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Broken Relationships

Broken relationships. They are a painful reality. For some, it is a daily ache that shackles our every step, and for others, it is an ache that shouts and settles throughout time. Universally, however, the holidays seem to ignite and amplify the grief that resides in the hearts and minds of those carrying the cross of someone living in the world but lost from our lives.

Sometimes reconciliation is not possible. Maybe you have hurt someone, and despite your repentance and request for forgiveness, it was refused. Know this; we are only responsible for what we can control, an apology, but not an acceptance.

Sometimes reconciliation is not achievable because the pathology of the relationship is too unhealthy. The loss is still painful, nevertheless. I get it.

Although being reconciled is implausible, relinquishing resentment, retaliation, and further ruin is not. I realize and know that takes time. Often, a lot of time. A lot of prayers. A lot of dying to self and surrendering to the Savior. We cannot make ourselves forget, but we can pray ourselves to forgive. The two things are not the same. Forgiveness does not always look like an active relationship, but it can manifest as an intentional release of the toxicity that grows from the root of resentment.

In some scenarios, forgiveness is not a one-time event.

For some, it takes a daily recommitment. It is painful. I know.

There are other times that forgiveness is possible, but pride convinces us that we are justified staying stuck. It is then easy to find ourselves reasoning, “I cannot do it.” What that statement means is, I will not do it. Forgiveness of tender transgressions requires sacrifice. It demands a figurative death that feels real.

The antidote for my stubborn pride is always the cross.

I can try and run from its reality. I can try to deny its ramifications, but I have not found a comfortable place to hide.

The truth is, I am a sinner who was in desperate need of the greatest act of forgiveness history has ever known. It did require a literal death. It did require bloodshed. It demanded far more than my flesh can comprehend, but Jesus did it anyway. Like a lamb led to the slaughter He was my substitute, and He never articulated a word. No complaints. No poor me. No. Whining.

This holiday season friend, if you are in the league of the unforgiven, have asked for forgiveness from a well-intentioned place and were denied, I am sorry and pray that you find peace. I know the anguish will always be present to some degree, but remember pain is the best tutor, and it’s redemptive purposes are infinite.

And you, dear friend, if you are on the other side of the fence, carrying the weight of unforgiveness, that I sympathetically recognize is not a one size fits all scenario, I pray that your heart would soften because I wish freedom for you.

Sometimes the very things we are trying to escape, we cling to.

Holding on to the pain can oddly feel comforting. It is a counterfeit comforter. I know you must have been intensely wounded. About now you may be thinking; you just have no clue. No, I do not pretend to understand, but I have experienced a lot.

One thing I do know for sure, life is so very short. Once someone is gone, what was not spoken cannot be undone. Sometimes there are no second chances. No do-overs. If you possess the power to release someone, not necessarily reunite with them, I am praying for you. It is so very hard. I. Know.

I am not writing to you because I have gotten anything right. I am writing to you because I have gotten just about everything wrong and I am processing my realities, too.

This Thanksgiving may we all acknowledge the sadness of what is not, and then shift our hearts towards the abundance of what is.

You are loved. All of you.♥️

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Our Scars Are Bountiful Stories

I have a scar on the left side of my chest where there once was a central line that nourished me when I was too ill to eat. I have a scar under my right arm in the upper rib area that is a reminder of a chest tube that once supported my collapsed lung from a procedure gone wrong. Both blemishes were the product of one pregnancy. I see those two scars every day, and for many years they were unattractive to me. What I have learned and love is now when I notice them I feel gratitude where I once knew grief because those blemishes are emblematic of life. My scars are the representatives of a broken story with a bountiful ending. If it were not for them, I would not have my daughter. I was reminiscing amidst the memories of my scar journey this morning, and as I was strolling through the story, I had a vivid visual of Jesus on the cross. There he was in my picture, nailed by evil and dawning scars that the world would deem unattractive; then this thought crossed my mind, Jesus’ scars also represented life. I am confident that He, too looks his scars, smiles and says if it were not for them, I would not have my daughter.

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In Rememberance We Find Rest

img_06891.pngJesus’ last three words before giving up His Spirit on the cross were, it is finished.  As believers, those are three of the most significant words that are so easy to forget. I often find myself losing sight of that truth, and I end up in a position of Jesus plus me or Jesus plus something else equals fulfillment.  My failure to remember that Jesus completed everything for me on the cross only leads me down a path of trying harder, idolatry, guilt, self-condemnation and ultimately shame and exhaustion.

It can be hard to believe and thus accept that it is just that easy; someone who owes me nothing died to make me right before God and to provided eternal life.   It feels much more natural to want to work off my debt.

There is something oddly comforting about pulling the products my sins, (guilt, shame, self-condemnation, self-pity), back down off the cross and wearing them like a warm, comforting coat on a blustery day. 

Continuing to feel guilty, shamed or condemned is an illusive form of self-righteousness.  Ouch!  It suggests Jesus isn’t enough and I need to help Him secure my salvation.

Isaiah 30:15 says in repentance and rest is my salvation.  That is good news for you and me.  When I go to The Father in repentance, I must not only repent for what I did but also what I failed to believe that led me astray.  Like the prodigal father, Jesus is always scanning the horizon to run to us with open arms and a forgiving heart.

It is finished, friends! 

I pray you remember to live from that, and when you forget like I sometimes do, turn back to your Father and rest in His grace!

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Even If, Friend

e4e0f616baab44c6ddf10e96516992faThere was a time when I would head into every new year thinking maybe this will be the year. Maybe this year (blank) will change. Maybe this year (blank) will be easier. Maybe this year (blank) will be less painful. Maybe, maybe, maybe. In retrospect, all those maybes were born from a shifty hunger within myself rather than a sure hope in my Savior. No wonder the cycle repeated itself every year. I measured the success of my years by earthly fortune instead of eternal fruit.

My craving for certain circumstances to change is not wrong, and neither is yours. However, my concern should be more about spiritual maturation and less about situational modification. When I focus more on what God is doing in and for me, and less on what the world is doing around me, my outlook completely shifts; my joy increases, thankfulness thrives, I bemoan less and believe more. It is not that griefs dissolve, but gratitude dominates.

I know 2016 and his predecessors have left scars, friend. I know some have left you weary and wishing for relief, but although you carry those scars you don’t have to cower to them. Yes, they are painful, but if we are believing, we can know we are benefiting as challenging as it sometimes is to reconcile.

As you walk into 2017, I pray you tuck two very powerful words from scripture in a pocket of your heart and carry them into the new year with you. EVEN IF (Daniel 3:18). Even if (blank) does not change, I will focus on my Creator not my crosses. You are loved.

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Hope Survives Where Happiness Does Not

It takes great courage, faith, and intentionality to feel the grief of our cross while anticipating the gifts of its resurrection.  To feel the burden without hope of the blessing is a victory for the opportunistic enemy who since the Garden of Eden wants us to believe that God is holding out on us.  We must resist feeding our minds on his lethal fruit, and feast on The Bread of Life.  It is one thing to believe, but an entirely different thing to LIVE as we profess to believe.  Our walk must be congruent with our talk.  Self-congruence does not mean we are happy all the time, (that is not the gospel), but hopeful, yes!  Hope survives where happiness does not.  You are loved.

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Fixing Our Eyes On the Cross


If we are not keeping our eyes on the cross, we are no better than a blind man driving home.
Three crosses stand high above our church, Shades Mountain Baptist Church. The cross in the middle stands the highest, and the two on each side beneath the shadow of the larger cross. The two lower crosses represent the crosses of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus. The higher one, representing the cross of Jesus. These three crosses, the highest one, in particular, hold a special place in my heart.

In September 2005, my parents were in town visiting. The second day they were here, my mom and I dropped my children at pre-school and headed to Sam’s. We had just parked when she got a phone call. It was my dad. “He said something has happened, and I cannot see.”

Our Sam’s trip was averted, and we rushed back to my house to check on him. We would later end up in the emergency room to find out he had a stroke in his eye; this would be my dad’s second stroke. The first had affected one eye; the second stroke now leaving both eyes impaired.

As hours passed, and the story unfolded, we found out he was in the car driving down Columbiana Road when the stroke besieged him. Our church sits on Columbiana Road. Although my dad had very limited vision, He said he could see ONE thing. The high cross that stands guard at the top of Shades Mountain Baptist Church.

He went on to explain that he knew if he slowly proceeded toward the cross, he could find his way to my home because I lived just down the street. Miraculously he drove himself back to my house, the cross guiding him the whole way.

I was recently sharing this story with a friend who said to me, “I do not understand how he drove home blind.” It was at that moment that God spoke to my heart. The message was very straightforward,

“If we are not placing our eyes on the cross we are no better than a blind man driving home.”

Wow! I had chills, and I love how God used that conversation to embed His message into my heart.

We are all just driving home, friends. Where are we fixing our eyes? On the world, on our problems, on our pain, on our possessions, or on the cross?

Sometimes my vision gets distorted. There are many things the world has to offer to distract my eyes. My flesh wages war against my sight. The goal is not perfect vision, but progressive vision. We must always be advancing, focusing and refocusing towards that one thing that now or later will make all things clear and guide us without fail, even in darkness-The Cross.

I know your “drives” sometimes become treacherous. I know your vision often feels blurry. Mine too, but Keep returning your eyes to the cross. It is the only way to get you home.

Hebrews 12:1-2~ Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  

You are loved, friend!

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He is Here


In the morning, I rise from the womb of the night ready another day to carry my cross. My spirit not yet refreshed until with a single opening of the window I gaze to the heavens, and my eyes immediately find you there. You beckon, it is I. I am here. Get under my yoke today and walk with me. Two are better than one and I am much stronger. You were not created to bear your load alone. A hush settles over my heart, and my soul is soothed by your presence. Now I am ready to shine for You today!  Let you light be seen today, friends.  He is in the midst of every mess.

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Pursuing Perfection is to Deny Jesus

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Perfectionism.  We all chase it.  None of us will ever achieve it, but we often run ourselves into the ground trying.

Pursuing perfection is to deny what Jesus did for us.  

He died an excruciating death not only to save us from our sins but also to impart His perfect righteousness to us.  That means it is no secret we alone are inadequate.  It is inevitable that we will fail as a parent, friend, spouse…  Someone else will always do better that which we desire to do.

Why do we keep exhausting ourselves to obtain what has already been secured on our behalf?  God made no mistakes when He created you or me.  We all have different strengths and weaknesses.  We either believe in his plan and find peace or we deny His sovereignty and continue striving.

Father, I ask that you help your children embrace the gifts given to us.  When we accept who we were created to be and quit striving to be who we are not; we are free to find where our purpose intersects our passion, and it is then that we will impact the world; not in a perfect way but in your providential way.  Amen.

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Anyway

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Life will give us more than we can handle, but we were never meant to handle it alone anyway.

Life will give us more than we can understand, but we were never intended to understand everything anyway.

Life will take us places we don’t want to go, but we were never meant to travel alone anyway. Life will cause us to question, forget, take for granted, disobey, offend and sometimes be angry at God, but Jesus died for us anyway.

Life will cause us to succumb to this world, but all God’s children are eternal survivors anyway.

(1 Peter 5:7, Matthew 11:28)

(Deuteronomy 29:29, Proverbs 3:5)

(Matthew 11:28, Isaiah 42:16)

(Jeremiah 22:21, Romans 2:23)

(John 3:16)

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The Cross Guides Us Home

The cross- symbol of God's love to people
The cross- symbol of God’s love to people

If we are not keeping our eyes on the cross, we are merely a blind man driving home.

Last Sunday our Sunday School teacher took us on a short field trip on the church campus. We were lead to the cornerstone of our church, and he gave us a brief history lesson about the church and a touching exhortation to be the church. He also pointed out the three crosses that stand high above our church building. The one in the middle stands the highest, and the two on each side a little lower. The two lower crosses represent the crosses of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus. The higher one, representing the cross of Jesus.  The message was particularly special to me because those crosses, the highest one, in particular, holds special value in my life.

In September 2005, my parents were in town visiting. The second day they were here, my mom and I dropped my children at pre-school and headed to Sam’s. We had just parked when she got a phone call. It was my dad. “He said something has happened, and I cannot see.”  Our Sam’s trip was averted, and we rushed back to my house to check on him. We would later end up in the emergency room to find out he had a stroke in his eye. This would be my dad’s second stroke. The first had affected his opposite eye. Now both eyes were impaired.

As hours passed, and the story unfolded, we found out he was in the car driving down Columbiana Road when the stroke besieged him. Our church sits on Columbiana Road. Although my dad had very limited vision, He said he could see ONE thing. The high cross that stands guard at the top of Shades Mountain Baptist Church.    He went on to explain that he knew if he slowly proceeded toward the cross, he could find his way home because I lived just down the street. Miraculously he drove himself home, the cross guiding him the whole way.

After our field trip last Sunday, we were walking back into the church and I mentioned my dad’s experience to my husband. He said to me, “I still do not understand how he drove home blind.” It was at that moment that God spoke to my heart. The message direct and simple, “If we are not keeping our eyes on the cross we are no better than a blind man driving home.” Wow! I had chills, and I love how God used that little Sunday School field trip to go beyond our teachers lesson and deposit His own message into my heart.

We are all just driving home friends. Where are we fixing our eyes? On the world, on our problems, on our pain, on our possessions, or on the cross?

Sometimes my vision gets distorted. There are many things the world has to offer to distract my eyes. My flesh wages war against my sight. The goal is not perfect vision, but progressive vision. We must always be advancing, focusing and refocusing towards that one thing that now or later will make all things clear and guide us without fail, even in darkness-The Cross.

I know your “drives” sometimes become treacherous. I know your vision often feels blurry. Mine too, but Keep returning your eyes to the cross friends. It is the only way to get you home.