Thanksgiving 2017

A year ago, I was counting down the days until Black Friday, not because of sales, but because I wanted to see if I could be one of 700 to sign up for an exclusive training event in Houston called LIT. Between caring for very sick children (yeah, Thanksgiving was a blast last year), streaming the new Gilmore Girls shows, and reloading the website every 30 seconds, I got my registration in. I printed it out and read and re-read and re-read and checked and double-checked my email to make sure that yes, I was going to LIT. I was terrified. I was ecstatic. I had no clue what God was doing, or would do.

LIT finally gave me clarity on at least part of what this season of life holds for me. I didn’t go to make friends or talk about myself; I went to hear God speak. I needed Him to speak to me. I’m so glad He did.

This year, I’ve seen God shift my focus and though I still don’t know precisely what God is doing, I’m fully on board. I have been given more writing opportunities than ever before. I’ve begun work on a big project that I am still hesitant to talk about, but I’m excited to soon. I’ve studied 2 Timothy at least five times in completely different settings and that can’t be an accident. I’m more confident in who God has made me to be. I’m not as concerned about what others think about my life, which is freeing in and of itself!

Above all, I’m anxiously looking forward to the future because God is on the move and when God moves, the earth shakes, mountains crumble, and miracles happen. I want to be right in the middle, hands raised, loudly proclaiming, “Only God!”

I had no idea where that printed registration a year ago would end up taking me. I am so thankful that Beth Moore offered this event and that God provided for me to be able to attend. One year later and I’m still in awe.

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To the Sunday Mom.

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The Sunday morning struggle is real for those of us who desire to get our families to church. Even more difficult if we want to actually get them there on time! Sunday morning is when the shoes mysteriously disappear, breakfast staples have all been eaten, no one wants to get ready, everyone oversleeps, and yes, the keys get locked in the car. Let’s not forget the toothpaste tasting funny and the refusal of getting buckled into car seats!

I start Sunday mornings optimistic, yet hesitant. I’ve had too many of them go awry to take anything for granted anymore. Inevitably, we start out great, but by the time we’re in the van, I’ve lost my temper, someone has either cried or yelled back, and everyone’s grumpy. Yet, I have to walk into church with a smile and pretend everything’s wonderful. I hate it. I hate the hypocrisy, especially when I know I can’t possibly be the only one with this struggle.

Our family struggle used to be weekly, then I went through a study on Ephesians 6 and we made the conscious decision to begin to treat Sunday mornings as a spiritual battle. We have come to the understanding that we really are not struggling against our kids; we’re struggling against Satan himself.

I was reminded of this truth anew just this morning. I had a sinking pit in my stomach while we got ready for church. I had been up for an hour with a coughing boy in the middle of the night, the children were tired from a full day Saturday, everyone was up early, and Daddy had to leave to run sound a full hour before we were to head out the door. I prayed for God to protect our family, then proceeded with our routine. As per usual, everything unraveled right at the end. But, we did take time to pray in the van before getting to the parking lot and everyone was in a better mood when we walked into the building.

I had to teach children’s church and I was uncharacteristically apprehensive. When the kids arrived, I knew why: we had four visitors and an unusually high attendance. I took a minute to look at the kids before I began the program and it was then that I realized what this high attendance truly meant.

It meant more families than just mine made the conscious decision to attend church. More than likely, the majority went through the same telltale struggle of getting everyone’s shoes on and out the door…possibly even on time. We made the choice to hustle the kids out the door when everything in us may have wanted to stay home and bury ourselves back under the blankets. We got in those vans and SUV’s, set the coffee we haven’t yet touched in the cup holder, and buckled the wriggling children into uncomfortable car seats, even when the coffee was begging to be drunk in the comfort of home. We did it. We made it to church.

We won.

The high attendance of kids this morning gave me hope that we won’t be the generation that forgets about the Lord. We are always only one generation away from our children not knowing the greatness of our God. Unfortunately, that generation is going to be the product of parents who give in and stay home. The parents who find the comforts of home, sleep, warmth, and peaceful children greater than the battle of getting them to church.

We are in a war for our own souls and that of our children. We can’t give up the fight, even when it looks dismal and the thought of “yet another Sunday” feels too much to bear. I can’t tell you how many Sundays I’ve gotten to church frustrated and feeling like a giant hypocrite. I’ve cried on friend’s shoulders and vented to moms of older kids. The response I get is always the same: We’ve all been there. We all make the choice every Sunday to try again. And we do it because we love our Lord and know church is the place our family needs to be.

For what it’s worth, here’s our imperfect family’s Sunday plan, in case you’re like I was a few years ago, struggling and wishing I knew how to make it better:

  • Don’t try to do things like baths Sunday morning. Don’t even try to make fancy Sunday breakfasts! Do as much as you can Saturday evening – baths, picking out clothes, setting out shoes, jackets, hair bows, Bibles, diaper bags, teaching material. Even pour the juice and put the cereal in baggies if that helps.
  • Pray Saturday evening before bed that God would put a hedge around your house to keep anything that’s not His, away. Be proactive in the battle for your family.
  • Get yourself up early enough Sunday morning that you can be ready completely before trying to help the kids.
  • Be ready to leave five minutes before you need to actually head out the door – like a leeway time to help avoid being late.
  • Pray in the car together as a family on the way to church.

None of this is fool-proof. I did all of the above and still struggled this morning. But, apologies were made and forgiveness was given before we pulled into the parking lot. Sundays are far from perfect, but they are markedly better since we began being proactive and treating it like the battle it is and not merely fighting with the kids to “make Sunday happen.”

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

-Ephesians 6:12

To those of you fighting this battle with us – I applaud you, stand with you in the trenches, and encourage you to never give up. Keep going. Keep bringing them to church. Fight the good fight. You’re doing a great job, Sunday Mom.

Guest Blog

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I recently came into contact with a “Mom Blog” called Kindred Mom. What a beautiful community filled with blogs written by women across the country covering a whole host of topics near to every mom’s heart. They touch on tough subjects – like childhood cancer and miscarriage. And they give encouragement on how to be the best Mom possible.

This summer, I submitted my own, very personal story, to this site. Much to my great joy, they accepted it. Finally, I have been able to give a voice to my own journey of becoming a first time mom. I would love for you to read it and pass it along, especially if you know someone who may be encouraged from it.

Here’s the link to my blog: Birth Scars. I hope it blesses you today!

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I saw her for 30 seconds after her birth, then not at all for 4 hours. When I finally did see her, I wasn’t allowed to hold her; this was as close as we could get. Read the rest of the story on my guest post!

A Lesson in Obedience.

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My husband and I are full-time missionaries with BCM International. As such, occasionally we get asked to participate in various events. A few weeks ago, I was asked if I was available to help out at an evangelistic outreach at City Hall in Philadelphia. A number of Philly churches were coming together to put the outreach on and another non-profit organization was going to be helping out by offering activities for children. The non-profit wanted to use the time wisely and have times set aside for gathering the children and presenting the Gospel to them. That would be my job – the Gospel presenter.

Having just come off our church’s Family Carnival in August, I was definitely prepared. However, I had a lot of misgivings about the event and my knee-jerk reaction was to say ‘no.’ Brian and I discussed it at length and I kept insisting I was the wrong person for the job. Everything in me wanted to say ‘no.’ I argued with Brian. I was convinced I simply couldn’t do it. I had many, mostly legitimate, reasons for saying no.

Then Brian said the one thing that changed my mind: “You would give up the opportunity to share the Gospel with hundreds of children in one day just because you’re scared?” 

Ouch.

I said ‘yes.’

Naturally, it seemed like as soon as I said ‘yes’, everything went wrong. The week leading up to the event kept getting worse here at home!

But, I kept being reminded that I was going to Philadelphia to share hope with hundreds of children. It was going to be so worth it.

All the details worked out, and I headed to inner city Philadelphia by myself Friday afternoon. Though having no idea where I was going, I somehow made it to my motel and spent the evening rehearsing and getting some rest.

Saturday was a gorgeous day – sunny and unseasonably warm for late September. I was most nervous about just getting to City Hall and finding the parking spot reserved for me. But, not only did I find the spot, it was literally feet from where I spent the rest of the day, and there was a super kind guy who guided me through parallel parking (something this country girl hasn’t done since my driving test at 16).

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My little Chevy! Proof I parallel parked in downtown Philly!

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City Hall is gorgeous! And huge.

From arrival, I had a gut-feeling this day was not going to go like I had planned. Things were different than I had anticipated and crowds, especially of children, were quite a bit smaller than planned. I did present the Gospel, but it was not to hundreds. More like to six. Six beautiful little kids who I don’t think had ever heard that grace is what saves them.

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And then… that was pretty much it. Downtown Philly by City Hall is not really the gathering spot for kids. So, around 2:30 I began my trek back to north.

Initially, I was discouraged. This was not what I had been told about or prepared for. This was not the “big event” I had asked everyone to pray about. I didn’t understand how I could “believe God” for something huge and have it fall so flat.

I was creeping along in traffic and needed to kill time, so I put in my kids’ Adventures in Odyssey CD. The two stories I listened to were on Jonah and Jeremiah.

Jonah: A man who was given a clear directive from God and chose to disobey and suffered the consequences.

Jeremiah: A man who was given a clear directive from God and chose to obey, but had zero results for about 40 years of tough ministry.

And then I realized – it’s not about the numbers, the venue, the event, or the presentation.

It’s about the obedience.

Everything in me wanted to say ‘no’ – and I didn’t. Everything in me wanted to stay home – and I didn’t. I went. I trusted God to take care of me as I did this completely alone. Of course, He went above and beyond.

My faith grew as well as my courage. I knew when I put this in my Bible:

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…that I was putting myself out there for God to take me serious. I am not brave. I’m such a wimp. I don’t do great things. I get scared – a lot.

But, obedience trumps fear every single time.

The results were not what I had prayed for and expected. But, I got home and Brian kept saying, “But, that part wasn’t up to you. You did your part. You obeyed. That’s all God expects from any of us! Leave the rest to Him.”

So, if you prayed for me – thank you. Initially, I thought your prayers were wasted, but I’m wrong. If nothing else, God showed me again how very much He values obedience.

Redeem the Time.

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This weekend, a phrase kept replaying in my mind: “There is no safer place than in the center of God’s will.” I’ve been contemplating this and thinking about a lot of different things, trying to wrap my mind around some questions that I don’t necessarily have the answers to.

Within the last two years, I stumbled across a book that literally changed at least parts of my worldview. It was entitled “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” by Nabeel Qureshi. In it, he shares his testimony of being raised devout Muslim, but through years of research, lots of questions, and a faithful Christian friend, he gave his life over to Jesus. It is a fascinating read that changed how I view Islam, my friends who are missionaries to Muslims, and how I, personally, share Christ.

I began to follow Nabeel on social media. He was married and had a beautiful little girl and a thriving ministry with Ravi Zacharias. I was excited to follow him and see how God used him.

Then, a little over a year ago, he announced the unthinkable: he had Stage 4 stomach cancer. This year has been painful as he vlogged faithfully about his journey, sharing conversations with his wife, friends, and family. Chronicling his chemo treatments and illness. Asking for prayer and for people to fast and beg God to heal him, if that be His will.

Nabeel lost his battle on Saturday, September 16, 2017.

When I watched his last vlog, I was just overcome with sadness. The news that he had finally passed away has hung heavy on my heart this weekend.

And it was that phrase, “There is no safer place than in the center of God’s will”, that I have struggled with all weekend. Because, see, Nabeel was obviously not ‘safe.’ He suffered. He left behind a young family. He had a thriving ministry, much bigger than I’ll ever have. He has unsaved family and friends. He struggled, went through lots of pain and horrible surgeries and treatments. And he died. At 34.

My age.

As I pondered all this, God brought the verse to mind that He will build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. This is surely not news, but it struck me anew this weekend: ‘my’ ministry is really not ‘mine.’ God doesn’t need me. He will accomplish His will, with or without me.

What probably hit me hardest about Nabeel’s passing is simply the fact that we’re the same age. To think that someone who was being greatly used by God and had everything going for him could die so suddenly while still so young just seemed – horrible. Unfair. Heart-wrenching. Not ‘safe’ in the will of God.

But, we don’t know why God chose to let him die so young and it would be futile to venture a guess. The point, though, is not that he died; the point is how he lived. He redeemed the time. Every minute of his time was not wasted. He shared the Gospel, hope, and love until the very end.

So, are we ‘safe’? I would dare say no – at least not in the general sense of the word. We are safe because this life is merely a blip and then we’re in eternity and how we got there won’t really matter. But, what we do before we get there – that’s what’s important. I may be disposable, but God has still given me a ministry to do and purpose for while I’m breathing. My ministry will be done when He says it’s done, not when it appears to be done by earthly standards. Which means – I must redeem my time.

You have been given a ministry, too. If that ministry is being a great mom and raising your children to know, love, and obey Jesus – then do it with all your might every single day. Don’t get sidetracked and distracted by what the world has to offer. Work your day job to the best of your ability and share Jesus with all who will listen because you know what? Eternity will be here before we know it.

I have this posted in my kitchen:

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I read it daily as a reminder that life is fleeting and getting stressed and upset is a waste of time. I want to be remembered as a good mom who showed her kids the love of Jesus by example, not a mom who was angry and hypocritical.

I am thankful that Jesus pursued Nabeel and that Nabeel, in turn, pursued Jesus and shared Him with others. I’m thankful for the story of Nabeel’s life because it changed so much of how I view missions. I’m saddened, especially for his family, at his loss. But, it’s been a good reminder to-

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Tim. 4:2)

Sunday morning, I found myself picturing Nabeel first being greeted by Jesus, then having the Apostle Paul right behind Jesus, anxiously awaiting his turn to talk to him. I felt like Nabeel’s last words echoed Paul’s:

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:6-8)

Hebrews 11 tells us about the Hall of Faith – those amazing people who have gone before us, yet have not received their reward because they have to wait for us to get done with our turn. The first verse of Hebrews 12 reads:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…

I wonder if Nabeel has now joined that crowd? Do we have people cheering us on, who are as enamored with our lives as we are with theirs? Does Esther have people that she’s cheering on specifically and can’t wait to meet? Is Paul standing in heaven yelling and screaming for someone here on earth that he wants to finish strong? And do they wait for us at the gate to welcome us home? And then once we’re there, do we join that crowd and cheer everyone else on? Even if not, it’s sure a great thing to imagine.

We may not be ‘safe’ in the typical sense of the word. But, it doesn’t matter. Our job is still to –

Fight the good fight. Redeem the time. Finish the race.

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.