Is God Any Less Maternal?

“Mommy!” 

When I heard the child holler, my eyes searched the grocery store’s produce section for that frightened voice as if he were my own child. The little guy stood, wide-eyed and flushed, next to the pumpkins. Before I could come to his aid, his mother rushed around the corner and embraced him.

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I thought about my own mom. When I was a wee child she’d come running whenever I called her name. She’d…

  • Rescue me from a yapping dog.
  • Kiss the boo boo on my scraped knee.
  • Console me at night if I was scared.
  • Smooth my warm brow when I was ill.
  • Watch me turn a cartwheel; listen to me jabber.
  • Defend me when Little Brother kicked me with his cowboy boots.

Mommy did this and more because I was her child and she loved me.

Is God the Father any less maternal toward His children?

From the time we’re born, He woos us and waits for us to recognize that we’re lost and need Him. The moment we holler, Jesus…for there is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved…He rescues us. Adopts us into His family. Loves us with an everlasting love where nothing can snatch us from God’s hand. But our relationship doesn’t stop there.

Think of a child summoning his mother when he’s alarmed or in need. Should God’s children do anything less?

When we call on the powerful name of Jesus, we’re able to flee temptation and obey the Father’s will. He restores broken lives; strengthens us to do all things. In Jesus’ name, Satan and his demons cower and flee.

However, this same Almighty God, is tender, protective; devoted. In scripture, He compares Himself to…

  • cochin-1415260_1280A mother hen who longs to gather her chicks to care for them.
  • As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.
  • A mama bear jealously guarding her cubs.

Assured of God’s love and Who we belong to, the Bible tells us to call the name of the Lord…often and with confidence…when we’re afraid, grieving, in pain, confused; anxious.

Why then, would I ever choose to not call the Lord’s name? Do I only cry for Jesus when I need Him?

When I consider Who Christ is and what He accomplished on the cross, that joyous, mind-blowing thought makes me want to shout God’s praises every day….

Even in this maddening world.

 

Images: Pixabay

 

When Perfection is Too Much Work

Stark naked and vulnerable. That’s how I felt…during a heart thumping, voice-quivering moment…when I took off the pretentious mask of perfection in front of my friends.

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I didn’t plan to bare my soul. However, emotions came to a head…stripping my polished veneer. Exposing the real me. The moment was sobering even for my friends.

Remember Eve in the Garden of Eden? Instead of a mask, Eve tried to cover her shame with fig leaves and hide from God because “she was afraid.”

Afraid of what? God’s reaction and the consequences of having her own way? Or hearing the disappointment in His voice.

Daughters of Eve, have you been there like me? Hiding behind a protective mask..afraid of  what others will think?

We tend to sweep our imperfections beneath a rug and stand on it so no one peeks. Pretend to have it together, and play at the perfect Christian.

We aim for control? Believing if we….

Keep our children in line, our house clean, our faces powdered, our marriages together, our skeletons in the closet, then we’ll appear and feel more….What?

Perfect? Better than?

Be honest. How many of us show up at each other’s homes, secretly relieved, when we find dust bunnies and a ring around the tub? Have you ever opened someone’s refrigerator and smiled. “Is that green mold on the creme cheese? Good! It’s not just me.”

Or we learn to evade our friends’ white-glove inspections and raised eyebrows. Instead of opening imperfect homes and serving second-rate food, we meet our friends at a safe, neutral place where…

We discuss the price of milk, the latest gossip, and exchange recipes…while the whole time…we hold our sticky game cards close to our chest. Let them think I have a royal flush, but not a bad hand.

Even our personal best seems flawed when we’re listening to the enemy’s lie. Isn’t that what happened to Eve?

Why do folks exhaust themselves playing Perfection if nobody can win? Wouldn’t life be easier if everyone admitted…we’re human? (Want to hear about toilet paper stuck to my shoe?) Let’s get real!

Only, nobody wants to go first. Either we’re embarrassed to reveal too much of ourselves. Or fear wagging tongues. Please don’t tell.

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Authenticity is difficult, but let’s face it. Sometimes we have to take a deep breath,  remove the mask, and allow our “ego” to skinny dip in front of our friends before they feel free to do the same.

Thankfully, my girlfriends are solid. They covered my naked, trembling heart with their love and prayers. And showed me, I’m not alone.

Even in this.…masquerade.

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8)

Photos: Karen Foster

When a Friendship Shifts

It’s my pleasure to welcome my new-found friend and fellow writer, Joy Williams, as my guest blogger. Her passion is sharing the life-changing truths about the grace of God in Christ.  Joy’s words bless me because she always points me to Christ. Welcome Joy even in this……..

I’m hopeful when a friendship begins. I’m grateful when a friendship grows. But I’m hurt and perplexed when a friendship shifts.

During a recent conversation with a friend, awkwardness hung over every word. Our once familiar space felt foreign to me.

It was evident our friendship was changing. We’ve been friends for years, but now phone calls are fewer. Texts are shorter. Sharing has become shallow.

If you’ve ever had a friendship shift, you know the symptoms: Disruption followed by silence or distance followed by absence.

Sometimes it’s by mutual understanding; when the busyness of life competes with our priorities. Other times, it’s a natural progression; for example, when a friend moves away or moves into a new phase of life. But it can also happen as a painful reaction to something that was done or said.

Regardless of what’s causing my friendship shift, I miss my friend. I miss the way we used to laugh at the same thing and hurt over similar things. The pace of our lives changes, new needs constantly surface and new priorities often appear. Yet, I believe…

A true friend loves regardless of the situation,
and a real brother exists to share the tough times. – Proverb 17:17 Voice

How can friends remain true in every circumstance?

I believe tough times provide the biggest opportunity. However, if much of our time is spent second guessing and fault finding, the toughest thing to share could be an honest conversation about how we really feel.

When friendships fail to adapt to what’s new, it’s hard to hold onto what was.

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I want to rally around the Proverbs 17:17 cry. But I don’t want to rally alone. However, John 15:12-13 reminds us friendship requires selflessness and even sacrifice. Jesus was willing to lay down His life for His friends. Now, I find it hard just to pick up the phone to call her.

Help me to do better Jesus.

Help me show her You, Jesus. You show love to the failing and compassion to the weak.

You show love and compassion to me.

Some friendships are for a reason. Some are for a season and some are for a lifetime. It’s a familiar saying, but it’s not always easy to know the reasons behind a season in a friendship.

However, I do know where to take my hurting heart. I’m taking it straight to Jesus.
He helps me sort through my emotions. He forgives my faults. He offers His counsel for my regrets. Until…

I have the words to express His heart.

The heart to hold His compassion.

His peace for this friendship’s path.

If you’re feeling a friendship shift too, here’s some good news: People fail each other; but Jesus never will. He knows how to mend what’s broken in and around us. I’m praying for friendships to heal and to become powerful places to share hope for the heart and joy to the soul.

Joy A. Williams is a writer, speaker and the author of Friendship MAPS: A Journey through Maturity, Aspirations, Perspectives and Struggles. Through her weekly blog, she encourages sincere or side-tracked truth seekers with “hope for the heart and joy to the soul” at joyAwilliams.com. You can also connect with Joy on Twitter @joytothesoul or on Facebook fb.me/joytothesoul.

 

 

Taking a Vacation from God?

Baseball. Barbecues. Bathing Suits. Are you ready for a summer vacation? 

How about a vacation from God?

That sounds irreligious to say, but let’s be honest. It’s tempting to have that mindset during Summertime.

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Bible gets dusty.
Prayer life shrinks.
Selfies by the pool take priority over acts of service.

After all, the Salvation Army only rings the bell during the Christmas season, so people less fortunate than me must be having fun too, right?

It’s not just individuals who hit pause on spiritual growth.

Churches—at least the ones in my area—are less active after Memorial Day. Other than a Family Camp or Vacation Bible School, the church calendar has a lot of white space.

Women’s Bible studies take a summer break. So do children’s Awana clubs. Small community groups within a church, that meet weekly in homes, are on hiatus.

Even church attendance and tithing is lower during summer. For even if a family has a staycation instead of going out of town, who wants to wait until Sunday afternoon to go on a hike or swim in the lake?

It’s not like God’s a killjoy. The Bible mentions festivities and God’s mandate for people to celebrate life.

Didn’t Jesus say, “the Sabbath was made for man.” We’re meant to rest at least one day out of the week. So why not set aside two weeks of vacation or three months of recreation?

Have I struck a nerve, yet? I hope you know I’m playing devil’s advocate.

I’m also NOT trying to guilt anyone or tell people how to spend their summer. I’m right there with other red-blooded Americans—weaving warm memories with my loved ones this summer.

However, conviction tugged my heart when I put on my sunscreen.

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Summer break from school and normal routines are no excuse to ignore the Lord. I still need to seek God’s presence through His Word and prayer. I need to put on the armor of Christ as faithfully as my sunscreen.

I need to, but I also WANT to spend time with the Lord this summer because He doesn’t take a vacation from me.

He is ever present. And He longs to have a relationship with each of us that isn’t one-sided or confined to nine months of the year.

So why would I consider a sabbatical from the One who loves me with an everlasting love, and redeemed my soul?

The Bibles says, “Rejoice in the Lord, always!”

Always. Even in this… good ole Summertime.

 

Photos:www.JennyWredePhotography.com

 

Who Knows My Name?

“Can you hear me now?”

I’d walked away from the pine trees that stood like sentinels in my yard, and found an open space with a stronger cell phone signal.

Sometimes I forget the olden days when my phone conversations happened indoors. My freedom went no further than the length of my phone cord.

Now, my phone has a camera. I can take a Selfie and send it to the world. “Look everyone! Can you see me now?”

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Why all the Selfies? Are we in love with ourselves? Or want to be known?

When preteens were asked what they’d like to be when they grow up, the majority of them said they want to be famous.

Their response mirrors our celebrity culture and reality television shows. Children don’t care about being a policeman, teacher or leaving a legacy like Mother Theresa. They want name recognition. Ever heard of the Kardashians?

Social media has made being famous—or infamous—possible. Overnight, a name can go viral. Even fleeting fame makes us feel like we’re Somebody.

Does fame validate our self worth? I don’t need fame, but I get tired of feeling…

Invisible. Ignored. Forgettable.

Why does Self want to be noticed? Is it pride? Or a deep longing to be known and loved for who we are?

Do you know that God knows your name and loves you?

I recently talked to a women’s group about a poor pregnant Egyptian maid. (Genesis 16) The Lord found her wandering in the wilderness by a spring of water and called her by name, “Hagar.”

Can you imagine Adonai—the sovereign Lord—calling you by name?

Hagar was nobody. She also wasn’t perfect.

“When she saw that she’d conceived a child by Abram, she despised her mistress, Sarai.” Then Hagar suffered the consequences. Sarai treated her harshly so she ran away.

Thankfully, Hagar didn’t have to be perfect for God to step into her life and call her by name. He said, “I’ve heard your affliction.” Then He promised to multiply her descendants through her son Ishmael.

Hagar recognized who was speaking to her, and said, “Thou are a God who sees.”

El Roi—the Living God Who Sees—knows our mistakes, weaknesses, fears, struggles, thoughts and intentions.

God knows everything. And He still loves us and calls each of us by name.

Do you know the Name of Jesus which is above every name?

Do You Touch and Go?

I hadn’t seen the woman’s blog post in months. I clicked on her gravatar. Searched for her website. And discovered it had been deactivated. Did she get tired of blogging or did something happen?

Weeks later, she liked a post. I searched again and found her email address. “Miss your blogs,” I wrote. “Hope you’re well.”

The woman immediately responded, and we had a heart-to-heart talk via email. There was no need to break the ice. We’d been reading each other’s blogs…which had become windows into our lives and souls…for several years.

Social media doesn’t have to be a one-way street—people stalking one another.  Hitting like…or not.

It can be the means to celebrate people’s victories. Mourn their losses with them. Pray for them.

Not everyone is convinced. I have a friend who chooses one-on-one quality time rather than “touch and go relationships.” I understand. I love looking in someone’s eyes rather than a computer screen. Holding hands to pray.

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However, despite the cons, social media has enlarged my heart to an ever-growing circle of friends. I’ve …

Found long lost friends.
Corresponded more often than an annual Christmas card.
Developed new friendships online that I’ve met through mutual friends.
Kept in touch with students’ lives.
Seen the world through the eyes of people from other countries.
Been inspired by folks across the globe who also love Jesus.

Regardless of age, gender, or culture, they’re just like me. Learning how to navigate this maze called life.

Some days, their posts provide the only good news that I hear.

For we’re inundated with round the clock news which points out everything wrong with this world. Highlights evil. Warns us of disease and terror.

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What if we used social media to encourage one another instead of tongue lashing the world?

What if we used it as a means to understand one another and reach out instead of circling our wagons to protect our own interests?

I’m not suggesting rose-colored posts that pretend life is perfect. We need to be real. We want to know we’re not alone in the things we suffer or strive towards.

But thank God for the multitude of individual lights flickering in the digital world who write about….

Acts of kindness from strangers.
Folks making a positive difference.
Personal stories of redemption, healing, and grace.

The woman, who took a hiatus from blogging, used her words to encourage others and sing God’s praises. When her online presence was gone…I noticed.

Because even in the cyber world, people make a difference.

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24).

Photograph: jennywredephotography.com

Is There Any Excuse?

Being ill with the crud is like having an uninvited houseguest who refuses to leave—quite the pain. For over a week, I’ve lived as a couch potato. My allies are a box of tissues, hot tea, Vics cough drops, and my Downton Abbey DVDs.

I try reading my Bible, but my foggy brain doesn’t comprehend much. And my nasal, hoarse prayers seem to fall flat. Thank God for His grace that covers everything—even my congested head. I wasn’t always so merciful towards myself.

Years ago, whenever I’d get derailed from seeking the Lord due to life’s circumstances, or spiritual sloth, I’d wallow in guilt or justify myself with pithy excuses.

What I failed to see was that my frothy view of God kept me from pursuing Him for the sheer joy of being with Him. Still, I kept waiting for that perfect season when life would be perfect or slow down so I could spend quality time with my Lord. 

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Then I met Loretta who told me, “To the degree we want God, we’ll seek Him.”

Her words banished my excuses.  I asked myself, “To what degree am I seeking God with all my heart, soul, and mind? Either my relationship with Him is a priority…or not.”

Granted there are times of illness and grief when we can barely lift our heads. God meets us there and His grace is sufficient. But making time for the Lord is a necessary discipline if we’re to fully experience God’s presence and hear His voice.

If we’re not intentional about our relationship with the Lord, it isn’t going to magically happen.

We make time for the things we truly want to do.

I learned that truth when I homeschooled my children. I knew the value of consistent exercise to stay healthy, but I complained I didn’t have time. If only I was a woman of leisure…

And then my husband’s job took us to London for two months and our family lived in a hotel with maid service. Other than caring for my children and having fun, there were no other demands. The hotel had a free gym and I was free to exercise. Excuse me, but I never saw the inside of that gym.

We make time for things we want to do which includes seeking God.

Is the Lord someone we love and long to know? Or a nodding acquaintance we meet on Sunday mornings? Perhaps we only call on Him when we’re in trouble like a 9-1-1 emergency call.

Remember, to the degree we want God we’ll seek Him even in this….

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Photo: www.JennyWredePhotography.com

Too Busy to Meet?

I didn’t want to go, but too much time had passed since I’d been with my friend. We’d made a date. How could I cancel at the last minute?

And if I didn’t see her that day—when? Would there ever be a perfect lull in our lives to get together?

Even so, the weight of everything I should be doing pressed me down. By the time I met my friend, I felt like a simmering pressure cooker about to blow.

She smiled and hugged me. Then she listened while I ranted about life and how I didn’t have any strength. Finally, I buttoned my lips and allowed her to speak. She understood because her life was no less hectic.

Not unlike most of my friends when I ask them, “How are you?”

They reply, “Busy.”

We’re not just busy, we live in a hurry.

We’re always driving in the fast lane to get to the next thing. Rarely engaged in the moment.

That gray afternoon, I made myself STOP for two hours. The world didn’t stop spinning, but my mind did!

My friend mentioned a devotion she’d read which helped her. She talked about the Lord’s faithfulness in her life which led to a discussion about God’s sweet grace.

Somewhere between “hello” and our goodbye hug, the weight lifted from my bent shoulders. My mind rested as though I’d had a long nap. My spirit was refreshed.

I never did what “I thought I needed to do” that day.

The Lord nudged me in a different direction. I spent the evening with my husband at an event I had no desire to attend. Turned out to be a wise choice.

If I hadn’t slowed down to meet my friend, and bring God into our conversation,  I doubt my spirit would have felt God’s nudge much less gladly obeyed Him.

My mentor Loretta told me years ago, “Slowing down is necessary to hear God’s voice.”

So why is this a lesson I keep learning?

Every morning, I have a standing date to meet with the Lord.

When I choose to skip it and hurry into my day, I’m like the ignorant child C.S. Lewis described in Weight of Glory:

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“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

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“The words I have spoken to you, they are full of the Spirit and life.” John 6:63

 

When’s the last time you slowed down to meet with the Lord?

Photos: http://www.jennywredephotography.com

 

 

Seeking God isn’t Fast Food

He stood in front of the open refrigerator. Scanned the shelves of cold food.

Perhaps if he waited long enough, the sandwich meat would read his mind. Then it could squeeze past the slab of bacon, open the deli drawer, and wave, “Here I am!”

Only, he was starving so he hollered, “I thought you bought turkey meat?”

“Did you search in the deli drawer?”

“Ohhhhh, there it is!”

This is not the first time this has happened—particularly when several males were living here—which leads me to believe….

Men bring home the bacon, but they’re often helpless when it comes to finding it—at least in my house.

You’d think our refrigerator was a giant, black hole. Food gets lost. Sometimes it turns green to get our attention. And still the men in my life, stand there, staring into the cold abyss.

No doubt, I have the same blank expression on my face when I open the car hood and look at the thingamabobs. Which leads me to my point—albeit not humorous.

Not everything is in plain view. If we’re not searching, we can’t expect to find it.

God says, “If you seek Me with all your heart, you will find Me.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

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Seek God.

Once He’s found….continually seek Him.

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face alwaysSearch for the LORD and for his strength; continually seek him.…” (Psalm 105:4)

When I served as a jail chaplain, women inmates learned that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10).

As we searched the scriptures, they’d put their faith in Christ and declare, “I’m a new person since I found Jesus.”

When they left jail, some of them returned to their old habits and landed back in jail—frustrated.

Addictions are difficult to overcome especially when the person’s environment and peers don’t change. However, the inmates admitted they had stopped seeking Jesus.

I’m no different. My life flounders when I stop seeking the Lord and rely, instead, on my own strength, wisdom, and ability to love others.

Seeking God requires effort. We can’t idly wait for God to show Himself. He says, “Seek Me with all your heart.”

Spiritual disciplines like Bible reading, prayer, one-on-one discipleship, and corporate worship are the means of seeking the Lord.

But seeking Him is more than a means of meeting our personal needs.

God wants to be wanted. He doesn’t want a passive, fast food relationship.

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Instead of consuming daily devotions as we gulp a cup of coffee and hurry out the door….

We’re invited to “meet with God” in His Word. Pause in the busyness to pray so we can hear His voice and be led by His Spirit.

Christ paid for that privilege when He died on the cross and purchased us with His blood.

Why on earth would anyone settle for less?

 

What are Friends For?

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My friend sniffs, pausing in the middle of her story to get a tissue from her purse.

I wait beside her in the coffee shop.

Mute. Helpless.

Watching huge tears travel down her cheeks like raindrops rolling down a window pane.

She wipes her trail of tears, and I wonder…

Isn’t there a Bible verse about collecting tears in a bottle?

I swallow the knot in my throat. Blink back my own tears.

What can I say to encourage her?

  • Offer to pray with her?
  • Quote a Bible verse?
  • Assure her everything will be alright.

When honestly, I don’t know how things will turn out.

I touch her arm, but hold my tongue. Fearful of being like Job’s friends. Full of platitudes.

Can she feel my empathy? My longing to make things better?

Perhaps it’s enough I’m here to listen.

My friend eventually changes the subject. Mood lightens. Similar to shifting gears on a bicycle after you’ve pedaled on rough terrain and the landscape flattens out.

We hug; agree to pray for one another. Then go our separate ways.

Nothing changed. Nothing solved.

But just the act of sharing—the good, bad, and ugly—lifts our burdens. If only for the moment.

Spirits strengthened. Eyes fixed again on Jesus. We advance into the night….

Trusting a Sovereign God.

Thankful we’re not alone, even if our friends haven’t walked in our shoes or can fully comprehend the pain.

Consider the Virgin Mary who conceived a son and then went in a hurry to visit Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary, she “cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42).

Surely those words were exactly what Mary needed to hear.

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Mary didn’t have to grieve alone.

Years later, when Jesus was dying on a cross, He saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby.

“He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’

Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’

From that hour the disciple took her into his own household (John 19:26, 27).

Mary didn’t have to grieve alone.

Mary Magdalene among others was also there beside her.

Isn’t that what friends are for?

Loving the people God places in our lives.

Especially for such a time as this…..