Blind Bart.

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The safety of Jericho was a draw for the beggars of the region. To be able to stay inside a locked fortress every night was second only to having an actual home of their own. The beggars joined together in groups, helping each other out, trading earnings, and swapping stories every night.

The hustle of Jericho during the day was cacophonous. One door, one road, thousands of travelers, man and beast. Beggars waited at the gate every morning to be the first out the door to take their places, not wanting to miss even a moment of gaining an extra shekel from a generous hand.

Bartimaeus, being blind, was far more dependent on his fellow beggars. He was led each morning to his post and brought back through the gates every night. Bartimaeus had his spot, familiar and safe. He would spread his only coat – the one that kept him warm at night and gave him comfort during the day – and sit on the side of the road. The coat allowed him to catch items tossed to him without having to scramble for them or wonder if he was picking up a stone or a piece of bread. At night, he would gather his coat together and throw it over his back like a bag to carry home for his friends to help decipher what was inside.

Being a beggar had its advantages, specifically when it came to news and gossip. Passersby did not quiet their conversation near invisible beggars on the side of the road. Every night, the beggars of Jericho would gather around warm fires, sharing stale bread and rotten fruit, and swap stories of what they heard that day.

The one name that was passed around more than any other was the name “Jesus of Nazareth.” A man from a nothing town from a nobody family who was busy traveling around the countryside with a group of uneducated fishermen, a tax collector, and a zealot. But it wasn’t their atypical composition that prompted the stories. It was what Jesus was doing. Stories of a man who healed. Sometimes he healed one person. But, he was also known to have entire villages brought to him and he healed every single person with an infirmity. He had healed without even being in the same town! He healed with his voice; he healed with his hand. Rumors were that he had actually touched the untouchables – lepers – and cleansed them completely! The stories always ended with the storyteller whispering, “I wonder if he’ll ever come here?”

Bartimaeus would tuck each story into the back of his mind. Silently, he echoed the same question, “What if he came to Jericho?”

Then one day, word on the street was that he wasn’t just passing by; he was there. The city with one door, yet somehow he had entered without Bartimeaus knowing! But, that night, the news around the campfire was retold with excitement: “He’s here! He’s in town! The one we’ve been talking about has arrived!”

But just as quickly as he arrived, he left. That morning, Bartimaeus had been brought to his post and left sitting on his coat. The noise of the day rose with the sun. Feet pounding on the hard ground. Wheels creaking and groaning as they were pushed and pulled up the road. Horses clopping by, hauling loads. Donkeys braying, protesting their work load. Soldiers riding by on horses with crisp hoof beats, distinct from the work horses who simply clunked along. Mothers yelling at their lagging children. Kids laughing and little sandals pattering by in a hurry to catch up. Men greeting each other and yelling at their animals. The switch of a shepherd distinct as he ushered his sheep out to pasture. A chicken running by, followed by one little girl yelling at her lost fowl to come back. Conversations, laughter, dogs… it all melded together and drowned out the one, lone man asking if they could spare a piece of a bread.

And then, Bartimaeus’ trained ears heard it. The name!

“It’s Jesus!”

“Jesus is coming!”

“Look – it’s Jesus!”

“Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!”

He rose to his feet, leaning on his walking stick and straining to hear more, but the crowd jostled him and rushed past. People were laughing and talking and he could feel the press of the crowd as more and more people walked by. The name “Jesus” was scattered here, then there, but he had no way of knowing where the owner of the name actually was. The crowd was too big – they were going by too fast!

So, he began to yell the only thing he could think of: “Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!”

His initial yell was not loud enough and elicited no response from the moving crowd. He tried again, louder: “Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!” Then again. And again. And again. Each time rising in volume, in urgency, straining forward, leaning on his walking stick, free hand outstretched to the passing crowd, hoping to get someone’s attention, yet fearful of getting lost in the shuffle and never finding his way home again.

The screaming did finally garner attention, but from irritated passers-by who insisted that he “be quiet!” Jesus didn’t have time for a beggar. Undeterred, he screamed louder!

“Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!”

To his utter amazement, the footsteps began to still. The ruckus of the crowd quieted. One voice, further up the hill, spoke, but not loud enough for him to know what was being said. Then, someone tugged at his elbow, “Cheer up! He wants to see you!” In his rush, the coat was kicked aside and left behind. All of his day’s earnings lost to the trampling feet and blowing dust of the roadside. He didn’t care; the Master was calling him.

The person guiding him stopped. He knew someone was in front of him and out of habit, he sank his head to his chest and stooped his shoulders. The crowd was silent. A gentle voice asked, for Bartimaeus’ ears alone, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Not, “What do you want?” Not, “Who do you think you are to call to me?” But, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Head down, voice trembling, the beggar, Blind Bartimaeus – known by his infirmity, not by his character – voiced his sole desire: “Teacher, I want to see.”

Not just the improbable. The impossible.

“Go. Your faith has healed you.”

Bartimaeus raised his head. “Blind” was his defining characteristic no longer for when he lifted his eyes, he looked full-on at the face of his Savior with perfect, brand-new eyes. Eyes that saw the Light of the World.

And Bartimaeus was never the same.

Freedom.

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I’ve talked just a bit about my weight-loss journey. It’s been an interesting one these past few months and I’m so thankful to have finally found something that works for me and I love every bit of it! But, it has made me much more aware of the food around me.

One reason I love the lifestyle I have now chosen is because of something called “food freedom.” I am able to live, eat, and enjoy going out because I am not really restrained by anything. This has been revolutionary and I’m so glad I have found this freedom.

When I scroll through Facebook, though, in between politics, clothing ads, movie commercials, and all my dear friends who are selling everything under the sun from home – I see exercise videos, blogs about healthy eating, healthy recipe videos, and weight loss testimonials. It’s a constant barrage of “eat this, not that”, move more, look like me, dress like this and you’ll good to go.

Food used to be the way to bring families and friends together. Where did everyone gather to celebrate surviving a year in the new world? At the dinner table. What do people bring over to welcome a new baby? A meal. Need a good chat with a friend? Let’s do lunch. Want to find out about their day at school? Eat dinner together. Food draws us together.

Yet right now, it almost feels like food is also driving us apart. I can eat this, but not that. If I eat this, I’ll gain weight. If I don’t eat this, I’ll feel better. Serve me this, but not that. Oh, you eat that? I don’t. You don’t eat this? I do.

Ahhh!

I read a devotional today that hit home so well, from SheReadsTruth. Here’s an excerpt that, I thought, sums this up quite nicely:

There are countless difficulties in life, opportunities to be divided over race, gender, theology, and history. And food, instead of becoming a means to crush those divides—to draw near to one another, armed with soups, fruits, breads, vegetables, and meats—has become one more line of division.

Christ died for all; this is what the Bible says. I don’t want to be known by what I eat or don’t eat. I want to be known by how I love and Who I’m loved by.

So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. Do not tear down God’s work because of food (Romans 14:19-20).

Whatever struggle you’re caught in the throes of today, know that you are loved by Christ. He spread His own body, bleeding and broken, to fit a cross you could never bear on your own. Don’t destroy your own body by what you do or don’t eat. Christ died for all—every curve, every bulge, and every stretch-mark—all of it.

Freedom. Not just “food freedom.” Freedom. From all of it.

Let’s use our freedom to just love each other. To not worry about our appearance, how many more pounds we’d like to lose, how quickly that baby weight is (or is not) coming off, if she eats dessert and you don’t, if she buys organic and you don’t care… Let’s just love each other. Isn’t the world divided and broken enough as it is? Let’s not split hairs over food anymore.

Be known by Who you love and are loved by and taste the joy of freedom the way it was meant to be served.

Remarkable Faith.

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I enjoy teaching  Bible stories to children because I get to put flesh on the skeleton stories of Scripture. I love making verses come alive – to see understanding light up in a child’s face when those words become more than merely print on an old page.

The Bible is not a book of disjointed stories, though. It’s one story – the Story of Redemption. The entirety of Scripture points to Jesus. You can hear His voice and see His footprints and fingerprints all over every book of the Bible. The Bible is not about people – our goodness or even our plight. It’s not even a continuous story about the chosen Jews; it’s about Jesus.

Many Bible stories take only a paragraph or less to tell. We don’t get background information, physical descriptions, or even follow-up in most cases. I’m thinking specifically of the Gospels – the people that got to meet Jesus in person. We’ll read about being “blind from birth”, having leprosy, been “bleeding for 12 years”, or was a beloved Centurion. We read about their brief encounter with Jesus… and we move on.

Ultimately, those quick verses are meant to point us to Jesus. They’re meant to bring glory to what He did, not who these people were or how they ended up afterwards. If the Bible spent too much time on extraneous facts, we’d completely miss the point of Jesus Himself.

However, God also gave us an imagination. He gave us history, facts, and cultural clues that help us fill out the skeletons of these stories. We are able to put what could be flesh and features to them and in so doing, we can more fully understand what happened. Filling in the blanks helps us relate to the people we could easily skim over in our reading of stories we’ve known since childhood. It helps us see that we are not so far removed from Bible characters and heroes of the faith. When done well, these fully fleshed out stories even draw us closer to Jesus, not distracting or giving glory to the people of the Bible, but continuing to give the honor back to the to Whom it’s due.

This is one of my personal favorite ways to write. I’ve touched on Legion, the woman with the blood issue, and Mary Magdalene in my blogs, as well as many others in Bible lessons for church. So when I found out about a book being released in July entitled Remarkable Faith, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it!

Shauna Letellier did not disappoint. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the privilege of reading an advance copy and getting to know Shauna and her heart behind writing this book. She covers a variety of miracles from the Gospels, focusing on the people whose faith Jesus Himself marveled at. Take for instance the paralytic whose friends brought him to Jesus. This is a classic story I’ve taught many times in church, but honestly, I’d never thought extensively about the paralytic’s life before he was healed. Shauna described his situation in a way that made it easy to picture a paralyzed man in a lonely house, waiting for someone – anyone – to come help him with his most base of needs, unable even to swish the flies from his bedsores. Puts the story in a different light, doesn’t it?

What I loved most about the book was how Shauna helped me see myself in each of these people that are merely a blip on the pages of Scripture. These were not random people plucked from Israel who just happened to run into Jesus. These were people with names, lives, stories, needs… and faith. It was their faith that set them apart and landed them in the Gospels.

But, it wasn’t always the pretty, perfect faith that we find ourselves usually striving for. It was a weak, helpless, panicked faith. And Jesus marveled at them. If He can marvel at them, maybe He’ll marvel at me, too, because I’m certainly at least as broken as they were, if not more so.

While there are many quotes I would love to share from her book, I leave you with one of my favorites, from the chapter on “Panicked Faith” about the mother of the demon possessed little girl:

The mother was a worshipper of the false gods. She gave and they took. She pleaded and they tricked. She came but they rejected her. So God appointed a divine collision of a panicked woman rejected by her tricky “gods” and the Savior rejected by his people…She heard he was different, a kind master, so if she must sit under the table, as a little pet of the family, at least she would belong to a good God…She is the willing recipient of anything he would offer her, whether it be a day in his courts, a position as a doorkeeper, or crumbs from his table…

…We must run to him sweaty and panting, screaming for rescue from the demands of abusive false gods. To come to him panicked, without depending on anything we’ve done, is remarkable faith.

This post was inspired by the book Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at the Faith of Unremarkable People by Shauna Letellier. Preorder and submit your receipt details at http://shaunaletellier.com/books/re… by July 10th to receive a Discussion Guide, phone lock screens, and the R.E.A.D the Bible guide.

One Touch.

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I have had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of a new book entitled “Remarkable Faith” by Shauna Letellier. It’s a beautifully written book filled with behind-the-scenes stories of people involved in Jesus’ miracles. People the Bible mentions in passing, but doesn’t give us a lot of background or follow-up on. The book is amazing and I encourage you to get your own copy when it comes out in July!

Last night, I read the chapter on the woman who had the bleeding issue for 12 years. This story has always been close to my heart. Shauna’s retelling was just gorgeous and I sobbed through the entire thing!

Then I remembered I had written about it myself, years ago, in Peru. I put together a reader’s theater for a women’s retreat and included this woman’s story. Believe it or not, back in the day, I performed it with a friend, in Spanish. I give it to you here now for your reading enjoyment.

*Please do not use without permission. I would be happy to send you the full script upon request.*

Mary: He touched me! He touched me! Did He touch you? He touched me. Before His touch, no one touched me. And when I say “no one,” I mean, absolutely nobody. No one loved me. No one wanted to come near me. And then He came. He came and He touched me. He touched me when no one else would. He touched me when I was untouchable. And His touch made all the difference.

Woman: He touched me! I cannot believe He touched me. Do you know how long it has been since someone touched me? No one was even allowed to touch me for years! And He – He reached out and touched me. He let me touch Him! And His touch made all the difference.

Mary: There was a time in my life when no one would even come near me. I come from the region of Magdala in Israel. Here, the people worshiped the god Molec. Molec desired child sacrifices. A wicked, evil god. And yet… somehow… I ended up worshiping him, too. Slowly, over time, I allowed his wickedness to penetrate my life. And the real evil one, Satan, invaded mine. Seven demons took control of my life. Seven. With one, you lose your mind. With seven… well, you can only imagine how my life was at this time. No one would come near me. I wandered the countryside – alone. Alone without hope. Alone without love. Alone with no one but my demons to torture me, day in and day out.

Woman: I was sick. Oh, was I sick. The bleeding would not stop! When it started, I thought everything would be okay eventually. But, when doctor after doctor could not help me, I started to give up hope. What’s worse was that it did – not – stop. Not just bleeding for a month. Oh, no. Much worse. Twelve years of constant bleeding. Twelve! We spent our savings trying to find someone – anyone – to help me. We traveled abroad! I tried new remedies! I did anything! But, nothing worked. Bleeding makes a Jewess unclean. For twelve full years I was not allowed to enter the Temple for any kind of festival. I could not even enter to ask Yahweh to heal me! I had no access to Yahweh. Priests could not touch me. My husband could not touch. Any male who touched me would be made unclean. I was alone. Utterly alone. My hope was gone. My life was ebbing away through this constant stream of life blood. Hopeless. Alone. So alone.

Together: And then He came.

Mary: He didn’t just come, though. He came in power! The demons inside me shook from fear which terrified me. I had to know – Who is this Man that makes demons tremble?

Woman: He didn’t just come in power. He came in compassion! Everywhere He went, He exuded compassion. The crowds were enormous! Entire cities would come to see this Man. I needed to know Who the Man was Who healed the crowds.

Together: I had to know.

Woman: Then one day, He came near me!

Mary: One day, He came to me!

Woman: The crowds were crushing. But I had to see Him. I had to get near Him!

Mary: He came to me alone. I was terrified – the demons didn’t want Him near me! They rebelled and almost wouldn’t let me!

Woman: The crowds wouldn’t let me pass! Everyone wanted a piece of Him! I almost couldn’t get near Him.

Mary: He calmed me.

Woman: He paused near me —

Mary: He reached out –

Woman: – and I touched Him.

Mary: He touched me.

Woman: I didn’t want Him to know I was there! I was embarrassed – ashamed.

Mary: I didn’t know what would happen! I was terrified!

Together: But I was so hopeful!

Mary: I knew He could change me.

Woman: I knew He could heal me.

Together: And He did.

Mary: That touch

Woman: That one touch

Together: Made all the difference.

Mary: Instantly, the demons fled! Light entered my mind and I was free!

Woman: Instantly, the bleeding stopped! My body was healed! I was whole! But then… He turned. I tried to get away! I tried to hide! But it was too late. He wanted to know who touched Him. I couldn’t lie. I had to tell Him it was me. Would He embarrass me? Would He yell at me? Would the Man filled with compassion berate me for my simple act of touching the hem of His robe to finally be healed?

Mary: Freedom was awkward. It had been so long since I had lived a normal life. I had left my family. I had served another god! I was so embarrassed. Would He now get mad at me for living such an awful life?

Woman: But… He didn’t. He didn’t even announce to the crowd why I had touched Him. After years of not being allowed near anyone, He came near me. He touched me. The first one to touch me after twelve years was…

Mary: And yet, He was not mad! He never told me what an awful person I was. He never shamed me in front of my family. He came near and He… He touched me. The first one to show love to me and to touch me after years of being alone was…

Together: Jesus.

Mary: Almighty God.

Woman: The Healer.

Together: The Savior.

Mary: And with His touch, I was made whole again.

Woman: I was healed!

Together: Touched to touch others.

Woman: I made it my job to touch the untouchables. To shower love on those who are deemed unloveable by society.

Mary: I made it my job to touch the outcast – to show compassion on those who are cast out by others.

Woman: I knew I had a responsibility to do to others what Christ did for me.

Mary: A responsibility to love on others as Christ loved on me.

Together: No, we are not their Savior. But, we are His hands.

Woman: You are His hands! Touch those who no one else wants to love.

Mary: You are His feet! Go to those who no one else will go near.

Together: One touch is all it takes.

Woman: The responsibility is now yours.

Mary: If God touched your life, you must now do the same for others.

Together: The responsibility is yours.

Mary: One touch. Just one.

Woman: Who will you touch today?

-Lisa Biegert, 2011

Hang on.

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abram

I’ve been writing on Jacob for awhile now, which includes Abraham. Here’s an excerpt:

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness…

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

Genesis 15:5-6, 8-11

While an abstract story at first glance, this chapter is amazing!

God is taking the time to, once again, promise Abram that yes, he will have offspring and His promises will be fulfilled. They began conversing while the stars were out, so it must’ve been either early morning or sometime during the night, but later in the chapter it talks of the sun setting and darkness falling, meaning this was over the course of at least 12 hours if not longer.

God had Abram offer a sacrifice, but then he was to wait. Vultures do not arrive immediately. Vultures love decay – the smell is what draws them in. Abram had to sit and wait for God to arrive – long enough for the stench of dead animals to begin to rise and vultures to descend. If that wasn’t bad enough, nightmares ensued as soon as night returned.

Then – and only then – did God appear. After the hard work of slaying multiple animals and laying them out in the desert sun. After the stench of decay and the chasing of ugly birds. In the darkness. After the fear. He came. He did not forget.

Are you waiting for a promise from God? Hang in there. Chase those vultures. Cling to your hope that God is on His way! And He will come filled with hope and promise – but He may not come until nightfall. Hang on.

10 Years Later.

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In the fall of 2006, Brian and I were settled happily into our three bedroom, two bath home in Belle Fourche, SD. We were both working jobs we enjoyed. Life in South Dakota was laid back. We had great friends, a good life.

But, every now and then, we’d look at each other in the quietness of the evening and say, “There must be something more.”

About this same time, I was attending a ladies’ Bible study on “The Patriarchs” by Beth Moore. I distinctly remember September 14, 2006 (well, in reality, I don’t remember the date, but it’s written in the workbook so we’ll go with that).

I told Brian immediately upon arrival home from the study, “I think God is taking us somewhere. I don’t know where and I don’t know when, but I’m not ready. And I think we need to be. This is going to be big.” Brian said, “Sure. Okay.” And went to bed.

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See that title? “Leave Your Country.” I bet you know where I’m going with this now. 

Within a month, we heard about the needs in BCM Peru. By the beginning of 2007, our house was on the market. Middle of ’07, we were living in Pennsylvania and raising support. By March 2009, we were firmly landed in our new country: Peru. Four full years and two children later, God yanked us back out and placed us in Pennsylvania.

None of this was ever on our radar until after this particular Bible lesson in September 2006.

Now, here I am, more than 10 years later, using this same Bible study to help with writing my own Bible lesson. Unlike everything else I just mentioned, being a writer has always been on the radar. This year, I’m finally seeing this come to fruition. And in an odd way, seeing it all come full circle.

I can still hear Beth’s teaching on Genesis 15. I can still remember writing the question, “Where are you taking us?” on the lesson page. I could never have imagined I’d one day use this teaching to aid in my own writing.

I’m excited about the proposition of where this could go and based on the evidence of the last ten years, my imagination of “what comes next” could very well be way off.

Wherever you are is not where God wants you to stay… Fear God more than what He’s called you to do. -Beth Moore

Just like that, he’s 2.

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At the risk of sounding cliche, I literally cannot believe that two years has already passed! This little guy came into our world with a bang and hasn’t stopped since.

Describing my youngest is similar to describing a whirlwind: ever-changing, destructive, and leaves chaos in his wake. He is substantially louder than the other two… combined. It’s almost guaranteed that if he’s hollering like he’s broken a limb, he’s more than likely high-centered on something insurmountable on his little Lightening McQueen car. Like a shoe. The nice thing with him, though, is that once you show him once, maybe twice, how to fix a situation, he’s got the hang of it; very fast learner.

This guy is the only one of my three who has drawn on multiple surfaces and ripped more than one book. He has eaten more random things, including bugs and paper, than I could possibly recount. He’s massively destructive and even seems to enjoy following me around and pulling back out absolutely everything I just put away. He loves everyone’s shoes but his own. He would live outside if given the choice. He’s firmly attached to his “kankie” (blankie), puppy, and, oddly enough, his pillow. Anything truck, car, or ball is the best thing on earth. And no one loves him like his big sister. Except for maybe his big brother.

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We named this little man after my father. Integrity is of extreme importance to my husband and I. We could think of no two men who are better examples of integrity than Joseph, son of Jacob (our firstborn son’s name) and my father, whose middle name is Lee, birthday boy’s middle name. Integrity does not mean everything goes well all the time, nor are you always vindicated here on this earth. Integrity does mean to be in right standing before God and does mean to do what is right, even when no one is watching. Our prayer for this little guy is that he grows up to be a man of Integrity, like his grandfather. 

Happy birthday, Bubba. You are endearingly sweet with your request for “Jesus” [Loves Me] every night, your need to cuddle with puppy blankie every morning, and your infectious laugh. I simply cannot imagine life without you and am so thankful God chose to put you in our family.

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Analogies.

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Some acquaintances of ours headed to Africa last week to bring home their second adopted child. Due to circumstances beyond their control, there is a high probability they will not be actually bringing him home with them just yet. Horrendous, dismal, depressing situation that kind of sits in the back of your mind all the time.

Also last week, Brian and I helped lead a marriage conference at our church. It was the first time attending, much less leading, a marriage conference and it was definitely a highlight of 2017. And of course, a reoccurring theme throughout was that marriage is work and if you want it to work, you must be willing to put the effort in!

These two events seem to have absolutely nothing in common at first sight, yet they struck a chord with me. God uses analogies all throughout His Word to help us understand Himself, and marriage and adoption are common topics. The light came on as I realized, maybe God has permitted these two circumstances to be so difficult because He wants us to understand more about Who He is.

God talks about us being adopted into His Kingdom and being given the right to be called “children of God” (John 1:12). Adoption is simultaneously beautiful and gut-wrenching. So many mitigating factors – the biological parents, the age of the child, government regulations, abuse, neglect, language, culture… Nothing about adoption is usually simple or easy.

Adoption into God’s family isn’t easy, either. We are constantly pulled by our former lives. The language and culture of being in God’s family is sometimes diametrically opposed to what we’ve always known, making assimilation extremely difficult. There’s always the culture, life, and “family” we’re leaving behind, too. While drawn by the love of your Father, it doesn’t mean every moment is bliss as you learn the ropes of a new family and new way of life. Even getting to the point of adoption is strenuous, taxing, and often hampered by outside circumstances.

Marriage has always meant to be a beautiful, harmonious thing. God created marriage right away during the week of creation. God created marriage to be a picture of Christ and the church. A husband is exhorted to present his bride spotless before Christ – to care for her, lead her, guide her, and bring her before Jesus blameless. A husband is to be willing to die for his wife – like Christ died for us. It’s an absolutely glorious picture!

But, it’s been horribly distorted. We have traded the truth for a lie (Romans 1:25) and “marriage” in the traditional sense is in jeopardy. As a matter of fact, marriages in general are in jeopardy. The understanding that marriage is not all about me and what I want has been lost. Marriage is work. Marriage is sacrifice. Marriage is selfless. Marriage is caring for another more than yourself. Marriage is… the perfect picture of how Christ treats us.

These word pictures would have been even more beautiful in a perfect world, of course. Imagine a world where adoptions always go perfectly. The child is assimilated into their new home with no issues, problems, fights, or government restrictions. Marriage was meant to be this harmonious, beautiful season of life, full of love, joy, excitement, and adventure. Again, these are apt analogies of our relationship with God.

But, this isn’t a perfect world. God in His sovereignty, though, factored the fall into these analogies and they are still apt descriptions of our relationship with God! We will have struggles – with our past, ourselves, and those around us. We will not “assimilate” seamlessly into the Kingdom of God because so much will pull us back. Having a relationship with Christ puts the focus off of you; you become a servant of others, even when they don’t necessarily deserve it. Even governments and laws can be against us.

Where’s the hope then? Here: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We don’t give up living for Jesus just because it’s hard. We press on. “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Phil. 3:13b-14)

God uses pictures to help us see Him more clearly. Let Him paint a glorious picture with your life story. Fight for it. It’ll be worth it – and don’t let this world tell you otherwise with its lies.

Challenged.

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2017 is turning out to be the year where I quit simply talking about my goals and actually start doing them. My biggest supporter and ally is my husband who is constantly pushing me to do more, learn more, and quit waiting for that elusive “perfect time.”

In February, I attended the LIT Conference put on by Beth Moore in Houston, Texas. It was the best conference I have ever attended, hands down. Currently, I’m a children’s ministry director and I love it – but, I would love to do more work with women, too. This conference gave me the shove I needed to step out of my comfort zone and begin to do more.

I went to LIT with so many ideas jumbled in my head, I wasn’t sure where to begin. I left with a very clear vision of what I should be working on now. I have one big project in the works and at least two more in the planning stages. It’s really nice having a vision to run with, even if it ends up changing over time.

At a recent writer’s conference, I was advised to not delete this blog, but to revamp it instead and give it new life. Hence the new look and the more consolidated posts! This blog has been in existence since 2008, but so many things have changed and evolved since then, most of it is no longer applicable. What you see now is a much better vision of who I am today and what I want to write about.

This blog will be my space to share what God has been teaching me, tips on reaching children for Jesus, and my thoughts {for what they’re worth} on current events. I hope you join me as I dive into this journey that God has me on in this season of life. My promise to you is that I will actually write and not neglect this thing!

Here’s to new beginnings and all they may entail.

Legion.

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The day had been long and tiring. Jesus had taught and healed in the hot sun by the sea shore all day long. The crowd had been immense, forcing Him to balance precariously from a fishing boat while continuing to teach in parables. He was spent.

Night was fast approaching, so Jesus told His disciples to get in the boat and push off to the other side. The crowd was not anxious to leave Him; many hopped in their own boats to follow, more out of curiosity than actual need. Jesus was exhausted. He promptly went to the helm and fell fast asleep on a borrowed, fishy-smelling pillow.

Hidden in the inky blackness of the night sky, a storm was brewing over the Sea of Galilee. It swept in from out of nowhere, taking the disciples by surprise. Though many of them were seasoned fishermen, this storm was like nothing they had ever encountered. Bailing felt more like backpedaling; the boat was beginning to sink.

They rushed to their Master and were dismayed to find they had to physically shake Him to wake Him up! But, when He did, He did the incomprehensible: He rebuked the storm. The disciples were taken aback. Not only had the storm completed dissipated at the sound of His voice, He had actually treated it like it was alive – an entity of its own, not just a weather phenom. Who is this Man?

Arriving at the other side of the shore, the shaken and weary disciples trudged through the coast to drag the borrowed boat on to land. Jesus joined them in the shallows. A mundane task in the quiet morning was rudely interrupted by the sound of shrieks coming from the hillside.

They all turned to see what could possibly be making the racket. A man, completely nude, with broken chains hanging around his wrists, unkept hair nearly to his waist, and a scraggly beard, was charging towards them, screaming obscenities – and calling Jesus by name. Now, who was this man?

The man stank; he was covered in bruises, bleeding and scratched on almost every orifice of his dirty body. He was thin, almost famished. While he looked quite aged, the disciples wondered if that was merely from living in a cave or in the sun for an unknown amount of time. His entire being shook, foam slipping from the sides of his mouth, as he slid in front of Jesus, face to the ground. He addressed Jesus by name, but simultaneously refused to look Him in the eye. With his face to the ground, a raspy, otherworldly voice, quaking with palpable hatred, asked, “Why are you bothering me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, don’t torture me!”

The disciples glanced around at the weary travelers who were still hauling in their boats from the previous night’s excursion across the waves. They couldn’t help but wonder if this was the show they had followed Jesus to see – first a violent storm being stilled for no reason and now a crazy man begging Jesus, Who had so far done nothing except walk ashore, to leave him alone. A show it definitely was; the question was now, how would it end?

Jesus could have asked anything. He asked for the man’s name. A pause. Then the raspy, obnoxiously loud voice answered, “Legion.” In their Roman world, the word ‘legion’ instantly drew mental images of at least 3000 soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder, armed to the hilt and ready to fight. A few disciples took unintentional steps backward. A host of demons were in this man; it was unimaginable.

The man’s voice changed then from one, distinct tone to what seemed like hundreds, if not thousands, of different voices speaking simultaneously. The demons were begging Jesus not to destroy them. They knew Who He was and the power He wielded over them. And they were terrified.

The man looked up at the hills and pointed. Everyone swiveled to see what he was pointing at. Only then did the silent onlookers hear – and smell – the thousands of pigs milling about on the hillside above the lake. All of a sudden, their presence, which hadn’t even been noticed yet, was all-consuming. The stench, the grunting, the stamping of little hooves on the ground – it was all everyone could hear aside from the slapping of waves on the untethered boats.

“Send us into the pigs.”

The crowd held their breath. Jesus nodded. With His consent, the man began to shake violently and was flung like a lifeless toy onto the beach. Shrieking was heard and the atmosphere tangibly cooled, as if a north wind had gusted around them.

Then, the pigs began to shriek. Their calm grunting had turned into mass chaos. Thousands of swine could be heard for miles shrieking, stampeding. The quiet morning was shattered as they took off for the cliff. Completely unorganized, the pigs flung themselves off the edge and into the deep waters and rocks below. The onlookers who were still standing in the shallows quickly dashed either into their boats or onto the shore as the red, defiled pig blood began to wash towards them.

Before they all reached the shore and long before the events had fully registered with the astonished disciples, more shouts were heard. A crowd came running from the village having been told by the herdsmen that their entire livelihood was lost. They pushed and shoved their way towards Jesus. They ignored completely the fact that the man who had terrorized their town for years was sitting, in his right mind, clothed and having a sane conversation. They stuck their accusatory fingers in the air and adamantly demanded Jesus leave immediately.

Calmly, the Master rose from the rock He had been seated on and motioned to His followers to begin to push the boats back out to the water. The newly healed man clung to Jesus’ robes and begged Him to come, too! “No,” He responded. “Go home to your friends, and tell them what wonderful things the Lord has done for you and how merciful He has been.”

As quickly as their morning began, it was now over. The morning sun still sparkled on the lake and stomachs still begged for breakfast as they began to row back across the water to where the journey had began less than 12 hours before.

One man. He did all of that – for one man. If He pursued this man that hard, just imagine how He is pursuing you.