Sunday, October 22, 2017

a prayer...

God, this world--our country--is a mess. We look around and can't help but see the bad.
  • Hate-filled words are thrown out. I wish I could say it is done without thought, but it isn't. Those words, filled with venom, are spit out with the sole purpose of hurting people, creating wounds that cut all the way to the heart.
  • Natural disasters wipe out years of hard work, leaving people homeless--but more devastatingly, hopeless.
  • Wicked men kill innocents, and while so many lives are snuffed out in the blink of an eye, countless other lives are turned inside-out and upside down.
  • Right is called wrong, and people try to justify evil.
Things are falling apart all around us. Dreams are shattered, families are broken, hopes are lost...the future seems to be fading right before our eyes.

Father, please pull us--Your children--close to You. Let us feel Your arms around us so that we are reminded of You in the middle of the mess.
  • Let us see Your strength, even as we're reminded of our own weakness.
  • Remind us that You are always the same, constant and steady despite the chaos.
  • Show us Your love for us, even when all we hear is hate.
  • Give us Your peace in the midst of disaster and loss.
  • Help us to remember that this world--this life--is temporary, and that You wait to welcome us home.
God, let Your love fill us and pour out of our broken places to spill over to those around us. Make us beacons of Your light to a world that seems to only be getting darker. Give us the courage to be different--so much so that people can't help but notice. Let us be reflections of You in a world that is searching for answers to questions they don't even know how to ask. God, our of our brokenness, help us to heal the broken parts around us.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

40 years & a lifetime

Sunday, my parents celebrated 40 years of marriage. That alone is incredible, especially in this age of temporary marriages. What was more incredible to me, though, was how the day went...

My parents are servants--they always have been. I can't remember a time in my life when they weren't pouring themselves out for other people. And even on their big day, that didn't change. Mom loves to cook for people, so she prepared a feast for everyone there. She was in her element, making sure everybody had a full plate, full cup, and a full belly. Pop's service looks different, but it was evident Sunday, too. Above everything else, my parents were both focused on making sure everyone there Sunday left with a full heart.

Love overflows from them, and you can't help but see it. Their love for each other is unconditional (though that doesn't mean they don't have their arguments...), and that love spills out onto anyone they come into contact with. Their home that day was filled to the brim with family and friends, and I would venture to say that all of them felt at home that day.

I've always been a watcher, so that's what I did Sunday. I watched my parents move from one person to the next, ensuring every single person there knew how valued they were. I watched Pop lean in close to hear low voices, his attention fully on whoever he was with. I watched Mom refill drinks and hug necks and gush over everybody who came through the door.

And I saw friends who made the trip in from out of state, driving for hours, just to make sure Pop & Mom knew how loved they were. The house was full of food, love, stories, and laughter.

I can't even begin to explain what my parents have taught me about life and marriage, though I owe it to them to try...

I've learned:
~loving people means serving people
~"home" is a place to share with the people you love
~family doesn't have to mean blood relations
~sometimes, you feed people's bellies to fee their souls
~marriage means supporting each other through everything
~take turns in the spotlight
~love unconditionally
~never stop being in love
~hug & kiss often, even in front of your kids
~build each other up
~above all, there is God
photo credit: my mother-in-law :)

Monday, October 2, 2017

...just remember Me

What does God want from us? How much does He expect us to do? What does it take to appease Him, to fulfill all His requirements? What are we supposed to do for Him?

In this world, we are used to our worth being tied to our actions. Merit determines reward, as it so often should. I struggle with that myself--if I can't "earn my keep," so to speak, I feel like I'm not good enough.

Enough. That's what it comes down to for me. In so many areas of my life, I feel like I'm not doing enough. When I look at my house and see the laundry left unfolded and the dishes still in the sink and the clutter covering tables...When I watch goats die and can't do enough to save them...When I see a kid who seems to be slipping through the cracks at school, and I wonder if I've done enough to help them...When I look back at my time in graduate school and wonder if I tried hard enough to make it work...

Did I do enough? Am I doing enough now? What am I supposed to be doing for God? How much is enough to make God happy with what I'm doing?

Because, you see, for a people-pleaser like me, that's a big deal. I want to do enough. I want to be enough.

If you look at the major religions of people around the world, this is a huge theme. Hindus believe their current station in life is determined by their actions in a previous life, and their goal is to live a life that is good enough to get them out of the cycle of reincarnation.

Buddhists strive to reach Nirvana, which is an end to all desires--which only happens when you are finally good enough to reach enlightenment.

For Muslims, life is spent trying to follow the Pillars of Islam. When you die, your soul is judged. If you've done enough good, you enter Paradise.

The Ancient Egyptians believed their heart would be weighed when they died. If they had done enough good, their heart would be light--and they would be rewarded.

So what does God, the Eternal & Most High, require of us?

"With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow myself before the High God?
Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justly,
to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God?"
Micah 6:6-8

Or for a little more clarification:

"For God expressed His love for the world in this way:
He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him
will not face everlasting destruction,
but will have everlasting life.
Here's the point.
God didn't send His Son into the world to judge it;
instead, He is here to rescue a world headed toward certain destruction."
John 3:16 & 17

God's requirements of us? Love the One He sent. Believe in the life-giving power of His sacrifice. Believe...and be saved.


We don't have a list of "dos and don'ts". We don't have to hope that, in our human weakness, we've been good enough to earn our way into His presence. Instead, the sacrifice was already made on our behalf, the price already paid.

And what of the One who was sacrificed? What about Jesus, the One who said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."? What does He require of us?

"Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me."
John 14:1

"“Love the Eternal One your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.”This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is nearly as important, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Matthew 22:37-39

And when it comes to His sacrifice, His body broken on the cross and His blood spilled for us?
"Do this to remember Me."
Luke 22:19

He simply asks us to remember. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

"...so"

"Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one You love is sick.”
When He heard this, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.' Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days, and then He said to His disciples, 'Let us go back to Judea.'" (Matthew 11: 1-7)


When Jesus heard that Lazarus was dying, according to our logic He should have immediately gone to heal him. After all, Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary, & Martha. If you love somebody, you want what's best for them.

And of course, obviously what was best for Lazarus was to be healed...right? Or at least, that's what we in our limited human understanding think has to be true.

I don't know about you, but I have to admit that most of the time when I pray, I have the answer in mind. You see, I tend to think that my idea of how life is supposed to play out is pretty darn good. Honestly, a lot of my prayers probably have a bit of "If you could just do what I'm wanting we'll be good, thank-you-very-much."

Besides, like Lazarus, I'm one Jesus loves. Given that, He should hurry to pull me out of whatever mess I'm in.

Or, maybe not.

Read this passage again, especially the last two sentences: "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days, and then He said to His disciples, 'Let us go back to Judea.'" There in the middle is something I hadn't noticed before, a tiny little word: So.

I don't remember what blog I was reading that pointed that word out to me, but the message stuck with me. Jesus loves me and wants what's best for me in all circumstances. The problem is, in my short-sightedness I can't see what He sees. He sees the darkness I'm in, how I'm wandering around groping to find my way out, how I'm letting myself sink down in despair.

But He also sees something else. He sees what will happen when I'm on the other side of the darkness, when I step out of the shadows into His Light. He sees how, whatever the circumstances, this will work for God's glory...sometimes despite me, if I'm honest.

Sometimes we are in the middle of the dark, feeling like life is closing in on us and that surely the pressure is too much. We cry out for Jesus to just come to us--
because we know that
in Him is rest
in Him is peace
In Him is healing.

Jesus hears. He loves...and so, sometimes, He waits.

Because sometimes the darkness is needed
                            in order to truly appreciate the beauty of the light.
Because sometimes the pressure is needed
                            in order to create diamonds.
Because sometimes the pain is needed
                            in order to produce strength.

So hold on. If you're crying out for Jesus to just come, because you know He can speak and calm the storms--or whisper and calm your heart--know that sometimes, He waits.

Because even in the hard times, He can be glorified. If we just wait.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

an unplanned post...

This wasn't the blog post I meant to write. Actually, when I started writing it, I had no intention of sharing it with anyone. A while back, after I read The Help, I started writing my prayers. You see, my mind races like crazy all the time, and I've never developed the discipline I need to be able to focus on a prayer I'm saying in my head. So instead, my answer to that is to grab a notebook and a pen.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it, but I'm more than just a tad bit addicted to notebooks. I have to look at them any time I go to a store with a stationery section. In this case, the notebook I was writing in was one I snagged from Nathan (he had only written on the first page...).

In any case, the post I wanted to write was called "...on being a lady," and is one that I've had written out on paper for a long time. In fact, I even typed that title in when I first opened this page to write...

But as is often the case in my life, it seems God had other plans. I kept getting the nagging feeling that I needed to pull out my prayer and share it here, with you. I have to tell you, it's not one I'm really all that comfortable putting out there (you can probably tell by how much I'm procrastinating). But if I feel like it's what I'm supposed to do, hopefully there's a reason & hopefully it will help somebody else.

So, here goes...

****
Dear God,

I'm afraid this is going to be pretty blunt, because I'm not in a very good place right now. I've always heard that bad things come in 3s, but lately it's felt like we've had bad things happening in 3 sets of 3s.

I know I'm still living a very blessed life--really, I do. I understand that I have so much to be thankful for...

But God, life is hard right now & I'm just staying on the edge of a breakdown all the time. I don't understand why so many things just keep getting piled up on top of each other.

First, let me thank You. Despite all the mess and all the chaos and all the stress, I know that You are ultimately in control. Sometimes I lose sight of that. Sometimes the storms distract me and I start focusing on them instead of seeing You. God, please help me to focus on You. Help me to remember that You say, "At the time that I choose, I will judge & do so fairly. When the earth and everyone living upon it spin into chaos, I am the One who stabilizes and supports it." (Psalm 75:2&3)

God, I know that my thoughts can't even begin to compare to Yours. I know that You, in Your ultimate wisdom, know just why everything in my life has been happening, and You know how everything is going to turn out. God, please help me to see all of this for what it is--temporary. Help me to live a life that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. In the middle of the chaos and stress, help me not to mar Your name.

I told You, though, that this would be blunt and honest, so here goes. I know the Sunday School answers. I know all the words I should be saying, how I should be acting, and what I should be doing. The problem is, right now I don't want to do any of those things. Right now I just want to ask, "Why does this keep happening? Why are all the little things just piling up like this?" I want to cry out, "Abba, why have You turned away? Why aren't You just fixing all the bad stuff?"

Like the insecure child I am, I want to know what it is that I keep doing wrong that keeps causing all these things. What am I supposed to be learning that I'm not getting? What am I supposed to be doing to fix it? Why does it feel like my world is falling apart?

But that's part of my problem, isn't it? I saw a quote one time that said, "If you think you've blown God's plan for your life, rest in this: you, my beautiful friend, are not that powerful." (Lisa Bever) When I start asking what it is I'm doing wrong, what I'm supposed to do to fix everything, maybe that's me trying to take control of Your plans for my life.

God--Abba, please...I don't even know how to pray anymore. I don't know what to ask You or what to say. I'm at the point where my words are just jumbled in my head...but more so in my heart. So Father, please hear the cries I can't utter. Please hear the words I can't form. Please take my insecurities and turn them around so that I remember that I am secure in You, no matter how much my world is shaking.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

13 years...


You taught me to be strong
when others see me as weak.
You told me I could do anything
if I set my heart on it.
You showed me how to stand
when those around me crumble.
You encouraged me to follow my dreams
even though it may be hard.
You pushed me to do my best
even if it's not acknowledged.
You led me down the narrow road
though it is never popular.
You listened to me
when no one else would.
You comforted me
when no one else could.
You were my teacher,
my confidant,
my example,
my encourager,
my leader.
Because of you,
I know how to keep going.

For my brother.
Love,
Mandy Jean Kilbourn




Friday, August 4, 2017

amazing love...

"Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking..."
~John 1:1

Jesus was with the Father at the beginning of time. As the Voice translation puts it, "His speech shaped the entire cosmos." (v. 3) He is so powerful that it merely took His breath to give us life.
Yet, He chose to leave the throneroom of Heaven, to step away from His seat at the right hand of God. He chose to put aside His glory and to humble Himself, to take on flesh and live alongside us, because He saw us.

He saw us in all our human imperfection. As David said, "For He knows what we are made of; He knows our frame is frail, and He remembers we came from dust." And I think that just like when He looked out over Jerusalem, Jesus was overwhelmed with love for us. And in His love, He wanted more for us. In John 15:11, Jesus said, "I want you to know the delight I experience, to find ultimate satisfaction..."

I've written before about how amazing it is that the Creator of the Universe cares for us, but I have to admit that I don't think about it very often. I don't let myself focus on the wonder of what it means to be loved so spectacularly and so completely, a love made even more amazing by the fact that it is unearned and undeserved. It is a Love that wrapped His arms around us when we were at our lowest and worst, then whispered in our ears, "Look here, I have made you a part of Me, written you on the palms of My hands." (Isaiah 49:16)

I get so wrapped up in what other people think of who I am and what I do. I stress and strive to please people, to make sure that I don't let anybody down. I worry about what they think of me and how they see me. But God says, "Have you forgotten Me, the One who made you and the whole world, who stretched out the skies and made sure the earth's foundations? Yet you constantly worry about others--" (Isaiah 51: 13) It's definitely easier said than done, but we need to stop focusing on how the world sees us. Besides, if we're truly living as God has commanded us we've already been told that the world will see us as alien.

We need to switch our focus and put it on the Commander of Heavenly Armies, the God who created the universe and yet knows the number of hairs on our heads and who collects every tear we cry. We need to look to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, the One who stepped away from the glory of Heaven and traded His throne for a crown of thorns, simply because He wants us to experience the delight of being with the Father. All that matters is how God sees us, and when He looks at us He sees us made pure by the blood of His Son. He sees us carved into the palms of His hands.

There's a song that says, "Amazing love...how can it be that You my King would die for me?"

And our job? We are to share that amazing love with others. We are to point to our brokenness, our human weakness, and tell people, "...and the amazing thing is that God loves me in spite of all of that. I am made whole and loved because of Him. He took all my failures and mistakes and sins and put them on His own back when He chose to walk the painful path of the cross. He took the punishment that should have been mine and He gave me His light instead."

"Arise, shine, for your light has broken through!
The Eternal One's brilliance has dawned upon you.
See truly; look carefully--darkness blankets the earth;
people all over are cloaked in darkness.
But God will rise and shine on you;
the Eternal's bright glory will shine on you, a light for all to see.
Nations north and south, peoples east and west, will be drawn to your light,
will find purpose and direction by your light.
In the radiance of your rising,
you will enlighten the leaders of nations."
~Isaiah 60:1-3