Music is one of the things I love most in life. Voices singing acapella especially stir me right to the very core. There is nothing greater than hearing a voice hit true tones without any other sounds to distract. Multiple voices harmonizing together to sound like one instrument often make my arm hairs stand on end from the goose pimples. One thing my thirteen year old daughter and I share a bond over is acapella music. There is one group in particular that we both are fans of. She is always excited to share a new recording found on I-tunes with me. There is a vulnerability that comes with singing acapella and singing in front of others period. So often my own moments of true worship at home are times I can just sing praises to God with no one else around and often my prayers have to be presented in song. It is funny how God had placed the thought of my love for acapella music on my mind this afternoon and then our pastor’s sermon was on true worship this evening at church. One of my greatest fears actually is singing in front of people. At the age of twenty I finally asked my mother to listen to me sing. I had our family room door shut and my back to her. After the song she looked at me with tear-welled eyes and asked “You have been able to sing this whole time?” It took years of singing specials at church for my dress to stop shaking giving away my nerves. Even twenty one years later before the music starts to a song my heart feels like it will explode from my chest. Every solo, every worship set with our praise team, and with choir I have to ask God for strength. Within my soul I have to cry out “Lord I can’t do this please sing through me!” It is still a fear and vulnerability that I have and at the completion of every song there is another victory for Jesus! Writing has become a second passion to me actually birthing from the same sense of fear and vulnerability. For the last twenty years as a nurse I have had to learn to chart in incomplete sentences and now with the computer age charting mostly requires just the click of the mouse. All that I know to write about are my own experiences and what God teaches me through them in this journey through life. There is such vulnerability with the transparency of my life and soul being exposed. It has become my prayer to ask God what He wants me to write each day. Sometimes a thought has to develop over the course of a few days. As I sit at the keyboard my prayer is Lord I have no idea, I cannot do this, please write through me. Now anything He allows me to write is yet another victory for Jesus. The two things I am actually most fearful of God gives me the most peace while doing. These are times I am completely reliant on His strength and wisdom. When reflecting on my life the two things that seem to have somehow helped someone else the most have been a song or writing. As far reaching as God is through me I will definitely not know during my lifetime. What I do know is that the greatest sense of fulfillment, joy, and peace I have comes when I am completely surrendered to Him and allowing Him to work through my simple life. 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Sometimes I struggle with finding inspiration when studying the Old Testament of the Bible. As a person who avoids conflict as much as possible it is painful sometimes to read of conflict after conflict all brought about by sin and disobedience to God. There was one passage I recently read that instead of the feeling of pain it was hilarious to me. There are such differences in cultures and in time, but human nature remains the same. In 2nd Samuel chapter 10 King David is making a kind gesture to the Ammonite king in the death of his father. He sent some of his own men to bring condolences to this king. Some of the king’s men basically said “naw they are here to spy so King David can over take you.” So then this king, King Hanun, ordered for his men to shave off half of each of the men of King David’s beards and to cut the bottom out of their pants right over their buttocks. Now I absolutely do not recall a sermon that I have ever heard being preached on this passage. For the visual that God’s word gave me I would have definitely had one of those “awkward trying hard not to laugh in church” moments. Back at this time this was terribly humiliating for these fellas and this act started yet another bout of war and bloodshed. Now days there is a large amount of the American male population that purposely wear their britches down below the buttock region revealing their undergarments. Humiliating to cool who knew? The physical battles, how God continually stressed that any people or things that brought temptations were to be avoided or removed, the fact that mankind failed again and again all leads us to God’s perfect plan of love. He came to earth in the flesh to show us the way to peace. You see from the day we are born there is an inner conflict within us good versus evil, right versus wrong, my way versus God’s way, Satan versus God, the world versus God, our strong or sometimes weak will power versus God’s will for our lives. The list goes on and on of the inner turmoil we face. Taking notes during our pastor’s sermons is something that I have never grown into the habit of doing so I will have to paraphrase a statement he made recently that is so true. The devil will tempt you and lure you into sin and then be the first one to say “Well look what you did! God could never love and forgive you now!” Satan only wants to bring conflict and destruction to our lives. Jesus is the way to inner peace. He can bring peace when there is nothing but turmoil all around. No matter what conflict we are facing in our lives Jesus is the answer to true peace. He is the only true comfort. The more we give Him the victory in our lives the greater freedom we have!!
When losing someone you love there comes the very painful task of what to do with their belongings. Thankfully mom can take her time with most decisions. In order for dad’s church he pastored to be able to move on, the cleaning of dad’s office at the church was of top priority. Having a day off the week after his death I had the availability to help my mother with this daunting task. Memories flooded my mind of all the moves my dad had helped me with over the years as I traveled to his church. He had helped my sister and I through our college years move in and out of dorm rooms. As a young adult moving to my second apartment my dad sheepishly mentioned that he really did not want to help me move again anytime soon. At the age of twenty-four I told him that I would only move if I were getting married or by the time I turned thirty I was going to buy my own home. A year later from that time I was engaged to my soon to be husband Mike. In less than two years, yes, he was helping during a move yet again. He has always been there with every move of ours, painting, assembling furniture, and selflessly helping anyway he could. When my grandfather died, my dad’s father, I can remember sitting on the back steps of my grandparent’s home. Dad was sweeping the carport for grandma and my grandpa’s shed was directly attached to the carport. As a young boy one of my dad’s chores was to clean and organize my grandpa’s shed. As I sat on those steps I noticed water drops splashing onto the concrete underneath the carport. My eyes panned up my dad’s tall frame to see him leaning onto the broom handle with his face planted on top of his hands. He had started to sob in grief as he remembered the significance of cleaning his father’s shed once again. Well here I was helping with my father’s final move in his years of ministry. He had already mentioned to mom that if anything happened to him to just throw out all of his files upon files of sermons. In later years he had started to save them into the computer, but with thirty-seven years in the ministry the amount of sermons, funerals, weddings, and special programs was still a vast amount. Knowing that it would not be possible to actually read through every one of them I knew that was the only realistic thing that could be done with them. Being logical still didn’t help with the pain of seeing the hours and years of his work go into the dumpster. God started to press on my heart that those sermons are actually everlasting. The ears that heard and took those words God gave dad to heart changed lives and that could never be thrown away, burned, or destroyed. My father was my pastor for twenty-one years of my life and though he probably did not think I listened, I did. Those sermons were investments dad made into my eternity as well as so many others. The eternal perspective has taken such precedence in my life now more than ever before. Everlasting investments have become top priority. Galatians 6:8 “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” So much of our activities in life are so fleeting. Any work we do on our homes, our yards will just need to be done again. Money spent on material things is fleeting. Money given to missions, ministries, and the needy is everlasting. What we do for others by lending a helping hand, praying for, and sometimes an encouraging smile or word is what is eternal. Lord I pray that you will use my life for the things that are eternal.
Have you ever thought about how much power is packed into the words we choose from day to day? One of the greatest lessons I have learned and continue to learn in life is the importance of our words. Words can unite or divide. Words can comfort or condemn. Words can empower or destroy. Words can bring joy or sorrow. Words can build up or tear down. Words can bring peace or bring war. Words can break or bring healing. One of the greatest temptations I know I have struggled with personally and I am quite sure I am not alone in this is to gossip or complain. It is so easy to jump in on talk of others or people groups. When complaints are made how easy it is to agree with what is being said instead of standing up for the positives. Oh the discipline it takes to say nothing at all when it’s best to be silent. Think of the meaning of the words “always” and “never”. To use these words we better have solid evidence or extremely strong will power to back them up. One of the rules of a true/false test is that if one of these words is included in the question most likely the answer is false. How often is it false when we use them in our own language? A parent telling a child “you always get that wrong” or “you never do things right” will leave their esteem and self -worth destroyed. To say “I always get the job done” will reveal our human weakness as we most definitely will fail or forget at some point in time. To say “I will never do” sure takes an abundance of will power as temptations arise. The more I fill my life with the Word of God, positive people, music, positive books, and positive shows the greater my choice of words. So often the words seem to be to say nothing at this time. Our words can add kindling to a fire. Without fuel the fire will eventually burn out or we can add to it and cause tremendous damage. Proverbs 21:23 “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” Proverbs 12:18 “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 26:20 “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.” James chapter three gives a very thorough description of how powerful our words can be. These thoughts were triggered by one of those talk shows with everyone fighting and yelling. It was so disturbing to me I quickly changed the channel. I have literally left a job that was such a negative environment filled with harsh words everyday as protection for the person God created me to be and for my family. Once I had a co-worker that spoke so terrible about everyone that was not around or within hearing range. Finally I asked another co-worker what was said about me when I was not around out of pure curiosity. This person had built such a reputation and bad impression in my dealings with them that I figured that the nastiness was directed toward me as well. The co-worker told me the complaint about me was that I laugh too much. Guess what, that made me laugh. She had no clue that to me that was a huge compliment. It actually could be the heading for my tombstone “She laughed too much!” Who we truly are, our character, our reputation, and our trustworthiness hinges on the words we use from day to day. We should all think before we speak and write.
Today is a prime example of a day in the life with the Lucas family. Being a natural born planner the day will start with plan “A” and it is never a surprise if we end in plan “Z” and beyond. With my career in nursing I have grown accustomed to continuous change from moment to moment. The continuous change never ends with the time clock when it comes to my main job “MOTHERHOOD”. Today started like a typical Monday with getting the kids to school, early morning honor choir, and myself to work. Before leaving home this morning I checked my e-mail to find that soccer practice had been cancelled for the youngest due to weather for this evening and tomorrow. This then led to a piano lesson change for tomorrow evening. The rest of the day was uneventful until the vague texting started at 2:59pm. My dear husband was meeting my mother at her home for an appointment she had to help her with a decision regarding her home. The text read “Where’s yo momma?” Her front door was closed and car in the garage with the door closed. The assumption was made that she was not there. This started a series of texts and phone calls made by me to my husband, mother, and even my sister. All remained unanswered. Mind you I am at work and completely powerless to the situation. Thankfully we were not super busy and I didn’t have a patient at that moment. In the meantime still not hearing from anyone on the where about of my mother another text rolls in. This text was from my oldest daughter at 3:44 pm stating simply “the meet is cancelled” no further information about her current location was given. I text back “Did you ride the bus home?” No answer in return neither to the text nor to the phone calls I made to her phone. At the time of the text the bus would have been gone and I had no idea if she was stranded at the school or what was happening. Finally at 4:02 pm my mother finally answers her phone. She had been home the entire time and her cell phone was on vibrate. Once my husband arrived home and found the oldest at home he had her call me at 4:36 pm to let me know she was ok. They have now all had lectures on vague texting with no further communication following. Thankfully with being on call for work this evening I did get home at the decent time of 5:55 pm. Upon my arrival I find out that the youngest had a concert for school and needed to be there by 6:15 pm. I look at the school calendar and it says chorus concert and she is not in chorus this year. She then informed me that it was for all of the 4th and 5th graders. Having forgotten to notify us herself nor did any notification come home to my hands this was the first I had heard of this concert. These are the moments I just take a deep cleansing breath with my eyeballs protruding like deer in the headlights and go on with the “Let’s just roll with it attitude!” Thankfully the sporting events cancelled, I didn’t need to be at work late and we were able to go to the concert. Everyone is safe and accounted for, but these are the moments that I literally can feel the gray hair bursting forth from my scalp follicles. After forty-one years I am very aware that I have absolutely no control no matter how well planned I try to be. I love God’s sense of humor as he brought me to the book of Daniel and how King Nebuchadnezzar was humbled. Daniel 4:34 “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my SANITY was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.” As life changes continuously from moment to moment I am so thankful that God is in control because I have absolutely no control other than my own reactions to the insanity!
As we enter into our Easter celebrations this week I can’t help but reflect on what Easter means. At the age of five one Sunday afternoon after church I remember hearing a voice louder than anything I could hear with my ears yet it was still and soft. The voice of Jesus was simply saying “Anita you need me.” With the pure faith of a child I went to my mom and told her I needed to ask Jesus into my heart. That afternoon we knelt by our 1970’s yellow and brown floral couch and I prayed to ask for forgiveness of my sins and for Jesus live in my heart. At the age of five there was not a true grasp of sin, Jesus was my best friend and I loved Him and knew that His love for me was greater than any kind of love. It was that simple. As I grew fears started to creep in. At the age of nine we moved to a new town and I desperately wanted to make friends and fit in. It was the first time in my life that I started to fear rejection. As pride, selfishness, vanity, and fears grew within me I started to focus more on pleasing the world instead of God. There was a time in my life that I lived a double life of acting out the church charade, but in the meantime strived to please my friends and sought after their approval instead of God’s. Of course with stepping outside of God’s protection there were consequences, guilt, shame, and pain that came along with my own way of choosing the paths in my life. You see I had no idea what my weaknesses were as a child. As a child I had no idea how very wicked and selfish my own heart could be. (Jeremiah 17:9) As we think or state out loud the “I would never do’s” Satan is listening very closely and at the right time will place the temptations and circumstances in our paths to test the “I would never do’s”. (1 Peter 5:8) It has been through my mistakes that God has shown me the depth of what Jesus did for me and for the world. You see God loves us so much that He sent His only Son Jesus, God in the flesh, to pay the price for our sin. (John 3:16) The realization that Jesus took every sin of mine and of all people upon Himself on that cross is mind boggling. It is a love that is so personal to know that despite my mistakes He loves me and calls me by name. At the age of five He already knew there would be a time I would try to step out on my own and test the teaching of the Bible. He called to me anyway. It is through my mistakes that I realize how I deserve nothing but death. (Romans 6:23) Because of God’s grace and mercy I have the gift of an abundant joy in life here on earth no matter my trials and eternal life in heaven when the time comes for my last breath. Easter is the celebration that Jesus is God. That He proved who He said He was by conquering death and raising again. He conquered sin, death, and brings true peace to the lives of those who truly give their all to Him. Our pastor discussed tonight how Satan wants to expose our sins and weaknesses to use against us. God allows our sin and weakness to be revealed so that we can give it all to Him. When we surrender our weaknesses to Him He then can refine us into the person He created us to be. He then can show us our true purpose in life. So Easter is a time to reflect on a love greater than anything this world could ever offer us. Jesus is alive and He is personal. He wants to be our friend and reveal to us the beauty our lives can have through having a relationship with Him.
Sometimes it is the smallest of meetings, the tiny conversations held with a stranger that makes such an impact on life. There have been far too many significant people whose life path has crossed my own for me to believe that anything happens by chance in this life. One thing I have noted in my life especially in raising children, and teaching children in various church ministries is that children need to be listened to. As adults we get so wrapped up into all of our tasks and busy lives that we so often miss the profound wisdom that can only come from the mouth of a child. So often I learn so much more about life from a conversation with one child than I ever can from conversations with ten adults. About a year and a half ago I shared a story on my face book page of one of God’s divine appointments. One of the sweet blessings I am referring to. A coworker of mine had asked me to trade and come in to work at eight a.m. instead of nine a.m. By doing so I had the opportunity to meet a delightful four year old little girl. We had quite the lengthy conversation. We discovered that both of our names start with “A”, both born in March, both love to sing and dance, both have a big dog and a little dog, she loves turtles and I have a pet turtle, and best of all we both (in her words) are “getting to know Jesus more and more.” She held her little cupped hand up into the air and said “Jesus holds me like this!” I agreed and cupped both of my hands together and said “Yes, and he holds the whole world like this!” I told her there is even a song about it! She went on to tell me about the picture of Jesus on the cross at her grandparents and that he died and rose again. We discussed the fact that he did that for us to pay for our sins that we would no longer be separated from God because of our sins. She also told me that there is “No one stronger than Jesus!” A divine appointment for our paths to cross? I think yes!!! She referred to me as her “friend”. I pray she keeps her pure faith and boldness to talk about it! She also was telling me of a bridal shower she attended and that “No one actually takes a bath or shower!” What a sweet surprise she was in my day. If I don’t get to see her again in this life we will have all of eternity to continue our delightful conversation! This sweet angel had so much to share. As a mother one of the greatest things I have learned is to listen. Children need the affirmation that what they have to say is important. That everything about them is important. Have I perfected the art of listening? Most definitely not, I am far from perfection. I can see in the eyes of my children if I have affirmed them or crushed them by my attitude, lack of listening, and by my own words. We all need to be heard. To have our cares and troubles affirmed as important. There is One that we can all have that affirmation from one hundred percent of the time. Jesus is always there and always listening. Whatever our care, worry, trial, or triumph He wants us to tell him. He is always listening. He IS the perfection to the art of listening and giving affirmation. Yes you matter, yes your feelings count, and yes I loved you so much to die for you my dear child. 1 John 5:14-15 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him.” Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
For nearly a week now there has been a bird flying into one of the windows to our unfinished basement. At this point in my life I have come to the realization that God can speak and teach through absolutely everything. Every event in life, every person, and every circumstance has significance. This bird for days now has taken flight from the ground just below the window ledge and flies directly into the window pane. It makes a loud dong noise that echoes from the basement on up the stairwell. Part of me wants to go talk to the bird and explain that what it is doing is only going to hurt and possibly lead to death. I want to point out the nice trees and bushes all around to the bird. Explain to the bird that they are available to make a nice cozy nest to rest it’s now…
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For nearly a week now there has been a bird flying into one of the windows to our unfinished basement. At this point in my life I have come to the realization that God can speak and teach through absolutely everything. Every event in life, every person, and every circumstance has significance. This bird for days now has taken flight from the ground just below the window ledge and flies directly into the window pane. It makes a loud dong noise that echoes from the basement on up the stairwell. Part of me wants to go talk to the bird and explain that what it is doing is only going to hurt and possibly lead to death. I want to point out the nice trees and bushes all around to the bird. Explain to the bird that they are available to make a nice cozy nest to rest it’s now injured head. Part of me wants to tell it that I would love to invite it inside, but that isn’t the best place for it. There is not a supply of worms and insects for it to maintain its nourishment within our home (at least I hope not). My words would not be understood by the bird I would only frighten it. It does not have the ability to reason as we as human beings have. The only one who can truly help this little bird is God Himself. Thinking of this little bird I am reminded of myself and of all human beings. Like the bird how often do we repeat behaviors time and time again only to find that it is a dead end, destructive, and brings significant consequence to our lives? However we continue on in our pattern because it is what we have grown accustomed to. Maybe it is the fear of letting go of what actually brings us harm and enslaves us. Do we actually fear freedom? In my own life there was a time that I tried to do things on my own. I was blessed with God fearing parents and instruction from God’s Word from the day I was born. Yet still there was this side of me that was determined to find things out on my own. My actions quickly led to consequence and pain that was brought on purely by my own decisions. Thankfully God protected me from complete destruction and death and has come to show me what true living really is. There are many choices and patterns in life that lead to destruction. My greatest problem was putting friends and boyfriends before God. For a time I was one that followed down destructive paths instead of taking a stand and leading others down the right path. One may think most often of the addiction to drugs and chemical substances as this sort of life I am speaking of. As we see someone we care about continuously hurting themselves again and again knowing that one of the times their high will lead to death. It may be seeing someone you love continuously going back to an abusive relationship wondering is the next time going to be the time he actually kills her. Addictions come in every form, food, money, power, our jobs, sex, and even our relationships. Too much of anything can bring destruction. There are even church-aholics that are so busy with ministries through their church that they may forget what is truly important. What is most important is a relationship with Jesus. As I think of everything involved in life, relationships, eating, sleeping, what we spend our money on, and what we spend our time doing there are only two things I can think of that cannot be “ too much” even of a good thing. The two things are time with Jesus and time in the Word of God. Of course we have lives to live, but what I mean is continuously being in a mindset of conversing, praying to Jesus. Continuous prayer means running our words, actions, and thoughts through Him first before we react in life’s situations. There can never be too much time spent in the Word of God, the Bible. It is crazy to think that the two things that we can never overdose on are what we spend the very least amount of time doing. How often are we like this bird just beating our heads against a wall hitting dead end after dead end. Jesus leads us to the safest, most joyful life that leads to eternity. We still have struggles in life, but I have to say that in my darkest times that is when I feel Him the most. He pulls me through stronger and better than I was on the other side of that pain. Praise God I am more addicted to Jesus and His Word every day!!!