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. ❤


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


It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

It’s okay to not be okay.
It’s okay to be scared.
It’s okay to be sad.
It’s okay to be anxious.
It’s okay to be confused.
It’s okay to be angry.
It’s okay to be tired.
It’s okay to want things to go back to “normal.”

Our “normal” life had been turned completely upside down. It’s not “normal” to be isolated from loved ones, to have to talk to our parents and grandparents from driveways and through open windows. It is not “normal” to be forced to adhere to rules that limit the number of family members who can say a final goodbye to a loved one in the hospital. It is not “normal” to have to stand six feet apart from others in a store while trying not to give or receive suspicious glances.

Jesus knows all about “normal” turned upside down. Fully divine, and fully human. Jesus, Son of God, came to earth and turned the world upside down by his words and actions. He treated the downcasts, outcasts, and those suffering in ways that shook up, derailed, and challenged norms. Jesus met people where they were. He did not minimize fears, worries, pain, or situations. He did not ignore people’s realities; but he joined them in their present circumstances, often turning a life upside down, and right side up. He asked questions and listened. He invited and he provided. He loved. And loved. And loved.

The same Jesus that walked the earth thousands of years ago, is the same Jesus that lives today. He is the same Jesus who is very aware of our fears, worries, pains, and situation. He is aware of our struggle to find a new normal. He doesn’t minimize our feelings, but wants to join us in our circumstances. He sees every tear shed. He hears every cry for help. And he wants us to turn to him, and say to him, “This is not normal. I’m not okay. Please help.”

And when we turn to Him, Jesus answers us with love and his word:
It’s okay! You don’t have to be not okay alone. (Joshua 1:9)
It’s okay to be scared, but I am will be here with you. (John 14:27)
It’s okay to be sad, but joy will come again. (Psalm 30:5)
It’s okay to be anxious, let me help you with your worry. (1 Peter 5:7)
It’s okay to be confused, let me give you understanding and guide you. (Psalm 119:169)
It’s okay to be angry, but let’s talk about it. I want to help you forgive and find safety and security in me. (Colossians 3:13)
It’s okay to be tired, come to me and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28-30)
It’s okay to want things to go back to “normal,” but maybe try to see that I am doing a new thing in your life. (Isaiah 43:19)

Jesus wants us to cling to him in all our imperfections, weariness, abnormal and “not-okayness.” He wants to help us. He wants to lead us to places where new “normals” might be found. And he wants to love. love. love us.

Take heart, dear one. It’s okay to be not okay. Just keep taking the next step.



#sundayscripture

When I was twenty years old, I experienced a situation that caused me a tremendous amount of anxiety. I tried everything in my power to solve the circumstances on my own. I manipulated and controlled things so they would turn out the way I wanted them to be. I was exhausted, hurt, and caught up in disbelief.

Eventually, I found myself at a dead end. Crushed by the weight of anxiety and false control, I was trapped and isolated. I longed for a way out, but didn’t know where the out was.

One day in a moment of desperation, and in need of something concrete, I took a meaningful object connected to the situation and marched out into the woods behind my house. With tears streaming down my cheeks and with as much force as I could gather, I threw the memento as far as I could into the trees as I yelled aloud (to God), “You take it!” The words were few, the implications many. I wanted help. I wanted him to take it-all of it! The whole thing! I couldn’t and didn’t want to deal with the situation on my own any longer!

It was the first cast, and the first crack in the control I had so desperately clung to. Over the next days and weeks, I casted more and more. As I did, God helped me face reality and my fears. I was letting go, and embracing something new. It was hard and hurtful. It was a process, and I knew I would be okay if I kept casting forward.

The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:6-7, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Dead ends and desperation can lead to humility. Learning to let go of our will, walking in obedience even when it doesn’t make sense, and accepting consolation and grace, are beginning steps toward overcoming anxiety and taking strength in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Jesus wants us to cast- or throw- our anxieties and concerns on him. But this isn’t a game of catch. We shouldn’t wait for Jesus to throw our anxieties back to us. Nor is casting anxiety like a 50/50 custody arrangement in which we share the responsibility. We should not choose between the concerns we want God to be responsible for, and the ones we want to keep for ourselves.The Bible tell us to cast ALL anxieties on him.

Casting and releasing can be difficult though, and it often picks a fight with our will. Our humanity and lack of patience tempts us with the desire to take back cares back under our control. But Jesus wants to take our anxieties, hold them captive and work through them in his perfect power. In doing so, he restores, confirms, strengthens, and establishes us. (1 Peter 5:10)

Turning to God, turning over our anxieties, and taking hold of his truths are daily disciplines. It is the only way to successfully cast away and not take back our cares. With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can humble ourselves and trust that God cares for us and has a good plan for our lives.

In the right and proper time, God will set us high over our anxieties, and he may even give us a view of the larger picture of his plan. A plan that gives us hope and a future, a plan that often is very different than we thought. Until that time, keep casting, waiting, and practicing humility.

Happy Sunday! ❤


“You have listened to fears, Child.”


It’s almost impossible to be immune to the constant commentary on the coronavirus and to avoid devastating news of disasters and loss. Here’s the truth, this world can be a scary place.

While reassurances, reminders of wise actions, and fact checking are helpful, washing one’s hands will not make fear go down the drain with the germs. Fear compounded by divisions, blaming, isolation, and the unknown can spiral out of control.

Fear makes us face our humanity. It challenges our control. It tricks us into hesitation and uncertainly. Fear gets louder and louder until we are forced to listen and to respond.

Will fear freeze us or free us? It has the power to do both. It is how we deal with fear that makes the difference. Ignoring it will not make it go away; facing it, even in the smallest of ways, frees us to start focusing on other things. Our life.

A few tips to facing fear:

  1. Acknowledge the fear.
  2. Silence the noise (take a break from the TV and social media.)
  3. Make a list of all the things you are thankful for in your life.
  4. Recall a past fearful and scary situation, and think how you made it through it. What helped? What didn’t?
  5. Talk to a trusted friend, mentor, or pastor. No one should have to deal with fear alone.
  6. Read and repeat scripture. “He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” -Deuteronomy 31:8
  7. Relinquish control to God. This is often difficult to do. I find when my Will is not willing, I ask the L“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”-Psalm 56:3
  8. Allow faith to cover & extinguish fear. “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.” -Psalm 18:2

“You have listened to fears, Child,’ said Aslan.

‘Come, let me breathe on you.

Forget them. Are you brave again?”

C.S. LEWIS

Finally, I came across this quote in the book Prince Caspian and it gave me a beautiful image of faith and fear fighting. Susan, one of the main characters, was struggling with fear and disbelief, and Ashlan (who represents Jesus) encourages her by acknowledging her struggle and offering her hope and relief. He does not condemn her, but gently strengthens her with his words and the breath of life.

As followers of Christ, we have been left with the gifts of The Word and the very breath of life, the Holy Spirit. We can confess our fear and depend on the Holy Spirit for help, guidance, and power. With the Holy Spirit’s help we can take hold of peace and hope in all of life’s situations, and find the freedom from the bondage of fear.

I would love to hear your best fear fighting tips. Also, if you would like prayer or want to talk more about fear/faith, please send me a message. I would love to hear from you.


#sundayscripture

Jesus invites us to come to him and find rest for our souls. God prescribes a rhythm of work and rest to help us find balance and blessing in our lives. There’s another type of rest found in the Bible different from the ceasing work, relaxing and refreshing type.

And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Exodus 33:14

The “rest” in Exodus 33:14 refers to a promise of an everlasting possession of land God made to his people. A promise that came with a long, faith testing, faith building, perseverance producing kind of journey. A journey God promised to go with and lead his people through by his “presence” (or his “face.”)

Although God’s promise in this verse was for a specific group of people, there are other promises God has pledged to us. Promises of love, redemption, salvation, and impossible, good things forged from difficulty and even suffering.

Sometimes we need a reminder to rest in a physical sense. Sometimes we need a reminder to rest in an emotional and spiritual sense. And sometimes we need a reminder of the Exodus 33:14 type of rest- the truth of God’s promises and His faithful presence to help us be strong, courageous, and keep persevering through the journey of life.

Seeking God’s presence often means discovering His promises. Finding God’s face often moves us forward in faith. Trusting God’s rest and presence leads to us to new territories of love and dwellings of freedom.

Happy Sunday! ❤


Required to Rest

“Action, then passivity;

Striving, then letting go

Doing all one can do, and then being carried…

only in this rhythm is the spirit realized.”  

“The essence of being in God’s image is our ability, like God, to stop. We imitate God by stopping our work and resting. If we can stop for one day a week, or for a mini-Sabbath each day, we touch something deep within us as an image bearer of God. Our human brain, our bodies, our spirits, and our emotions become wired by God for the rhythm of work and rest in him.” -Robert Barron, And Now I See

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been convicted and encouraged to take inventory of my busyness and life rhythms. I’ve been prompted to conduct a self evaluation of the state of my heart and the observance of Sabbath in my life. 

The result of these things have brought a new awareness and perspective I haven’t found before. It has sparked a journey into learning new spiritual disciplines and figuring out how to wire these new practices into my life. I believe I’m stepping into a new, sacred place of life.  

The first and most important step in all of this was to do something I find incredibly difficult to do- to stop. Honestly, stopping wasn’t my choice. I was forced to stop. A class requirement of a day long Soul Sabbath at a spiritual retreat center run by the Sisters of Notre Dame required me to so.

Funny how a requirement produced a desire to seek out more silence, solitude, and Sabbath in my life. How “having to” turned into “wanting to.” How stopping started new dialogue, reconditioned my heart, and expanded my vision and goals. The whole time I was thinking I was checking off a work box, but God was checking in on my heart and drawing me in closer to Him through rest. 

“Stop, rest, delight and contemplate” are four principals of Sabbath that Peter Scazzero writes about in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. I’ve been focusing on these things and soaking up silence and solitude (as much as a mom of three can find). I’ve been discovering new rhythms, paying closer attention, hearing better, and sampling the “something greater that awaits.” It doesn’t look perfect and holy, it looks more like stumbling and tumbling, but it is a forward moving, in a more peaceful process with intention to be in God’s presence and be present for others.  

Our Lady Queen Chapel
Notre Dame Spirituality Center
Ipswich, MA

I don’t know what the current condition and the state of your heart and life is. I don’t know if busyness and striving is stealing joy, peace and contentment away from your life and relationships. Maybe you feel like you’ve become lost in a storm of choices you’ve made (including the good ones that have become time consuming restrictions.) Maybe you feel like you are what you do, and have lost sight of who you truly are. Many people struggle with busyness, balance, work addiction, and high, unhealthy expectations. If you feel this way, you are not alone. Finding time to be alone, more specifically alone to be with God, can help.

I invite you to do the incredibly difficult work to stop. It doesn’t need to be a whole day of silence and solitude, but at least an hour of time, preferably more, of intentional rest and no work. 

Ignore the lies that it cannot be done. Make it happen. You may need to force yourself to this. You may need to say no to something or someone. You may need to ask someone to watch the kids. Shut off your phone, silence social media, get outside, go for a walk, or take a nap. It may not feel “productive,” but it will be more productive in the long run. And maybe, just maybe, stopping to rest will start something new- a plan of action for more silence, solitude, and Sabbath in your life too.

Cheering you on, friend!

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;

Psalm 37:7