Motherhood Matters

Dear Moms,
In case you wondered if it matters — it does.

When you’re in the seemingly unending routine of nursing, burping, changing diapers and picking up cheerios, it matters.
When you’re up all night caring for and comforting a sick child, it matters.
When you’re fighting for your time to pray and read your Bible in the busy years, it matters.
When you’re teaching little hands to fold and littles hearts to pray, it matters.
Wen you’re juggling working, homemaking, parenting, and everything else, it matters.
When you’re putting band-aids on “boo-boos” or taking budding athletes to ER for stitches, it matters.
When you’re baking cookies, planning magical birthday parties, and organizing all the family holiday plans, it matters.
When you’re going to parent-teacher conferences, being team mom, and chaperoning the field trip or dance or class trip, it matters.
When you’re hugging and wiping away those first broken heart tears, it matters.
When you’re helping with homework, getting tutors, finding summer camps, scheduling lessons, and believing they can, it matters.
When you’re explaining house rules and why there is a curfew (when “nobody else has one”) for the 60th time, it matters.
When you’re wise enough to acknowledge the anxiety, get them counseling and stay as close as you need to, it matters.
When you’re courageous enough to drop them off at college, it matters.
When you’re strong enough to take those “I miss home” phone calls without falling apart, it matters.
When you’re always available to talk — about the first job questions, serious relationship issues, and the life questions, it matters.
When you’re encouraging them that the seemingly unending routine of nursing, burping, changing diapers and picking up cheerios matters…it matters.

From Proverbs 31 —
…She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family…
…She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks…
…She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy…
…She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.


It’s Not About Bunnies

This weekend is not about a bunny; it’s about a Lamb.

The Babe born in Bethlehem at Christmas
is the sacrificial Lamb of Good Friday
and the Risen Lord of Easter!

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, within a few miles of some shepherds tending their sheep.
But those weren’t ordinary shepherds and those weren’t common sheep.
Those shepherds were tending the perfect, unblemished lambs destined to become temple sacrifices….
Lambs that would be killed to take away the people’s sin.

Yes, it was to shepherds watching over the temple sacrifices that angels announced the birth of Jesus…
the Lamb of God who would be killed to take away the sins of the world.

Friday looked like the end, but it was just the beginning!

Starting on Easter Sunday…
Roman soldiers guarding the tomb felt an earthquake, saw an angel, and dropped “like dead men.”
The angel moved the stone, revealing nothing but an empty tomb!
The grave clothes lay there…
in the shape of the body that had been resurrected — just got up and left through the cloth strips!
Two worshipping women fell at the risen Jesus’ feet, physically holding onto Him.
The risen Jesus walked, talked and ate with groups and individuals.
The risen Jesus appeared to 500 people at one time!

EVERY EASTER, we remember…
The tomb was empty!
Jesus is alive – and so is hope!
The old has gone the new has come!
The Lamb of God is Lord of all!

Easter is not about a bunny; it is about the Lamb who is Lord!

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

May the hope and joy of the Jesus’ resurrection fill you today and change you forever.

Happy Valentine’s Day…with a Different Kind of love

The culture has completely hijacked the word “love,” and how that word connects to women. Consider today’s movies, modern music, social media, and the latest Superbowl halftime show. They have tried to reduce love to sex, and women to objects that can be lusted after, used and discarded. But that is so far from the truth of who Jesus says women are. Culture’s shallow, self-centered “love” falls so short of how Jesus has purely and deeply loved women from eternity past. Consider how God-breathed scripture portrays women and Jesus’ love for them.

Jesus’ love respects; it doesn’t degrade. 
The greatest event revealed to the human race is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It proved His sacrifice on the cross was accepted and sufficient. It opened the way for imperfect human beings to be in a close, loving relationship with the perfect Almighty God.  To whom did Jesus first unveil His resurrection? Whom did He trust with the first knowledge that the wonderful, the impossible had happened? Women.

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’ But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.’“ (Mark 16:1-6) Accounts in Matthew 28:1-7, Luke 24:1-8 and John 20:1 confirm this encounter.

While men in ancient times were treating women like property, Jesus gives these women prominence. In a day when women were not acknowledged as having identities or worth of their own, Jesus records their names all throughout the eternal Word, the Bible. He gave women the privilege of front row seats to the greatest event in human history! That’s how Jesus values and loves women.

Jesus’ love builds up; it doesn’t tear down.
Not long before the cross and resurrection, Jesus made another bold, counter-cultural statement of how He loved and valued women.

“While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly. ‘Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’” (Mark 14:3-9)

Again, Matthew 26:6-13, Luke 7:37-50 and John 12:3-8 give more detail, like the fact that the woman who sacrificed the expensive perfume for Jesus was Mary (of “Mary & Martha” fame, sister of Lazarus.) We also learn that the loudest critic of poor Mary was Judas Iscariot (future betrayer of Jesus) who saw her, not as a valued individual or devoted worshipper of Jesus as she was, but merely as an obstacle to wealth. Judas is identified in John’s account as a thief who helped himself to the community money bag. Is it possible that today’s loudest critics and demeanors of women also have self-centered motives?

In contrast to Judas, Jesus comes to Mary’s defense. “Leave her alone…Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing…” Jesus declares Mary’s worth and wisdom before the men. He praises her right actions, implying that Judas’ thinking and actions are just plain wrong. More than that, Jesus memorializes Mary; He gives her a lasting legacy, saying, “wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Jesus’ love gives; it doesn’t take.
The Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42) who came to draw water at the well where Jesus was resting didn’t just have an empty jar. Her life and heart were utterly empty because, over and over, those she went to for love had taken from her and given her nothing. Her past had taught her to see herself as an invisible, non-person at best, as guilty and shameful at worst. That is how she expected everyone to treat her. Scripture tells us she came at noon, the heat of the day. Perhaps she was avoiding other women’s judging glances. Now there was this man, and worse yet, a Jewish man. Jews did not associate with Samaritans, but looked down on them as half-breeds, impure people, not “true Jews.” Past ancient Israelite sin and exile had resulted in the Samaritans being a people blended between Jews and foreign nations – another reason for this woman to see herself as worthy of disdain.

However, her interaction with a purely loving Jesus changed everything. Rather than treating this woman as invisible and good-for-nothing, Jesus actually spoke to her! He did not order her like a servant; he respected her and politely asked for a drink! In that moment, Jesus gave her worth! He declared that she actually had something of value to give! He spoke into her life that she was not a “less-than” or a “good-for-nothing.” This unexpected kindness bewildered her. She asked, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” Jesus’ reply reveals the depth of His genuine love for her in not answering her question, but giving her to information she desperately needs.

Jesus knows the limits of our finite minds in trying to grasp infinite truth. Sometimes Jesus’ deepest expression of love is not giving us the answer we seek, but leading us to the right question. So He guides her through a conversation where she asks questions and He keeps not answering her question, but giving her deeper and deeper spiritual truth. Mired down by human thinking and a past she wants to hide from, she leans into Jesus’ offer of living water (so she doesn’t have to face women at the well anymore.) When Jesus tells her to go bring her husband and she responds that she has none, she discovers that He knows everything about her life (even that she has been through 5 “husbands” and is now living with a man, unmarried.) She learns Jesus is special, calls Him a prophet, and asks Him to clarify the right place to worship. That’s like us standing before God and asking what the right denomination is – kind of irrelevant. Yet Jesus doesn’t belittle her; He lovingly gives her a bigger picture of the worship God expects, worship tied not to a special place, but to Spirit and Truth. Encouraged by Jesus’ interaction with her, she tosses out the biggest truth she knows. Will He confirm or deny? She says, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Here Jesus gives this woman the greatest gift humanity ever received (knowledge of who He is), perfectly wrapped for her in the exact context she needed to understand. Jesus declares, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” This was the only time before His trial that Jesus specifically called Himself the Messiah and this revelation was given to – wait for it – a woman. She dropped her empty jar and ran back to town full of excitement and truth. She completely forgot her past as a nobody or good-for-nothing; the Messiah had given her worth in talking to her, teaching her, and gifting her with a profound message to tell everyone – “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” Jesus gave her an eternal purpose. After she told the whole town about Jesus, many came to believe that “this man really is the Savior of the world.” Jesus highly valued and gave great worth to this woman.

DEAR WOMEN: On this Valentine’s Day, blot out the compromised “love” of the culture and remember that you are deeply loved — Jesus’ way. Jesus declares your worth and value. He revealed His greatest accomplishment – the resurrection — to women just like you. Jesus sees your worship and sacrifices for Him — that the culture criticizes or overlooks — as beautiful and worthy of remembering. Jesus loves you enough to pursue you, meet you at the well, speak to your heart, enlarge your thinking, draw you into relationship with Him, and give you eternal purpose. Do not be fooled by counterfeit cultural love. Rest in this perfect love — love that respects, builds up and gives you what you need most.

Looking for Something New

Most of us girls love a good shopping trip, right? We put on our “going out for the day” clothes, do our hair and make-up, and head out looking for something new. It might be a new sweater in the latest fall color or new jeans with the “in” look and fit. After all, last years’ jeans are so — you know — last year! This time of year the guys may be out there hunting deer, but we’d rather be hunting the perfect new Christmas party look.

Don’t new things make us feel great? I confess. I have two olive green tops in my closet that look almost identical. One is several years old and the other I got two weeks ago. I walked into the shop, tried the top on, and even said to myself, “I already have a top this color.” Never mind that. I liked how it made me feel and I bought it. With something new for fall, I was excited to log into my Zoom meeting last week wearing – you guessed it – my new olive green top.

Why do we have such a desire for new things? Maybe God wired us that way. NEW is where we’re headed, after all. In the book of Revelation — the last book in the Bible and the one that reveals the end of the story for humanity – chapter 21 tells us that Christians are headed to a place where NEW is the new normal. This is not an isolated New Testament idea. You’ll find the same concept if you look in the Old Testament – Isaiah 65:17-19.

Revelation 21:1-5 reads:

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’  He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’

Every Christian is headed to a place where everything will be new. Our hearts do long for newness – but NEW is not just where we’re headed. The ongoing process of being made new is going on right now in every person who follows Jesus as Lord and Savior. To be clear, a Christian is not just someone who shows up in church on Christmas. Checking a box on a survey doesn’t make you a Christian, either. Christians are people who have realized their way of thinking, acting, speaking and overall living is not perfect – not holy – not pleasing to a perfect God. So they asked Jesus (God) to forgive them for all that has been wrong in their lives. And Jesus COULD forgive them because He came to earth as both man and God, lived a perfect life, paid the death penalty on the cross for everything every person who ever lived ever did or will do, and then came back to life – proving He was infinite God and had overcome infinite sin.

If you are a Christian, then you are in the process of being made new. The second part of Romans 6:4 tells us, “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” And in case you’re wondering how complete this “becoming new” process is, check out the second part of Isaiah 62:2 – “…you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.”

The Lord bestowing a new name is so much more than getting a nickname. In the Bible, a person’s name represents the entire character of that person. So the newness God is bringing is not only on the surface. God is working out in every Christian an extreme makeover – new thoughts, new plans, new purposes, new desires, new priorities, new personality, new emotions, new responses to life events, all new character. All the things in our past and present that are not perfect, not holy, not pleasing to God are being removed or transformed into beautiful, holy perfection. Now that is SOME kind of new.

Girls – when we go shopping, we’re looking for a new OUTfit, but the longing of our hearts is for a beautiful, totally new IN-fit. Our deepest longing is for this magnificent transformation — that God is doing in every Christian — to be complete.

If you’re not a Christian and you want God to start that beautiful extreme make-over in your mind, heart and habits – just tell Him. Ask Him to forgive your past based on Jesus’ death on the cross. Invite Him into your life. And be sure to tell another Christian who can walk with you on this exciting journey. Consider it a life-long spiritual shopping trip where you’re always getting something new.

Each time you get the urge to go shopping now, will you first take a minute to thank God for the exquisite new forever home He is preparing for you in Heaven — and for the extreme makeover He is working in you right now? Ask Him to show you how you can cooperate with Him as He gets rid of the old and brings in the best version of the new you!

Lessons from a Hummingbird Bully

During the first few days after I put out the sugar water for our local hummingbirds, they responded with obvious delight. Half a dozen tiny birds visited the feeder frequently, darting back and forth in every direction, doing what I affectionately call their “sugar-buzz ballet.” How I enjoyed seeing them zip in, hover at the feeder, sip briefly, and then zoom away. They are amazing creatures!

A few weeks later, after making sure the feeder was full, I took a trip for a few days. I returned after a long weekend to see radically different behavior at the feeder. Instead of a delightful dance of several birds, there was primarily one standing guard. He seemed to have declared that all the sugar water in the feeder was his and dove aggressively at any other bird that came close.

I was outraged at this bite-sized bully. The nerve! He had not done anything to produce the food. I had provided it freely as a gift for all the hummingbirds to enjoy. It wasn’t like he was low on food; he’d eat a couple of ounces every day, but the feeder held 8 times that. That bullying bird had gone from civilized sharing to being downright cruel to all hummingbird-kind around him.

And then it clicked. What I was feeling is how God feels when He sees us people hoarding and bullying each other over our sugar water — money (or any material thing). The hummingbird bully had not created that sugar water. He had only found it! It was a gift! Every material blessing we have is a gift from God. God says in James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” We don’t create money anymore than that hummingbird mixed up that sugar water. Where do our material blessings come from? God says in Deuteronomy 8:18. “…it is the He (the Lord) who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

Maybe the hummingbird’s problem (and ours) is that he wanted to be in charge. He thought he was a pretty big deal, all 3 inches of him. He was so important that nobody else could come into his territory or drink from his feeder (even though none of that was true.) OK – maybe I am crediting the hummingbird with a little too much mental capacity, but that IS often how we humans think. In our hearts we think, “I am the boss of me (and everybody else.) This is mine, all mine, and you can’t have it.” (It doesn’t matter if we really need all of it or not.) We only have to look a verse earlier in Deuteronomy 8, connecting verse 17 and 18, to correct out thinking. “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth…’ ”

At some point, all the hummingbirds will have gone south for the winter. Then all the sugar water the bully hummingbird had fought so viciously to keep for himself will sit there…wasted. None of the other birds will have enjoyed it as I intended. None of the other birds will have been nourished by it as I had hoped. How many of us hoard and fight viciously for material things while we’re here on earth? After we’re gone, then what? Will others speak of us as “bully birds”? Will they talk about who could have been blessed by our sharing? I wonder if there is anyone in your life or mine today whom we could nourish or even fill with obvious delight – by sharing our sugar water.