to others instead of seeking out riches through inadequate means.

We were made for relationship with God. Again and again, He extends His hand to us. Within that hand He holds riches and wonders beyond anything we could imagine. But like a prince who abdicates his throne to buy a ship and become a pirate, we look at God's hand, then look back down and continue digging around in the dirt, looking for something--anything-- to satisfy our longings.

And yet...He continues to extend that hand until we choose to take it.

Going back to the beginning of the blog. Do you really want to settle for a grace that is "common" to all? Or do you want grace that is personal, relational...meeting your needs above and beyond what you could have hoped for?

"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." --John 1:16


The Circle of Life

That title may have been a bit misleading. This post isn't about Lion King or New Age ideas, for that matter. Although, I bet you're humming the song now, aren't you? :)


In the world around us, they represent many things: unity, infinity, wholeness, the sun...and yes, of course--good ole' mathematics.

I have been thinking a lot about circles lately. I've been seeing them everywhere. Wreaths, matchbox wheels, and in the tea leaves in the bottom of my coffee mug (seriously, though). I guess they are always there, but I have been a little more tuned in to their presence recently. And, of course, I'm curious as to why. Why have they been drawing my attention, lately?

In Christianity, a circle can represent God himself. He has no beginning; He has no end. He is constant, continuous, complete. Unchanging.

But one description of circles via Wikipedia caught my eye:
A circle can be defined as the curve traced out by a point that moves so that its distance from a given point is constant.

As I read that, a picture began to form that I couldn't get out of my head.

What if we, as Christians, are meant to be like the curve of the circle and Jesus, the given point at its center? It would make sense, wouldn't it? We find our center in Him. When we move, it's as though an invisible line keeps us in orbit around Him. That line or radius between Jesus and ourselves is grace which keeps us within circumference by way of the center--Jesus.

But we're not lone points on the end of a radius, or we would simply have a line. There are many points along that circumference, each with its own connection to the center, although the radius itself remains the same. No one is closer or further from the center, or works harder to have connection.

As I thought about this, I thought that if I were a point trying to connect with another point on the exact opposite side of the circle, the point I had the least in common with, the quickest way would be through the center. The radius doubles and there is now a full diameter between me and that person, with Jesus at the center. He becomes the common ground and there is unity.

Blah, blah, blah hippie lady. So what?

What if one of us along that curve wasn't looking toward its center--at Jesus--but instead was looking outside of the circle for something? Clarity, understanding, solidarity. The radius (grace) still keeps us in circumference--that doesn't change, but our vantage point does. We are unable to connect with any points along the curve, much less its center, because everything we see is now outside of the circle.

(go test it out--look at a circle, seriously...it's crazy)

When facing the center of the circle, we can see everything that is within it and our own position makes sense. We can now connect with any points within the circle, because we can see them clearly when our focus is at the center.

What else?

The cool thing about this circle is that it is ever-widening. It isn't an exclusive circle, because anyone can join in. However, the way for a point to find its way into circumference will always be through connection to its center by way of the radius.


Got favor?


What a loaded word...lately, it has come up in conversation all around me and so of course my antennae began to tune in.

Many online dictionaries contain similar definitions for favor including this one:
n.) Friendly or favorable regard; approval or support.

As I searched www.blueletterbible.org for references to the word 'favor', I found that the majority of mentions were actually found in the Old Testament. I found this odd and then found it odd that I found this odd...

I guess, in my mind, I have associated favor with new covenant living. From many VBS and Awana meetings as a child, it has been drilled into me that grace is God's unmerited favor toward us. But grace is New Testament, right?

Except that as I read verse after verse and story after story, I realized that favor is all over the Old Testament. It became clear to me after awhile, however, that this favor was almost always attached with an action or to the performance of an individual or a group of people.

So, this is where the OT contrasts with the NT. We know that under the new covenant, we no longer must strive for favor in the sight of the Lord through our actions. We have unmerited favor through Jesus, because now we are seen by God not in our fallen condition, but through the covering of Jesus' blood.

But before I skip ahead, it is obvious to me that, even from the beginning, humans have been preoccupied with finding favor in the sight of God (or gods to the pagan mind). All across the world, humanity reaches toward their deities with their offerings of good works, acts of 'righteousness' and charity toward others.

The good news of what we have is clearly the news that we have found acceptance, approval and favor in the sight of our God...not through our striving, but through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.


...do we really live like that? I mean, think about it. How preoccupied are we with seeking others' approval?

To be perfectly honest, I see a lot of people seeking approval and acceptance from fellow humans. I think the root of this is found in the tangible vs. the intangible. I can't see God's approval and favor for me like I can with other people.

What a trap, huh? I'm sure the enemy is all over this one. If he can keep us preoccupied with getting those 'attaboy's, we won't find satisfaction in knowing that the approval we seek is already ours in Christ.

It occurred to me this week that this is the issue at the heart of the Mary and Martha story (Luke 10:38-42). As I reread this passage, I realized that the 'good thing' that Jesus spoke of in regard to Mary was His favor.

He didn't rebuke Martha because she was too busy doing stuff to sit and listen to His words. Well, not JUST for that. He was speaking to her motivation. She was running around doing things desperately seeking approval and acceptance.

The difference is that Mary sat at His feet, not because she was lazy or unconcerned with her responsibilities. She sat at Jesus' feet because she understood that His approval had nothing to do with anything she could do.

This approval trap is dangerous for so many reasons. It keeps us busy doing things that won't get us what we need. It takes our eyes off of the only One who can satisfy those needs. And it often turns our eyes to those who seem to have tons of favor...and we despise that it is theirs and desire for it to be ours.

When Martha went to Jesus with her complaint, she was furious that Mary sat and did nothing and yet seemed to have all the favor. How many times have you seen success or victory in a situation in your life only to have someone else come along and scoff your efforts, steal your 'credit' or slam your character?

Too many times to count for me.

I believe the root of that jealous and covetous behavior is a lack of understanding of God's favor for each of us. There is not a limited amount of favor...there is more than enough to go around. But sadly, some people are so deceived as to how and where to get this favor that they think if someone has what they want that they must do as they do--or worse, that they must out-do what the 'favored' ones do.

My goodness, what kind of world would it be if we actually understood the favor that covers our lives when we are in Christ!!! We wouldn't worry about anything but bringing others into that favor.

The truth is...our favor has nothing to do with what we do and everything to do with what Jesus has done for us. When we really grasp that--first, our need for atonement and second, the fulfillment of that need in Jesus--there is no question as to whether or not we are favored.

We will be convinced of our favor in the sight of the Lord when we are convinced that we can do nothing to get it.


The Promised Land

“Right away, the day after the Passover, they started eating the produce of that country, un-raised bread and roasted grain. And then no more manna; the manna stopped. As soon as they started eating food grown in the land, there was no more manna for the People of Israel. That year they ate from the crops of Canaan.” –Joshua 5:11-12 (The Message)

I woke up  this morning with a strong urge to look up Joshua 5. As I read it, these two verses stuck out to me. But I could not for the life of me figure out why. I prayed on it and meditated on it, but nothing came to mind.
I decided to leave it alone for a while, knowing the answer would come to me, somehow. And it did.
The Passover represented the time in Egypt when the Lord passed over the land, taking the life of every firstborn. When the children of Israel placed the blood of the lamb across their doorposts, the Lord passed over that home, allowing the firstborns to live. Then the children of Israel were freed.

This is a clear symbol of the sacrifice of Jesus and how judgment passes over us when we choose to be covered by Jesus’ blood. We are freed from our former lives of captivity to the power of sin and death.

What I find interesting about these two verses in Joshua is that they had just crossed the Jordan, on their way to take possession of the Promised Land. God had been fortifying them with manna from heaven—a temporary provision until they had access to the land that had been promised to them.
Even though they had not fought yet, the day after Passover, they began to eat of the land of promise.

To me this represents life after the sacrifice of Jesus. Before, God’s people were being sustained by a heavenly (but limited) source of life that was provided for each day (representing the law). After Jesus, however, a system was put in place for sustenance to come from within, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
This is what the Promised Land offers: the freedom to live in grace and favor with God and one another.
However, just as the children of Israel did with Canaan, it seems to me that we take possession of our Promised Land before we ever have to fight for it. By faith, we accept that Jesus’ sacrifice is enough. God's promise is enough…that we will be made alive and whole in freedom. And He has clearly provided completely and perfectly through His Son, Jesus, for that to be so.
So why, then, must we do battle?

I believe this is the action that accompanies our faith. Our action says, “I believe what God has promised is true…to the point that I will walk in it and work for it, knowing that the victory was won for me before I ever see it. Trusting that if I go about fighting the way that God instructs me to (and not the way that I think makes sense), that I will be victorious in this life.
I’m sure that it didn’t make sense to the Israelites that they should march around Jericho for days and then shout the last time. But they obeyed without understanding, and they attained victory that day.
Through it all, God didn’t leave them hungry or thirsty like they were for the 40 years that they depended on manna for their food. He sustained them by the bounty and nourishment of the new land that had been promised, even while they were still taking possession. Just as we no longer depend on the unfulfilling law to sustain us, but are nourished and fulfilled in Christ by God’s favor and grace through the ministry of the Holy Spirit as we take possession of God’s promised kingdom on earth.