To Our Sons

30 08 2013

Dear Son,

You are becoming a man. We live in a world that is confused about how to define masculinity. Our society celebrates domination and calls that being a man. If someone can dominate on the field, in the bedroom, in the boardroom, in a classroom, in the spotlight, or on the street, they can get their ticket punched and the world pays attention. What they don’t tell you is how empty that leaves your soul.

Strength is not found in how many people you can bully, how many women you can use, or how many points you can score. Being a man is about being strong enough to surrender, sacrifice, be self-controlled, and serve others.  Surrender invites you to step into a story larger than yourself. Its opposite is selfishness. Sacrifice encourages you to live in a God-empowered purpose, rather than an agenda of your own making. Self-control is freedom from the sticky lures of this world. Service allows you to see in ways to which dominance will always be blind.

It is hard to stand alone. The pressure to be a man of the world is intense. It is going to require a courage, a fortitude, and a focus than can only be harnessed by a man willing to kneel at the cross. Being a man isn’t about having a certain set of genes, but about allowing God to have access to the DNA of your soul.

Son, my Jesus Resolution today is to help you become the man God has always planned for you to be. I want to cheer you on, celebrate the moments when you choose wisely, set you on a strong foundation, and give you opportunities to practice true strength. I want to point out the real men who, in quiet strength, walk through your world and encourage you to follow them as they live out what it means to look like Jesus.

To Our Daughters

28 08 2013

Dear Daughter,

You are beautiful and so deeply loved. The world will tell you differently. It will parade vulgarity, immodesty, and indecency in front of you and tell you this is what beauty looks like. It will prod you to find your value in your ability to manipulate those around you through drama, sexuality, or possessiveness. It will hold up a lifestyle that celebrates losing control, losing your dignity, and losing yourself in order to get another “like” on an electronic counter. Don’t believe the world. Listen to the whisper in your soul, rather than the shout in the wind.

Beauty is not about how you look on the outside. Beauty is found in who you choose to be on the inside. The deepest beauty is found in a heart that plants itself in truth, compassion, gentleness, and joy. Modesty isn’t a hopelessly outdated idea. It is a teacher. Modesty helps you learn how to see yourself, your beauty, your purpose, and your value. It teaches others how to treat you – with the respect, dignity, honor, and admiration you deserve.

The world will challenge you, criticize you, and condemn you for not giving in, giving up, or giving it all at a party or in the backseat. It will hurt and it will sting and you will feel left out and alone. But here is the truth. Courage is the best part of being beautiful. Courage helps you stand up and tell the world that it doesn’t get to define you or write your story. Courage helps you trace the God-prints on your heart, take His hand, and experience the delight of grace.

Dear one, my Jesus Resolution today is to help you become the woman God has always planned for you to be. We will travel this road together, this journey into beauty. I am still learning, discovering, and experimenting with all that it means to be a woman who belongs to God. I want to be transparent enough, humble enough, courageous enough, and open enough to let you learn from my mistakes, to let you write your beauty into my story, and to encourage you to find your Jesus-reflection in the tears of joy and pride in my eyes.

Going Back to School

26 08 2013

The first day of school. The first day brings up a cascade of different emotions and perspectives. Younger students are either excited or nervous about settling into a new class or meeting a new teacher. Teenagers try to act cool while they pick up schedules and check out the first day fashions. Teachers pull out their lesson plans and their comfortable shoes. Parents buy school supplies, pack lunches, put little ones on the bus, and breathe a sigh of relief or wipe away a tear. The first day of school is a marker that signals a return to the routines of homework, practices, early mornings, and learning.

Students, by definition, are people who are engaged in learning. Learning is essential to growth, maturity, compassion, and the ability to interact with the world in a way that is healthy. Education isn’t as much about conquering a set of facts, tables, or questions as it is about learning how to see the world, think through the possibilities, and discover the impact you are meant to make. Multiplication tables and vocabulary lists help us make that journey, but the goal is to equip students to make a difference, take a stand, and live courageously.

There is no age limit on being a student. In fact, one of the best gifts that a parent can give a child is to visibly be a life-long learner. Education is at its best when it launches us into a lifetime of discovery. Christianity ignites its deepest transformation when we live as disciples, students committed to learning and imitating the Teacher.

My Jesus Resolution today is to go back to school. God’s classroom is everywhere I will walk today. There are lessons to learn, truths to be discovered, homework to do, and attention to be given as I drive on the freeway, go to work, shop at the store, answer my email, wash the dishes, and interact with my neighbors. I am not done being a student. God calls me to live a life committed to learning how to be like Jesus.

Candy Crush

23 08 2013

It is all my daughter’s fault. Really. I had managed to sidestep the Candy Crush excitement until one day recently when she came home and insisted I give it a try. Now I am hooked. Candy Crush is an electronic game you can play on your phone. You advance to different levels by “crushing” the pieces of candy as they tumble onto the board. There are sticky squares, oozing obstacles, and stubborn strings all designed to block your path.

While the game is fun, there might be some lessons about faith hidden amidst all of those colored candies.

1. You only have so many moves. Use them wisely.

2. When you fail, another chance will come around.

3. Sometimes you have to wait.

4. Combining two pieces of candy (or two hearts) has more power than going it alone.

5. Asking for assistance can help you make it to the next level.

6. Don’t get distracted from your goal.

7. Celebrate the sweet moments.

8. Share lives. Everybody wins.

9. Persistence makes all the difference.

10. Getting stuck isn’t the same thing as quitting.

My Jesus Resolution today is to learn the faith lessons God plants all around me. Candy Crush is just a game. If it disappears tomorrow, life will go on. But the tools I use to play the game are the tools I need to grow my faith. Sometimes my faith gets stuck. I can’t see past the obstacles that block my heart from moving forward. It is tempting to quit or throw up my hands in frustration. Grace will open up a way. Waiting helps me keep things in perspective. Helping each other leads to sweet moments. Faithfulness gives faith a fighting chance. And most importantly, the cross has the power to crush all of the things that prevent me from winning.

Jesus Training

21 08 2013

We spent the day with our favorite six year old. He is now old enough that he is joining with his big friends in what we like to call “gentlemen training.” We are trying to teach our sons how to be gentlemen by opening doors, holding coats, escorting ladies to their cars when needed, holding umbrellas, etc. Our little friend is very excited because he is now big enough to be a gentleman and hold the door just like the big boys.

This week we all went into a store together, and he decided that he was going to hold the door for everyone. It was a heavy door. He pulled, stretched, strained, and worked to get that door open. The only way that he could hold the door open was to stretch his little body across the entire span of the door frame so that his legs could act as a brace as his arms pushed on the door. It was precious to watch. What he didn’t realize was that in his maneuvering to open the door by himself, he made it impossible for anyone to go in because he was blocking the door with his body. We crawled around his legs and he happily went on, proud of the fact that he is now a gentleman.

So many God-lessons in this moment. We are all in training. God is working in you and me right this minute to shape us, mold us, and transform us to look like Jesus. I am thankful for the people who are patient and loving as I fumble my way into reflecting His image. I am humbled by a little heart that wants to imitate the big hearts he sees around him, and the big hearts willing to slow down and walk with someone anxious to learn. We teach each other how to be like Jesus. It takes humility and open eyes to follow. It takes courage and transparency to lead. Perhaps most importantly, I caught a glimpse of God in the way my boys cheered our little friend on. It didn’t matter that he didn’t do things perfectly. They celebrated his desire, his attitude, his effort, and his step into the “gentleman” world. Every step we take towards Jesus, even the imperfect ones, is a step in the right direction.

My Jesus Resolution today is to recommit to “Jesus training.” This is God’s purpose for my life. More than anything, He wants me to look like Jesus. I will have to be humble and patient, willing to watch and learn from those around me. I will have to step up and try new things, open new doors, and stretch myself. I won’t get everything just right. But training is just that – an opportunity to grow

The Best Day

19 08 2013

Creation reaches a crescendo as the week draws to a close. After creating light, water, land, and sky, God filled the expanses with a creation that still takes our breath away. God waits until the sixth day to bring man into this marvelous new world. He gives him dominion over the living things of the earth and calls the new people made in His image to walk with Him in a beautiful garden.

And then He rested.

We often don’t know what to do with the seventh day of creation. It almost seems anticlimactic. We treat it as a footnote, wondering why such attention is given to a day in which nothing happens. And yet it is the seventh day that the Lord consecrates and calls holy. Maybe the seventh day of creation is the best day of all.

Perhaps it is because of human pride that we view the creation of man as the climax of these days of formation. Yet, in resting on the seventh day, God gives us a great gift. He creates an opportunity, a holy moment, in which we can mirror His quietness and let wonder and worship overwhelm our souls. This is the pinnacle and purpose of creation – the opportunity to be still and know that He is God.

My Jesus Resolution today is to rest. Even if it is for a few minutes, it is important to shift the focus away from myself and let my heart be still. This is why He created me. Everything He made He designed to draw my eyes to His face. I am here today, in this time and place, in order to connect with God, be awed by His love, be made speechless by His glory, declare His praise with my life, and find my rest in His presence.


16 08 2013

We were visiting a new church. My husband and I settled into a pew, soaking in the worship and praise flowing from hearts committed to serving the Lord. We thanked God for the opportunity to worship with such wonderful people as the final prayer was lifted toward heaven. It didn’t take more than a minute after the ‘Amen’ for a woman to appear by my side, addressing me by name.

“I know who you are,” she said. “I knew your brother in college and you look exactly like him.” Although we had never met, she knew precisely who I was, who I belonged to, and the connection we shared. Family resemblance is a powerful thing.

Family resemblance takes many forms. Sometimes it is found in the way a family shares physical characteristics. Other times we see the resemblance in mannerisms, habits, preferences, or quirks. Parents are often startled the first time they hear their words or see their gestures mirrored in their little ones. These resemblances tie families together, cementing values and love among the people who share them.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:26a, 27

God created us to have a family resemblance beyond our physical families. Our most important family resemblance is found in the way we look like Jesus. This is the family resemblance that lies at the heart of God’s purpose for you.

My Jesus Resolution today is to look like Jesus. I want people to be able to see the connection I share with my Father. I want others to see Him mirrored in my words, actions, attitudes, and choices. God’s very first words about man reflect His great desire that we share a resemblance with His own heart. I long for the family resemblance to be so strong that the world can’t help but notice that I belong to the family of God.

Talk Back

14 08 2013

The boys settled in close to each other. Seated on the couch, they had turned on an animal show on one of those nature channels on television. I was cooking dinner while enjoying the giggles that erupted over the eating and sleeping habits of different creatures.

The narrator shared fact after fact as different animals paraded across the screen. All was going well until the show started talking about the evolutionary process that brought these animals into being. I looked at the screen, the two boys sprawled on the couch, and said out loud, “That’s not true!” The boys looked at me with puzzled expressions. “We know the truth,” I said. “Who made those animals?” “God did!” they both shouted. We talked about creation, God’s power, His perfect timing, and the way animals declare His glory.

We continued to watch the show. We might have turned it off, but I wanted to teach the boys an important truth. You can talk back to the television. You don’t have to sit in silent agreement with the screen. When something is not true, speak God’s truth. Say it out loud. For the rest of the show, they listened more carefully. When something came on that needed correcting, they told each other God’s truth. They held each other accountable, empowering each other to be proactive in the face of the world’s lies.

My Jesus Resolution today is to talk back. The world tries to bully Christians into silence. It doesn’t care if I agree with its lies. It just doesn’t want me speaking up about the truth. I listen to the television, the radio, or the movies and too often am silently passive about what I hear. No one in Hollywood is going to hear me talk back to the television, but the truth will resonate in my soul. My children will hear it. My friends will know. And each time I talk back and stake my claim in the truth, the darkness loses a little bit of its power in my corner of the world.

The Egg

12 08 2013

I almost stepped on it. There in the middle of the sidewalk were the remains of a small egg. Barely the size of a large pecan, the tiny pale blue eggshell looked fragile lying on its side. The shell had been broken away and there was a hole at one end of the egg. Peering inside, I found the egg empty and hollow, vacated by the creature who had once inhabited its sphere.

I walked on. There was nothing more to see, but I couldn’t shake the egg from my mind. Where was the tiny bird now? Why was the egg on the ground? Was it flying in the sky above me? Singing from the branches of a nearby tree? Had it survived its abrupt arrival in this world? I wanted to know its story.

The tiny egg reminded me of a big truth. God knows this little bird’s story, and He knows the details of my story as well.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:29, 31

The birds that fly in the sky, sing from the trees, and break forth from tiny eggs live under the watchful eyes of our heavenly Father. He knows where they are, what they need, and how many feathers they have. He provides for them, protects them, and uses them to help us see His glory. God created the birds that soar above us and sing around us in order to give us a tangible picture of His deep and abiding interest in our stories.

My Jesus Resolution today is to listen to the birds. They have an amazing story to tell about a Creator who pays attention to tiny eggs. We serve a God who made the wide expanses of the universe and still counts the hairs on my head. He fills the clouds, unleashes the rain, and still collects my tears in His bottle. He is bigger than time and space, and yet inhabits the hearts of people bound by minutes and seconds. As I watch and listen to the birds today, I am going rest in Jesus’ words. I have no reason to be afraid. I am deeply loved and God is watching over me.

More Than All the Stars

9 08 2013

It started when my children were little. While getting teddy bears situated, dolls positioned, and sleepy heads nestled into pillows, we would quietly whisper our “more thans.” I love you more than race cars. I love you more than playing in the sprinklers. I love you more than toothpaste. I love you more than ice cream. Giggling, we would try to outdo each other’s “more thans” as we said our I love yous for the night.

Finally, when the sun was crawling behind the edge of the earth and the sky would begin to darken, I would pull back the curtains and add one more “more than.” I love you more than all the stars in the sky. Look. Count. Study them. You will never reach the end. Little eyes strained to count the sparkles and finally come back to my face. Smiles, followed by hugs and prayers, filled the room as they went to sleep with just a glimpse of how much they were loved.

Counting stars as a measure of the immeasurable isn’t my idea. God started it. When God wanted to help Abraham catch a glimpse of His faithfulness, power, and desire to walk in relationship, the Lord pointed Abraham to the stars. “And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” (Genesis 15:5) Can you imagine how Abraham stared at the night sky? The stars twinkled in constant reminder of the immenseness of God’s presence and love. The stars sparkle with the same message for you.

My Jesus Resolution today is to count stars. I know I can’t, but the fun is in realizing again how big God’s love is. The stars serve as soft lights in the night sky, but more importantly, they testify to the extravagant grace of the One who hung them. Tonight I want to go outside and stand in wonder at a God who loves me more than all the stars in the sky.