The Tantrum

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The shrill scream echoed throughout the grocery store and bounced off of everything from laundry detergent to ice cream.

Several people stopped and looked around in wide-eyed wonder, but every mom in the vicinity knew exactly what it was—and they didn’t miss a beat.

An unhappy toddler was throwing a tantrum. Pitching a fit. Showing himself.

Holding his mommy hostage.

Well, you get the idea.

And I have to tell you—this little guy was good. His face was the color of a bad sunburn, his tiny lower lip stuck out far enough to trip over, and his fists were clenched and ready for battle.    oracle-salesforce-tantrum

I sneaked a glance at the mom to see how she was doing. Hands on hips, she was giving her little one the lookknock it off, buster.

But as “good” as his tantrum was—I’ve seen better. I mean, this kid was an amateur.

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An Open Letter to My College Kid

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Hi, Sweetheart. Mom here.

It’s that time of year and I’m feeling it—that uncomfortable heart-squeeze from the effort of letting you go. Again.

You would think it gets easier, but um…it doesn’t. So with that in mind, there are a few things I would like to say. None of this is new to you—but humor me. Sometimes a mom needs to “put it all out there.” (We tend to worry about gaps in your life-education.)

So, here goes…

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Upside-Down, Indeed

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As I prayed about this week’s post, I couldn’t stop thinking about current events in our community, our nation, and the world.

For many, 2015 has been steeped in sorrow.

“Lone-wolf” shootings, acts of terrorism, natural disasters, and government scandals rock the nightly newscasts. Human life is discarded like so much trash. Those who mock God’s laws are lauded as “heroes” while those who stand for righteousness are called “bigots.”

Not to mention Satan’s use of our political and justice systems to wage war against Christ-centered laws and precepts.

We do live in an upside-down world and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and to wonder if God is still in control. But we have to remind ourselves…

He is.

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Utter Foolishness

“They must be really good people—to be able to offer forgiveness like that.”

Usually poised and articulate, the news commentator was flustered and stumbled over his words. “I don’t know what to say…it just doesn’t make sense.”

The world is confused.

They just witnessed family and friends of those slain in Charleston stand and offer forgiveness to their loved one’s killer.

These broken people are supposed to be screaming for revenge. We expect them to cry out demanding blood. They are in anguish—surely they are not capable of rational thought.

Where is the rioting? The finger-pointing?

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Come to the Mountain

The mountain-top experience…

For a few moments or days you’re transported above the everyday-ness of life to a place of worship, praise, and new perspective. Communion with God is over-the-top real and vibrant. You want to linger over His Word as His gentle whisper reaches to the corners of your heart. The weight of burdens and responsibilities ever-so-briefly fall away, giving freedom to lift tired hands in expressions of thanksgiving and praise. You have the longing to stay in these moments just a little bit longer…IMG_2759

This past week at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference was a glorious blur of like-hearted creative souls coming together to grow, learn, and share—with the ultimate purpose of fine-tuning our skills to glorify God through the written word. Friendships were formed and strengthened. Encouragement rained down from faculty, staff, and other attendees. To put it simply—it was fun.

Then came the time to say goodbye, with myriad promises to keep in touch and to hold each other accountable in the days ahead. We walked away from the mountain with fresh resolve—and perhaps, a bit of trepidation: Uh, Lord, I’m not sure about this…I felt so strong this week, but now I will be alone…

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The Best Gift EVER

It had to be a humiliating experience.

Caught in the act of adultery. Grabbed by angry, self-righteous hands and cast into the midst of a shocked and angry crowd. Thrown before a little-known prophet. Bared body, soul and spirit, and certain of only one thing: imminent punishment.

 Never mind that someone else is just as guilty, for she has not acted alone. The man has slipped away quietly, but she is here, in the dusty street, at the mercy of her accusers.

On the surface it seems to be a hopeless situation for there is nowhere to hide, no possible escape. But then the unforeseen happens. This man, this prophet looks deep into her eyes, into the long forgotten recesses of her heart and offers a gift.

The gift of a second chance.                     SALVEZZA-LIBERTà-YAHOSHEA-OSHEA-OSEA-SHUA-USHUA-YAH-SIGNIFICATO-NOME-MESSIA-MASHIA-MASHIYAH-GESù-JESUS-SIGNIFICA-SALVEZZA

There is no condemnation but there is accountability, and a choice.  The simple but powerful words, “go and sin no more…” offer this broken woman a glorious hope. Scripture doesn’t tell us, but we wonder. What does she choose? Does she return to a world of darkness and shame or does she take that first trembling step of faith toward the light of Christ?

At the feet of Jesus we, like the adulteress, have a decision to make. We can continue in sin, succumbing to its decay and destruction.

Or we can reach for dusty sandals and nail-scarred hands.

Only by realizing there is no hope without Him can we confidently choose the life He offers. Saying “yes” to Jesus is a rebirth, and the beginning of a journey to inner beauty and holiness.

Oh Father,  thank you for the gifts of grace and forgiveness.  Help me to turn from the world and its ways and to reach for You. Let me shout with joy, I choose Jesus!

…and Jesus said unto her, neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.      John 8:11 KJV

How Do You Measure Up? Take the Quiz…

As a teenager, I loved taking quizzes and working from a checklist. No, not the Math/English/Science variety. The good kind. You know, the ones designed to provide insight into your very soul.

1277TIGERBEATSTARMSMO120810 Pouring over the latest teen magazines, I could feel my heart-rate increase as my friends and I would devour every page, knowing there would be at least one feature entitled, What Kind of Man Will You Marry? How Cool Will You Be in High School? Are You a Good Kisser? What is Your Body Type? What Type of Boyfriend is Best for You?

The kind that asked 10 simple questions, directed you to tally up your A’s, B’s, and C’s, then revealed—with incredible insight, I might add—everything a young seeking heart needed to know.

It was from this source of wisdom that I knew I would marry a dark-haired prince, have 6.7 children (whatever that means), and maintain a svelte size 6 for the duration of my life.

I did, indeed, marry a dark-haired prince. The others? Not so much.

As we grow older and wiser, and leave Teen Beat and Seventeen behind, it’s easy to continue having a checklist mentality. And if we’re talking about our schedules or a grocery list, then it’s all good.  The problem comes when our quiz/checklist goes something like this:

I attend church at least three times a month…checkthDIU5XLFK
I had my devotional time this morning…check
I’ve memorized scripture this week…um, not quite
I gave an offering last Sunday…um, I will this week
I’ve cooked a meal for someone in need…groan
I have prayed for the needs of others…yes!
I have visited someone in the nursing home or hospital…check
I have not gossiped this week…sigh.

SCORE:
8 Checks – Wow, I’m amazing…running on all cylinders and impressing God big-time.  (Well, maybe next week…)
5-7 Checks – I’m getting there… No one’s perfect anyway (Said in a really whiny voice)
0-4 Checks – (This is my score again?!) God must be furious with me. I need to work harder to get back into His favor!

So, what’s the big deal? We’re busy caring for our families, working long hours, and staying active in church. And we’re placing as much energy as possible into pursuing that vague, elusive thing called happiness…because, well, that’s what we’re supposed to be about, right?

Sanctified, justified, gloriously happy Christians.

But sometimes, we cling to unhealthy habits at the expense of our inner spirit—that mysterious place that our Creator wants to nurture and grow in His likeness. Keeping a checklist for the purpose of pleasing God can be a suffocating habit. It’s also a huge soul-shrinker and can lead to lack of peace and frustration with what we’re told the Christ-like life should be.

When we live by a checklist (or by tallying a quiz), we reduce our lives to a works-based faith. We are trying to earn God’s pleasure…and it can be exhausting!

In the book, Restless, Jennie Allen writes, “Because of grace, we have nothing to prove.”

Oh, the truth of this!    Cross-Paid_in_Full-300x300

In Ephesians 1:4-6 (The Message), we read, Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

We are bought with His blood on the cross. We belong to Him!

It’s all about that GRACE, ‘bout that Grace, no devil… (Sorry, that wasn’t original, saw it somewhere and it made me laugh)

GRACE–Undeserved, unmerited favor.

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:39 (The Message)

When we grab hold of this—that nothing can separate us from the love of God—something amazing happens…

We experience a freedom like no other! We are then compelled to do some of the things on our lists because we love Him. Instead of serving to earn brownie points or to retain favor, we serve as an act of worship—to show our love and adoration to the One who made us. Service becomes relational—we’re on mission with God.

I want my children to call or visit me because they love me—not because they think I’m keeping a tally on them. And when they’re little, don’t we want those sweet chubby arms around us from the simple joy of baby-love, not from a sense of duty?

Would God want anything less?

So, let’s put the quizzes and checklists away (I’m pretty sure my dark-haired prince is from the Lord, anyway).

After all, it’s all about that GRACE. 🙂