Hearing God in the Gap

Hearing God in the Gap

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered if God still speaks to us today? Or have you wondered if what you’re hearing is really God speaking to you, or just your own thoughts? If you’ve wrestled with these questions, you’re not alone. Hearing God, although our divine birthright as believers, can be one of the most elusive parts of our walk of faith but it’s not supposed to be. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and we can always trust that what He says is true. This month, we’re going to talk about hearing God and the primary way we do that: through relationship with Him. 

I’m throwing out a hard truth here: We don’t always get what we ask for when we ask for it. Sometimes what seems like a no is a not yet. And sometimes there’s a gap, a tension, between hearing God and seeing His word come to pass. 

The gap can bring discouragement and distance. When it doesn’t feel like God is answering our prayers, we might shut down altogether—and we might miss hearing His voice, the thousands of other conversations He wants to have with us while we wait.

How do you grow your relationship with God in the midst of a not yet? 

I spent years fixating on what I wanted God to do for us. I had a clear word from Him, and I sowed into it with prayer often. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for me, it resulted in two unfortunate consequences. It focused my attention on my circumstances, on what was lacking. And when I didn’t see His word coming to pass, it caused me to question anything I thought I heard. Our relationship suffered because I had forgotten what His voice sounded like.

In early 2015, four years before God would answer our prayer, I reached a breaking point. I missed my Heavenly Father. Knee-deep in my grief and pain, I felt lost and confused, and I was desperate for His affirmation. But my ears felt clogged. So I committed to spending 40 days with Him, every morning, and I asked Him to give me a word every day. I didn’t spend that time praying for anything. In fact, I was mostly quiet because my soul needed to receive from Him. I needed to hear His voice again, to be reminded what He sounds like, and to remember what He says about me. During this season the Lord showed me that I had connected His love for me with what He was doing, or in this case, not doing. To wait for years and years, to get another no, another loss, over and over again, to watch those around me receive what I wanted (and sometimes they didn’t)—it all felt very unloving. 

But here’s another hard truth I learned: to equate God’s love with my circumstances is to manipulate who He is. 

I had to come to grips, and repentance, that I was angry because God wasn’t doing what I wanted. If He loves me so much, why wouldn’t He do this for me? The other side of that? I was withholding my love because He wasn’t doing what I wanted. Ouch. 

You know why I call that manipulation? Because it makes love conditional. If He loves me, He will do this for me. If He does this for me, I will love Him. 

When He showed me that His love is unconditional, the power of this truth transformed my life. It still transforms me even now. And it’s a good thing, my friend. I’m so grateful His love isn’t based on my performance. At the time, I wanted it to be because it felt like control. If only I could do something, He’d love me enough to answer my prayer. Today I’m so thankful He answered my prayer in spite of any works on my part. He loves me no matter what. And I love Him whether He’s answering my prayers today—or not. 

If you have heard God for something specific, and you find yourself in the gap, I encourage you to keep pressing into your relationship with God. Spend time with Him. Refocus your attention. Let Him remind you how much He loves you. Ask Him to show you what His purpose is during this season. Allow Him to refill your cup. Invite Him to speak truth over you, reminders of who He is and who He says you are. 

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” ~Zephaniah 3:17

We would like to thank Laura Brandenburg for writing this post!

The Garden of Eden

The Garden of Eden

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered if God still speaks to us today? Or have you wondered if what you’re hearing is really God speaking to you, or just your own thoughts? If you’ve wrestled with these questions, you’re not alone. Hearing God, although our divine birthright as believers, can be one of the most elusive parts of our walk of faith but it’s not supposed to be. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and we can always trust that what He says is true. This month, we’re going to talk about hearing God and the primary way we do that: through relationship with Him. 

The Garden of Eden. What comes to mind when you hear those words? Something about it seems so far away, so mystical…so other worldly. Yet it was a very real place. The garden was a paradise where God would come down and walk and talk with Adam and Eve—the pinnacle of His creation—in the cool of the day. It’s where He would commune with His children; it was a place where Heaven and earth overlapped. There was no separation, no sin. This was God’s original intent for the state of the world.

Well, we all know what happened. Eve just messed it all up and now it’s ruined for us forever, right? Well, not exactly. You see, God had a plan. He had a plan not just to give us a road back to Heaven when we die, but a plan to bring Heaven to earth. In Jesus, once more Heaven and earth were joined together: fully God and fully man. He lived a perfect life. He died as a sacrifice for all of humanity, and He sent His Holy Spirit to once more create a space for Heaven to overlap earth—through US.

So how do we experience that? Is that just a gift reserved for pastors and really “spiritual” people? I would say not at all. God has made His presence available and accessible to all, and one of the best ways to find it is through worship. Have you ever noticed how the atmosphere of your home, or car, or workplace just changes by simply playing worship music? There’s a reason for that. Psalm 22:3 says that God inhabits the praises of His people. INHABIT=to live or occupy a place. To bring Heaven down to earth. You see, God’s not waiting for us to all fly away to be with Him. He wants to walk with us in the cool of the day, just like He did with Adam and Eve. He wants to commune with His children. He wants to speak to you as well as hear your prayers.

That all sounds so glorious, doesn’t it? But the truth of the matter is that like anything that’s good for you, it may be simple, but it’s not always easy. It’s not easy to make the time. It’s not easy to unplug. It’s not easy put down a phone, or turn off Netflix, or whatever it is that we run to in order to pass the time. And just in case you think worship leaders automatically just wake up in the third Heaven, it’s not like that. We all have to be intentional to get into God’s presence. That seems a little ironic since He lives inside of us, doesn’t it? Worship doesn’t just bring God’s presence; it also reminds us that He’s been there all along. It stills our hearts and brings us to that peaceful place in the garden that He’s put inside our hearts; a place where we can walk with Him and talk with Him, free from the distractions and worries of the world.

I remember a time when I first started playing on the worship team. I was coaching at the time and had just had a super busy and exhausting weekend. I realized that Sunday that I was scheduled to play for a worship night that evening, and I had such a poor attitude. I was tired. I didn’t want to go. I was in such a bad mood. That all changed right before we started when I felt God whisper to me, “May I have this dance?” He continued to ask that same question before every song, and for the first time in a long while, worship became personal to me again. That’s who we serve—a personal God. He couldn’t care less if we raise our hands and jump around if it’s all about externals. He wants something deeper, something more intimate and personal. He still longs to come and spend time with just you, to walk and talk with you in the garden. Perhaps He’s calling you to make room for Him. Perhaps He’s holding out His hand. Perhaps He’s asking the question that stills my heart 20 years later…

May I have this dance?

May I take your hand in Mine?

May I hold you close right here with Me,

As the music keeps time?

May I take the lead?

May I show you how this dance goes?

Don’t you know I’ve been watching, waiting, asking Will you follow?

May I have this dance?

I want to encourage you to take a few minutes sometime today and click on this link. Spend some time in the garden. And P.S.…it’s a great song for a waltz. 

We would like to thank Becca Wilhite for this blog post!

Hearing God Through Prayer

Hearing God Through Prayer

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered if God still speaks to us today? Or have you wondered if what you’re hearing is really God speaking to you, or just your own thoughts? If you’ve wrestled with these questions, you’re not alone. Hearing God, although our divine birthright as believers, can be one of the most elusive parts of our walk of faith but it’s not supposed to be. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and we can always trust that what He says is true. This month, we’re going to talk about hearing God and the primary way we do that: through relationship with Him. 

Have you ever scheduled time with a friend, maybe over a good cup of coffee, just to talk? You’re able to catch up on everything that is happening in each other’s lives, or just share what is on each of your hearts. You may completely lose track of time during your sweet visit and become disappointed when the time finally comes when you have to go. 

Jesus longs to have an even closer, joy-filled relationship with each of us. I know we may not have hours every day to sit in singular, focused fellowship with Jesus, but the good news is that He is always with you, in your coming and going, in your commute, in your workplace, in your family time, in your home, and even on your vacation. Jesus Himself said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” He sealed you with His Holy Spirit when you put your trust in Him!

He not only wants you to share your heart with Him but He also wants to share His heart with you! This is what prayer is all about. Please don’t try to complicate it. You may be wanting or needing to hear from Jesus, but you don’t think He is speaking to you, or you may not think you can hear Him. The best place that I know to start is in the greatest love letter ever written: the Bible. His heart is shared with you there. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through His Word. He longs to speak to you, and He is faithful. 

When we declare His Word over ourselves and pray it back to Him, it is so very powerful. I find myself most often praying God’s Word, but some of these times are extremely precious and memorable to me. One of those times happened in the darkest season of my life. I was staring at the walls of a pit of postpartum depression after losing our third son late in my second trimester. Grieving the loss of a baby was unbearable. A dear friend sent me a card with Philippians 4:7 written in it: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I read every word deliberately and slowly. At that moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. He said, “I am guarding your heart and mind in Christ.” I cried out and admitted to God that I needed Him to guard my heart and mind because I wasn’t able to do it. Immediately His peace washed over me and gave me rest. I don’t want you to misunderstand or think that I got to skip past grief, because I assure you, I didn’t. But I knew Jesus was walking me through it, and His peace was guarding my heart and mind. As I prayed these words over and over, I proclaimed to the darkness that it wasn’t going to damage my heart or mind, because the peace of God was guarding it.

The times when He brings His Word to mind in prayer is not always so heavy or pressing. I love praying His Word over myself, my husband, my children, relatives, friends, neighbors, schools, and our church. Jesus said that we could ask anything in His name and it would be done. “In His name” means by His authority. We have to spend time with Him in His Word to hear and know what He authorizes. When you hear from Him and He has shared His heart with you, by all means, ask for it in prayer.

Commonly, my day starts with a Bible verse of the day. I will read from that part of the Bible until God speaks to my heart about something I am reading. It doesn’t usually take long for me. I also like to ask Him questions and ponder parts of Scripture that I don’t fully understand. Today’s verse of the day was James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” This is easy to pray about. My prayer sounded something like this, “Lord, you know my heart and you know my ways. Please bring to my attention any way I am hearing your Word, but I am not doing it. I don’t want to deceive myself.” As I said before, the Lord is faithful. In my normal daily happenings, He will kindly bring something to my attention regarding this prayer as He speaks back to heart.

If you are in a place of needing to hear about something specific from Him, make sure you are quieting your heart so you can hear and ask someone you can trust to pray for you as well.

Remember, hearing the Lord in prayer is all about our relationship with Him. He is not hiding His heart from you. I hope you will take the time to hear what He is saying specifically to you as you pray and seek His face.

We would like to thank Racheal Kasner for writing this post!

My Invitation

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered if God still speaks to us today? Or have you wondered if what you’re hearing is really God speaking to you, or just your own thoughts? If you’ve wrestled with these questions, you’re not alone. Hearing God, although our divine birthright as believers, can be one of the most elusive parts of our walk of faith but it’s not supposed to be. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and we can always trust that what He says is true. This month, we’re going to talk about hearing God and the primary way we do that: through relationship with Him. 

My boys are growing up so fast. They started 1st grade this year, and I can’t stop thinking about when I held them for the first time. They both nestled into my arms and were so still and calm. I remember kissing their tiny heads and wanting to never forget that moment. And now, six years later, the only time they stop long enough for me to kiss their heads is when they’re sleeping. They are always on the move, fighting Jedi battles with light sabers in hand, showing me how they can run as fast as a cheetah, or practicing their ninja moves; it’s tough to get them to slow down. I often find myself asking them to take a second, come sit in my lap, and talk to me. I just want to hold them for a bit, but most of the time, it’s like holding a cat that doesn’t want to be held. They wiggle out of my lap and off they go on their next adventure. 

Sometimes I wonder if God ever feels that way about us. Does He wish that we would slow down and climb up in His lap for a bit? Does He want to talk to us and spend time with us? I believe He does. In fact, I know He does. 

In Exodus 25, we find God giving Moses instructions for building the tabernacle that will house His presence. He gave very detailed directions on how to build it and what materials should be used. And in verse 22, we see a glimpse of God’s heart for why He wanted the tabernacle built in the first place. 

I will meet with you there above the mercy seat, between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the testimony; I will speak with you from there about all that I command you regarding the Israelites.”

Did you catch that?! If you read it too quickly, it would be easy to miss. But when we slow down and really think about what He is saying here, we can see that He’s extending an invitation to a relationship. He didn’t just want a place where he could speak to them; He wanted a place where He could speak with them and meet with them.

When it comes to hearing God, sometimes I think we only expect to hear God speak to us rather than expecting Him to speak with us. If He only spoke to us it would be one-sided, but if He speaks with us, He invites us into a conversation. He longs to hear from us as much as we long to hear from Him. 

We can be sure that God desires relationship because when he created us in His image, He wired us to desire relationship just like He does. Think about it this way: He’s the one that decided to exist in three persons instead of one! He has Jesus seated right next to Him and He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us and to help us. We’re all in this together! The very nature of who He is shows us His heart for relationship.

You were created for relationship by the One who longs for relationship with you. And when He created you, He gave you the ability to hear His voice just as surely as He gave you a voice to respond to His. Hearing our God is the most wonderful gift, and it’s something that each of us can do. And when we respond to His voice, we enter into the most amazing conversation we could ever have. We just have to create space in our life to build that connection with Him. It’s that simple. 

Will you slow down today, climb up in His lap, and begin a divine conversation with our God who wants to meet with you and speak with you? If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t hear Him, first, ask yourself if you’ve made space for him in your life. If not, you can start that conversation today. 

We would like to thank Amber Curry for writing this post!

Hostess with the Mostest

Editor’s Note: It’s almost FALL, y’all!!!! We will be focusing on hospitality for the next few weeks. Hospitality is so much more than what you produce. It’s the warm, welcoming atmosphere, it’s the peace you welcome others into, it’s the attention to the person in front of you, the listening that shows true hospitality. I know you’ll be refreshed and enlightened by the posts we have this month. Happy reading!!

I learned when I was a young child the duties of a hostess as I watched my Mom and Dad in their church work. They were very involved with the youth ministry, so they were always ready for expected and unexpected youth coming to our house and making themselves at home. My mom was an amazing cook, and she had the sweetest soul of anyone you would ever meet. She always had something special ready for snacks. My dad was deemed the best all around door-greeter and was loved by all. They were prime examples of “Love God, Love People.”

An important part of being a great hostess is setting an atmosphere of fun and relaxation.  My guests need to feel safe, comfortable, and know that they are welcome, to the point where no one feels like leaving. One way to do this is to make your guests feel important. Give them your undivided attention. When they leave your house, it’s not the food or the spotless floors they’ll remember; it’s your caring heart and your invested conversation that will make a bigger impact. You can make your guests feel loved as soon as they step into your home by treating them as VIPs. Each and every person who enters your home is very important to the Kingdom because they are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). You can extend this even further by offering your guests a word of encouragement as they leave your home.

One specific way you can set the stage of comfort, relaxation, and importance in your home is through the sense of smell. Smell is connected to memory, so yummy smells in your home can help trigger fun and happy memories for your guests or just help put them at ease. If you enjoy candles or essential oils, you might have some going near the front door, on your patio, in your sunroom, or in the living room. If you prefer the smell of baked goods, fresh baked bread, brownies, or cookies are all inviting smells and come with the added bonus of having a treat to serve your guests. 

God gives us the gift of hospitality so that we can glorify Him as we care for others. The blessing of the walls in our home provides safety and security for our families and can provide an atmosphere of care for the guests who enter as well. Romans 12:13 teaches us to share with those in need and to practice hospitality. When we open our home to others, we honor God and honor those who walk through our door. I Peter 4:9-10 says, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.Practicing hospitality makes us instruments of God’s grace and allows us to extend His grace to those with whom we come in contact. 

The Word tells us, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:6). Scripture goes on to say, “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11). As you seek out opportunities to show hospitality by inviting guests into your home, remember that you are also practicing generosity. Ask God to cultivate this fruit in your life and watch His blessings flow! 

We would like to thank Diana Brumley for writing this post!

Focus on Blessing, not Impressing

Editor’s Note: It’s almost FALL, y’all!!!! We will be focusing on hospitality for the next few weeks. Hospitality is so much more than what you produce. It’s the warm, welcoming atmosphere, it’s the peace you welcome others into, it’s the attention to the person in front of you, the listening that shows true hospitality. I know you’ll be refreshed and enlightened by the posts we have this month. Happy reading!!

I used to stress any time I knew we would have guests over. Don’t get me wrong, I love people and I am always excited to hang out with both new and old friends. But I would seriously stay up all hours of the night overthinking everything I needed to do to make their visit absolutely perfect. After all, I went to “sister Suzy’s” house last month and she served a gourmet meal and her home was immaculate! And did you see her dining table? Beautiful! You know, like the ones you see in magazines, dressed with center pieces and fine china.

The irony in this is I have worked in the hospitality industry for 20 years. I KNOW hospitality! I work with my staff daily to teach them that although a clean room is very important, what makes a stay memorable is the way the guest feels welcomed and at home. It’s not about perfection; it’s about connection.

So why do I stress so much about inviting someone to my home?

It took me digging into what hospitality really means before it finally clicked and I could apply it to my home life. Because in reality, I am a wife and working mother of 6 kids. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve set a pretty table and used that china I’ve had stored away for years. And you know what, I’ve learned that is perfectly ok. Let me tell you why.

While I was studying, I came across the Greek word for hospitality: philoxenia. It literally means LOVE OF STRANGERS. It does not mean I must cook a mean filet mignon, or have the shiniest silver. It means I should show compassion, take genuine interest and serve others. Now if you are one of those lovely ladies that can do it all, may God bless you sister. God created us each to be unique in our gifts. I, for one, did not receive that gift. And for those of you that are in my boat, don’t worry. God never said that practicing hospitality would look the same for everyone. He wants you to share your heart.

1 Peter 4:8-9: And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.

My takeaway from that is we are called to let our hospitality be an overflow of God’s hospitality to us. And by the way, the memories and the friendships you make along the way will outweigh the troubles of the mess left behind. I promise. 

In biblical times, it was not uncommon to invite a stranger in. There were no stigmas on needing to have a perfect home in order to offer drink or food to a traveler. Jesus himself showed us how to actively love people and create relationships over a meal time and time again. And even though it is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, I don’t think He would have walked away just because you served your meal on paper plates.

So my suggestion to you is to keep it simple. Invite your neighbors over for s’mores over the firepit. Ask the new couple at church to join you for pizza and a game night. Take cookies to the new family that recently moved into the neighborhood. And by the way, I am almost positive they are not going to turn them away even if you bought them at the grocery store instead of baking them from scratch. You could even send an encouraging note to your friend that has moved away. Or invite a new mom over for a play date. You know we all could use adult conversation from time to time. And if nothing else, BE FRIENDLY. Sometimes a simple hello can go a long way. Remember, the purpose of hospitality is to fellowship, mentor, strengthen bonds and get to know one another. Don’t focus so much of what would impress your guests, but more on what would bless them.

Mathew 25: 37-40“Then those that are right with God will say, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You? When did we see You thirsty and give You a drink? When did we see You a stranger and give You a room? When did we see You had no clothes and we gave You clothes? And when did we see You sick or in prison and we came to You?’ Then the King will say, ‘For sure, I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of My brothers, you have done it to Me.’

Today I am planning an evening with friends. I am choosing to intentionally focus on serving my guests, and I’m not stressing over what would impress them. I realize now that even though we drink from plastic cups at my house, my guests still feel loved and cherished. And regardless of the food on the table, it is a chance for simple moments to spark beautiful memories. And you know what? I sleep much better at night too, having peace in knowing I don’t have to stress about perfection. All I have to do is love people like Jesus loves me. 

We would like to thank Misty Rowell for writing this post!

How to Practice Everyday Hospitality

Editor’s Note: It’s almost FALL, y’all!!!! We will be focusing on hospitality for the next few weeks. Hospitality is so much more than what you produce. It’s the warm, welcoming atmosphere, it’s the peace you welcome others into, it’s the attention to the person in front of you, the listening that shows true hospitality. I know you’ll be refreshed and enlightened by the posts we have this month. Happy reading!!

When I think of the word hospitality, I think of inviting someone into my home, providing food and drink, initiating good conversation, and in essence, offering a pleasant time spent together.

I have to be honest: in the past that word HOSPITALITY would bring anxiety, fear and insecurity. Sometimes, it still can. For me, it brings up thoughts of scheduling, tidying up, spending, and worst of all, getting everybody on board to help for having someone in our home. But as I’ve learned more about who God is and what He is about, I’ve learned if it’s not good then it’s not God!

If I allow those feelings of lack (fear, anxiety, insecurity) to dictate my actions, then I’m not allowing God to use me or be seen by others through me. His Word says to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you” (Romans 15:7). We are called to do as our Father does. 

Romans 12:13 says to “find ways to show hospitality. ” This requires being proactive in seeking out opportunities to be hospitable. It means being a good steward of the home God has given me so I can show love to more of His children. My home is HIS home. It really is that simple. 

Even more simple than that is knowing what true hospitality is—“to present a friendly and generous reception.” We usually think of hospitality as using our physical home, but I think it’s more about our spiritual home. So rather than making hospitality about meeting at a time and a place, we can demonstrate hospitality through our everyday interactions: a warm smile, a touching note, a prayer or wise word, or a needed phone call. Actions of love show someone that you value them and that you’re willing to do a little extra for them. In the end, isn’t that what hospitality is truly all about?

God’s greatest commands in Matthew 22:37  were to love Him and love your neighbor.

Everything about God is about the heart—it all begins with our heart. Our goal is to love who God loves and there is NOT ONE person that God doesn’t love. So practically speaking, how can we mold our heart to love who God loves?  His word says in Ephesians 2:10 that we were “created to do good works [show hospitality] which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God did the hard work, and He will not stop, so we just have to LET Him use us. That’s it! We were MADE for this – TO LOVE OTHERS AND SHOW IT!  

When we begin to pray on that one thought – to show others God’s love, no matter who – then our thoughts become actions, and that’s when hospitality comes in. Inviting someone into your prayers invites them into your space, and that becomes an act of love. Hospitality becomes a far deeper and more personal act than simply inviting someone into your physical home; it becomes an intimate conversation with God about another of God’s beloved. Hospitality becomes an emotion of LOVE. We were made for this, now we just have to allow ourselves to DO it.’

We would like to thank Sandra Villa for writing this blog post.

Building Unity in a Broken World

When my boys, who are five and seven, argue with each other, they get to wear a “get-along” shirt. They both fit inside Daddy’s shirt with one arm sticking out and one around each other. The first time I challenged them to move across the room without touching the floor, arguing turned to laughter and unity. The next time they forcibly donned an oversized shirt that wrangled them together, they began, without prompting, working their way across the room together as in a game. If my boys sulked inside the shirt or didn’t communicate, they never would have made it across the room united.

Sisters, Psalms‬ ‭133:1‬ ‭reminds us, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Yet any time I turn on the news or scroll through Facebook, discord splashes my eyes like grease from a hot skillet. My heart wretches at the pain spewing from people in the form of violence. My heart joins with peaceful protests concerning injustice.

But who am I to write about racial injustice?

Well, first and foremost, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus, before whom “every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation‬ ‭7:9‬) will stand and worship. Jesus Christ who “is all, and is in all” (Colossians‬ ‭3:11).

How does that give me voice to speak about racial injustice?

I am one who is submitted to the authority of Jesus Christ. However, on an external level, I acknowledge that I have grown up with white privilege. I am proud of my heritage with five generations working the same land, but I also acknowledge that such a heritage was denied to an entire people group based on their skin color. What was and continues to be a blessing in my life was never a possibility for my brothers and sisters in Christ with more melanin.

So, who am I to write about racial injustice?

I am a wife of a Christian man who happens to be Black. Once engaged, I was told, “You know it will be harder for you, right?” One one had, no. Marriage is not harder for us. My husband and I share like faith and values making marriage so much easier. We must communicate with each other and share our hearts just like any other couple.

But on the other hand, yes. It is harder. Not because my husband is Black, but because society perpetuates judgement towards my husband and three sons based on superficial skin. It’s harder because my husband and I will have difficult conversations with our sons as to why their hair looks different than their friends’ and won’t comb smoothly, as to why they don’t look like their Black friends OR their White friends, as to why they must be careful about how they interact with authorities, not only out of respect, but to save their lives.

And yet parents of all races should engage in challenging conversations with their children.

So is my interracial marriage really harder or simply different?

The real question I should be asking is: Who am I to say nothing about racial injustice? I’m someone who knows The Answer: Jesus.

Believers! We are not only called to unity, but to one body (Colossians 3:15). We need each other to function.

Believers! We are the answer our broken world craves. We are the embodiment of love because God is love (1 John 4:8) and God dwells in us collectively (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

How can I handle this rift in our country that could easily consume me? If I focus on the ditch when I’m driving, I will end up in the ditch. If I focus on the road, then I am not so easily swayed.  Rather than pretending continued racial inequality is a spin of the media or politicians or fixing our eyes on the media’s portrayal of a very real and pained racial divide, fix your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). He will guide you to the people you need to spend time with. Run in your lane. You may be called to a city where riots are shaking the streets, but don’t be so focused on the problems out there that you forget to love your own neighbor-next door or at the grocery store or at work.

Realize, as I’ve heard so often at church, “You can’t drive a ten-ton truck over a two-ton bridge.” Most of the topics in the news today are ten-ton topics. Don’t go up to someone you don’t have a relationship with and ask what they think about what is going on in the world. However, if someone needs to speak, let them be heard. Pain is real and deep and impossible to articulate without vulnerability. Attempting to give an answer or saying that you understand barricades the relationship road.

Please, acknowledge people’s lives and their pain. Listen and don’t judge their motives. People need to be heard and acknowledged as valuable. Meet people where they are and introduce them to Christ by your love.

Listening, laughing, crying with one another; having play dates with your kids; working side-by-side with excellence; playing games; sharing home culture and music and food and language; worshipping God side-by-side, hands lifted (or not). These are the types of activities that build relationship bridges. Create a safe environment for healthy relationships; not because of or in spite of skin color, but rather because we are the body of Christ. As Colossians compels us, let us put on love.

We would like to thank Mary Coleman for writing this blog post!

Coals of Kindness

There’s a story that’s told about Abraham Lincoln. It was after the Civil War, and he was being criticized for his lenient treatment of the South. They had been defeated but Lincoln was trying to help them get back up on their feet. A woman approached him and in no uncertain terms let him know her opinion. “They are our enemies. They ought to be destroyed!” To which Lincoln responded, “How can I better destroy my enemies than by making them my friends?”

Mic. Drop.

The cultural atmosphere we find ourselves in today is no less divided. Masks or no masks….which lives matter….left or right….we all have convictions on these things, and it seems that just a quick surf through the social media world would tell you that you can pretty easily make some “enemies” just by voicing those opinions. But people are never the enemy. It says clearly in Ephesians 6 that “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the posers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (v. 12, NASB).

One of the things I really love to learn about is the cultural context of Biblical stories or sayings. I find myself sometimes just skimming over those parts I don’t understand; the ones my 21st century Western mind just doesn’t have a file folder for. One of those passages for me comes at the end of Romans 12. In verse 20, it says: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

I guess that I’ve always thought this alluded to some passive-aggressive way of getting back at people you don’t like. Kill ‘em with kindness. Heap those burning coals on their heads. That’ll teach ‘em. But the context of this verse paints a very different picture.

The people of the Bible times obviously lived a very different lifestyle. No microwaves, no convection ovens. If you were going to cook for your family, fire was a necessity. Many times a town would have a community fire that was constantly tended so that it would not go out. Residents could come and gather hot coals which they carried back to their homes in buckets on their heads. Now, if you didn’t live far from the fire, this was no problem. You could get home in plenty of time and use those coals to cook your family a meal. Folks who lived on the outskirts had a harder time. They had to rush to get back to their homes before the coals went out. Neighbors knew this, and would take some of the hot coals from their homes and put them on top of the buckets of those on their way so that they coals would stay hot for their journey. They would “heap coals of fire” on their heads. It wasn’t an act of revenge or spite but rather an act of kindness. It helped provide and sustain for their most basic needs. It was life-giving.

I don’t know how many of us would say today that we have people in our lives who are flat-out enemies. I do think we could all agree, however, that the culture in which we live is increasingly trying to divide. I’m not here to tell you which side to take.

I’m here to encourage you to bring a Kingdom perspective to your circle of influence.

The Kingdom says love your enemies. The Kingdom says pray for those who persecute you. Romans 12: 17-18 says, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceable with all men.”

Am I saying you shouldn’t speak up? No. Am I saying having convictions about cultural issues is wrong? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that we’re called to speak truth in love…to walk in kindness and humility…to heap burning coals on the heads of those who would oppose us…to speak life and blessing. Uggh. That’s hard. But that’s Kingdom, and that’s who we’re called to be.

We’d like to thank Becca Wilhite for writing this post!

Raising Kind Children in an Unkind World

I am a mother of four wonderful and beautiful children, but if I am being honest, it’s not always rainbows and sunshine. Some days I feel like I could write a book on parenting, and other days, I would like to crawl in a ball, with my stash of chips (that I hide from the kids), and hide in the closet. We don’t live in a perfect world, but having the responsibility of raising our children to not only be productive members of society but also caring and kind, can be overwhelming at times.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). One thing I have learned during this pandemic and being quarantined and at home so much is that, number one: six people can get tired of each other, pretty quickly; number two: my children have no choice but to feed off of my attitude. It was a realization of how, even though being stuck at home all the time was irritating, I now had the opportunity to mold my children and to model behavior without having any outside behaviors influence them. I suddenly found myself grateful to the Lord for the lesson through the storm. In Ephesians 6:4 it says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  The Lord provided me with a time of reflection and a gift of time to mold habits that my children could learn from.

My children are all two years apart, so they fight like crazy. I discovered that being kind to one another had become a very hard thing for them to do. They didn’t understand that words cannot be taken back. They clearly did not know how to control their behavior and think about what they said before they actually said it. 

I think a lot of times, in society now, even adults do not understand that concept. Social Media has become a platform to say anything you’d like, without thinking there may be a consequence for it. This is all learned behavior that is being passed down to our children. We cannot simply sit back and expect our children to learn the gift of kindness from school or friends, because kindness seems to be a forgotten characteristic. It is our responsibility, as parents to instill this quality in our children.  I think about the story of Moses and how he trusted in the Lord to guide him, even against his father’s beliefs.

In our family, we have to actually sit down and explain in detail the lessons that we need our children to understand. We, as parents, cannot expect them to just “know.” If we aren’t careful, someone else will teach them the bad behavior that will have lasting consequences, and eventually habits will be created that will be tough for them to break.

It is an amazing feeling to know that God left these tiny humans in my hands and care. The Lord wants to guide us through raising our children and doesn’t want it to be an overwhelming experience but a gratifying one. I pray daily for my children and that the Lord will give me the guidance to not “mess up” my kids. 

Kindness goes a long way, but it has to be modeled and created in a home because the world is a scary place. Some days I fail, but I am grateful that God blesses us with a new day. I want my children to see that I’m not perfect. I don’t always say the right things. I do hurt their feelings sometimes. But I understand the consequences of my behavior and correct it. I tell them this all the time: It is fine to say that you are sorry, but by apologizing for something you did, that means you are going to intentionally put effort into not making that mistake again. “I am sorry” becomes a meaningless phrase when actions do not follow. Children have to be taught that.  

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). The peace that brings my heart is such a blessing. I pray that it blesses you, too, as you seek to raise up kind children in this unkind world. 

We would like to thank Brooke Vancleave for writing this post!