The Blood of Jesus

School’s started back, which means we’ve gotten back into a routine. I actually make sure my kids bathe more than once a week.

Along with routines of personal hygiene come some other great routines. A spiritual hygiene routine, if you will. One of my favorites is declarative prayer over my family. Recently a friend from church encouraged me to plead the blood of Jesus over my kids.

What does that even mean?
“Pleading the blood” is a biblical reference to placing someone or something under the protection of the Lord. In the Old Testament, God told Moses to apply the blood of an unblemished lamb on the doorposts of their dwellings so the Angel of Death would see that a sacrifice had already been made, therefore he could “pass over” that home. Everyone in that home was protected from death (separation from life). In the New Testament, Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb because He was without blemish and shed His blood for us on the cross.

His blood is powerful. Here are a few of the priceless things Jesus gave us through His blood.

The blood of Jesus:
Purchased us (Acts 20:28)

Because He purchased us with His blood, He takes responsibility for us. The enemy has no legal claim on me or my kids. Whoever is under His blood is under His protection. Doesn’t that sound like a great position to place your children in?
Made peace between us and God (Col. 1:20)

Between God and me, things are good. I’m not an utter disappoint to Him. And neither are our kids.
Redeemed us and forgave our sin (Eph. 1:7)

His blood didn’t just sweep my sin under the carpet. His blood made eternal payment for sin I’ve committed or will commit. This is very good. Especially when I think about my behavior during some of those Get-The-Kids-to-School-Morning-Routine.
Cleanses our consciences from acts that lead to death (Heb. 9:14)

We’ve all done things that create gaps of separation between those we love most. Jesus’ blood cleanses our consciences and give us courage to mend those gaps, ask people for forgiveness, and do better next time.
Purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7)

Pure. I love that word. Not only does Jesus’ blood cleanse us, but He makes a way to purify our heart to the deepest depths and makes good come from it. Illustration: not only does He cleanse the polluted river, He goes back to the source up in the mountains and purifies it to where what issues forth from the rock is good.
Gives us confidence to approach God (Heb. 10:19)

I don’t have to clean my act up before I go to God to spend time with Him or ask Him for help. Our kids need to know this too.

There are gobs more verses about the value of Jesus’ blood. It makes God happy when we take Him at His word. Pick up your sword and get busy declaring God’s truth over your loved ones.

We would like to thank Jodi LaFrance for writing this blog post.

Persistent Prayer

What does persistent prayer look like?

Well, I would like to share about my dad and how he came to Christ. It is a much longer story than can be told here, but I will attempt to give you the abridged version. I also would like to honor my dad and his memory while telling the honest truth. Admittedly, that creates some tension or conflict inside of me.

I believed in God as a very young child, but I would say that I surrendered my life to Him as Lord around twelve years old. At that point, I became very aware of the reality that my dad didn’t know Jesus or His love. During this time in his life, my dad drank too much, invoked fear in his kids to attempt to maintain order (and the fear was not unsubstantiated), and was in general a person living in pain separated from God. My dad fit the description of a hard-headed, hard-hearted man. Regardless, I loved my dad and certainly didn’t want to be separated from him for all of eternity.

So, at twelve I began to pray for his salvation. I was deeply burdened to pray for him. I am certain that many in my family were also burdened to pray for him, but we never really talked about it. I prayed that God would soften his heart and that he would receive Christ. God doesn’t ever remove a person’s freewill, and therefore the wooing of a hard-hearted person’s soul can take long time. As a matter of fact, it is never guaranteed that a person will receive Christ by their own choosing. But, persistent prayer and faith in God’s ability certainly can move mountains and the hearts of men, and God’s choice is always to seek and save those that are lost.

After two and half decades of persistent prayer for my dad, my life had changed significantly. I left home and married my husband, Andy, at nineteen. I shared this burden for my dad with him and he began to pray for my dad also. We began our family when I was twenty-two. We had two boys by the time I was twenty-four and we had moved eight hours away from our immediate families. My dad had already begun to have heart issues including a heart attack, bypass surgery, and beginning stages of congestive heart failure. The heart attack and surgeries that followed increased the urgency I felt for him. I knew, logically, he wouldn’t live forever.

It is easy to become discouraged when you can’t see God moving. But just like when you plant a seed underground, it sometimes takes time before you can see any evidence of anything happening.

God was moving. He was inviting my dad into a relationship with Him.

I would like to tell you that I got to witness my dad receiving Christ, but I didn’t. I would also like to tell you that I heard his testimony about receiving Christ, but once again, I didn’t. So how do I know my dad received Christ? Well, Christ began to grow inside of him. My dad changed in such a way that is only the work of the Holy Spirit. He started attending a church with my mom and sister. He became a giver. He operated out of love instead of fear and pain. I did get to see him humble himself on his knees in prayer at the front of that church that showed him Christ’s love, and Christ gave me a peace about my dad’s salvation. My dad passed away two years ago. I can confidently and joyfully say that we will be reunited again in heaven. So, I would like to encourage you. If your burden hasn’t been lifted yet, pray on. Our God is on the move.

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

Keeping The Faith

At the age of 26, I’m finally realizing that keeping the faith and trusting in God’s timing will be a part of my life for years to come. Faith is my strongest spiritual gift, but patience in God’s timing usually isn’t.

I grew up in a Christian home and attended a small church. It almost felt like trusting in the Lord was supposed to be easy. We didn’t talk about what trusting in the Lord was supposed to look like during trials and suffering. It was always broadened into, “Trust in the Lord always.” As you can imagine, when I started dealing with different struggles as a young adult, I didn’t understand why those things were so hard for me to deal with. That there had to be faith in action to believe that in all things the Lord is my strong fortress.

I want to share with you an experience where the Lord gently reminded me He alone has my every day planned. I am a momma to a sweet, sassy, nearly three-year-old girl. She made me a momma in October of 2015, a time when I didn’t think I was ready to be a mother. My husband and I had already made plans to further our education, but when we found out we were expecting a baby, all our plans changed. The Lord grew me in ways through that season (and still is) that I didn’t know were necessary. But He knew. And I had to surrender control.

Fast forward to the fall of 2017. I felt baby fever coming on and wanted to start trying for another baby. Once my husband was in agreement, I took control.  My trust was no longer in the Lord, but in our ability to conceive. “Well, we need to get pregnant by this month because I want Raelyn to be this old when we have the baby. I want to announce it to our families here,” blah blah blah. I think God chuckled, like I often imagine Him doing when I start thinking I am in control of it all. In March of 2018 I bought a tiny onesie. I prayed, telling the Lord the desire of my heart and again, surrendering control.

Four days before Easter, we found out we were expecting. Come to find out, we are pregnant with TWINS, a double portion! Only when we fully surrender our plans, our faith, and our trust in God, can he begin to give us what HE desires for us. God reminds me that His timing is perfect, and that the plans He has for me are much better than the ones I could have for myself. And sometimes, His plans turn out later and much differently than we could have ever expected.

Are you waiting on God for the desires of your heart? Here are ways that I keep my faith at all times:

  1. Pray and listen to God (even if it’s just for a couple minutes).
  2. Study the word of God.
  3. Surround myself with others who speak life into me.
  4. Remember that God is always faithful.

We would like to thank Paige Keller for writing this post!

Where Can I Find Belonging?

Not long ago, I was eagerly anticipating spring, and now, as the dog days of summer come to an end, I find myself anticipating yet another change.  Not only in the seasons, but in the pace of life.  Kids go back to school, routines return, and the opportunity for relationship grows.  Something about the onset of fall encourages community.  There is no better way to experience community than in a small group of people who meet weekly to love, laugh, pray, and live life together.  It’s what we call Life Group.

My husband Danny and I have had the honor and privilege of leading a Life Group for almost 10 years and we have been blessed with a myriad of life-giving, spirit-filled relationships because of it.  People come and go, but each person makes a lasting impact on my heart.  Memories of shared experiences (both joyous and tragic), of laughter, of tears, of sweet fellowship, and great food will remain with me forever.

And yet, my natural tendency is still to withdraw to my safe place and live life from the confines of that space.  Being what the professionals call an introvert has its challenges.  BUT GOD, through His unending love and grace, has shown me the freedom that comes from stretching myself, opening myself up to others, and allowing myself to love and be loved.  God created you for community, and if you don’t believe that, you are believing a lie.  My prayer for us as women is that we will stop believing the lies and cling to God’s truth.  

God’s truth about each one of us is that we are all He says we are and we can confidently put ourselves out there and find love, acceptance, and joy.

A friend told me recently, “Find joy today.”  That made me realize that if we really look, we can always find joy—maybe even in a group full of people.  So, if you have yet to find a Life Group, may I encourage you to visit one?  If you already have one, I pray that you will find new and refreshing joy rising within you as you embrace your group and the people in it.

As we anticipate this new season, may we hold tight to God’s truth and begin to anticipate the abundant life that living in community brings.  Romans 12 instructs us to live in harmony with one another and in Christ, each of us belongs to the other.  I am needed, you are needed, and together we are all necessary, chosen members of God’s Kingdom.  May He give each of us the grace and courage to step out of our safe place and into a place of belonging, relationship, and joy.

We’d like to thank Melissa Hooks for writing this blog!

You Have to Taste to See

Six months ago we brought our daughter Sadie home from China. For almost three years of her life she lived there. When we first got home so much was new to her. Her world was now turned upside down.  Sounds of a totally different language bombarded her.  Strange faces and people surrounded her.  The smells of a new environment, the clothes on her back…literally nothing in her life was the same as it had been just two weeks before.

Her little heart and mind didn’t know it yet, but there was so much good in store for her here in the U.S. and in our home. Among all of the scary and overwhelming “newness”, was a life filled with love, provision, safety, prosperity, and joy.

One of the big differences between here and China is obviously the food. For most of her life she had only eaten rice, breads, and some fruit. Once home, we would put something new in front of her and say, “It’s good; try it.”

Every single time she would protest.  Every….Single….Time.

She would push her bowl away, turn her head to the side and sit there. After a few minutes of sitting there, she would take a bite. That’s all it took, one bite, and then she would devour the entire portion.

Until then next time, then she would go through this exact routine again.

During this time God gently reminded me that at times I have been the same way.

Often times, God had laid His plan out before me, but I had turned my head and went my own way. God had given me opportunities to be His hands and feet, but I had pushed the opportunities away. There had been times His voice had called me to something bigger and deeper, but I chose to sit there in protest.

In Psalm 34:4-8 His word says,

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lordheard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.The angel of the Lordencamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Those are some pretty spectacular benefits promised in those verses. I say, “Sign me up!”

It wasn’t until I surrendered my will, and began to live my life for Him solely, that I began to understand just how GOOD He is. When I was totally dependent on God’s provision, that’s when I witnessed His miracles.

You see, we can know a lot about God. We can read about Him. We can talk about Him. We can love Him. But until we have tasted what He wants for us, we cannot fully understand His goodness. Just like Sadie, it wasn’t easy for me to take that first bite. God often leads us beyond what we are capable of in our own flesh. He calls us to try new and brave things. And that is scary! But it is when we give up our control and let God lead that we live a life of fullness.

If you don’t ever taste, you will never know how good something might be.

Don’t sit at the table and turn your nose up at what is before you. Let go of control and trust that God is good.

Just taste, and you will see!

We would like to thank Robin Sanders for writing this post!

It’s the Little Things

Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s the little things?”  These little things are unique to each one of us.  They refresh my soul day to day.  Unfortunately, I get stuck thinking about the BIG things.  When my focus is on the bigger, harder things of life, I get overwhelmed and the “little things” that keep me going, slip by.

Last week my husband and I bought our first home together.  I found myself focused on the BIG and forgetting to appreciate the little.  With it being summertime, there is an abundance of weddings, family gatherings, and traveling.  These things normally feel refreshing, but I quickly became overwhelmed trying to move and yet still do things that give me life.

The big picture said I’m not doing enough, I’m lacking in certain areas.  I was physically present, but emotionally I was stressed out and not living my best life. The enemy wants to rob us of our joy and make us victims of our circumstances.  Once I got my focus back on the little things, I was quickly reminded by God that He supplies everything we need according to His plans, His riches.

During these last few months, if I had focused on the little instead of the big, I might have noticed that…

  • The mountains displayed God’s Glory.
  • The graduate needed encouragement.
  • My husband is feeling blue.
  • God speaking to me, “Child, get up and pray.”
  • A song on the radio that could have healed a hurting place in me.
  •  Sometimes I need to cry.
  • Sometimes I need a hug.

God also has a way of refreshing my soul by speaking to me at unexpected times.  Like when I am on my way to work or home and the perfect worship song comes on.  One that will bring me to tears, exposing my heart, my fears, my thoughts, and bringing attention to my vulnerabilities and the power of God.

God is a God of details.  The instructions God gave the Israelites were very small and intricate.  David used five stones to take down Goliath.  Jesus used mud, five barley loaves. and two fish.  His disciples were deemed small in this world.  The small things of life seem so insignificant, unless we look at them with God’s perspective.

It just takes slowing down and intentionally recognizing and appreciating the moments that refresh your soul.  I can easily slip into negative thinking and allow my circumstances to dictate my feelings.  In those moments, I should be intentional in my thinking and ask God, “Where are you in this moment?”  When I focus on Him and what He is doing, my soul is refreshed.

Finally, brothers (and sisters), whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8-9

We would like to thank Vanessa Talmadge for writing this blog!

“Honey, this is the faith tree.”

Seeds for my love of gardening were planted at age 10 when I first read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s classic, The Secret Garden.  I had the measles that summer, and was confined to bed for what seemed like ages.  Mom would darken the blinds each afternoon and read aloud as I closed my eyes and visualized the vine-covered walls of this extraordinary hideaway.

In this delightful book, a neglected garden is rejuvenated through careful tending, creating the backdrop for a neglected father/son relationship to be restored and new friendships fostered. I remember later reenacting scenes from the book in my grandmother’s backyard as I tended her daisies, black-eyed Susans, and honeysuckle. 

Actually, every garden tells its gardener’s story.  My grownup garden began in 1997 with the planting of a single tree.  No house existed on the lot we had purchased to build on because our country home was not selling despite several contracts which all fell through.  For many long months, I drove by our vacant lot, sadly praying God would make things happen faster so we could begin building our dream home.

One particular afternoon when my spirits were at their lowest, I drove by our lot and discovered a tree had been planted.  My farmer husband, as a surprise, had placed paper plates where the pillars of the house would stand, and had planted an oak tree right smack dab in the middle of our non-existent backyard!  Here’s what he told me, “Honey, this is the faith tree.  Someday soon we WILL build on this lot.  And someday our grandchildren will play under the overhanging branches of the faith we are planting right now.”  And you know what, 20 years later, he is right!!  Five grandchildren play under the shade of the tree in Noni and Papa’s backyard.  We are living in the promise fulfilled! 

And guess what?  We are the Lord’s garden!  And our lives tell His story! 

Isaiah 58:11 says:  

“The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry, And restoring your strength.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring!”

We would like to thank Susan Hurt for contributing this post.