The Truth Will Set You Free- Mary Magdalene

Mary lived and worked in affliction. She agreed with the repetitive lies told to her, tricked into believing they were the truth, and now was a bound captive to their deception. Her world was a dark place, marked by misery and agony.

One day, The Light, a man of miracles, came to town. He walked in love, proclaiming the good news. He brought healing to bodies, minds, and souls. This man of miracles healed Mary, cast out seven demons from her tormented soul. Step-by-step, he helped her replace her fears with faith. Her days became brighter, and her world more colorful and clear. She walked with him in the truth that set her free and was made confident by his love.

Mary followed the Man of Miracles to his death. Painfully, she stood by and watched his violent crucifixion. She saw the tomb and how his body lay. Returning to the site with spices and ointments for his body, Mary was one of the first to find it empty. She was the first to see Jesus, the risen Light of the world. And Jesus made her the first evangelist by sending her to go and tell others the good news- He was alive! The Savior lives! 

I like to think about Mary. A tormented soul transformed by truth. A woman with a questionable past, who others would think of as last. Yet, Jesus, who knew everything about her, gave the honor of being the first. 

I wonder if those evil spirits and infirmaries that once held her captive ever haunted her? Did her scars hold her back or motivate her to help others find freedom too? What can we learn from her story? 

We don’t know what demons Mary Magdalene was agonized by, but there are “demons” demanding our attention every day. “Demons” in the forms of lies pitted against:

1.) our identity 

2.) our choices

3.) our abilities

4.) our past or history

5.) our significance 

6. ) our beliefs 

7.) our security 

Satan, the father of lies, master tormentor (2 Cor. 12:7), murderer, thief, destroyer (John 10:10), crafty dragon (Gen. 1:1, Rev 20:1), schemer (2 Cor. 2:5), tempter, stumbling block (Matt. 16:23), sends attacks against those seven things to lead us further into the lies and confusion. He, and his evil minion demons, are at force against good at all times. They are lurking around corners, looking for hearts to devour, minds to tempt, and places of weakness where they can hold us captive. They want us to stay in the past, stuck in our misery, and keep us from our callings. 

We need to be aware of this on-going battle and be on guard! Lies are easy to entertain. When given too much attention, they lead us further away from the truth and into the darkness of shame, guilt, and fear. Only truth can lead us back to the Light. And only choosing to take a brave, firm stance, and responding in facts, can free us from the preoccupation with and entertaining of these falsities. 

Walking in the Light is a step-by-step journey. It doesn’t mean that we forget where we’ve been, or that our scars miraculously disappear. I wholeheartedly believe God has the power to heal in immediate ways. Still, more often, his healing comes in slow and steady progress where we incrementally become more firm in our faith, learn to walk in humility, and prolong our praise for his transforming work done in us. 

Walking with Jesus, healing in a slower manner gives us the time to reflect and offers us more opportunities to trust. It allows us to bask in the Light that has set us free, and soak up the truth needed to strengthen us in the fight against the “demons” and darkness that want to cloud and cover over us. The Light shines bright with honesty, allows us to break free from our past, and helps us run toward our future into the callings Christ has chosen us to do. 

There will be skeptics and critics along the way. When Mary went and told the other disciples that Jesus was alive, the disciples wept and mourned, and chose not to believe it. Sometimes we are our own worst critic and skeptic. We have a hard time accepting the truth; instead, we continue to stay stuck in our disbelief and hardships. 

To break free from the lies, we need to bring them into the Light. We can find healing by saying them out loud, cast them out with the truth, and deflate their power over us. We can be brave, admit our struggles and insecurities to other people, allowing them to speak truth into and over us, and let them walk with us, step by step, to freedom. 

The truth will set you free!     

Mary Magdalene


When Jesus Shows Up….

When you start seeing the same message in several different places, you take notice. Both of my devotionals this morning had to do with finding God in the ordinary, every day, mundane tasks of life. I don’t think this is a coincidence. About five minutes before sitting down with the books, I was joking about how life, especially these days, could feel like a time-loop. Reliving each day like in that movie “Groundhog Day.”

“We want life to have meaning, we want fulfillment, healing, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are, not where we wish we were. We must look for blessings to come from unlikely, everyday places-out of Galilee, as it were- and not in spectacular events, such as the coming of a comet.”- Kathleen Norris

Ordinary places set the stage for extraordinary happenings. It’s where faith is practiced. It’s where love has the power to illuminate the most commonplace tasks and transform them into life changing moments. Everyday places are where breakthroughs and miracles occur.

And it starts with a new direction. A new perspective. A renewed answer to the call, “Come and you will see.”

Jesus showed up to ordinary people, in ordinary places, on ordinary days. But when he showed up, the extraordinary was about to happen. Love led the way. Lives were changed. Miracles left people in awe, wonder and praise.

Today, is no different. Jesus shows up everyday. He walks with us through our ordinary days. He stands beside us in the menial tasks. He desires our attention while we are going about our work and our chores. Jesus wants us to renew our “yes” to his call, so he can lead us in love to the extraordinary things we may be missing.

As we go about our day, may we have eyes to see things differently. May love lead us and guard our thoughts and actions. And may the miracles of ordinary day be unveiled in front of our eyes, so we are left in awe, wonder and praise. Every day is extraordinary when Jesus shows up. ❤


Fill Those Buckets (Love Languages for Kids)

Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. I get a small commissions for any purchases made through links, at no extra costs to you.

Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell’s book “The Five Love Languages of Children” (https://amzn.to/34AAs3v) has been one of the greatest helps in my parenting. It has changed the way I communicate with and meet the emotional needs of my children. Each child, like an adult, expresses and receives love through one (or more) of five different communication styles. When you are aware of your child’s love language, behaviors and reactions start making sense. The quality of your relationship improves through new understanding and respect.

Today, I’m sharing a love language take-away that I use when speaking to groups about parenting and helping to meet children’s emotional needs. The chart has practical tips and things to try with your kids as you work to figure out your child’s love language. Please note, this chart is meant as a supplement, not a substitution for reading the book. Full credit goes to Dr. Chapman for the naming and developing of The Five Love Languages. Find out more here: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/

And here are a few other great books about “bucket filling” and kids’ mental health:

“How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids” by Tom Rath https://amzn.to/2VzOKNQ

“Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids” by Carol McCloud https://amzn.to/2wF15I1

“Bucket Filling from A to Z” by Carol McCloud and Caryn Butzke https://amzn.to/34G3fn9

“Courage” by Bernard Waber https://amzn.to/2xuabHW

“What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What-to-Do Guides for Kids)” by Dawn Huebner https://amzn.to/2XFcLp9



It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way

It’s not supposed to be this way.

Have you felt, thought or said this lately? The stories in our newsfeeds, the images flashed onto our screen. The uncertainty of the pandemic. Perhaps, it’s something completely unrelated to the virus. Maybe it’s a situation. The death of a loved one, an unexpected diagnosis, loss of a job, or disappointment over a very important, canceled event.

On Saturday of Holy Week, I often think about the despair and disappointment that must have both confused and burdened the disciples. The week had started out in a glorious high. Jesus, the Messiah, journeyed through the city among cheers from crowd-lined streets. The people were sure that he would deliver them from the oppressive Roman Empire, and be their earthly king. Can you imagine the excitement and happiness the disciples must of felt?

The following days were full of even more “highs.” From cleansing the temple in a dramatic way, to infuriating and shocking the religious leaders with His teachings. Jesus spent quality time in private conversations with his disciples, giving them quizzical things to ponder. The special time was something I am sure the disciples thought important and treasured.

At the Last Supper might have been the first hint that things were changing. When Jesus washed his disciples feet, his disciple Peter thought, “It isn’t supposed to be this way.”

After the supper, in the garden, Jesus and his disciples were questioned by a mob of soldiers and officials organized by one of his own disciples. Jesus answered all their questions, and even stopped Peter from defending him. Jesus was arrested and bound. I’m sure Peter thought, “it isn’t supposed to be this way.”

The next day, Jesus was brought before a governor who could find no fault or guilt. The very same crowd of Jews who were cheering on Sunday, were jeering on Friday. A thief was set free, and a Jesus was flogged, a crowned with a crown of thorns. Instead of raising Hosannas, they were crying out “Crucify him, crucify him.” It wasn’t suppose to be this way…

Then as if things couldn’t get worse, Jesus, Messiah, leader, teacher, and friend, was crucified a horrible, painful death, among a mocking and hateful crowd. Some of his loved ones and disciples stood by and watched. It wasn’t suppose to be this way…

In the gospel of John, chapter 12, verse 16, it says, “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him, and had been done to him.”

It’s this part of the story, the pause between the tomb and the resurrection, where I am sure a lot of time was spent trying to remember the things Jesus said, trying to figure out where things went wrong, where things went right, what things meant. I wouldn’t be surprised if his loved ones and disciples even thought, “it’s not supposed to be this way.”

You may be in a situation right now and thinking “it isn’t suppose to be this way.” More times than not, we don’t understand why difficult things happen. Sometimes time gives us perspective, and sometimes we may never know the reason. Either way, it is hard, painful, discouraging and disappointing while we navigate and grieve through it.

When these times happen, and they will happen to all of us, may I suggest we take an example from this part of the gospel story and pause. Pause like the pause in the story. A silent and somber pause. A reflective and remembering pause.

We, pause, and then wait and see.

Because…

Out of the pause, is where unexpected things happen.

It’s where God’s glorious power can and will break through.

It’s where impossible things become possible.

A pause leads way to “plans and places that are supposed to be.” It can bring us to the foot of the cross, make us revisit an empty tomb, and help us hold on tightly to our Resurrected Savior and Friend’s hand.

I believe Jesus can and will see us through all the things we thought isn’t/wasn’t supposed to be. But we have to allow him to meet us right where we are. Meet us as the imperfect, sometimes confused, disappointed, healing-needing people that we are. As we learn to walk with him, to trust in his ways, he will give us strength to take the next step forward, and we might even get a glimpse of the future to come.

The disciples did not have to wait long to have their questions answered, and a glorious reunion was about to take place. Tonight, let us pause, and then look forward to tomorrow with an anticipation of great things to come, as we celebrate the way things were suppose to be!


On the Other Side of the Screen

On the other side of the screen, the “service” had just ended. The cameras and lights were turned off. The faithful few, who had come to serve and livestream the service, left with a quiet goodbye and a distanced wave.

In the still, dark and empty sanctuary, the events of the past weeks finally caught up with me. I looked out over the vacant rows of seats and felt a wave of grief. The color, action, and life that once danced around the sanctuary had been deployed. Like ghosts, I could see the faces of my church family. I could see their warm smiles, hands raised in praise, a caring hand on a shoulder. I could hear the echoes of music, prayer, and our youngest members calling out my name in hellos and giggles. Tears welled up in my eyes, and for the first time in weeks, I cried.

This is difficult. This is sad. This is loss.

Loss is a great magnifier. It highlights the many things we may have taken for granted. It leads us to discover the things most important to us. And it has a way of putting a value on invaluable things.

Without knowing it, I’ve taken for granted gathering with my church family. Attending services, the many Bible studies offered, and the extra events now seem like a dream luxury afforded only to those who live in fantasy, far off-places not affected by an invisible virus. I have taken for granted the way songs and praise fills a room, and how it turns into a life force that changes hearts. I miss the face-to-face conversations, seeing eyes filled with emotion, and having the honor of praying with someone in person. I miss hearing voices and the noises in the background of church life. I miss human touch- the handshakes, high fives, and hugs.

This is difficult. This is sad. But, could this be gain?

On the other side of this loss is joy. It has been an incredible thing to watch our church family rise up, bind together, and help & support each other. We’ve been creative in the ways to connect. We’ve started worshiping in a new way- livestreaming our service for the first time. We’ve started ending our day together with online prayer, word and worship. Encouragers are encouraging. Givers are giving. Servers are serving. Teachers are teaching. Gifts and talents are been utilized and used for God’s Kingdom. In many ways, we have been more intentional, more grateful, and feel more connected than ever before.

It is a strange thing to be joyful when you are grieving, but grief and joy can coexist. In fact, I think they complement and balance each other. Human feelings do not evaporate in times of trouble and uncertainty. But in the midst of our feelings and emotions, we can take hope in the fact that the Spirit will continue to empower us to move forward in unseen, unexplained strength.

Relying on our own power will only exhaust us, but relying on faith’s power will energize us. When we keep our eyes on the promises of God, this current situation is not the finality of reality. Our daily reality comes full of troubles and situations, but our eternal reality brings us joy and life. As a follower of Christ, we can be hopeful, future-focused, and embrace “for such a time as this” in both our joy and grief.

When this time passes, and it will pass, we will come out on the other side stronger. And what a perspective we will have. We will want to open our church doors wider, shout salvation, gather together more often, linger with each other longer. Our sanctuaries will be filled with color, life and action again. And praise, prayer and laughter will raise the roof.

Until then, we’ll keep being creative in connecting. We’ll keep showing up for our online services. We’ll keep loving those around us one step closer to Jesus. And we’ll continue to cling to hope and truth. Our future is secured by a sacrifice on a cross, and the Holy Spirit continues to help us and unite our hearts together, no matter which side of the screen we are on.

A memory to look back upon….

    


A Small Role in the Greatest Story

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Kings entered towns with proclamations and grand processions of their riches, power, and splendor. Yet, Jesus, the King of Kings, chose a donkey for his entry. A young, humble donkey, never ridden before, specifically chosen by Jesus (Mark 11:3). A donkey born for a purpose- to work and serve a master. What an honor and task this young donkey was given, to carry the King, through a crowd of joyful people waving palm branches and praising the Messiah, who had come to rescue them from the oppressive society in which they lived.

Jesus journeyed through Jerusalem to celebrate, to proclaim peace and love, to serve, and save the lost. He came to give his life for those cheering, sinful spectators, and to pay the penalty of our sins too. In doing so, he may a way for us to be restored in right relationship with our Heavenly Father. His sacrifice offers us forgiveness and freedom in trusting in Him.

The donkey had a small, specific role in the grand love story of Christ. And we have roles in His story too. As followers of Christ, we are born with purpose. Chosen specifically by Jesus to serve in His name. We are carriers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we are to deliver His message of hope and love through our words and actions.

Yet, some of us are still tied to the post outside the door (Mark 11:4). Tied up by our fears, insecurities, doubts, and exhaustion. Tied with things holding us back from fully living, freely serving, and fervently loving.

Let this be a reminder, you have been chosen.

You have been chosen to be the mother or father of your children. You have been chosen to be a friend to another. You have been chosen to be in the right place, at the right time. You have been chosen to lead and love well. You have been chosen to feed and clothe the hungry. You have been chosen as an ambassador of peace and proclaimer of love. You have what it takes because He chose you and He believes in you!

This Passion Week, I am praying we rediscover the passion and purpose of our callings in our lives. I’m praying we refocus our gaze on Jesus, seek Him out, ask Him for help in all circumstances and free us from the things that keep us bound. On Sunday morning, I pray we will praise Him as a large crowd of  people who are no longer spectators but participants. Who truly, deeply know what it means to be forgiven and loved. And I pray we will embrace our roles with fullness of joy and peace of heart knowing we have a role in His story.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. John 15:16

Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26–29.

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11


Schooling With Littles

The most common questions I receive about homeschooling have to do with curriculum and how to manage school with younger siblings. Homeschooling multiple ages and grades can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. If the idea is embraced rather than resisted, it often leads to a richer educational and relational experience.

Seven years into this homeschooling journey, I have a few suggestions and recommendations to share. It is important to remember that every child, every relationship, every family dynamic is different. Attention spans and developmental skills widely vary across ages. Try not to compare your own children to each other. Be flexible and keep trying until you find what works best for you and your kids.

With that said, there are several things that have helped while I was homeschooling with a baby, then a toddler, then a preschooler, and now finally with three different levels.

1.) Include younger siblings in all lessons as much as possible. Little brothers and sisters love to be part of the action. Make a special spot for them at your homeschool table. Encourage them to try some of their older sibling’s activities. Print off an extra page, make a copy of the worksheet, give them their own paper and pencil. Make it a big deal that they have “schoolwork” to do too.

This might sound easier said than done, and it will probably add some distraction and extra things to manage. It may also require an extra dose of strength and patience. BUT it will make your younger children feel loved, respected, and important. This is great for building family team and rapport.

Homeschooling is really about teamwork. And you, as the team leader, are laying the foundation for your team to be successful. In a team, everyone is important and brings something special to the table. That includes the littlest team members.

2.) Plan special activities just for them.

Littles have a short attention spans. Lessons and activities should be kept brief, include movement, and varied activities. Include younger siblings as much as you can in big kid activities, but give them their own activities too. I’ve created a list of recommendations at my Amazon Storefront.

Child led, Imagination Infused, Play Ideas List

Some ideas to try:

  • Sensory Boxes. Check out a few ideas on my Pinterest board!
  • BOX TIME! Make special boxes for each day of the week. Label five plastic shoeboxes or bins with the days of the week. Add different objects, items and toys that can only be used during “box time.” Switch out the toys or items weekly or every couple of weeks. Items in the boxes could be as simple as a sheet of stickers and colorful paper, or as special as a new toy.
  • Music makes everything better. When emotions seem to be running high, try classical music as a calming agent. It does wonders for the imagination too!
  • Take time to stretch. Every so often, stop lessons, stretch together as a family. Try some jumping jacks or switch to dance music to get bodies moving.

(Amazon Affiliate links included. While it does not cost you anything extra, I earn a small commission for each product ordered.)

3.) Wait for naptimes to “do” school.

This was incredibly helpful to me when my son was born and my daughters were in kindergarten and first grade. I was nursing every three hours and being interrupted more often than that. I tried to “school” the girls, but all the distractions were very frustrating and usually resulted in one of us in tears.

We changed up our school schedule, and started waiting for my son’s naptime to do the work that required more focus and less distractions (reading, language arts, and some math.) This worked so well that we continued to do this until my son stopped taking naps.

4.) An effective behavior management system.

This is a big topic to break down and discuss, so I will save it for another blog post. But, do you have a system of behavior management and discipline that is working for you and your family? In short, the less words and emotion you use, the more clear and consistent expectations are given, the more effective discipline will be.

I really like Magic 1-2-3. I have found success with this program when I was teaching in a special education in a public school classroom and at home with my own children.

5.) Breathe

When homeschooling, especially multiple ages, each day can feel very long. Yet, the days add up quickly and go by fast. Enjoy the age that your children are at. Hard days pass, new challenges come. Don’t forget to breathe.