When You Ask “Who am I?”

Not long ago, I was riding down a road that I travel frequently. As I came around a familiar curve, I started seeing road work signs and pretty quickly came to a guy holding a stop sign. I slowed to a roll and brought the car to a halt in front of him. It didn’t take long for a line to form behind me. As it turned out, they were paving the road, and I was honestly very unsure of what to do because the gentleman holding the sign was giving no direction. After what seemed like forever, I was still sitting there and started fretting a bit, wondering if I should have gone around him by now? Were the people behind me going to start honking? But after a couple more minutes, I saw what we had been waiting for. A Pilot Car showed up…with a huge sign that said, “Follow Me”…and I won’t lie, I felt a huge sense of relief.

Silly, right? But y’all, I think there are so many times in life that we find ourselves at a stopping point, many times with others who are waiting to follow our lead, whether it be our children, co-workers, or even strangers on a road…and WE DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.

We wonder why in the world God has us at the front of the line, in a place of leadership, when we feel so ill-equipped. But as I read about Moses this week, it put so many things in perspective, and I hope it will be a blessing to you too.

In Exodus 3, Moses is tending his flock when he sees a burning bush. He walks towards it to take a closer look, and God calls out to him, “Moses! Moses!” The Lord proceeds to tell him that he has heard the cries and seen the oppression of His people, and He has come down to rescue them. I’m sure Moses felt awe and relief, but then, everything changed. The Lord told Moses, “Now go, for I am sending YOU to Pharoah. YOU must lead my people out of Egypt.”

I can’t imagine how Moses must have felt when He heard those words. Fear, confusion, and stubbornness bubbled to the surface as Moses protested, “Who am I to appear before Pharoah? Who am I to lead the people out of Egypt?”

And y’all, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never thought the same thing. I would be willing to guess that we all have at some point. The Lord may not have called us to something as huge as leading His people out of Egypt, but even in our day to day, raising kids, loving our spouse, working at whatever profession the Lord has placed us in…it runs through our minds…”Who am I? Why me Lord? I’m not equipped for this…” and the excuses roll off our tongues.

In those moments, I want affirmation. I want to be lifted up and praised and told why I am good enough for this role…I want to hear my strengths to give me a confidence boost. But y’all, that’s not what the Lord did for Moses. Because that’s not what mattered.

When Moses cried out, “Who am I?,” the Lord responded, “I will be with you.”

That’s it. He doesn’t tell him how handsome and strong and worthy He is. He doesn’t affirm him in any way. He reminds Him Who is with Him. That’s all he needs to know. And that’s all we need to know, y’all.

Whatever the Lord is calling you to today, whatever line you seem to be at the front of, whatever role you’ve been place in to lead others…no matter how insignificant…don’t ask “Who am I?” Just look at Who is with you.

Let your heart overflow with gratitude for the “pilot” you have leading you. And keep your eyes on the signs that say, “Follow Me.” He is with you.

Listen for the Heart Behind the Words

Not long ago, my five-year-old jumped in the car from pre-school and announced, “I have a BOYFRIEND!” Her little face was glowing, and I asked how that had come to be. She explained that she chased him down on the playground and requested that he become her beau. To her delight, he agreed…on one condition. That she would do whatever he said. Ha! Well, to my surprise, this feisty, bossy little thing said she had agreed to the terms! It makes me giggle just thinking about it. 

While that little scenario might make us smile, it also leads me to think about that bold condition. I’ll accept your offer if you do whatever I say. That could spell out M-E-S-S in big bold letters for most people. 

But not when it pertains to God, y’all.

You see, that same little one and I were reading the story of Jericho recently in her Jesus Storybook Bible. It told about the Lord’s command, that probably sounded foolish to many, for the Israelites to march around Jericho in silence. But then, when He gave the order on the seventh day, they would yell at the top of their lungs and the walls would come crumbling down. And that’s exactly what happened.

But before any of that came to pass, the Lord spoke to Joshua and said, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.” Or as the Jesus Storybook Bible says, “If you do what I say, everything will go well with you.” 

So what’s the difference? Aren’t they saying the same thing? “If you do what I say…” Well, they are and they aren’t…so here’s the difference.

People are sinful, y’all. When that sweet five-year-old boy set the condition for my baby, he, most likely, was thinking of himself and the joy he would get from bossing her around. But when the Lord says it, well, He’s trying to keep us from heartache that could easily be avoided. And as it is with so many things, it is not the words themselves, but the intention of the heart behind the words.

Psalm 32:8-9,11 says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control…So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey Him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!”

My sweet friends, we can trust that the Lord has our best at heart. When He says that all will go well with us if we listen to Him, He means it. He wants to save us from our bad choices. He wants to save us from ourselves. My prayer is that we will all strive to have obedient hearts that long to hear His voice and seek His face today, and every day. 

“If you love Me, you will obey my commandments.” John 14:15

When You Look at Your Past…What Do You See Most?

So much has been shared on the news and social media lately about the past. About our history…mostly hard, hurtful things that have been done to various people groups: African Americans and Jews, even political groups, etc. Most of what I have seen attempts to pit one group against another and cause more division by bringing up reminders of old hurts, in hopes that anger, frustration, bitterness, and unforgiveness will dwell in hearts. None of this is from the Lord.

And today, as I read Psalm 107, I realized so clearly that, as followers of Jesus, we all have a choice of what we focus on…what we see most…in our pasts. You see, we are all sinners. We all make mistakes. Our forefathers did. Our children do. And every generation to come will as well. But one thing the Bible reminds us of, over and over (Deuteronomy is one place to look), is that we should share with our children and our children’s children, not only about the difficult things we and our ancestors have faced…but how the Lord brought us through them.

Psalm 107 mentions four groups of people, and while this is not exhaustive, it is a pretty good description of how many of us face the Lord and His word:

  1. The Wanderers– “Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless. Hungry and thirsty, they nearly died.” (v.4-5)
  2. The Enslaved– “Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery. They rebelled against the words of God, scorning the counsel of the Most High. (v.10-11)
  3. The Rebels– “Some were fools; they rebelled and suffered for their sins. They couldn’t stand the thought o food, and they were knocking on death’s door.” (v.17-18)
  4. The Seekers– “Some went off in ships, plying the trade routes of the world. Their ships tossed…the sailors cringed in terror…They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits end.” (v.23, 26-27)

You may see yourself as one of these people, or maybe not, but the amazing thing about all of them is that whatever experiences they had, whatever trials they went through, they all reached a point where they realized they couldn’t make it on their own:

"Lord, help!" they cried in their trouble, 
and He rescued/saved them from their distress." 
Psalm 107:6,13,19,28 NLT

So did he listen to them? I believe He did because after their cries:

  • “He led them straight to safety…” (v7)
  • “He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom…” (v14)
  • “He snapped their chains.” (v14)
  • “He sent out His word and healed them….” (v20)
  • “He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves.” (v29)

And once the Lord came to their rescue, the Psalmist gave this directive, though we don’t know if they followed through:

"Let them praise the Lord for His great love and 
for the wonderful things He has done for them." 
Psalm 107:8,15,21,31 NLT

I understand that many of you might be thinking that the last thing you want to do is praise the Lord. That even though He may have helped your in a hard circumstance, you still have people you love who have been hurt, looked down upon, mistreated, and just plain overlooked. But y’all, the Lord hasn’t done those things. He has seen every wound, heard every cry, and felt every hurt that you feel. And because many of you may question why a good God would allow hard things if He really loves you and your people, I have to share the ending:

"Those who are wise will take all this to heart; 
they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord." 
Psalm 107:43 NLT

Because without trials to be brought through….we wouldn’t recognize the faithful love we’ve been brought to, y’all.

Not long ago, I passed some sticks on the ground while I was walking. They caught my attention because they made an “X”. But as I looked back when I passed, I realized that from my new point of view, I saw a cross.

We all have a choice when we look back, y’all. At our history/past as a nation and in our personal lives. We can choose to see the wrongs and hold ourselves back from healing and joy and peace that only the Lord brings. Or we can grow in wisdom as we focus on what we learned…what we don’t want to repeat…on the healing, chain-breaking, door-opening, power of the Lord…and the faithful love that brought us through.

It’s our choice to make. Love you sweet friends-

Back to School 2020: 5 “P’s” to Pray For

This school year is one for the history books, and as I sent my babies off today, five things were on my mind and in my prayers. I want to share them in hopes that they will give you some encouragement, reassurance, and direction in your own prayers as you lift your families up as well. The scripture references (NLT unless stated otherwise) would be great to post around your home as reminders of the One who is holding us all during this time.

Five things to pray for this school year:

1.Provision. There are so many needs right now: increased materials like extra cleaning supplies, masks, sanitizer, lanyards, and technology. Custodians to keep our buildings safer during this time. A heightened demand for substitutes, should large numbers of teachers get sick. Childcare needs for parents and others (as well as other practical things). But more pressing is the need for the Lord to provide us with the three remaining things on my list. And at first glance, it can all feel overwhelming….to us. But not to Him.

Not long ago, I heard a sermon at Elevation church and loved this quote: “God is not only the Provider…He IS the Provision.” I think we so often forget that. You see, it’s not really the items on our list that can fulfill our longings…as much as the One who does the filling. Don’t mistake that. Look for Jesus in the midst of your struggles, my sweet friends, and He will meet your needs…sometimes in ways you never imagined.

“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

“For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” Luke 12:23-25 NIV

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9-11

Other verses: Hebrews 13:5, 2 Peter 1:3, Job 38:41, Luke 12:7, Matt. 6:33, Romans 8:32, Psalm 132:15

2. Protection. While this is always on my list, I know it is on people’s minds more than ever. And while the obvious need is for protection from sickness, let’s not forget to come before the Lord asking for protection of our babies’ hearts and minds from the things of this world. Through technology, television, music, social media, and yes, some classmates in their schools, they are bombarded with things that are not God’s best for them. They face choices, sometimes multiple times a day, that many of us never had to. And in those moments, they will decide to choose God’s way…or the world’s. As parents, we must stand in the gap and cover them with our prayers because though we can’t always be with them, the Lord can-and will.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deut. 31:6 NIV

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Is.41:10

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber, indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121 NIV

Other verses: Psalm 91, Ps.34:19, Ps.46:1, Ps.138:7, John 10:29

3.Presence. Y’all, some people will tell you God is everywhere. And He is. But scripture makes it clear that we have the choice to ask for His presence or not. We have the privilege of being able to invite Him into our lives or not. And I don’t want there to be any doubt that I want the Lord surrounding my babies, their classmates, their teachers, and our schools as a whole. So, although it is true that He is with us in general, don’t take for granted the opportunity you have to boldly call on His name on behalf of your babies this year.

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11 NIV

“The LORD is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.”Ps.145:18

“Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.” Psalm 37:7

From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us.”Acts 17:26-27

“My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8

Other verses: Ps.139:5, Acts 3:20-21, Zeph.3:17

4.Peace.  I was watching Miss Congeniality recently and giggled when the girls were asked what the world needed most. “World peace” was the answer from every contestant. It seems like the cliche answer, but it is what we all long for right? That ability to turn on the news and see everyone loving each other and being kind. No war, no riots, no sickness or earthquakes or death? But that’s not what this world has to offer, y’all.

The beautiful truth is that through Jesus we can have peace even in the midst of these things, though. We don’t have to earn it or hunt for it or hope for a lucky break. We just have to surrender our broken lives to the One who loves us most. To come before Him and ask Him, not to change our circumstances, but to change our hearts and perspective in the midst of those circumstances.

I challenge us all to pray not only for peace in the hearts of our own babies, but for their teachers, administrators, custodians, lunch staff, bus drivers, nurses, and all support staff who are caring for them during this time. For a blanket of peace-a calming presence-to guard their hearts and minds and facilities. For fear to have no reign there in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16

““I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

Other verses: Ps.27:8, Ps.46:10, Jer.17:7-8, Heb.12:14, Phil.4:6-7, 1 Peter 5:7, Rom.12:18

5.Passion. This one is hardest I think. And you may not want to pray it because it requires you to put yourself out there. But y’all, our world needs Jesus. Not just a little bit, but wrapped up, covered from head to toe, drenched in Jesus. And this is the prime opportunity for you and your babies to share Him and all that He’s doing in your life with others. When people are afraid and looking for hope, they are more willing to listen. And right now, things look very bleak to those who are lost.

So pray! Pray that you and your babies would have the courage to speak up. To lend a hand. To share, not necessarily on social media or on a grand stage, but person to person, the provision and the protection and the presence and the peace and the hope that Jesus brings to your life. That your heart would be so filled with passion for the Lord and His Word that it would seep out all over the place-that it couldn’t be contained! We are all supposed to be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have…and this year may be your moment.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1Peter 3:15

“Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.” Psalm 105:1

“But we contine to preach because we have the same kind of faith the Psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 2 Corinthians 4:13

“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak out about His mysterious plan concerning Christ…Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.” Col.4:2-4

Other verses: Colossians 4:5-6, Deut.6:4-9,

Dear Jesus,

There are so many unknowns about this school year and my heart is weary. But Lord, I know that you are good. That you are able. And that you are the same yesterday, today, and forever, and I can trust you. I lay my babies, their teachers, classmates, and school staff at your feet. I ask you to provide for all of the needs this school year, even those not yet seen. To protect their hearts and minds and bodies from things that could harm them or pull them away from You. I ask You to fill their school buildings from top to bottom, front to back, side to side, and all around, so that not one ounce of that space isn’t covered in your presence. I ask for the peace that only you can give to rule in the hearts and minds of every person involved in this school year. That fear and worry and anxiety would be cast out in Jesus’ name and instead be replaced with hope and faith and Truth. And Lord, give me the courage and the passion to share you and the hope that you have with others. Thank you for all you have done and all you are going to do!

In Your Mighty Name,

Amen

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Because Every Moment Matters (Whether it is Documented in Pictures or Not)

*This blog was originally posted in 2017 on Beautiful in Your Heart.

When my oldest daughter was born, my camera became my new best friend. I captured every facial expression, every outfit, every event, every everything. Not only did I capture them, but I printed each and every picture and placed them in carefully labeled picture books by week and month. So the first five years of her life are basically documented to the day. You want to know what she was doing in year 2 month 5? No problem! I can break out the albums any time.

When my son came along, it became harder to keep up. But I managed to keep documenting both of their lives up until he was 26 months old. That’s right…I was still “mommy” enough to count by months at that point. But then I realized that our house would be overrun by photo albums if I didn’t figure out a better system of keeping up with my sweet babies.

So I turned to blogging. I posted cute pictures of cute kids with cute descriptions of all their happenings. And a few years into that hobby, I found that you could print your blog. My blog wasn’t quite as detailed as the photo albums, but it was still divided up by month with all of the major highlights. So I have each year from 2008-2015 printed in book form.

But in 2014, baby number 3 came along. And all hope of keeping up with month by month detailed descriptions of their lives went out the window. I did backtrack enough to put 2015 together, but then the magic stopped. Thankfully, I post a lot of major things and pictures on Facebook. And what do you know? Now you can print your Facebook posts. So…2016 and 2017 should be arriving in the mail any day now. I am officially caught up. For now. (Update: ’18 and ’19 have yet to be printed…)

Today as I sat anticipating my new books’ arrival, I got a little sad. It hurt my heart to think how my baby girl’s facial expressions and outfits and events have not been captured with the same care and attention that my oldest daughter’s were. A collection of Facebook posts can hardly compare to every printed picture organized by week and month in sweet photo albums. I was lamenting the fact that I had let my youngest down. But then the Lord reminded me of something:

He hasn’t missed anything. And He has seen what matters most.

Every moment hasn’t been captured on camera, but He has been with me every second of every minute of every day. He has seen the silly giggles and funny faces. He has seen the tears and muffled cries. He has seen the nights of rocking babies to sleep while singing praise songs to Him. He has seen the cooking and the cleaning and the dirty diapers. Oh, the dirty diapers!

He has seen the birthday parties and July 4th fireworks and Christmas mornings. He has seen the bedtime prayers and kind words spoken between us.. He has seen the frustration and the angry words as well. He has seen the time trying to memorize Bible verses and the time singing good ol’ country songs. He has seen us dancing in the kitchen and the many minutes sitting in time out. He has seen it all.

And it has all been for His glory as every moment has been recorded by Him.

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT

In this world of mommy comparison and social media, it is easy to become convinced that every moment needs to be recorded, shared, and posted for all to see. Almost like if it isn’t, then it didn’t happen.

But that is a lie. 

Nothing we do for our husbands or children or work or friends or even strangers, is ever useless or unnoticed, if it is done for the Lord. He is the only audience we need. He is the only one who matters. And He is the only one who can take our inadequacy, our failures, and the moments when we just don’t feel like we’re enough, and grow us into something beautiful.

Our children may not see every moment of their lives. But the One who matters most does.

When we plant seeds for Him by showing love and kindness and gentleness and patience, He is right there. When we water what we’ve planted by teaching them scripture and telling them about a Savior who loves them with an amazing love, He’s still right there.

But we need to remember this:

“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:7 NIV

We can be the best moms in the world. We can plan amazing birthday parties to celebrate life and involve our kids in cool mission projects and teach them respect and manners. We can show them responsibility by making them do chores and empathy by letting them in on other’s lives that are not just like them. We can help them with school work and sports and piano and any other list of things. We can even keep amazing picture books for them.

But in the end, God is the only One who makes things grow from the seeds we plant.

So I am challenged tonight not to worry so much about how many pictures I take or albums I keep. Because in the end, they are just pictures. Providing them with moments to love and learn and grow in the Lord is what matters most. And He will use them for His glory.

When my littlest grows up, I imagine she won’t be asking what she did in year 2 month 5 of her life. And she’ll probably be glad she doesn’t have as many picture albums to keep up with! But I do expect her to reminisce about the times we laughed together and cried together and grew in the Lord together. And those are things that can’t be lost just because they weren’t printed in a picture book. They will be saved in our hearts and minds. They will be seen by a good, good Father. And they matter.

So fellow mamas, keep living and loving and laughing and crying and just BEING. Be strong and IMMOVABLE in the Lord. Live ENTHUSIASTICALLY for Him. PLANT seeds and WATER them. Nothing you are doing is useless. No moment too insignificant for the Lord.

Snap a picture…or don’t. But keep your focus on the One who matters most. He loves you and your babies so very much.

 

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How to Battle for Brothers and Sisters in Christ-One Relationship at a Time

Y’all, in the past few months, weeks, and days, the Lord has been making it so clear that now, more than ever, as Christ followers, we have got to stand for and with each other. Satan is attacking on every front from the public arena to the privacy of our own homes. These are battles that can’t just be fought on a mass scale, but are going to require us to get out of our comfort zones and become courageous fighters for and with the people closest to us in personal relationships that will have a domino effect for God’s people:

In 2 Samuel 10: 9-12 and 15, David sent Joab to fight the Ammonites (who brought in reinforcements to fight with them) and this is what happened:

When Joab saw that he would have to fight on both the front and the rear, he chose some of Israel’s elite troops and placed them under his personal command to fight the Arameans in the fields. He left the rest of the army under the command of his brother Abishai, who was to attack the Ammonites. “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then come over and help me,” Joab told his brother. “And if the Ammonites are too strong for you, I will come and help you. Be courageous! Let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. May the Lord’s will be done.”… The Arameans now realized that they were no match for Israel.” NLT (italics mine)

There are four things the Lord shared from this passage that we need to think about as we go to battle with our brothers and sisters in Christ:

1. The Enemy comes at us from every side, so we must have a plan of attack.

When Joab saw that he would have to fight on both the front and the rear…” (2 Sam.10:9)

Joab knew that he had to assess and evaluate the war situation he was walking into before he got there. He realized that he had to strategically place his men and himself for victory…battling evil is not something that can be taken lightly. He found that he would face adversaries in the front and the rear, so he called in reinforcements himself. We must follow his example in preparing wholeheartedly for struggles ahead and prayerfully consider the who, what, when, where, why, and how of claiming victory.

2.We need to share the responsibility of battle with our brothers.

“He left the rest of the army under the command of his brother Abishai…” (2 Sam.10:10)

You may say, “Well, I don’t have a brother in my family.” But this is a calling to recognize our brothers and sisters in Christ as allies and allow them to use their gifts, abilities, and the power of prayer to help us when we are struggling and vice versa. It might be a family member, a friend, a colleague, or even an acquaintance who you know loves the Lord and will battle beside you when you recognize that you can’t battle alone.

3.We need to keep an eye on one another so that if the battle becomes too strong, we can come to the other’s aid.

If the Arameans are too strong for me, then come over and help me,” Joab told his brother.And if the Ammonites are too strong for you, I will come and help you.” (2 Sam.10:11)

So this is huge. Not only should our brothers and sisters in Christ battle beside us and us with them, but we should keep watch over one another so that we can be ready to join in fighting with and for them when they need us. It most likely will not be literal fighting, but becoming prayer warriors, speaking truth to each other, fasting and standing in the gap for those who need us by using our voices and actions. Claiming victory in Jesus’ name and just being present to “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” To become a community of believers who will call each other up and express our struggles. Then as one prays for another and that one for another and that one for another, these small victories will push us on to greater victories together.

4.Be confident that when God’s people stand together in His name, the enemy is no match.

“Be courageous! Let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. May the Lord’s will be done…The Arameans now realized that they were no match for Israel.” (2 Sam.10:12, 15)

There is power in standing together in the name of the Lord, y’all! We have got to bind fear, rebuke complacency, and claim Truth to each other and those around us, believing that we WILL see a victory in Jesus’ name. We must choose to live courageous and fight for the Lord’s will. No matter what battles you, your friends, or our nation are facing, we can face them and fight them together!

Y’all, this life is not going to get any easier. Jesus told us that in this world we would have trouble…but we don’t have to fear because He has overcome it. And we don’t! But sometimes, when your eyes and ears and heart and mind are bombarded with things that bring sadness, frustration, anger, and confusion (all tactics of the enemy), it can be hard to accept Truth.

I know the Truth. I study the Truth. I tell other people the Truth. But sometimes, I need someone to tell it to me out loud and remind me that I am in a battle that has already been won! A battle that I know the ending to. And that the things of this world are temporary. I need to hear that God is good and just and faithful and will never leave me. I need to hear a sister in Christ praying out loud for me because there is power in the name of Jesus spoken for all to hear!

If you need someone to pray for you, I would consider it an honor. Please don’t fight your battles alone. And don’t let those close to you. We are all one in Christ Jesus. Let’s show that to the world, one relationship at a time.

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New Article Links

These are more article links from other websites since April. Hope they are a blessing:

Believing We Are Right…But Still Being So Very Wrong

https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/your-daily-prayer/your-daily-prayer-may-23.html

https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/your-daily-prayer/your-daily-prayer-june-2.html

https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-may-19.html

https://www.ibelieve.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-june-9.html

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What is the Lord Asking You to Do? Speak Out, Speak Up, or Both?

A few weeks ago, I posted an article on my personal Facebook page about Ben Carson, reflecting on the death of George Floyd, because I respect him so much. An African-American friend and brother posed this question in my comments section:

“So have you spoken out on the social injustices that have occurred? The article states you are a part of the problem or the solution. What have you done to be part of the solution?”

His question was sincere, and I answered that I am praying about what the Lord would have me do and gave a number of actions I am taking or have taken in my own life to hopefully be a part of the solution to the racial dissension in our world right now, but the Lord laid something else on my heart as I prayed about his question.

I felt like the Lord told me, “Maggie, it’s not for all to speak out – some may only be supposed to speak upward.”

Words in themselves are meaningless. It’s the power and the truth and the wisdom and the prayer and the guidance and the discernment and the heart of the person behind the words that matter.

For Christians who are seeking the Lord, silence is not always consent. Silence may show thoughtful obedience to making sure that when words are spoken, they are spoken from the right person-to the right person-in the right place-at the right time-with the right motives.

We carry a huge responsibility with our words. Each time I write an article, I read and reread and read it again while also having my mom or close friends read to make sure that my heart and God’s purpose in the writing is clear… that there is nothing hurtful or off-base scripturally, because in everything I do, I strive to be a representative of Jesus.

Proverbs 18:21 says “the tongue has the power of life and death.” And our words, spoken or typed, cannot be erased or taken back once they have left our hearts.

Words inevitably mean more when they are spoken to someone you have a relationship with – when people know your heart. Sometimes, words in person may be advised instead of posts on social media.

And sometimes, our words are only to be directed upward to the Lord. The power of prayer cannot be denied. And for some, that may be all the Lord is asking them to do.

So for all of us whose hearts have been broken by the racial dissension in our country, I pray we would seek the Lord’s will in the if and when and where and how anything should be spoken out publicly.

“When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.”
Proverbs 31:26

There is “A time to be quiet and a time to speak.” Ecclesiastes 3:7

Let’s not be too quick to judge or make assumptions about those who are not speaking out publicly, or those who are, because only the Lord knows their hearts and His purposes for them.

But may we ALL speak upward, crying out to God for repentance, healing, and restoration in our land.

Other tongue verses:
Proverbs 15:1,4,28
Proverbs 21:23

*This photograph was taken by Game Changer Photography at the Unity Prayer Event hosted by Backpack International recently during our prayer time.

**Let me be clear that the purpose of this writing is not to suggest we should do nothing…but we should prayerfully consider our words and actions and timing before moving forward.

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Looking Beyond What We Can See With Our Eyes: 3 Ways to See a Heart

This article originally appeared on Blogs by Christian Women Nov.30, 2018, but I felt it was relevant today. This is the longing of my heart for all of us:

HOW TO SEE THE HEART OF OTHERS

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here

Since my children were born, there has been a list of things I have prayed for them.

To be protected.

To know how special they are and how very much they are loved.

To find good friends who will stand by them.

To have their hearts and minds guarded from the things of this world.

To speak life into others. And to do the right thing, even when it’s hard.

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But most of all, after coming to know Jesus as their Savior, I have prayed that they would see people the way the Lord does and love them as He would. The longing of my heart is that they would look not at the outside, but at the inside, and see that beautiful hearts are what count most.

A God Idea

In October 2016, the Lord placed it on my heart to share this message with others through a children’s book called Bumper.  Now here we are two years later, and this little story has become a reality! Based on 1 Samuel 16:7, which says that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” Bumper, a frog, and his best friend Hazel, a toad, set out to show others that there is more to friendship than meets the eye.

In a world where outer beauty rules, it is easy to make quick judgments about others simply by how they look.

Fancy car, fancy house, brand new clothes, and a nanny in tow: she must be a spoiled, uptight snob. Old beat up car, mobile home, 5-year-old clothes, and a line of dirty children in tow: she must be lazy and beneath me. Different skin color, different economic status, different language…we make assumptions every day.

And y’all, if that is the model we give our children, what will they do?

They will do what we do. And the divisions in our schools and towns will continue to get worse. But ladies, if we choose to take the time to look past the exterior, we might just find the blessing of a friendship we might have otherwise missed. And we have the amazing privilege of teaching a new generation to follow our lead.

I have had the joy of sharing Bumper with different groups of children recently, and when I ask them to look at the heart of the person next to them…they look at me like I might just be a little off my rocker!

Because really, how do you look at a heart???

The Bible shares in numerous places that the Lord looks at our heart, examines our heart and is greater than our hearts. And I believe He gives us three ways that we can “see” a heart and help our children to also:

1. We listen to the words people speak.   

Luke 6:45 says that “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

Do you hear kind words being spoken? Words that uplift and encourage? Or words that belittle and tear down in gossip? The things and people we listen to, watch, and spend time with will infiltrate our hearts. There is no doubt that the things we see and hear will be stored, waiting to come out at the first opportunity. And the words of others give us an open window into their own hearts. Don’t just listen, but truly hear what people are saying.

2. We watch the things they do. 

When asked in Mark 12:30-31 what the greatest commandments were, Jesus said to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

How do you see people spend their time and money? Is it all on themselves? Do they give to others generously, expecting nothing in return? Or do they want to gain recognition and praise for their actions? Do they interact with “people of low position” (Rom.12:16) or are they conceited? Do they treat others as they want to be treated? Don’t just watch, but truly see what people are doing.

3. We wait to see how they respond when they mess up.

Oh, y’all. We listen to the words and we watch the actions, but nobody has it together all the time. We are all sinners in need of a Savior, and we will mess up! We will say something we shouldn’t. We will do something we shouldn’t. But the question is…what will we do to make it right? Don’t stop listening and watching right away. Wait to see what happens…

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Will the person apologize and ask for forgiveness? Will they correct the wrong? Or will they keep on with life with no regret? You will see the heart. You will.

One of the age-old songs reads, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world…” and we should too. Look past the things of this world y’all…it is very temporary. Put your eyes on the things of eternity and help others to do the same. Be kind. Love others. And create a circle of friends that would make jaws drop! We are all so much more than meets the eye…

How You Can Help

I am so thankful the Lord has opened the door for me to share Him and His heart for others through this sweet story. If you have a group of moms, school, or other organization who want to help others see the heart as well, I would love to share more! You can email me at maggiecooper25@gmail.com or message me on Facebook.

Get Your Copy of Bumper

ORDER ON AMAZONGet the family history of how Bumper came to be here.

May we all choose to see that beautiful hearts are what counts most!

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Color Should Just Be an Adjective: Praying to See Others as Jesus Sees and Teaching our Children to Do the Same

The past few weeks have taken a toll on my heart. Starting with the death of Ahmaud Arbery and now George Floyd and all that has happened since then. It’s painful to watch the news and see the destruction that is taking place in cities across our country. Hate bringing more hate. Destruction bringing more destruction. And I can’t imagine how it grieves God’s heart to see His people in this place.

Three years ago, I wrote this blog, and I wanted to share again. But with some revisions. At the time, I said, “Color is just an adjective.” But in reality, I should have said, “Color should just be an adjective.” I think it’s very clear that today, it has still not come to fruition. I still believe the change we want to see can come in our children’s generation, but what I didn’t state enough in this piece was that it MUST start with us. And that requires all of us to do some real soul-searching through fervent prayer. For the hidden to be revealed. For us to face our own depravity. And for Truth to win. This is not a battle against flesh and blood, but against the Enemy to us all who wants nothing more than to divide and destroy. I am praying and will continue teaching my children to love and see people like Jesus the best I can. 

I hope this will be an encouragement, my sweet friends:

When my son was four, he came home from Pre-K one day and asked, “Mama, what color am I?” I asked what he thought, and he said, “Well, Derek is dark brown and Josh is light brown and Bo is really white…and I guess I’m kinda pink?” I told him that looked right to me! Why was he asking? Because he wasn’t sure what crayon to use in his self-portrait. 

Today I asked my 5th grade daughter to describe herself. She said she has long brown hair, is smart, likes to tumble, and is responsible. I asked her to describe another good friend in her class. She said she has pierced ears, is smart, always wears cute earrings, and is sweet. That particular friend happens to be black. But you didn’t know that, did you?

That’s because skin color is not the first attribute my children think about. 
Color is just an adjective to them. Like tall, short, old, young, kind, or mean. 
It does not define who a person is. 

My heart hurts when I see the news. It hurts when I see others choosing death over life, in their words and actions. It hurts to think of my children growing up in a world that puts the most importance on outward appearance and not the heart. But how can we change it?

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”

Our children’s hearts are the key to changing the culture. The culture of hate. The culture of comparison and prejudice. The culture of never enough. The culture of “I want.” The culture of “I deserve this.” The culture of “It’s someone else’s fault.” The culture of selfishness and pride that exists in all of us. But our hearts must be right first.

Talk about the Lord and why He came. Talk about His love for everyone.  Talk about His forgiveness for all who call on His name. Talk about obedience to Him. Talk about the sinner that you are and the amazing grace that saved you. And tell them that in Christ we are all one! 

Then walk the walk that you’ve been talking.

Invite friends of other races over to play. Have conversations with your black friends about how you can help them. Make an effort to understand others points of view and really listen. Speak up and do the right thing, even if it’s hard. And make your actions match your words.

Matthew 22:36-40 says:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The Lord has given us the amazing responsibility of teaching our children to love God and love others. Not just white others. Not just black others. Not just the ones like us. All others. And in order to do that, we must honestly look at our own hearts. 

Many times our children get it right before we do. Watch your children. Listen to them. And learn from them as well. (Matt.18:3)

Describe people by who they are on the inside.
Believe the best about them.
Truly try to see them as the Lord sees them. 
And shine His light with your love.
His saving grace defines all of us.

Color should just be an adjective.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height…The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”1 Samuel 16:7
Dear Jesus,
We need you so desperately. Draw us closer to you as we seek your face. Help us to love others like you do and teach our children to do the same. Give us ears to hear and eyes to see like you would. Fill our hearts with a longing to have more of you and less of ourselves. Give us courage to truly look at our own hearts and the prejudices that may have taken root. Then help us speak and act boldly as representatives for you to help bring healing to our communities.
In Your Mighty Name,
Amen
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