Gratefulness Matters

A new study is coming in 2023! I’ve been working on Gratefulness Matters not only in my writing, but also in my heart. I’ve come to realize that something I run low on is gratitude. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I totally realize how blessed I am! I am overwhelmed with God’s goodness at every turn. But does gratitude shape how I navigate my day-to-day living? When frustrating scenes arise, is my heart inclined to groaning or gratitude? Is my mind quick to claim injustice or surrender to my sovereign King’s verdicts? 

Gratitude is a game changer. You’ve heard me say a thousand times in Truth Matters that our union with Christ is a game changer. Both are true! In fact, one helps the other. Only through my oneness with Christ will I ever begin to live with gratitude as my attitude. 

How about you? Are you mindful of your gratitude only when Aunt Suzy asks everyone around the Thanksgiving table to say what they are grateful for? Or does gratitude reside in your every thought and deed because of Christ? We are called to operate with thanksgiving not only for our good, but also for His glory. 

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  (Colossians 4:1)

Keep an eye out for this new study… because Gratefulness Matters.

The Ultimate Escape

When David is overwhelmed by his circumstances, he wishes to escape.

He writes,

Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
     I would fly away and be at rest;
yes, I would wander far away;
     I would lodge in the wilderness;
I would hurry to find a shelter
     from the raging wind and tempest.
(Psalm 55:6-8)

I have to admit I have felt this way this week. Life is overwhelming at present. I find myself deeply grieved, losing sleep, and not wanting to eat. I feel this way not because of busy schedules, but because loved ones are struggling, the world is full of crooks trying to rip me off, my body hurts, the future is uncertain, and on and on. 

When life is overwhelming, escape is an appealing option. But I’m encouraged by how David regroups:

But I call to God,
     and the Lord will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
     I utter my complaint and moan,
     and he hears my voice. (Psalm 55:16-17)

David understands that he can’t flee his circumstances, but he can flee to the Lord. Instead of wallowing in the mire of self-pity, he calls out to God. This is the ultimate escape. The same is true for me. God’s comfort is the only way out of my despair. 

David continues,

Cast your burden on the Lord,
     and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
     the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)

There is no need to escape the circumstances He has purposefully orchestrated for me, for He has promised to use them for my good. Instead, I escape my grief by seeking Him. 

I flee to Him.
I call out to Him.
I exalt Him.
I take comfort in Him.
I trust His sovereign hand.
I enter His rest.

The last line of Psalm 55 says it all. David simply declares, “I will trust in you.”

Meaningful Scars

Excerpt from Truth Matters, (Week Four, Day One):

To die to self is to put your sin to death. The truth of the matter is this is a daily endeavor. Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:11-12). Just as we need daily bread, so we need daily forgiveness and cleansing.

The concept of falling in sin reminds me of a time when my husband was videoing our three-year-old daughter running ahead of him down the sidewalk. She fell and scraped both of her sweet little knees. Watching the replay is cringeworthy! Of course, the story ends with her running back to her papa’s arms.

Likewise, our heavenly Father sees us when we are running in the wrong direction. He knows the fall is coming, yet He allows it. Why? For our sanctification. Our repentant sprint back into His arms ends with more than comfort. Christ’s atoning work on the cross means forgiveness and healing and restoration are ours! This beautiful fellowship we’ve been granted with the Father is our grandest reward.

Both of my spiritual knees are scraped up from sin. Though my scars are ugly, there is also a rich beauty in them because they serve as reminders of His forgiveness and mercy. These tumble marks represent wisdom gleaned! Spiritual scars are meaningful. Nothing is wasted with our good and gracious God.

SWEET Norms

This weekend, I had the honor of watching my closest friend’s fourth daughter get married. I’ve known this angel since her adolescence. She’s always been beautiful. She’s always been faithful to the Lord. She’s always loved His Word. She’s always served others with a joyful spirit. These things seem to come naturally to Caroline. What a blessing! Most of us fumble around trying to develop such disciplines. 

It is normal to find Caroline listening to a sermon or studying Scripture. It is normal to find her lending a helping hand to those in need. Smiling while accomplishing whatever task is before her is also normal. And now her smile will be met by her handsome groom every morning. His presence in her daily life will quickly become her new normal. It’s a fairytale ending for a princess who has faithfully waited for this good gift from her King. 

The newlywed days are a wonderful season of life. It is a season I remember fondly. Making a home with the man I love is utter delight. Building a life together from the ground up is a treasure. And, twenty-six years later, we are still making a home and building a life. 

Last week I sent Caroline a card with the acronym S.W.E.E.T. She probably didn’t need these friendly relationship reminders, but my supporter-advisor personality couldn’t help myself. 

Say yes whenever you can. (Ephesians 5:22-33))

We is better than me. (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

Every day, pray together. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Every time you’re annoyed, instead of grumbling in your spirit, pray a quick thank-you for your mate. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Today this is easy, but plan to always love him more than you love yourself, even when it is not easy. (Philippians 2:3)

There is nothing SWEETer than a relationship built on Christ. When two people determine to make Him their highest affection, the selfless actions above become norms. It is normal for me to say yes to Patrick’s dreams and suggestions, to consider myself his teammate, to pray with him, to thank the Lord for him, and to love him more than I love myself. Of course, I fail from time to time, but that is also normal. And guess what? There’s a normal grace for every failure. 

Congratulations to the newlyweds! May today be the day you love each other least, and may your love for one another be surpassed only by your love for Christ. 

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (1 Thessalonians 5:28)

Struggling Before God

I love the psalms. They have met me in every season of life since I was twelve years old. The psalmists’ raw honesty make them relatable. There have been dark periods of my life when I have wondered, “Can things be any worse?” And then I read the psalms. Yes. Yes, they can.

Psalm 88 is considered by some theologians to be the darkest psalm of the psalter. Heman acknowledges in verse one that God is the only One who can save him, saying, “Lord, the God of my salvation,” but things go downhill quickly.

Heman complains of being near death, abandoned as one who is dead, without strength, without friend or lover, and engulfed in terrors and sufferings that add up to great physical and emotional turmoil. He felt forgotten by God.

What is unique about this song is that it doesn’t offer us the usual story shift. You know, the one when everything turns out all right, or at least when the psalmist’s heart changes to praise despite his despair. Why? Are we missing the end of the psalm? No, there is purpose behind this difficult ending.

Though he suffered in his darkest place, Heman was undeterred in crying out all day and night to the Lord, the God he knew to be his salvation. We see Heman’s efforts in verses 1, 2, 9, and 13. His earnest and fervent prayers were continually offered from his place of grief, believing God would eventually answer. 

This type of faithful, active prayer brings change, not to God, but to us. Charles Spurgeon says, “Evil is transformed to good when it drives us to prayer.” When I am in the pit, my prayers are more desperate, more consistent, more meaningful, and more poignant. The act of being driven to prayer, though difficult, yields great reward: more good!

Psalm 88 shouldn’t be seen as a depressing, sad story without an appropriate ending. Rather, it is the struggle of one man in his personal pit of despair. But he struggled before God! This is beautiful. This is faith!

Psalm 18 

Lord, the God of my salvation,
I have cried out by day and in the night before You.

2 Let my prayer come before You;
Incline Your ear to my cry!

3 For my soul has had enough troubles,
And my life has approached Sheol.

4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I have become like a man without strength,

5 Abandoned among the dead,
Like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom You no longer remember,
And they are cut off from Your hand.

6 You have put me in the lowest pit,
In dark places, in the depths.

7 Your wrath has rested upon me,
And You have afflicted me with all Your waves. Selah

8 You have removed my acquaintances far from me;
You have made me an object of loathing to them;
I am shut up and cannot go out.

9 My eye grows dim from misery;
I have called upon You every day, Lord;
I have spread out my hands to You.

10 Will You perform wonders for the dead?
Or will the departed spirits rise and praise You? Selah

11 Will Your graciousness be declared in the grave,
Your faithfulness in Abaddon?

12 Will Your wonders be made known in the darkness?
And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

13 But I, Lord, have cried out to You for help,
And in the morning my prayer comes before You.

14 Lord, why do You reject my soul?
Why do You hide Your face from me?

15 I was miserable and about to die from my youth on;
I suffer Your terrors; I grow weary.

16 Your burning anger has passed over me;
Your terrors have destroyed me.

17 They have surrounded me like water all day long;
They have encircled me altogether.

18 You have removed lover and friend far from me;
My acquaintances are in a hiding place.

Built-In-Pillow

Our dog wears a puffy neck collar to prevent him from licking his paws and underarms. We’ve named it his BIP (Built-In-Pillow). To our surprise, he has grown to love his “Bippy.” He happily comes to us each time we need to put it on him. 

I’ve pondered Tempo’s affection for something that constrains him. It’s unusual to adore that which prevents you from doing what you want. If left to his own devices, however, he damages his skin. We restrain him because we love him. 

The Holy Spirit does something similar with us. His loving conviction warns us of potential dangers. He is our Built-In-Pillow, protecting us from ourselves! If left to our own devices, we would scratch every itch the world throws at us. Thankfully, we are not alone in this battle with our flesh. Jesus told His men, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).

When we reject the Holy Spirit’s conviction and pursue our sin, we neglect our calling, we limit our faith, we bind our ministry, and worst of all, we dishonor our Savior. Because we do not want these things to happen, the protection of the Holy Spirit (our BIP!), is a gift that we genuinely love and appreciate. Even through the pain of conviction and the sorrow of repentance, we rejoice because these things are evidences of our faith and our salvation. Our Bippy represents the Father’s deep love for us. 

I cannot begin to imagine where I’d be without the Holy Spirit’s guidance and benevolent restraint. I’m even grateful for the times when He has let me fail, because there is nothing so sweet as restoration nor as valuable as wisdom gleaned. 

Tempo and I have much in common: We love our Bippy!  

Graduation Prayer

It was my privilege to offer this prayer over this year’s graduating seniors of Highlands Latin School:

Father, it is with grateful hearts that we offer our praise to You, Lord Almighty, the King of all creation, for Your faithfulness in bringing us to this momentous occasion when Abi, Stuart, Ava, Amelia, James, Steven, Rosemary, Josh, and Sam close one chapter of life and begin another.

You were on Your throne when You thought of each of them before the foundation of the world. You were on Your throne when You intricately wove them in their mother’s wombs. You were on Your throne the moment they took their first inhale and You’ve been on Your throne for every birthday celebration since.

You were on Your throne through every storm of life, through every struggle, through every sickness, and even through devastating loss.

You were on Your throne through every triumph over sin, through every defeat of deception, through every social grace given in Your name, through every hour spent in diligence and dedication to the growth of their minds.

And You were on Your throne when major life decisions were made about this next chapter.

So, Lord, we ask that You be present now and remind them as they move out from under the umbrella of this institution that You are still on Your throne. You’ve ordained their steps. Their hearts make plans, but every answer is on Your tongue. 

Teach them to keep their hands open and resist clinging to lesser affections that cannot truly satisfy, but rather, make them eager for what You desire to place in their hands. For You are on Your throne seeing the full scope of their lives.

Remind Abi, Stuart, Ava, Amelia, James, Steven, Rosemary, Josh, and Sam that it is only through their submission and obedience to Your Son, Jesus Christ, that they will find life, freedom, contentment, peace, and even happiness. 

This is a very happy day, Lord! No more navy pants and skirts and knee-high socks. No more do-re-mi scales. No more long recitations and Latin translations. And yet, with every lesson learned and every note sung throughout their education, You have shaped them into more of Christ’s likeness. We trust You to continue doing so throughout all the days of their lives, both for their good and for Your glory, because You are on Your throne.

It’s in the matchless name of Jesus Christ we pray these things, Amen. 

April Showers

If April showers bring May flowers, what do Mayflowers bring? Pilgrims! I’ve always loved this little springtime joke. And though I’m not necessarily a fan of April showers, I do love signs of spring. Spring means more to me than a change in weather and new budding life on trees. It means summer is a-comin’! I’ve written often about my affection for the summer and all it happily represents for our lives and schedules. 

This April is particularly laden with must-dos. As Dolly Parton put it in Steel Magnolias, I’m “busier than a one-armed paper hanger!” If people are busy, does that make them important? No, it makes them busy. Perhaps it’s their particular season of life. Perhaps they don’t manage their time well. Perhaps they have too many part-time jobs (me!). There can be a myriad of reasons that someone is busy, but importance isn’t one of them. Can’t be. And here is why:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

At the foot of the cross, there is no black or white or rich or poor or busy or non-busy. No one is more important than another. If we are in Christ, our significance is secured by Him. To be in Christ is to be highly favored, beloved with a specific love, and called with an intentional calling. Those living in rebellion against His lordship not only forgo these benefits, they are also subject to His wrath. This may not sound politically correct, but it is biblically correct.

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him… (Psalm 103:17)

As the people of God, we fall at the foot of the cross in humble gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice. We kneel in total reverence to His lordship. We submit to His authority. We surrender to His will. And we offer our whole selves in every season of life. Whether in the sorrowful puddles of April showers or the joyful dance of May flowers, we are pilgrims on a journey of incredible grace and incomparable hope!

Happy spring, everyone!

Hope in Christ

In Peter’s writings he explains that our hope is fully grounded in Christ. It’s not a temporary hope or a false hope or even a meager hope. The hope we possess in Christ is utterly satisfying and totally complete! This is true because it’s based on what Christ has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. Our hope in Him both inspires and enables our action. We live out our hope no matter what. Pandemics, disease, division, even war cannot thwart our hope in Christ! 

How are you living out your hope?

We put out a new worship song with each new sermon series at Harbour Shores Church. This Sunday we are excited to debut Hope in Christ based in First Peter. 

HOPE IN CHRIST
We are grass that quickly fades
We are flow’rs that fall away
Yet Your Word is faithful, make us strong and able
By the Spirit’s perfect sway

Hope in Christ
O my soul
Hope in Christ
O my soul
Hope in Christ
Hope in Christ

Tested by Your holy fire
Chosen people, Your desire
Once so lost in darkness, now Your light shines ’round us
Make this anthem mark our life:

Hope in Christ
O my soul
Hope in Christ
O my soul
Hope in Christ
Hope in Christ

May ev’ry word I speak
May ev-ry thought I think
May ev’ry choice I make
Be all for Your name’s sake
Your grace displayed in me
Christ, my identity
Your pow’r in all I do
With each breath I choose to

Hope in Christ
O my soul
Hope in Christ
O my soul
Hope in Christ
Hope in Christ

There will be more grace to come
When we see Your perfect Son
His eternal glory seals redemption’s story
Hope is ours, forever won

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9)

We Have a Wonderful Guest at Our House

Our family recently lost a treasure as Patricia Jean Marshall (Aunt Pat) entered the Lord’s perfect presence, leaving behind this tired world of pain and suffering. If I’m honest, I’m a little jealous. I would give anything to catch a glimpse of what she’s seeing. She didn’t leave us empty-handed, however. Warm, vivid memories remain of her attention to beauty and her Christ-like love.

There are certain things that will always remind me of Aunt Pat. She taught me to love pimento cheese and lemon poppy seed bread. I remember beautiful breakfast tables with warmed plates. She also possessed the coolest refrigerator ever with a magic button on the inside of the door that served as a water dispenser. I recall a shopping scene when I’d fallen in love with a red Swatch shirt that I couldn’t afford, only to find out later she’d purchased it when I wasn’t looking. She was generous and “gifty” and a little bit sneaky—all qualities of the perfect woman!

Aunt Pat played a role in my singing career, often bringing me music when I was a young girl. Here are a few lyrics from a song I remember performing many times after she’d discovered it: 

We Have a Wonderful Guest at Our House
by Louis P. Leeman in 1955

We have a wonderful Guest at our house
He makes our home a heaven every day
And this wonderful Guest at our house
Has promised us He’ll never go away

He brought a lovely letter from His Father up above
And every day we read it, it tells us of His love
And when we go to sleep at night
He see that everything’s all right
This wonderful Guest at our house
He makes our home a heaven every day

I really mean it
He makes our home a heaven every day
His name is Jesus
He makes our home a heaven every day

I adored that “I really mean it” line—I felt so jazzy when I sang it! Aunt Pat taught me that faith is more than a feeling, however. She really meant it when she proclaimed God’s goodness. She really meant it when she prayed for me. She really meant it when she said, “I love you more.” I have known Christ’s love because of Pat Marshall. Watching her welcome the wonderful Guest into her house with such confident hope has shaped my faith.

And now, she is a guest in His house, realizing all she believed of her Savior was but a drop in the bucket of His true worth and glory. I am thankful for my godly heritage, the things taught to me by this special woman. I still really love pimento cheese and lemon poppy seed bread, but I am most grateful that I have a wonderful Guest at my house.