Monthly Archives: March 2015

Follow the Leader



“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”
Joshua 5:13-14

Being the parent of one child, I had like zero knowledge of how to grow another person in a way that makes them easily manageable; there was no older sibling of his that I had already practiced on. I did have a monthly subscription to Parents magazine that I stored under my bed (I’m not kidding – each issue for many years. I always thought, what if I need to know what is in that magazine for how to deal with a 7 year-old, and I didn’t read it because Noah was 3 when I got it? Best to save it for the next four years under my bed just in case. I am SO THANKFUL for how the internet has changed my world).

When we were shopping, after he was too big to happily sit in the shopping cart, basically I was holding his hand all around the store, going where he led me, looking at the things he stopped at, and sneaking in my things as we went from one of his places to the next. This was especially true if it was something my husband was shopping for and Noah and I were just along for the fun.

I’m not proud of this. At all. Even as I type this it sounds ridiculous. Even ducks at the park have figured out how to do this right. The mama duck just goes along her way, with 9 babies all trailing behind – in a neat line, no less. They follow her.

I didn’t see it then, but I was doing it all backwards.

I wasn’t supposed to be following him. My child was supposed to be following me.

I think we get a little mixed up this way with Jesus too, sometimes.

Rather than following Jesus and His plan for our lives, we ask Him to tag along behind with our plans, asking Him to pick up all the things we drop along the way – things we weren’t supposed to be carrying in the first place.

He isn’t supposed to be following us. We are supposed to be following Him.

Joshua was reminded of this in the Old Testament.

New to the job, he had just led the Israelites out of the desert, across the Jordan River, through Gilgal and was nearing Jericho. Scripture says he saw a man (spoiler alert – it is actually either God in human form, Christ, or an angel) standing in front of him with a sword drawn.

“Are you for us or our enemies?” Joshua asked him.

I love his answer.

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”

Joshua got it. He immediately fell down in reverence.

The notes in my Bible tell me this : “Joshua and Israel must know their place – it is not that God is on their side; rather they must fight God’s battles.”

Jesus isn’t following us. We are followers of His.

So many times I pray for God to be with me as I do this thing, or to work that other thing out for me. I make my plans and expect God to be right behind me in case I need help with whatever the next thing is that I am doing, when it should be the other way around.  I should be following God, seeing what He is doing and how I can play a part in it.

Daily, I need to be looking for God’s direction, and I sometimes forget this important detail.

Join me in beginning our days, asking God what He wants from us, being open and willing for whatever He has in store. His plans are always so much better than ours are anyway.

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Ignore the squirrel


Shawn doing his exercises to help speed up the healing process

In the middle of our Warrior Wives prayer group, I got a text from my son. He said his Dad got hurt playing basketball. After a few texts back and forth, I realized it might be a bigger problem than I originally thought and made it home just after them. The next morning I took Shawn to the doctor to get his knee checked out. An x-ray showed no broken bones, but he was told if the pain didn’t get better after some time, he needed to see his regular doctor in case he had torn his ACL.

Fast-forward a couple of months, an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon determined he had torn either his ACL or his meniscus. Turns out it was both, and he had surgery Friday.

The surgery went very well – no problems, Thank You Lord. And he was his usual, charming, sarcastic self before and after the surgery.

(Here are a couple of examples of how this played out: A. The nurse started to shave Shawn’s knee, and he joked, “You haven’t shaved this winter?” And Shawn’s quick reply as he points to me: “I’ll start when she starts.” B. A different nurse came in to ask about his medical history. She’s looking at the chart and said, “You have a really healthy medical history. That’s great! Any family problems?” And Shawn’s response, again pointing to me: “Yeah, she’s mouthy, and he won’t listen.”)

The recovery is not going nearly as quickly as he had hoped (he had wanted to be back at work by Monday… It’s Thursday and there is no real return-time in sight). And I think it must be a little frustrating for him to need help occasionally. He never needs help, and is usually the one giving help. To be the one on the receiving end is a big change.

If I’m being honest though, I am enjoying getting to do things for him. It’s good to be needed. He needs me to fix his breakfast, he needs me to carry things for him, and he needs me to reach things he can’t. He needs me to stand behind him as he climbs our steps to get on the porch so he doesn’t fall over, or do a dance across our yard in an attempt to balance himself like he may or may not have done yesterday, and I may or may not have laughed hysterically (though he won’t admit that he needs me for this).  He also needs me to drive him to his physical therapy appointment.

Those are things I can do, and I love doing for him. This is how I am supporting him through this. But there are some things I can’t do. I can’t fix his leg muscles – his surgeon and his physical therapist have that responsibility. But I can do my part.

I was reading a couple of verses in Galations chapter 6 today, and verse 2 jumped out at me.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  

Similar to how I was helping Shawn, Paul is telling the church to support each other. It’s kind of a no-brainer that we are to be there, helping people as they need it. When people are down, we are to encourage them. When they are sick, we bring them a meal or send a card.Though there are times I have great intentions for about 3 minutes, and then I’m all “Squirrel” and forget to follow through until the opportunity has been missed. My intentions are right in line with Jesus, it’s my follow-through that needs serious work.

But there are other times it is harder even to have the good intentions. Like when the problems are complicated, and we don’t know how to respond. If someone is getting a divorce, or has a child with cancer, or a dying parent, or a relapse in drug abuse. How do we help them? Surely someone else is better equipped and qualified to do that job. So we step back and wait for them while we offer a genuine, “If you need anything at all, let us know.” But people don’t usually let me know. They need me to just do it.

And there is always something we can do. We might not be able to save someone else’s marriage, but we can leave a cup of coffee and muffin for her just to let her know someone is thinking about her and praying for her. We might not be able to heal a child from cancer or even offer life-changing words to the parents, but we can bring a toy to the hospital. We can offer to bring dinner to the mom and dad. For a friend with a dying parent, we can’t save them, but we can ask them to share a favorite story about their parent, or see if they need their pets fed while they are spending days in the hospital with their loved one. We can’t cure someone’s drug addiction, but we can spend time with them, showing them the love of Jesus.

We can’t do all the things, but there are things we can do. We can’t let insecurities birth excuses and keep us from showing the love of Christ and carrying each other’s burdens. We may not be qualified to fix the whole problem, but we can be the support. If I look at a situation like that, I am sure to find something that I can offer.

I can’t fix Shawn’s leg, but I can take him to the one who can. I can’t fix everyone’s problems and change them myself, but I can support them and point them to the One who can. And it’s my job – Paul said so. So today when you see a situation that someone needs help with, look at it with fresh eyes, and ask yourself, “What is the part that I can do?” Then lets do it. Oh, and Ignore the squirrel.

What’s in your bag?



Anytime I go on a trip, I’m so afraid I will forget to pack something extremely important, like underwear or pants or my hairbrush or 7 books. My way to prevent this is by making a list and taping it to the inside of my front door, adding as I think of things, and crossing off as they are packed.

But it’s inevitable that I will forget something. When I went to Ecuador this summer for a mission trip, I forgot all socks, other than the pair I was wearing and a spare pair in my carry-on – not enough for our 2-week trip. Thankful it wasn’t the pants.

The reason we pack these things is because we will need them. Situations will come up and the things in our bags will serve us well.

We will have bad breath and be able to use our toothbrushes. We will get our clothes dirty and need new pants. We will sleep and need a hairbrush to get rid of our bedhead.

In the same way, it’s necessary for us to keep our life experiences at the top of our metaphorical bag so we can whip them out when the situation calls for it.

Sometimes those things are good, and we’re as happy as Pharrell Williams to get those experiences back out and use them. Happily married? We can use that to encourage other couples. Graduated from college? We can use that to serve our purpose God has given us and to inspire others to pursue their own education. Living without credit cards? We can motivate friends by showing them it is possible to live within their means.

But we’ve all got some ugly stuff in our experience bags too. And I most often prefer to leave those way down in the bottom of my bag where no one will notice them.

But there’s a purpose for even those things.

Sickness or disease, still waiting for healing – God can use that.

Painful divorce that you wish you could forget – He won’t waste it.

Past abuse – He can make good come even from that.

Sins you caused yourself – God can make beautiful things out of every part of our story. I have experienced it first-hand.

Our stories can be an inspiration to somebody. Our stories can offer guidance, either in a “See how I did it? You can do that too!” Or a “Please don’t do what I did… Take my advice. Learn from my mistakes.”

Like Jason Gray says, “In the hands of our Redeemer, nothing is wasted.Thank You, Lord, for that!

Can God really use all my junk and make something good from it? I believe He can.

But the tricky part sometimes is being willing to get these stories out of our bags as others need them. It’s so much easier to leave them be, hidden and forgotten. But God really doesn’t waste anything, and if He has a purpose for my story, then I don’t want to stand in the way of that.

Think about your story today. Write it down if you have a few minutes. The really good parts, and the really hard parts – both can be used for great things in the hand of our Redeemer. Spend a few minutes with God today offering all the parts of your story back to Him.

“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…” Psalm 107:2a

Potato chip hands



I wish I could say I am a runner, but I am not. I want to be, and I was for a while, but my running hobby was short-lived.  And now, six sad, not-in-a-row minutes does not a runner make.

In my running days though, I did a little research, and in addition to learning about runners’ diarrhea (I know, right?), I learned about potato chip hands.

When you are running, it is important to keep your hands mostly relaxed, and not clench them. Clenching your hands (which I did) can cause your forearms to tighten up, and then it spreads, causing tightness all the way through your shoulders, neck and head. Your tightened arms will decrease their range of motion, ultimately causing your stride length to be shorter.

To avoid this, while running you should imagine you are holding a single potato chip in each hand. You keep your hand closed to hold on to your imaginary chip, but not tightly, where you would crush it.

Good advice. “Hold on loosely, but don’t let go…” (You’re welcome).

Something tells me that God might like us to use potato chip hands on most areas of our lives.

Our money – Hold on just enough not to be irresponsible, so it doesn’t fall right out of our hands without us being aware of it (figuratively speaking). But not so tightly that we won’t be willing to help when someone needs it. Err on the side of giving too much too often rather than too little and rarely. (“Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Matthew 5:42)

Our  time – We should hold on tight enough so as not to overfill our schedules with things that God doesn’t want us doing, whether wasting our time on things that do not matter, or doing jobs He has picked out for someone else. But not so tightly that we won’t say yes to what God is asking us to do because it isn’t what we had planned for our day. If our to-do list is a mile long, but God shifts our eyes to a need that will wreck whatever we had planned, we need to ditch that list. (“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” I Peter 4:10)

Our resources – Do we have a spare bedroom? It’s fine to have the craft room or man cave we’ve always dreamed of, but not to hold on so tightly that we won’t let go if God nudges our heart to make space for a foster kid or an aging relative.  (“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  James 1:27)

Ultimately, every area of our lives should be looked at like that. Jesus Himself said that we have to be willing to lose our own lives for Him before we really find life. (Matthew 16:25)

Our life really is no longer our own, and when we dive in to embracing that truth, there is a freedom and joy that can’t make any sense outside of God alone.

Some of my favorite scriptures are full of commands that will call for potato chip hands. Words telling us to help those who need it, to seek justice and give mercy. (Read them when you get a minute – they are 3 of my top 5 favorites – Micah 6:8, Matthew 25:31-40, and Isaiah 58:6-9a).

So join me in loosening our grip, so we can keep a productive stride in our relationship with Christ, making progress for God’s kingdom.