Gold Fence

Our Christmas tree looks different this year. It has a gold fence around it, standing guard against a very curious puppy. The tree limbs, the ornaments, the lights, the tree skirt, and the nativity scene are all shielded from harm. Of course, the puppy is protected, too. We’d hate for a massive blue spruce to land on him! 

This fence represents freedom for both the tree and the dog, despite that it’s a wall, a boundary, something meant to take away freedom. I’ve thought a lot about freedom this past year, how people value it, admire it, desire it, and even demand it. Our world is operating in chaos and borders, and yet believers continue to enjoy freedom in its purest form: in Christ.

My freedom in Him comes through my union to Him. He brings me freedom from my past, freedom from sin and its shackles, freedom from the control of evil, and freedom to rest in all that He has prepared for me. There’s an internal calm that comes from knowing He is my guard, my gold fence.

Christ’s death removed my shackles and placed them on the enemy instead. Satan is not a being that possesses equal power to God. He cannot be everywhere at once. He cannot predict the future. He has no authority over my life. He is not allowed past my gold fence.

I am in Christ. I am secure. I am safe. I am free. 

This Christmas, as we sit in the glow of tree lights, may we relish the freedom that is truly ours, the freedom that matters most: our freedom in Christ.

Math Problems

My daughter said “Thanks!” to me in a frustrated tone after I finished helping her with her math. She was angrier at the arithmetic than at me, but her sass couldn’t help but be noticed. When I questioned her, she quickly softened. After all, I hate math, too, and I had been pleasantly pursuing my own work till she interrupted. I felt like spouting off a “Thanks!” of my own. 

Pondering this scene now, I’m afraid this is what I do to my Heavenly Father—yell the occasional “Thanks!” upward for all these frustrations below. I may not have math homework to turn in, but many things don’t add up. I don’t like medical bills. I don’t like pulled back muscles. I don’t like counting calories. I don’t like gray hair. I don’t like deadly viruses. And I don’t like the bickering and division in our nation. “Thanks, Lord!” 

This is what I’m actually shouting every time I mutter a complaint—a sarcastic, irreverent “Thanks!” Is He not on His throne? Has He not ordained my steps? Certainly He is and He has. Is He surprised by my mathematical mishaps and wrong equations? No, He is not. 

I stand before my Creator empty-handed. I bring nothing of worth to offer Him. 

Enter Jesus—King of my heart, Lord of my life, Savior of my soul. He fills my hands with provision. He solves my math problems with perfection. He plans my future with promise. He is the reason I breathe in and out, and He is the One to whom I gratefully and humbly pray, “Thank You!” 

Oh friends, let us not lose sight of who is worthy of all our gratitude and worship, the Great Mathematician keeping all things in order. Let’s open our hands to Him. They hold nothing otherwise. 

Glorious Unveiling

It’s funny how people can respond so differently to the same thing. Right now some are raving over the change to autumn weather. To them, fall represents sweaters and s’mores and pumpkin spice lattes. To me, fall means an end to summer fun, a faster-paced schedule, and being cold for the next nine months! I congratulate all you happy fall lovers. There is no bitterness here, but I do not get the thrill!

Here comes the spiritual analogy… people also respond very differently to Jesus Christ. His hometown folks understood Him to be the son of a simple carpenter. Religious leaders thought Him a threat. Many today see Him as a good man, a teacher, or a prophet. But to those whom He has drawn to Himself and given a glorious unveiling, we know Him as Sovereign Lord. 

If you’re reading this and you simply have opinions about Jesus, much as you do about sweater weather, the reality is your face is veiled.

…but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:16-18)

Christ’s value surpasses our personal likes and dislikes, our notions and ideas. He is who He is, whether we recognize Him or not. Our belief, or unbelief, doesn’t change His position of power and authority. And remarkably, though He is reigning supreme over all of His creation, He chooses to love us specifically and intimately and with a purposeful unveiling so that we can comprehend Him as our Savior and Lord.

We may love (or loathe) the change of seasons. Opinions about such things vary, and all are valid. But when it comes to Jesus, the One to whom all nature bows, there is no opinion; there is only truth. Let us acknowledge who He is and bend the knee in humble reverence. If we don’t bow now, we will later, for He is King.

…so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)

Never Lonely

Loneliness is hard. 

I am often alone in my thoughts, alone in my dreams, alone in my passions, alone in my fears, and alone in my sin.

I have loving children, an adoring husband, faithful friends, a supportive church family, and yet I still feel keenly alone at times. Why?

There’s a void that only my Maker can fill. When I’m thriving in relationship with Him, that space is fully occupied, and loneliness itself becomes void. But when I’m pursuing my soul’s satisfaction in the temporary treasure of earthly relationships, loneliness reigns.

Every night I wake up between 3:00 and 4:00 AM. I head downstairs to put our puppy outside. Then I come back upstairs to my bed and the pondering begins. Tonight, I’m lying here contemplating my relationships, and as precious as they are, my chest aches with loneliness. I could easily find tears. I’m reminded yet again that Jesus is my best Friend, my antidote for loneliness. He is the Friend who sticks closer than a brother and lays down His life for me. Because of my union with Him, I am never alone. I am not lonely.

With Jesus, I have zero risk of being left. I will never be misunderstood, mistreated, misrepresented, misguided, rejected, disowned, forsaken, betrayed, or labeled. The friendship I find in Him not only solves loneliness, it provides a safe haven.

Loneliness is hard. The reason this is true is that it was never intended for my life. Perfect companionship is mine through my union with Christ Jesus. He promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Safe Biking

I have a little rearview mirror on the handlebar of my bike so I can see when cars are coming behind me. Sometimes I find myself peering into that narrow reflection more than the wide road ahead. I’m either looking for what’s back there or I’m gazing at myself. Either one is dangerous! If I’m looking in the wrong direction, how will I know where to go and, more importantly, how will I avoid hazardous obstacles?

I’ve written about this topic before; I must be directionally challenged! Unfortunately, I’ve had lots of experience with aiming toward the wrong thing. I’ve stared directly into the mirror of my personal vanity, ego, and pride. Other times, career moves or relational dreams have had my full focus. Regardless of which idol steals my eyes from the Prize, trouble looms.  

Instead, I want to be like David, with my eyes continually on the Lord.

My eyes are continually toward the Lord, For He will pluck my feet out of the net. (Psalm 25:15)

Here is my five-step plan for keeping the right focus:

  1. Receive the Holy Spirit’s conviction for wandering from Christ.
  2. Repent of the obstacle blocking my view of Christ.
  3. Replace the obstacle with more of Christ.
  4. Remind myself that my efforts are only successful due to my union with Christ.
  5. Repeat this over and over until I am with Christ.

How determined are you to cease gazing on lesser loves? Visual victory can be ours through Christ. Here’s to safe biking!

The Path

Sometimes the path is clear
The journey well defined
My Guide feels ever near
His peace and rest are mine

Sometimes the path is dark
The journey hard to see
My Guide feels ever far
Has He forgotten me?

My heart leads me astray
My focus all within
My bones start to decay
It’s then I call on Him

Oh teach me, Lord, to trust
To know You never change
Help me to call You first
And lay down all the pain

Then will I see again
The path that leads to You
My Comforter, my Friend
My Savior, tried and true

Daytime Moonlight

In the early morning hours, I can sometimes see the moon from the night before even as the sun is already revealing its brilliant light. With each dawn comes fresh mercies and compassion from the Lord. “They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). I know this is true. I depend on it. And yet, I have the tendency to look back and focus on the night, those times of difficulty and trial.

I took a bike ride at 7:00 this morning and noticed the moon was still lingering in the sky. It was the perfect picture of traces of the night trying to remain in my day. Instantly, the Lord began to work on my heart, for there are many hurts and failures of “nights” gone by that try to rule my thoughts and dictate my day.

I’ve been betrayed. I’ve been abandoned. I’ve been slandered. I’ve been lied to. I’ve been scorned. I’ve been defamed. I’ve been threatened. I’ve been ridiculed. I’ve been reprimanded. I’ve been reviled. I’ve been rejected. I’ve also been guilty of similar evils. Christ has redeemed all of it. He shines like the morning sun upon my nighttime, covering me with the precious healing light of truth and forgiveness. And yet at any time, any one of these dark night memories can easily seep into my daytime thinking.

I have two choices: I can mope in the moonlight of difficult nights, or I can soak in the sunlight of what has been made new. A dawn of fresh breath is mine to breathe! Each day offers new hope in Christ Jesus.

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

My hope remains even when the moon is still in sight. I don’t forget the hardship, but it no longer influences me. I look upon it and tremble no longer. I see its purpose in my life and recognize it as growth and wisdom gleaned. I now see the hardship as blessing. The “moonlight” simply becomes a part of my story, which has been perfectly designed by my Creator. 

I will not live in the past. I am not stuck there. The fresh dawn is mine to enjoy as I place my hope in my Savior, the One who makes all things new and restores His people.

…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

O King, It Was You

I’ve strapped on my boots
My laces are tied
It’s time to go
Where I cannot hide

I head back in time
To places once been
Each memory
Is like an old friend

Some gentle and light
Some haunting and deep
Each one reveals
The things I now keep

Recalling my roots
The sunshine and shade
His choice, not mine
I am who He made

The former, the now
The triumphs, the falls
The rest, the plow
My heart holds it all

To note where I’ve walked
Is helpful to me
I see my path
With such clarity

Each moment was shaped
Like clay in His hand
No one can thwart
His masterful plan

My joy and my pain
O King, it was You
For Your great name
You’ve grown me in truth

Love Bank

If you saw my previous post, you know we recently buried our seventeen-year-old dog, Maestro. He was my third dog. Didi was the family poodle before I was born and lived till I was age twelve. After her, Callie saw me through the rest of my schooling and into my marriage. Maestro lived with us five years before our girls were born. His passing has inspired much personal reflection.

In the last eight years or so, I have been through the self-evaluation/self-awareness ringer. I’ve learned more about myself than I ever cared to know. What I’ve come to realize is that I love love. What I mean is that I love to love and to be loved. Of course, who doesn’t love to be loved? But I REALLY love to be loved. I am in a constant battle with myself concerning all of my relationships. Do they love me as much as I love them? Is their love bank equally full? I have unknowingly pursued the answer to such questions my entire life. Some relationships have suffered and even ended from my tireless pursuit. 

I give out love to my detriment, always hoping it is returned in equality. Many show me great love, but I usually doubt if its level is equal to mine. This is a foolish game, an endless source of frustration and unintentional hurt. Everyone expresses love differently. Just because it isn’t expressed in the same way as mine, doesn’t mean it is less than mine. It has taken me a long time to understand this.

After losing Maestro, I realized what the love of dogs has meant to me throughout my life. They returned love to me equally. I never had to question it, measure it, or even pursue it. It was just there, anytime I wanted or needed it. When this love went missing, the Lord dealt with my heart. He took all the gained wisdom of the last eight years and applied it directly to my wounds. He’s been convicting me for a while to choose Him more quickly, to direct my affection toward Him more fully, and to pour out my adoration on Him more earnestly. 

What comes back to me will never be equal. No, His love far surpasses what I could offer. Christ’s love also outweighs anything His creation could give me. My husband, my daughters, my parents, my dearest friends, or my pets—none of them can love me as He loves me. Yes, He comforts me through human hugs and canine snuggles, but He alone is the source of pure and perfect love. 

Over the course of this past year, every time I said goodbye to Maestro thinking we were losing him, I always thanked him. I thanked him for his faithful love, for never denying me of it, and for lavishing me with it. It is with a precious bittersweetness that I praise the Lord for this hole in my heart that Maestro leaves behind. It is a reminder of my love bank and how I should be spending it. 

Where do you invest your love?

Seventeen Years

For seventeen years, I got to smooch
Sweet puppy dog cheeks on my pooch

For seventeen years, I was greeted with excitement
That Westie grin told me what his heart meant 

For seventeen years, I got to play
With a boy determined to get his way

For seventeen years, I cuddled with him
He was certainly “man’s best friend”

For seventeen years, he watched our lives unfold
The birth of our babies and stories told 

For seventeen years, he was a sounding board
Fur tissue for my tears, comfort from the Lord

For seventeen years, I’ve been blessed with my Buppy
Forever grateful for the gift of such a puppy

For the next seventeen, I’ll miss him so
My angel boy, my sweet Maestro