Friday, May 8, 2015

"Welcome to the Chart Room"

I have been in the midst of the BRAVE journey with Crossroads and many other churches in our city.  Recently, I spent some time going through the BRAVE experience at CityLink Center.  This interactive prayer experience was one that provided some hands on tools to further explore the places in which God has been calling us as individuals to be brave.


I walk into the Chart Room not knowing what to expect. 

I am met by two huge wooden tables that look as though they have maps on them underneath a sheet of glass.  They are surrounded by well lit alcoves filled with messages inviting me to chart out a course. 

The track playing through the headphones I am wearing tells me to look for the message that connects with my heading.

My heading during this BRAVE journey has been: “Find a woman of peace.” 

I landed on this after reviewing a few things the BRAVE app pulled up for me to consider—where I want to be less stressed, where I need change, something I want to do, and looking at my “next spiritual step.”  It was this last area that really drew my attention, since all of these other items felt like areas where I have actively been make changes in my life recently. 

In looking at the spiritual progression—from seeking truth, to receiving Jesus, to focusing on obedience—I really am at the place where these are a part of my story, but I need to step towards replicating my faith in others.  This is something that I have been open to for a long time; and in some ways I think this happens on some level in snippets with many people I meet daily.  I am a teacher and love to share the things I am learning.  I also have the privilege of doing this daily with my Little Love.  However, I am constantly challenged by the stories I hear of others in our community at Crossroads who are actively and intentionally moving with a purpose to disciple others in their lives, encouraging and guiding them along as they seek Jesus in the midst of their life in a more disciplined and regular way. 

I don’t know how pursue this, really.  It doesn’t seem like something I can make happen.  So in some ways this brave challenge seemed to be the one that would require me to trust God to act most.  In the end, that is why I picked this heading. 

Truthfully, it feels risky to me, because I see no way of accomplishing all this on my own. 

However, after too many times of failing, I have learned that when I build up plans in my own way, they fall far short of what I hope for or expect.  God’s way is always better.  I sense that God has been in the midst of the formation of this heading, but nothing in my life at the moment really seems to suggest that this can be accomplished.  Certainly not in six weeks. 

Yet, I’m choosing to follow.  That’s what it is to be obedient, right?  I think of the disciples.   Jesus often asked them to go and do things that probably seemed a bit odd to them.  Yet,they followed and discovered things just as he told them they would be.  I wonder what I will find.

When I am asked to sum all this thinking up in six words or less, I remembered a phrase I have heard used around Crossroads to describe the way they encourage discipleship—“find a person of peace.” 

This phrase was meant to refer to the passage where Jesus sends out his twelve disciples in Matthew

“ Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave.  As you enter the home, give it your greeting.  If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.  If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”  -Matthew 10:11-14, NIV

It is a phrase to express that our time is best spent sharing the good news and fostering growth in someone who is a willing recipient.  This person is a “person of peace.” 

I have all this in mind as I set my heading.  “Find a woman of peace.” 

I think about all of this in the Chart Room as I look around in these nooks trying to find a message that speaks to me. 

It is the sign that says   “I AM THE AUTHOR OF PEACE” that I keep coming back to.

There is something in this proclamation of God’s character makes me pause. 

I grab a brochure and sit down to consider this.

I am struck by the idea that in this journey to “find a woman of peace” it is God who is the author of peace.  He wants to bring His peace to my life.  I am also amazed by the thought that just as He brings His peace into my life I can trust He will prepare a person of peace for me; and as I consider this, I begin to think that perhaps this journey to find a woman of peace is not primarily an external thing.  I didn’t see that coming! 

As I Set Sail I am aware of God’s love for me.  I am aware of his provision.  I am aware that He wants my good, as I seek him and desire to be part of His vision, where disciples reproduce.  He wants me to be a woman of peace.

I step into the Storm Room and take a seat on steps.   I watch as people walk out on the water.  Like Peter, when Jesus says, “Come,” these people step out in faith.  The waves are churning and still they go.  I spy a spot high up and walk across the waters where I find a place to rest on the edge of a wave.

I sit and think about the storms that have been raging in me during this BRAVE journey.  Fear is something I have battled again and again in my life.  This time fear comes in the form of a full life.  How does this challenge fit into it?  I am not sure I see that yet.  I am afraid of being overwhelmed.  Yet, I realize, Jesus knows my capacity better than I do. 

I keep coming back to that chart room message: “I am the author of peace.”

All I can think is that God will take care of finding a woman of peace.  He wants me to concentrate on the internal journey of finding my peace in Christ.

With this revelation I move into the sanctuary.

I move through in the sand up to the front and find a spot to sit on a wooden bench.

I sit and listen to the music.

I lift up praise.

I thank God for speaking to me.

It is good to rest here in His presence.

In His presence I find peace.

As the minutes pass and I finally stand to leave.  I leave knowing that I do not go alone.

The peace of Christ goes with me.  He is with me wherever I go.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  -John 14:27 NIV


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we seek Christ and step boldly into the plans He has laid out for us—especially when they seem bigger than we can handle.  May we find that He is the peace in the midst of the stormy places.  May we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.  May we discover that He never leaves us or forsakes us.  May we come to know His faithfulness anew.

Jessica :)

A big thank you to my dear husband for capturing some photos of the prayer experience for me.  It wasn't until long after I returned I wished I had thought to pull out my camera!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Of Strong Ankles, Fullness of Life, and His Perfect Way

I have been in the midst of the BRAVE journey with Crossroads and many other churches in our city.  This week I spent some time meditating as a part of a group work challenge.  There were two other options that probably would have stretched me in terms of experience a little bit more, but I didn’t have time to do them before the first of my groups met on Tuesday morning.  So I went with a practice that I enjoy and practice more regularly than the other options presented. 


The instructions are to pick up to five passages from a list of about ten.  I begin looking at the list and quickly find myself reciting most of the Scriptures based only on their location.  I come to the last one Psalm 18:30-36.  I am not familiar with this passage at all.  I think to myself, “I guess this is the one I’ll use.”  To be honest, I am feeling a bit obstinate and based on the other passages in the mix I have no clue how this Psalm could possibly relate to me and the area of my life God has been inviting me to be BRAVE in. 

I grab my Bible, open it up and began to read.

“As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.”

                                                -Psalm18:30-36 (NIV)

It is when I reach this last verse that I stop in wonder: “You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.” 

God gently reaches down into my proud and skeptical heart and sets me straight.

In that one line he reminds me of what he has done in my life and what he wants to do as I trust him right now.

Once upon a time, my left ankle gave out again and again.  Three times in six months when I was a sophomore in high school; again in my senior year; and then four years later as I was looking forward to a honeymoon full of hiking.  With several of the sprains, including the last one, nothing happened to jar my ankle. I took a step or shifted my weight and it just gave way.

It was a time when I was so fearful.  After the last sprain, I remember wearing my air cast weeks after the six weeks it was to be worn were over.  I didn’t want to be using crutches on my wedding day.  I worried over the hiking that Jason and I would be doing—would my ankle just roll while were out?  The image of feeling of my ankle collapsing, the icky sound and the pain played over and over again in my mind.  It was awful. 

Now, in this moment God is reminding me of that time in my life. 

He is reminding me of how He met me there and healed me.  Through a time of unexpected prayer for healing He gave me back my ankle. 

I remember how for months afterwards, I had a hard time leaving that image behind me.  I didn’t know what healing looked like.  I kept wondering if it would be the next hike or simply walking down the sidewalk that my ankle would roll.  Even now, if I let myself, I can still hear the sound, picture the rolling, and feel the pain.  The memory is one full of fear.

It has only been trusting God’s healing one day at a time that has brought me to a new place, a better place, a freer place.  I walk with my family and speak praise when my ankle begins to roll and instead of buckling it corrects and holds strong.  Instead of walking in fear, I walk in His power.

In this moment I am wowed.  I reminded of all he has done for me.  I am led to a place of gratitude.  This is really how God wants me to come to Him and His Word--with praise for what He has done in my life and expecting Him to act in my life right now--ready to receive the His good gifts.  I read the passage again.

At first I see more feet.  “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.”  What agility a deer has!  What beauty can be seen from the heights!  I think of places I have hiked.  The views I have seen.  It is in His perfect way and in His security I stand on those heights.  What new heights might He be leading me to climb?

Then, I notice how He trains me.  “He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”  I imagine what that is like and I feel energized, ready, empowered.

He not only trains, He protects.  “You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me.”  I feel upheld in the midst of difficulty.

I read, “Your help has made me great.”  David, who wrote this Psalm recognizes that he is not just surviving.  God is doing something bigger than he could do himself.  God's help has made him great.  I tend to think about how it is God who is great and he is.  But it seems God wants to do great things in us too.  I can’t help but wonder if this is all part of his plan to reveal his glory.  That is a new thought.  He wants me to be great with his help and by his power, not apart from it.  I do not think of myself as great.  What might greatness look like in my life?

Then, those words again!  “You provide a broad path for my feet so that my ankles do not give way.”

For whatever reason, I think about the words of Jesus that say “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  (Matthew 7:13-14)  What amazes me is that God’s perfect way, this narrow road that leads to life, is broad enough.  It is a sure path.  It is a good path!  This is not about pain or failure or fear.  This is about healing and wholeness and good in my life! 

I look back to the beginning again.  “As for God, his way is perfect:  The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.  For who is God besides the Lord?  And who is the Rock except our God?  It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.”

And I wonder what it looks like to take refuge in God in the fullness of life anyway.  I sit and consider this for awhile.  As I do words well up.

I wiggle and squirm
With thoughts of dishes and dinner undone.

It is here you invite me to sit
In Your presence. 


It is here you remind me
You are

Right here in the fullness of my life
Not apart from it.

You are inviting me

The path is wide
So that my ankles will not give way.

I begin to realize that it is in the midst of my full life God wants to remind me of who he is.  It is in the midst of my full life that God wants to lead me to stand on the heights.  It is in the midst of my full life He trains me so that I am energized, equipped, empowered—ready for all He leads me toward.  In the midst of my full life He protects and upholds me.  In the midst of my full life He leads me towards a greatness that reveals His glory.  In the midst of my full life He is leading me towards wholeness, healing and good.  He is my Rock.  He is my refuge and by His power He keeps my way secure.  

I rest in all of this, thankful.

I feel invited to step out into his perfect way, knowing the path is wide so my ankles will not give way.


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we allow God to meet us right where we are at—in the fullness of our life—and lead us into his perfect way.  May we learn to step with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  The path is wide and our ankles will not give way.

Jessica :)

P.S.  The photo was taken during a trip to Canyonlands National Park during the first year we lived in Utah.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Where Are You?

She slips from my lap and picks up her Jesus Storybook Bible.*  She hands it to me, saying, “Carry please, Mama.”

I say, “Sure!” as we head out the gate and toward the bathroom.

She settles in on the floor as I pull out a floss pick. 

She calls out to me, “Papa?  Where are you?”

Photo by David Barless, used with permission.

I know just what she is referring to.  They are words from the story of the crucifixion.  I turn around and face her on the floor, flipping to the familiar illustration.  (Jesus is on the cross, battered and bruised with a crown of thorns on his head and a tear falling from his eye.  Above him a sign reads “Our King.”)

She turns her head toward mine with a familiar request on her lips. “Read.”

I pull her up on my lap, there on the bathroom floor, and begin halfway through the story.

“They nailed Jesus to the cross.
“Father forgive them,” Jesus gasped.  “They don’t understand what they’re doing.”
“You say you’ve come to rescue us!” people shouted.  “But you can’t even rescue yourself!”
But they were wrong.  Jesus could have rescued himself.  A legion of angels would have flown to his side—if he’d called.
“If you were really the Son of God, you could just climb down off that cross!”  they said.
And of course they were right.  Jesus could have just climbed down.  Actually, he could have just said a word and made it all stop.  Like when he healed that little girl.”    - The Jesus Storybook Bible, p. 304

Here we pause.  

We revisit the story that we read the night before in the front room.  Jairus, the little girl’s daddy had come to Jesus.  I ask if she remembers how Jesus went to the little girl and called her from death to life saying, “Honey, it’s time to get up.”  She nods and says, “Breakfast.”  "Yes,"  I affirm.  “He asks her if she would like some breakfast.  How about you?  Are you hungry for breakfast?” I ask her with a little smile and a friendly poke.

She says again, “Read.”  And so I do. 

“He could have just said a word and made it all stop.  Like when he healed that little girl.  And stilled the storm.  And fed 5,000 people. 
But Jesus stayed.
You see, they didn’t understand.  It wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus there.  It was love.”  - The Jesus Storybook Bible, p. 304

It was love.  I pause here.  I soak it in. 

The nails in his hands.  The nails in his feet.  The thorns.  The shame.  They speak of his love. 

He could have made it stop.  But he didn’t. 

The people didn’t understand, then. 

Do I understand, now? 

I don’t know.

I keep reading.

“Papa?” Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky.
“Papa?  Where are you?  Don’t leave me!”
And for the first time—and the last—when he spoke, nothing happened.  Just a horrible endless silence.  God didn’t answer.  He turned away from his Boy.  – The Jesus Storybook Bible, p. 304

Oh, this moment. 

I think of my Little Love and the way she often calls out playfully from her room these days, “Daddy, where are you?” 

She knows her daddy will come looking for her.  She expects it.  She looks forward to it.  It brings her comfort, peace and such joy to know her daddy will respond. 

Here, Jesus’ daddy doesn't respond.  The Father turns his face away.  He turns away from the Son He loves.  With the picture of my girl in my mind, I find my heart breaking.  Oh, this moment.

“Tears rolled down Jesus’ face.  The face of the One who would wipe away every tear from every eye.– The Jesus Storybook Bible, p. 304

My Little Love, she looks at with me with concern written all over her face and says, “Cryin'.”  Yes, dear.  Crying.

I can’t imagine she grasps the fullness of this, yet.  How could she?  I am still not sure I do.  But it is amazing to me that she does get that this is a moment to pause.  She tenderly wants to reach out in comfort as she sees Jesus’ hurting face and hears of His tears.

We turn the page.

“Even though it was midday, a dreadful darkness covered the face of the world.  The sun could not shine.  The earth trembled and quaked.  The great mountains shook.  Rocks split in two.  Until it seemed that the whole world would break.  That creation itself would tear apart.
The full force of the storm of God’s fierce anger at sin was coming down.  On his own Son.  Instead of his people.  It was the only way God could destroy sin, and not destroy his children whose hearts were filled with sin.”  -The Jesus Storybook Bible, p.306 

As I read of this storm raging, I feel it.  I feel so very aware of the many ways I have messed up and do mess up—so very aware of the sinful heart that God was seeking to save.  I think of the words of Paul: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  -2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV  

God loved his creation—the people made in his image—so much that he was willing to give his Son to destroy sin and not his children whose hearts were filled with it.  How deep the Father’s love for us. 

How deep the Father’s love for me.  The thought makes me tremble inside.

Then Jesus shouted in a loud voice, “It is finished!”
And it was.  He had done it.  Jesus had rescued the whole world.
“Father!” Jesus cried.  “I give you my life.”
Strange clouds and shadows filled the sky.  Purple, orange, black.  Like a bruise.
Jesus friends gently carried Jesus.  They laid Jesus in a new tomb carved out of rock.
How could Jesus die?  What had gone wrong?  What did it mean?  They didn’t know anything anymore.  Except they did know their hearts were breaking.” –The Jesus Storybook Bible, p. 306

Jesus speaks words of power. And then he dies? This doesn’t really seem like a rescue. 

The storm that has been raging suddenly seems to calm—like when Jesus stilled the storm.  Yet this calm seems awful and ugly.  I feel numb. 

In this moment, I am with the disciples wondering, “How could this happen?  Wasn’t Jesus the Rescuer?  The King God had promised?  It wasn’t supposed to end like this.”*  

Then, I remember.  It doesn’t end like this.
Jesus is not dead.  He is alive!

I look at my Little Love and tell her, “It doesn’t end here!  Jesus rises.  He is alive!”  She giggles.

It was for the joy that was set before him that Jesus endured the cross—the joy of relationship with us, the joy of relationship with me. 

I think of the lyrics from Matt Maher’s song 'Christ is Risen': “Oh death!   Where is your sting?  Oh hell!  Where is your victory?  Oh church!  Come stand in the light!  Our God is not dead.  He’s alive!  He’s alive!”

I smile and pull her close saying, “This is good news!”

She wiggles out of my arms.  I let go of her and stand up, turning towards the sink to grab my tooth brush. 

I notice the morning sun shining.  Its bright light is pouring in right where I am standing; and I can't help but continue to hum to myself, "He's alive!  He's alive!"


“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” –Jude 1:24-25, KJV


Grace and peace be ours in abundance this Good Friday as we remember the depth of the Father’s love for us and this Easter as we remember—Jesus is risen, He is risen, indeed!  May we take joy in the hope that we have through His death and resurrection.  When we come to Him, Jesus takes our sinful hearts and presents us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.   We are so very loved.

Jessica :)

P.S.  I highly recommend The Jesus Storybook Bible if you do not already own a copy.  It is published by Zondervan. © 2012. The story referenced throughout this post is called 'The sun stops shining,' pages 302-309.  The thoughts I shared along with the disciples are from p. 310.

The photos in this post are from Badlands National Park, South Dakota in July 2010.  We got up to watch the sunrise.  The first two were taken by Jason and the third by me. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Behold, The Lamb

We sit listening to her Daddy read.

“It was Passover, the time when God’s people remembered how God had rescued them from being slaves in Egypt.  Every year they killed a lamb and ate it.” -The Jesus Storybook Bible, 286.

At the word “lamb” she begins to chirp with excitement.  “Baa!  Baa!  Baa!” 

“Yes, dear.  The lamb does say “baa”,” I respond with a smile.

Her Daddy continues to read.

““The lamb died instead of us!” they would say.” -The Jesus Storybook Bible, 286.

She shouts her refrain with glee.  “Baa!  Baa!  Baa!”

Yes, dear.  The Lamb. 

You have got it!  The Lamb. 

He is the one in this story to pay attention to.

Daddy continues to read.  My girl continues to “baa.”  I sit in wonder considering this Lamb.

This Holy Week began with whispered prayers about how to lead this Little Love of not quite eleven months to consider what was important this week.  I find now that she is reminding me.  “Baa!  Baa!  Baa!”  The Lamb.  She knows it.  Do I know it?

My husband is still reading.

“Then Jesus picked up some bread and broke it.  He gave it to his friends.  He picked up a cup of wine and thanked God for it.  He poured it out and shared it.  “My body is like this bread.  It will break,” Jesus told them.  “This cup of wine is like my blood.  It will pour out.  But this is how God will rescue the whole world.  My life will break and God’s broken world will mend.  My heart will tear apart—and your hearts will heal.  Just as the passover lamb died, so now I will die instead of you.  My blood will wash away all of your sins.  And you’ll be clean on the inside—in your hearts.  So whenever you eat and drink, remember,” Jesus said, “I’ve rescued you.”  -The Jesus Storybook Bible, 292.

I think of the lamb in the thicket, rescuing Isaac.  This rescue involved a family.

I think of the blood of the Passover lambs above the doorposts in Egypt.  This rescue involved a nation.

I think of John the Baptist’s words about Jesus:  “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  This rescue is for the world.

I think of Isaiah 53.

"Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors."

This is what we remember this week—the rescue that comes through the death of Jesus, the Lamb, on the cross.  Yet, this rescue doesn’t end in death, but resurrection!  Jesus has victory over death.  We remember this too.  He is who He says He is, God.

I think of the scene John describes in the throne room of heaven. 

"Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.  In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”

 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped."  - Revelation 5:11-14

Somehow, in these words, I can picture the voice of my Little Love calling out “Baa!  Baa!  Baa!”

Yes, Little One.  

Behold, the Lamb and worship Him.

This is a repost from the archives.  It still amazes me the way God uses my Little Love to draw me nearer to him.  I hope you have enjoyed remembering with me.  A new post will be up tomorrow about how God is using this Little Love to draw me into His presence as we move toward Easter right now. 

Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we behold the Lamb who was slain, the Lamb who lives!  May we give thanks for the redemption that comes through Christ and worship with every breath and action of our lives.

Jessica :)

P.S.  Behold the Lamb.  Remember and worship Him today.  

I highly recommend this Matt Maher album.  It is one of my favorites and is a great a Lenten and Holy Week album. 

Friday, March 13, 2015


It has been a sick week around here.  We have been resting up.  So just a quick post today.


It seemed appropriate to me that these verses were among the first I read as I sat down this afternoon as everyone else naps. 

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.” 

I have been rejoicing in the Lord this week. 

In the midst of sickness, there has been so much provision: doctors with Zofran to calm Little Love’s stomach, a husband to hold my hair out of the way of the toilet multiple times in the middle of the night, family who stepped in to care for a little one so I could rest, rest, energy returned, food brought when making food was still beyond me, help offered by friends, and the capacity to care for a sick one returned home from a trip. 

I have been aware of God’s presence. 

I have found my mind wandering to the idea of how this sickness totally wiped me out physically.  As I have considered this, I found myself freshly aware that sin totally wipes me out spiritually. I am utterly unable to cope with the consequences of sin in my life.  It is in Jesus I am made new, because of his death and resurrection.  He takes that old life and leads me to a new way of living.  This is another reason I have been thankful this week! 

It looks as though it may be another long weekend and so I have been praying for His gentleness to care for my dear ones.


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we rejoice in the Lord always.  Whatever life brings, may we have eyes to see the goodness of the God and sense His nearness to us as we walk through it. 

Jessica :)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Grace and Peace

It is the third time I walk up the stairs to her room in fifteen minutes. 

The first had been a triple whammy that took me off guard in about two or three seconds—smacking my face, quickly followed by grabbing the glasses off of my face in anger and putting her foot into the potty (which was fortunately empty)—just as we were about to pull up her pants. 

The second time I came up the stairs, I sat with her discussing what had just happened.  After she owned that she smacked her mother, pulled the glasses from my face and put her foot in the potty, she once again pulled off my glasses.  She was no longer angry; but, the attempt at a mini-practice of asking me to take my glasses off, did not go well.

Now, as I enter her room, I find my Little Love quiet after a few minutes of screaming protest at being returned to her crib.  She looks up at me and reaches.  “Hold-y,” she cries out.

I scoop her up in my arms and carry her to the nearby recliner.  “Let’s talk,” I reply seriously.

“Did you grab the glasses off of mama’s face?”  I ask her.

“Yes!” she admits, enthusiastically.  I am pleased with her honesty and also a little amused at the way her tone doesn’t seem to acknowledge that there is anything wrong with her behavior.  We are learning around here, for sure.

We talk about the way we ask mama to take glasses off to look at the eyes hiding behind them.  We do not rip them from mama’s face.  We practice once again. 

I say, “Can you ask mama to take off her glasses?” 

She says, “Please.”   The way she uses the word is often more of a statement.  It is given that the glasses are indeed what she is interested in and she adds her polite “please” so she can proceed with the fun as soon as possible.

I take off my glasses and we commence the game that she often asks to play—me winking, blinking and batting my eyes at her.  After a few minutes, I stop and thank her for asking me to take off the glasses instead of grabbing them off my face.  I tell her I love her. 

She looks at me and says, “Grace and peace, Mama.”

These are the words that we share before she goes to bed at night, “Grace and peace from God to you, the grace and peace of Jesus.”  I stare back at her and wonder how she knows to use them now.  Has she overheard Jason and I using them with each other?  We don’t always, but often enough.

All that is in me softens at her words. 

They take me back to a Mars Hill podcast about Philippians 1:1-2 I listened to in 2008. It was a sermon that forever changed the way I thought of this greeting in most of the New Testament epistles.

Rob Bell* defined grace in a few ways from the Greek word charis.  The first definition he gave was “joy, pleasure, favor, gratification, and acceptance.”  The next was “a favor done without expectation of return.”  The last he shared was from Spiro Zodiakes “the absolutely free expression of the love of God finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of God.”

Next, he took some time to define the word “peace.”  The Greek is aranay.  It means every kind of good (similar to its Hebrew counterpart shalom).  In the Bible, it is used in the present tense form, with the exception of one instance where it is in the future tense.  So when we read it, we should read it: every kind of good right now.

He moved from defining the terms to expressing them as the people we are to be—people that speak grace and peace; people who need grace and peace; people who interrupt with grace and peace; people who live grace and peace.  We are to be known for being people who share and are committed to speaking God’s grace and peace to others, including ourselves, in everything. 

My little one is exactly right—grace and peace.  Isn’t this the way we should want every conflict to end?

Isn’t this the way Jesus answers us when we come surrendered and trust him to take all that we have done wrong and lay it before the cross?  He brings His resurrection life and offers us grace and peace.

She offers an invitation to lay this time of conflict behind us with every kind of good right now and full of the free expression of the love of God, full of joy, favor and acceptance. 

Who can resist such an offer?

I touch her cheek, ever so gently, and say, “Grace and peace, Little Love.”


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we respond in all things (especially conflict) and to everyone we meet with the grace and peace of Jesus.  May we find that we speak His life and love to everyone we meet and are filled to overflowing with the gift that we share.

Jessica :)

P.S.  In thinking about grace and peace this week I have found myself humming along to this Jill Phillips song that became a favorite of mine during the early morning drives when I was headed to work in the first couple of months we lived in Utah.  May you listen and find yourself clinging to the grace and peace that comes through Jesus.  If you really like it you might consider adding it to your library.  (Just so you know...I don't actually know Jill Phillips.  I have not been asked to promote her music.  I just believe that if I enjoy an artist, you should support them!  And...I would have embedded the video, but that feature doesn't seem to be working for me today! The video will go into the post, but not appear in any of the previews I have done...Sorry about that!)

*Admittedly, Rob Bell has been a rather controversial figure in the Christian community for awhile now.  I don't believe or necessarily agree with everything he has written or taught.  However, the series on Philippians is one of the best sermon series I have listened to.  As with any speaker, teacher, author it is important to thoughtfully consider what they teach in light of what the Bible says. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

It Is Well

When I think of you, I remember a younger me. 

I remember many times when we sat with Marie and our friends, Bibles open and talking about it.  In the early days, Molly and I perfected the art of avoiding eye contact with Marie so we didn't have to share first.  The awkwardness between new people faded over the years to where it would be hard to believe that we didn't always share secrets and struggles and the things that good friends do. We all enjoyed each other so well.  You always spoke straight from the heart and got straight to the point with your wondering and sharing and confronting.  Wise woman.  I learned about praying out loud, during those years, with you and with our friends. 

I remember squeezing into Marie's Toyota Paseo, so many different times.  Mostly, I remember there was enough room for everyone as we drove home; but occasionally, we packed in like sardines—like the time we kidnapped Molly for her birthday.  I think you were on crutches and got to sit up front because of your injured leg.  We went back to Marie’s place, the one with the breakfast nook, for dinner.  Afterwards, I remember us cheering with Deborah during Return from Snowy River,  "Go Jim go!"  We cheered for the dashing hero on his black stallion.
There were other movies too, like The Shawshank Redemption and The Great Escape, during sleepovers.  There were also many musicals and plays at Walnut and Finneytown.  On our way to watch Ellen in Godspell, I remember talking about whether the note I received from Will during study hall meant anything; in it he had drawn my profile and written about "the North girl."
What fun times those were!

I went looking for a particular photo of our small group last week.  I never found it.  But Molly did!

I found a photo from Resident Camp, instead.  I remember eating with your campers while I served on Girls Crew.  You were such a wonderful counselor.

I remember having gym class together too.  I was so relieved to know someone else that first day.  I think it must have been with Mr. Christoph, because I remember being on mats tumbling and talking with you, Lindsay, and Tiphanie.  If I am remembering correctly, I think we spent the beginning of the semester lamenting our lack of volleyball skills.  Very few of us did well on the bumping and setting tests. 

You always seemed so comfortable with who you were.  I think that is pretty rare in a middle school or high school student.  You made me feel like I could be me around you, the me that was still trying to figure out who I really was—even if that meant you were witness to ridiculous dance choreography in the bathroom just down the hall from the lunchroom.  We laughed about it, but I never felt foolish for sharing that piece of me with you. (Though, now, I would like to groan that I ever thought that was remotely cool. Oh well!)

That was a precious gift you gave me then.

I did not know I could really live authentically until years later.  But years later, I do know that is the best way to really live, even if it sometimes feels very risky.  If we are never fully known, we can never be fully loved.  You were known and loved, friend.

It seems such a long time since those days. 

Life seldom brought us together since then. (Those few moments when it did were sweet).  From afar, I loved watching your adventures.  You seemed to have such a “seize the day” way of living.  It took you all over the world.  You found so many kindred spirits, touched so many lives.  I know we are all richer for knowing you.  I am.

Now, you are gone. 

(You, who were always so full of life and laughter and making things beautiful—can it really be?)

It reminds me that this world is broken and of my longing for home.  It makes me long for the day when all will be made right.  In that place, in the presence of Jesus, you are whole again.  Sickness does not have the last word, neither does death.  For that, I am so very thankful.

I remember Marie sharing this passage from 1 Peter about character with me. 

“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.   – 1 Peter 3:3-6 

I think it is especially the last line that makes me think of it now. 

“You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” 

What a courageous woman you were, my friend.  You faced months of treatment, friends and family beside you, near and far, praying.  You did not give way to fear. 

I want to live like that too! 

These were God’s words to Joshua and the people of Israel as they entered the Promised Land: 

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

The road ahead of Israel was full of promise in the midst of difficulty.  In the midst of all of this, God told them not to fear, he would be right there.  He would not leave of forsake them.  What words of hope!  What words of comfort!  

God goes with us wherever we go. 

You must have taken hold of God’s promises in the midst of such difficulty. 

His promises are the springs of life that keep us going.

I believe that our names tell us something about who we are. 

Your namesake was loyal, determined, strong and brave—like you.  She, too, was no stranger to difficulty. 

You know what?  Her story doesn’t end in death, it ends in life.  It ends with a redeemer. 

So does your story, Ruth.  Because Jesus lives, so will you. 

Because of all this, it is well


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we trust in the promises of God.  May we cling to Jesus as our sure hope in the face of sin and guilt and death.  May we trust that His resurrection life will right all the wrongs and make all things new.  Because of this we can say it is well.