Love Enough

“Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” – Jesus


February. It is the time of year we hear the most talk about love. Flowers, roses and candy can be seen in every store. The main focus during this time tends to be set aside for showing those special individuals in our lives how much we love and appreciate them. But the root of love is so much greater than the words expressed during this one month.


Love is a verb. It is action. At times it even can appear cruel when we choose to love enough. Christ gave us the perfect example of love. He loved enough.


Enough to leave His Father. Enough to embrace an image ‘below’ His heavenly status. Enough to speak truth even when it hurt those who needed to hear it. Enough to not arrive BEFORE the needed healing but AFTER the death. Enough to challenge the misguided leaders. Enough to die. For me. He loved enough! He chose to allow His actions to give glory to His Father instead of being the popular prophet of the day.


Although I am to walk as He did, too often I fall short of this ‘enough love.’ As a parent, I watched what I my kids ate. I did my best to choose more healthy foods over sugary snacks. We limited the access of shows or movies in order to protect their young minds and guard their spirits. Meal times were priority. Family devotions and prayer were at breakfast and before bed. Why? We loved them enough to be the gardeners of their hearts as Christ taught us to be.


Our decisions were not always appreciated by our kids during those years. And at times our decisions could have been made with more wisdom. Yet each was made from a heart of love. We loved enough to be those parents that didn’t follow the norm.


Lately, God has been asking me if I have that same type of love for the world around me. Do I love those I come into contact with on a daily basis? Or do I tend to judge them because they don’t follow the same dress code I feel is appropriate? As a parent, I sought to understand the ‘why’ behind my child’s actions before choosing my own response. Because I loved them. Do I love this world enough to do the same for them? Do I love my Father enough to ask Him to show me the ‘why’ in someone’s life so I can be Jesus with skin on for that person?


Why is my neighbor always angry? Maybe from a past hurt and Jesus wants to bind the wound.


Why does the cashier frown and rudely snap each time I am checking out? Maybe because the night before she was abused and is full of anger. Jesus wants me to love enough to let her know she is special.


Love enough. I can’t say I am measuring up as I need to in this area. Lay down my life? My dreams? My hopes? My opinion of what life should look like? All for others. Love enough. As John 15:13 says, greater love lays it all down for others. That’s my goal for this year. Love enough.


May we choose enough love. Daily. May we stop our responses to others long enough to breathe, “Lord, show me your love for them.”


Love enough.

Lessons from a Train

It was a priceless moment. As I got on the floor to play with my three year old grandson, his 14 month old brother spotted us. It didn’t take long for that bundle of energy to land in my lap. As much as I attempted to prevent it, those small hands grabbed the wooden train Dash and I had just put together. One section was now on the floor in pieces.


Disappointment was written all over Dash’s face. As I moved Roman to one side, I saw the moment Dash’s hand went up. His little person wanted to retaliate for the wrecked train. Our eyes caught and I softly said, “That’s not the right way, Dash.”


Here was a moment. Do I scold the three year old wanting to act out his frustration or let it be a life lesson? Life lesson!! We talked about doing the right things when we get frustrated. I told him how there are times I get frustrated and I just have to let it out.


He got it! With all his pent up feelings, he passionately looked at me and said, “I DO, GRANDMA!!” Instead of actions, he used his words and let me know how frustrated he was. Retaliation gone.


Christ talked about this principle. Matthew 12:7 records His words, “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” In Hebrew, the words would translate, “I am more pleased with acts of benevolence and kindness than with a mere external compliance with the duties of religion.”Too often we judge each other’s actions. Instead of getting into someone’s world, hearing their heart and finding where the root of hurt and frustration started, we decide to let others know how wrong they were acting. Most of the time they just need a safe place to learn life lessons.


Why not discipline or fuss at him for his attitude? Because he is not at that level. He is a compliant 3 year old who is now dealing with a 14 month old sibling who is nonstop and determined. His brother needs constant attention to make sure he is not found climbing in an unsafe place or grabbing something that could break. Roman has a tendency to attempt to instigate his brother. Dash didn’t need me to scold him. He needed me to get to his level and teach a life lesson. He needed a safe place to let out his feelings without being told he was wrong for getting upset at his brother.


We, too, should learn those lessons before teaching them. Let’s start today! Let’s choose to ask questions and search for the reason they feel frustrated. Just be there!

It Starts Here

November is here! It’s a month that has become synonymous with the attitude of giving thanks. In a world where too often we hear complaints more than we hear admonition, having weeks of listening to people talk about being thankful is like a breath of fresh air! Yet, as Christians, a lifestyle of thankfulness should be a goal we are actively pursuing.


In Thessalonians 5:18, Paul admonishes us to live a life of giving thanks. As we read the passages connected to the well known verse, we see that he also is painting a picture of a life that walks in both joy and thanksgiving.


“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (v16-18)


This passage was written by a man who was beaten often and faced jail time repeatedly. But he still says, “Rejoice, pray and give thanks!” How can that be? He had found the key in his relationship with Jesus.
Imagine a person that is always rejoicing. Or that person who spends so much time in prayer that as they just walk in a room peace follows. It often is easier for those who are happy to show a heart of thanksgiving. And when you find a person who make prayer a part of their daily focus, you also find a person that walks in more peace and joy. It all ties together to complete an attitude of being grateful.


Last night I sat at a table with a family who had just walked through a devastating trial this weekend. Fighting back tears, the husband opened up with thankfulness of how God has carried them and has taught them so much about the body of Christ through this hurt. What is their key? They leaned on Him. They live a lifestyle of prayer. They chose to not push Him away but allow Him to hold them. Are they walking through some of the “why?” questions right now? Yes. Daily. It is literally one foot in front of the other, slowly, to get through each day. But they still are thankful for His amazing love. As we sat there surrounded by cousins, laughter was abundant in the midst of pain. It reminded me of Proverbs 17:22 “A merry heart does good like a medicine.” That’s the beginning of thankfulness.


Like both this family and Paul, we are not promised a rosy path in this life. But as we choose time with Him over all other life events, we find a thankful heart for His promise to carry us through. That’s where it all starts….time with our Father.


Let’s start this thankful month with Him and watch joy and peace follow. He is worth it!

All Inclusive

Highlights and disappoints. Both were seen this past weekend during Mother’s day. For me, it was a full weekend with family events. Yet sitting now and reflecting on our time, it is not just the activity with family that stands out to me. It is also posts and videos. Stories shared by others which left an impact. Family at times is complicated. Messy. Joyous and heartbreaking. But it all becomes a blanket of fabric that has been woven together and wrapped around us.

One post this weekend was from someone I admire, Tracey Mitchell. Tracey and her husband have a ministry headquartered in Dallas. Not only is she a powerhouse speaker, but she also has a writing style that grabs your heart and pulls you into the story. This weekend she had a post that spoke volumes:

As Mother’s Day approaches and pictures of smiling families fill my timeline my mind and emotions drift in countless directions. My heart goes out to the seven-year-old girl who will put on a brave face and battle through feelings of abandonment and rejection. She hasn’t seen her mother in years; may never see her again. My stomach feels tied in knots when I think of the young woman whose husband was unexpectedly killed last month. This will mark her first holiday as a single parent. She now carries the weight of being mom and dad all rolled into one. Tears begin to form as I think of my dear friend who will be unable to hug her incarcerated son. I cannot tell you the number of sleepless nights she has lost to grief …


Life is messy. Special days aren’t always special. For many, Mother’s Day is a complex time of reflection. It is a mixture of heartfelt memories and pain filled moments. What matters most is not what we have experienced but what we are yet to encounter. Maybe you need to experience the freedom of forgiving someone who wounded you or was simply never there for you. Trust me, the joy that comes with forgiveness is far better than a tear stained past. Maybe you need to bridge the gap in a distant or strained relationship. The initial step is always the hardest. Be brave. Be bold. Be daring enough to make the first move. Motherhood is not limited to birthrights or DNA. A mother is anyone who helped birth a better you. As you take a trip down memory lane pause and thank the women who supported you, defended you, created space for you and loved you unconditionally. Celebrate them. Love them. Honor them.

Such powerful truth! This is a Mother’s day message I have spoken on before. I can still see the faces of moms in one church I was speaking at who had lost kids to death. And the woman who was barren due to her husband’s cancer. Too often on Mother’s day we forget those women and they sit in our services hurting or feeling ‘not enough.’ But God makes His acceptance all inclusive and loves to show us creative ways bring this balance to our ministry.

“Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

Proverbs 31:31 NIV

Another post that grabbed my heart was from my own daughter, Lauren Nelson. Although she has a son almost three and another who is just eight months old, God told her to go to Haiti. Alone. He was calling her to ‘come away’ with Him. After much struggle and tears to leave her babies, she obeyed. While planning the trip, she decided to surprise the other eleven kids that she has mothered in Haiti. The video of those surprised kids was priceless!

There were other posts that spoke as well. A niece who is a stepmom. A friend rejoicing over reconciled relationships. And the silent posts – those empty spaces where many hid from ‘mom notes’ which would be a reminder of abuse or neglect.

Yes. May has become a month for moms. But let’s not forget to minister to ALL women and recognize the spiritual moms among us. May our churches and lives be all inclusive when showing gratitude to those who serve among us. Honor the women who have chosen to foster, adopt, or just be that mom chosen by our hearts. And if that is who you are, we honor you as well for taking the step to mom whoever comes in your path.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BxVSXEvHsjH/?igshid=1hddi7089q86b

Dreamers

“Realists know where they are going. Dreamers have already been there. ” ~~ Robert Orben

I came across the above quote of Robert Orben and it stood out to me as being profound. To dream, to REALLY dream against all odds and not give up, takes faith. To believe that dreams can happen means you can already see it as if you have been there before. 

When someone has a dream, we have a choice to either speak life or death to their dream. Joseph had dreams and his brothers attempted to kill it. But God was the author of the dream so it couldn’t die. If God has birthed a dream within someone’s heart, let’s roll up our sleeves, look them in the face and ask, “Can I run along beside you to help build this dream?”

Disappointment. Hurt. Betrayal. Humiliation. Competition. Comparison. These are all able to kill dreams. 

Affirmation. Love. Acceptance. Believing in someone. These all breathe life into the dreams people carry within the heart. 

Let’s take the dream journey with people today. Let’s speak life until we see their dreams take flight. Agree with the dream God paints for yourself and for others. Speak it forth for the sake of others. 

Setting the Stage

Team work. That’s what it takes to successfully pull off a theatrical performance. Each person, from stage crew, to lights, to costumes, needs to have a good understanding of their individual role. Each person has a different gift that will ultimately help the production team meet the desired effect by the end of each performance. It is the job of the director to clearly map out each detail of the performance for everyone involved. The director has to see the vision before even starting auditions. With each step forward, that vision has to be communicated clearly. And with the result of a successful performance, the name remembered most by others will probably be the most outstanding actor or vocalist of the night. Not the director.

For about six years I had the privilege of teaching music and drama at our church’s elementary school. When I had been away from that for a couple of years, someone asked me what I missed. It didn’t take long for me to answer. I missed helping the children discover gifts and talents that they may not have realized they had. I missed helping them become more confident in who they were. I missed loving on them and helping to set the stage of confidence that would build on a foundation for their future lives.

That’s what mentoring is about. It’s not a ‘help me build my kingdom’ mentality. Instead, it is a lifestyle of helping others grow personally and find their own voice. It’s being mindful of God’s kingdom and not our own. We search for the gifts and talents of each individual and help them follow their ‘part’ in this performance called life.

Parenting was such a joy to me. And now, so is being a grandparent. I adore my grandchildren with all my heart. But they are not mine to hold on to. They are not mine to control. They belong to their parents and God. Not me. Talking on the phone to a friend, I listened as she shared the possibility of her daughter and son-in-law moving across country. And that would mean her grandson would move as well. Her words were, “How can they take that little boy from me?”

As much as the statement shows her strong love for the child and her disappointment over the possibility of missing him, it made me think more about being kingdom minded. For years I have known the possibility of having my family eventually scattered, not just across the nation, but across the world. I don’t always like the thought. After all, shouldn’t they stay and help build our ministry with us? Isn’t that the norm? Kids growing up and taking over the family business/ministry is normal life, right? But to even allow my thoughts to drift in that direction, then that still small voice decides to whisper, “They are doing what you taught them to do. Following Me.”

Such true words. They have been taught not to follow my calling, but to find out who they are in Christ and follow His calling for them. Paul taught about the fact that each of us has a different calling. Some pastors. Some teachers. Some plant. Some water. Each is to seek direction from the Master Director and fulfill their role in order to have His vision successfully come to pass.

Years ago, there was a song by Joni Erickson Tada that became one of my own focuses. It spoke to me because of my passion for theater as well as my heart to follow His path for my life. One part of the song stood out to me the most:

‘You’ve given me the lines You showed the right reflection. You gave me a reflection of what I need to say. So many want to lead. And so many times I follow. Lord, let me not be hollow like men in those other plays. O Lord, dear Lord, great author of the play, may I in wisdom learn the only part I need to play is the part that You wrote for me. The part that You wrote for me.

As a mentor, it is not my place to decide the path those under me should follow. Just because I spend time pouring into them doesn’t mean they will stay by my side the rest of their lives. As I wanted to find MY part, I should want that for others as well. If I can grasp the concept of being kingdom minded, I can start to think on a larger scale. One from God’s view point. How did He put it?

Mark 16:15 “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

And He sent them out. That’s how we can reach a larger group. Send them out. And rejoice with them when they find the place He has called THEM to. When we are mentoring, we are teaching them tools for them to use in their place of ministry. We are setting the stage for their success story wherever God takes them.

Listen to that voice today and set the stage for someone else. Your harvest may actually come as you are backstage during lights on. But trust the Heavenly director who holds the details. And be prepared for the ultimate life performance to be completed right on schedule!

I Raised Millennials

The Silent Generation. Baby Boomers. Generation X. Millennials. Generation Z. Each name represents a group of people born during a specific time frame. And each group has become known by certain characteristic traits. But none have been tagged or labeled more openly than perhaps the most recent two groups as social media is used to spread opinions at whim.

Little over a year ago, I saw a picture that was being shared on social media. It depicted a pickup truck loaded with bales of hay sitting in the middle of a beautiful open field. The tag line boasted how older generations knew what REAL work was. And the sad insight to me was that a pastor had shared the picture and was agreeing with the comparison of the hard work of farm life to the ‘lazy youth’ of today who know more about technology than doing chores. And the post most likely was shared from his own technical device.

As I sat looking at the post, so many thoughts went rushing through my mind. First, who’s duty is it to teach the next generation about chores and responsibilities? We cannot blame one generation for not achieving what the previous generation never taught or set as a goal.

Second, if we want to have younger generations visiting and joining our churches, then we need to make sure they feel welcomed and not judged. Christ said told us that others will know us by our love. If a visiting young adult walks into your church, enjoys the service, but wants to know more about the vision or the pastor, he probably will check out social media. If he sees a post that is talking down ‘this generation of youth’, he may feel all the judgement that he already experiences in the world. Chances are, he will not visit your church again.


It is easy for me to have grace on these three as I know what formed their thinking.

Third, I RAISED MILLENNIALS! When I read posts about millennials, I think of my own now grown kids. Looking at the pastor’s post that day, I wanted to add a comment that he just lumped my kids into that group. And my kids were following a weekly chore list at an early age. Each of them have visited third world countries spreading the gospel. I taught them to be real and authentic. In teaching them to be authentic, they came to realize how to recognize duplicity. Yes, they have a completely different mindset in many areas of life than I do even though they have held fast to the things we taught them. Why? Because their millennial world is vastly different than the world my generation remembers.


“We cannot blame one generation for not achieving what the previous generation never taught or set as a goal.”

Serving our community.

This generation needs us to be real. They need us to show them the love of Jesus. When the widow gave just a penny in the temple’s offering bucket, the leaders looked down on her. But Christ did not. Christ saw the reason behind the small amount. He realized she gave all she had. He understood what formed her thinking. What would it look like if we chose to see others through Christ’s perspective? What if our first response to someone’s actions was not judgmental but with the question of, “I wonder what happened to them in life to cause this?” Or how about asking our Father, “Is there a way I can help them discover more of their life in You?”

Amos 3:7 “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing His secret to His servants the prophets.”

Serving orphans in Haiti.

I want to be known for seeking God’s perspective first before I ever judge in my heart or speak judgement from my lips. If God chooses to reveal secrets to His prophets, won’t He also reveal hurting hearts to those who want to help them heal? After all, He knows all and sees all. Let’s ask Him today for His vision!


Love their fun personalities!


1 Corinthians 4:5 “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.”

On more than one occasion, God has given my husband flash visions to reveal to him an incident that happened in someone’s life. Often it has been for strangers, such as a waiter or waitress serving at our table. The vision gave my husband an open door to share the love of Christ to a hurting soul.

Serving others in Africa.

Ask Him today to reveal what is hidden and to give you His vision. Let’s reach the world around us!