He Has Been There

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Mabye Jennifer Aniston and I could be pals if we ever came across each other in real life. She is delightful and I love her as an actress. Well, I love her in Friends, and she did a good job in Marley and Me.

*Side note- Marley and Me might have been a great movie, but it makes me have guilt as a parent every time I think about it. Apparently, you should research what a movie is about before taking your kid to see it. Don’t just check the rating. Like, for instance, if you see that a cute dog movie is playing, make sure you know that dog is still alive by the end of the movie, especially, let’s say, when your cat who has been alive your child’s entire life passed away 5 days earlier. Don’t judge me. I wasn’t the only one, okay? There were patches of crying children and comforting parents *all across the theater*  after the movie was over. Either the next showing started later, or the ushers left the popcorn and spilled Raisinettes on the floor, because we didn’t clear out of there quickly. (Perhaps I shouldn’t have spoiled the movie for you just now, but come on – that movie is more than a decade old. If you haven’t seen it by now, you aren’t going to)

**A side note to that side note- My young friend from church was moving to Florida a couple of years ago and we went to see a movie before the big move South, and I chose Inside Out. If you haven’t seen that one, you should because it’s great, but don’t watch it with anyone who is moving 15 hours away from all their friends. Sorry, Flynn. I should never pick movies for anyone ever. It is not my gift.

Back to Jen. I don’t love her quite as much in her commercials. I just don’t find them believable. I can’t picture her at the Walmart laying down her 10 bucks for Aveeno as her only means of keeping herself moisturized.

Image result for jennifer aniston meme aveeno

I’m skeptical of famous people pushing their cheap products on commercials, trying to convince us we need it because it works so well for them. As if I believe that Sarah Jessica Parker really only spends $7 on Garnier hair dye and sits in her bathroom with her hair flipped over the tub, setting the egg timer for 20 minutes. And, Henry Winkler, I have a hard time believing the Fonz ever made the decision to do a reverse mortgage to bring in some cash.

I just don’t trust you if you are giving me advice without experience to back it up.

I heard a sermon by Britt Merrick who was talking about a person who was going to run a race. Who would that person go to for pointers and advice on the route? Someone who had merely looked at the route? Maybe someone who had helped plan the route? Someone who gave up halfway through a race? Someone who made a wrong turn? Or someone who completed it? While they all could have *some* good advice for sure, the best option is the person who made it all the way to the finish line.

God gave us Jesus. His sacrifice for us on the cross is for sure the best thing ever, but an added gift for us is the 33 years he lived on this planet. He walked like we do, had relationships like we do, learned like we do. He gets us.

He is able to know from personal experience the things that we go through.

Because of that, we can have an extra level of confidence in what He taught us. He wasn’t giving us empty words when He told us that we would be blessed if we are peacemakers. He meant it when He said the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are persecuted because of righteousness. He wasn’t assuming it’s possible to love our enemies; He had enemies himself and gave his very life for them. He knew what it was like to want to find a way out of something, but to submit to the will of God instead. He experienced his own friends deserting him. He knew what it felt like to be alone. He knew how it felt to be hungry, to be tired, to be thirsty.

Friend, what you have been through, He has been through, in one form or another, and He made it to the finish line. While we will likely have times where we fail along the way, He is who we keep our eyes on to keep going. He picks us right back up and points the way.

So, lets not give up. When you are struggling, know you aren’t alone. We all go through the hard things. Life isn’t easy, and it won’t be this side of Heaven. Keep your eyes on Jesus. And don’t miss out on the people He has put in your life to help along the way. And while you are at it, keep your eyes on the lookout for your brothers and sisters who may be struggling as well, finding opportunities to help and encourage them as well.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:15-16

 

Just Like Us

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Writing for the newspaper at Marshall University was intimidating. I was an older student by the time I decided what I wanted to do with my life, so I already felt a bit out of place. My “beat” was religion, and I basically wrote about any religious groups on campus that were doing something – giving out hot dogs, hosting a seminar, etc. To ensure that we all got as much experience as we could, there were a few assignments that we had for the semester that had nothing to do with our category.

One of those was sports.

I was dreading that for most of the semester. I am not a sports person. I have a difficult time paying attention to what is going on in a game of any kind, and do not know the rules. I also use my own terminology to make it easier for me to understand. In football, “downs” are called “tries.” In baseball, “runs” are still “points” to me.

I tried to get around covering any kind of actual sports thing by doing a couple of sports-ish articles. One was on the Herd’s football chaplain at the time, Pastor Steve Harvey. He was delightful and told me a sweet story about one of his former players, C. J. Spillman, who had gone on to play for the San Diego Chargers.

After hearing him talk about this guy, I got this idea that just maybe I could find a way to get in touch with him.  I remembered something my professor had once said.

“You are a reporter.”

She said that we can call anywhere, contact anyone, or get permission to go anywhere that paid journalists can.

When she said this, it gave me so much more confidence than I would have had otherwise. I wasn’t just a student trying to get a passing grade, hoping to one day be a reporter at a real paper. I was a reporter writing news for readers, plain and simple.

That gave me the confidence to call up the San Diego Chargers media department and get clearance and an appointment to interview Mr. Spillman the following afternoon.

I don’t remember what the story was about or much of the seven minutes I was able to talk to him. But I can tell you that it increased my confidence, it increased the value that I saw in my work, and it increased my boldness for the next time I had a story idea.

I was thinking of this the other day and realized I need to duplicate this line of thinking in my prayer and my relationship with God.

I sometimes forget to pray big. To dream with God. To trust that He hears me and cares just as much for me as He cared for Moses, for David, for Elijah. I’m not trying to say that God should do everything I ask Him; I’m not that crazy. I am often like a toddler who thinks she knows what she wants but needs her Grownup to know what is really good for her. But I should have the assurance that He is listening.

In James chapter 5, James reminds us of when Elijah prayed confidently for rain to prove to the people that his God is the only God. The whole story is found in 1 Kings 18 and 19, and if you have a minute you should go there because it is awesome.

When James is telling us about it, he starts off with a key point.

“Elijah was a man just like us.” James 5:17a (NIV)

There isn’t anything extra about these people who we read about. They are flawed humans who believe in a big God. That’s us too.

When reading Scripture, remind yourself of this. See what God did for them and know He can do it for you too. Know He is hearing your words.

You are a child of God.

For me, this is a reminder to be more intentional in my prayers. It shouldn’t just be a routine, but an opportunity to talk and listen to the same God Moses and David and Elijah talked and listened to.

I challenge you to make a list of the first five times that come to mind when God showed up for you. Times you were confident He heard you.

If you are struggling with that, I want you to look through your Bible and find five times God came through for the people in those pages. Your God did that! And He can do it for you too. Let’s pray like we believe that.

When Our Faith has to Pick a Lane

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pick a laneJesus had some busy days. 

He had just healed a man with leprosy, then a guy’s servant, then healed a bunch of other people from sickness and demon possession. There was a lot going on. This was all in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 8. Jesus had to be physically exhausted. He climbed into the boat and went right to sleep. Just after He and the disciples got on board, the storm started brewing. The wind was blowing, the rain pounding, and waves jumping over the boat. The disciples began to mildly freak out.  

Rushing to Jesus’ mattress, they scream for Him to save them from their impending doom. He was sleeping.  

Have you ever felt like Jesus was sleeping? Unaware of what you are going through? Your wind and water are all over the place, but it feels like He is silent 


Me too. 
 


It is a tricky place to be, a time when our faith 
has to pick a lane. Do we trust Him, or do we not?  


I have prayed for something specific for more than a year and a half now. Something easily answerable. 
Yet I feel like if I look across the boat, I will find Jesus still napping. 


It’s during this time I have to
 decide whether I believe He will do *what* needs to be done *when* He knows it needs to be done, or if I believe I have been forgotten.   


This isn’t easy, and it’s not fun, but sometimes it’s good and necessary for our faith to have to stand exposed
, so to speak, to see what we really believe. No false pretenses, no wishy-washy church words said without meaning. We get to this stormy place, and we decide if we trust Him as the One who can save us or if we don’t.  


The disciples knew w
ho to go to. They ran to Jesus, He got up and stopped the storm. But they had their doubts. Jesus knew it, and He told them as much, asking them why they were so afraid.  


I’m certain Jesus is asking me the same thing right now. “Jennifer, why are you so afraid?” The truth is, I don’t know. I have seen Jesus come through for me over and over again,
 and I have no reason at all to think He would take a break. There are some questions I need to ask myself to get my mind back where it needs to be.

  1. 1.Do I believe God *can* answer my prayer? Yes.  

  1. 2.Have I seen God answer prayers for me before? Yes. 

  1. 3.If this prayer is for our good, and God could be glorified through it, can I trust He will answer it? Yes 

  1. 4.If He chooses not to, can I trust that His reasons are bigger than what I can understand, but that it certainly is not because He fell asleep? Yes. 


If I believe all of
 these things, I can have peace, believing that God will work things out in His own way and His own timing. It might be something I have to realign my soul to every single day, until He works things out His way, but for the peace that comes with it, I will gladly confirm my yeses to these questions as often as I need to. 

Needless to say, Jesus calmed the disciples’ storm by simply speaking. He took care of it, and all was well, amazing these guys who had just seen Him heal a gazillion people right before this. Over and over He proves how He is the One we can trust, and somehow, we forget and then continue to be amazed when He comes through.  


He will take care of me. He will take care of you. 
Let’s trust Him. 


“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Psalm 56:3
 

Being Thankful During a ‘No’

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Blog picture JCM

When I was in junior high, and parents trusted television a little more than they should, I saw a music video on MTV that featured a beautiful lady with a tattoo of a snake that was the entire length of her arm. Though over the years, my mind somehow decided it was on her leg, and that was what I wanted. That was the coolest thing I had ever seen, and I was determined that when I was old enough, I would make that happen.

Turns out putting age restrictions on things like that are a good idea.

But at the time, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t thankful for these restrictions, not the ones from my parents nor the ones from the government.

As a kid, I didn’t know that was a good thing. It seemed kind of crummy to me. Where’s my freedom? Why can’t I make my own choices?

When I don’t get my way, it’s easy for me, even now, to focus in on that, and forget all the other good things that I have in my life.

No, I didn’t get the 3-foot long snake tattoo (thank you mom and dad), but I did get rules that kept me from getting hepatitis and I had a good education, food, shelter, clothing and teen magazines.

And sometimes when I ask God for something, it goes that way. I asked Him for healing for my Mom, which didn’t happen this side of heaven. But I asked for healing for my niece, and it happened that very moment, so I know He is capable (if I haven’t shared that story, find me – I’d love to tell you). I have asked for jobs and babies and relationships, and not all of it went the way I wanted. Some of these things I still pray for, knowing these deep desires are in the hearts of my friends. And some things that I’ve prayed for, I can see now how it wouldn’t have been the best option.

But we are supposed to be thankful in all of it. I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

In the book “Anything,” by Jennie Allen, she quoted her friend Rachel, who had many reasons to become bitter in her life. Instead of bitterness, Rachel was filled with joy and love for others, even those who had hurt her, and she said this:

“You have to thank God for the seemingly good and the seemingly bad because really, you don’t know the difference.” (p59)

There are ways that God can use those seemingly bad things to bring about good that our minds can’t even understand.

Sometimes I still might resemble that 12 year-old girl who wants a snake tattoo, not realizing that what I am asking for isn’t for the best, even though it sure seems to me like it is. But I have a Father who looks at me with love, knowing what is best, and holds me through the “No.”

If there is some “No” you have received that has your full attention right now, and you’re not feeling very Thanksgiving-y, take a few minutes to make a list and let God know how thankful you are for the things he has given you, and how much you trust Him as your Father to know what’s best, even during a “No.”

There is a serious freedom that comes with not having to figure it all out, but simply trusting God, and I, for one, am thankful for that.

 

 

 

What’s the Difference?

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My Gift

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gift

The day before Christmas break we sat in our classroom, and I watched as the sixth- grade girls began to open their gifts from our teacher. I looked at my package. The shape of my present looked different. I was the only fifth grade girl, and wanted to fit in with the older girls. As they began to open their presents, I saw it was cute socks that teens were wearing at that time.

socks2

At that moment, I couldn’t think of anything else that I would rather have than those socks. I didn’t want to open my gift quite yet, holding on to the hope that just maybe what I had in my package was the same thing. As I separated the paper and tape, I saw the doll. My heart sank. I wanted to fit in, by having what tdollhey had.

 

 

 

 

It’s not the first time that I wanted someone else’s gift.

I have looked at people with talents and abilities that I have wanted and felt like I didn’t measure up. Whatever gifts I have seem not cool enough, or not as good as someone else’s.

I listen to people speak in public, and wonder how in the world they do it… I would love to have that gift. Listening to people sing, play the piano, see others’ organizational skills, hospitality, leadership ability… So many gifts I would love to have, especially when I notice other people with them. Not only am I reminded that I don’t have them, but I question the very ones I have been given. I start to feel like I don’t measure up, and that maybe I’m not that great at the gifts I have anyway.

*Side note – I’m pretty sure Satan loves this. He sneaks his way into our head through that tiny crack of comparison, and suddenly has access to much more. While he is in there, he wrecks the place. He fills it with wads of doubt, and boxes of envy, and bags of insecurity – all for me to sort through and unpack for a long time afterward. He is really good at this.

If I can shine some light on them, I would be able to see that those boxes and bags and wads have no place here, and there is nothing in them worth sorting through. Everything must go. That light comes from prayer and reading God’s Word. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, here is what I read –

“You are Christs’ body – that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your part mean anything… But it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that Christs’ church is a complete Body and not a gigantic unidimensional Part? It’s not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. And yet some of you keep competing for so-called ‘important’ parts.” 1 Corinthians 12:27, 31 (Message)

“God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is. Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful…” 1 Corinthians 12:6,7 (Message)

My gifts aren’t shabby. Yours aren’t either. When we quit comparing, and focus on the reason for having the gifts in the first place, we can see the beauty. We can see how we can all work together to “show who God is.” It really is wonderful.

To be honest, I really loved the doll. It was a good gift for me. I just had to take my eyes off everyone else’s gift to see how great mine was.

A Road Trip and a Reminder

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I was about to ship my only son off on a plane to spend a week with his friend, and I was savoring every minute of the three-hour car ride to the airport. Snacks, music, sunshine – it was perfect.

I had been this route before, but I was taking in all the scenery. The trees were especially beautiful that day, and there were times the early morning rays of sunshine spread out over the hills in front of us and made me want to stop for pictures.

Wide, open fields and big older homes had me wondering about the people who lived there and what they might do with their days. Do they farm? Do they have other jobs and have to come home and tend to all the gardening themselves?

And there was conversation. I love getting to talk to him. The older my son gets I realize how quickly we are cruising to the end of the time I get to spend with him like this.

The one thing I did not realize, however, is how quickly we were cruising through Circleville.

2017 1986

The lights behind me let me know it was probably faster than it should have been. And the kind officer who asked for my license and registration confirmed it by telling me I had been going 72 in a 60. I received my first speeding ticket in all of my driving years. And I deserved it. I do the crime, I do the time (well, pay the fine, I guess).

He also asked me if I had realized what the speed limit was, and I honestly said no, because it turns out I had not paid any attention to it.

I was looking at the beautiful sunshine, and the trees, and the houses, and occasionally the road, but had only noticed a speed limit sign a couple of times the entire trip.

What I was paying attention to was lovely, but I was focused on the wrong thing.

And it’s certainly not the first time I’ve done that.

I can get so distracted by things in life, sometimes things that aren’t a bit good for me, and oftentimes things that seem harmless. But if they are taking my attention from what I should be focused on, I need to be reminded.

Life is busy, and there are a thousand things that need our attention. But the most important part of our days is without a doubt our time with God. When we keep our eyes focused on Him, we are less likely to mess it all up, and Satan is less likely to distract us from how God is wanting to use us while we are here. And boy is he good at it. He will distract us with busyness and he will distract us with sin. He will distract with frustrations and disagreements. He distracts with dangling an imitation of what you really need right in front of your face. Don’t let him. Focus on God. He has what you need.

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”
1 Peter 5:8

Let’s make it a priority – keep our time with God above everything else. And use cruise control in Circleville.