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Most likely you've heard the story of the prodigal son. You have a guy who asks his dad for his share of the estate. He takes it and goes off and spends it all, as Luke 15 tells us, on "wild living". His older brother, who bitterly speaks up later in the story, divulges that part of his younger brother's partying involved prostitutes.

We get a good look at the foolish younger son, a responsible (and farther on in the story,) angry older brother, and a loving father. Who's not mentioned in this tale is the mother. Was there a mother? Because if so, I can't imagine that she'd not receive any commentary; especially if she's anything like me.

If the prodigal son's mom was like this chick, I can imagine there would be more to this story, or else it would be altogether different.

Here's how I see it would have went down. We'll call the dad "J". (That's what I call Jason. Let's just imagine that this dad's name was Jacob or Joseph or something or other with a J.)

One night after going to bed I 'd whisper,

"J, your boy is worrying me. He got four boxes from Amazon Prime yesterday. I think he's already spent all his birthday money, but he won't do anything around here to earn money. He stayed out past curfew last night and was talking a bunch yesterday about taking a long road trip. I don't like it." He doesn't have the funds or the sense for it.

Four days later after having come into the estate, the boy would announce his leaving. After quickly floundering between a lecture and bribery I'd attempt to encourage him to stay. I'd warn him of the dangers, suggest that such a trip was selfish, and remind him of all the opportunity on the home front. Maybe out of guilt or obligation he would stay, at least for a little while.

Home is best. At his own house, he would never have to eat the pods intended for those pigs he eventually got a job feeding. He'd have better job and friend prospects and would never have met those prostitutes. Maybe with my constant interference, he'd have learned to save his money, start to take to heart all the godly wisdom I had to offer, and eventually he would have found a good girl to settle down with.

If he'd decided to leave anyway, I'd probably remind "J" of all the signs that I'd collected suggesting our boy was drifting wayward and then I'd beat myself up over all the other signs I'd missed. I'd be angry that I hadn't been able to convince him to stay home. I'd dream up all kinds of troubled scenarios about what he was doing wherever he was. I wouldn't sleep well at night. I'd pray giving God an idea on how the scenario could best be played out.

It's an honest and probable part of a prodigal son's story, had a prodigal son had a mama like me. To be fair, maybe this dad suffered nightmares,concocted rescue plans and felt miserable over all the should haves too.

Thankfully, the story we read in Luke 15 isn't centered on coercion. It isn't about how the father (or parents) might have avoided their son making poor choices which resulted in suffering, also making for the juiciest gossip back home had anyone gotten ahold of the information.

The story is about a child who was allowed room to hunger, to really hunger, as painful as the process was. It's about someone who came to his senses, only after he had spent everything and he began to be in need; something he might never have truly understood had mama anything to say about it. He went home, only he went home different, repentant...knowing his need.

We're a prodigal people. We know God as Father and yet choose to go our own way, believing we know best, or else not caring because pleasure calls. We squander His riches. He waits for our return, faithfully loving us from the distance we chose to put between.

Waiting fathers, fix-it mamas and all us wayward children...we seldom choose an empty stomach or a broken heart. Still...

We never know the value of our filling like we do when we've been allowed to hunger.

Thank you God for pig pods and and poverty that lead us back home.



I've been a woman on a mission today. Family starts showing up for graduation tomorrow and, amongst a hundred other things that need to be done, the bathrooms need to be cleaned.

Currently I'm somewhere between finishing the bathroom floors and mopping the kitchen. I've scrubbed the base of the floor by the kitchen cabinets with Bounce fabric sheets. Those things smell good and have just the right amount of grit to clean stubborn parts of the tile.

I tell you about that shadowed place I tended to under the cabinets because otherwise you probably wouldn't know the work they required. And just maybe you too find yourself, every once in a while, catching a glimpse of your own messy, hard-to-reach places, surprised.

Our oldest daughter graduates on Thursday (but you probably already know that, given my picture posting and other ways of chronic announcement.) What you may not know are details of some tough chapters through her school years and difficult life tests, pre-diploma. Our letter board on the hutch in my living room boasts:

"Yay Hallie. You did it!"

There's a depth to those words that stretches past grades or cap and gown. She'll walk across that stage after having walked through a fire or two without the world having smelled smoke. Her transcript won't show that.

I suspect that most students (and their parents) celebrate not only a graduation, but the fact that tigers have been fought while battling long division in elementary or Anatomy and Physiology in high school.

There's a story underneath each cap and gown. All we know is that each story is at a page turn. Oh, but what's on the pages. That's what we parents are shedding a hot mess of tears over.

"We're making it," I started to tell a fellow mom today. The truth is we're more than making it. With God's help, our children have overcome a passel of private struggles. And thus they're stronger and outfitted with the proof that God goes with them and before them.

It's bittersweet, but we'll call this a victory.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Romans 8:35,37




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I bought this shirt around a week ago. I like it so much I've worn it twice since. I sent a picture of it to my mom because the words on it have special meaning.

My mom battled cancer back in 2006. She entered the fight, already a victim. She'd forever been captive to chronic worry.

God brought a change in her that still baffles those of us who know her best. Usually not one to approach others, her fear and anxiety in social situations seemed to dissipate.

By making and sharing bookmarks bearing a poem she'd written she'd entertain strangers and encourage the downtrodden. (She still does.)

I don't ever remember her complaining or talking about the what if's.

Her fight seemed to uncover a mission.

I told her one time that she'd turned from a worrier into a warrior. I thought I coined the phrase...so hearing it now, and seeing it on T-shirts brings a mix of pleasure and disappointment (Why didn't I get that brilliance on a mug or a shirt myself?)

I wore it on lonnnnng yesterday. Then I just left it on and slipped on some pajama bottoms and then wore it last night for a round of ridiculously stressful dreams; the kind I have following weary days.

Opening my eyes this morning I started to think about the nightmares I had last night. (I make it a practice to take awful dream inventory so that I can compare myself to Stephen King or other creepy storytellers.) I guess you say I collect bad dreams and write nightmares.

Let's just say I'm surprised I'm still wearing the shirt. Both yesterday and the other occasion I put it on ended up being two of the harder days in recent history. Both days presented overwhelming concerns and some decent sized heartache. If I believed in omens, this shirt would fall under the bad omen category.

Good thing I don't believe in omens.

I will wear the shirt. I won't replay broken dreams. And I'm going to stop thinking ahead, doomingly writing scary scripts on my future. There's no place for such.

I'm the daughter of a warrior.

You are my war club, my weapon for battle— Jeremiah 51:20



I can’t remember ever having “the talk” with my mom. We didn’t talk much about private matters in my house growing up. That’s mostly how things worked (or maybe it didn’t work) in my generation.

I learned what a jock strap was my fifth-grade year, though not from very good teachers. (My friends, through lunch table conversation, told me our teacher Mrs. Jones was wearing one.) I learned about the stuff you’re supposed to do when you get married (and not before then) from movies like Dirty Dancing as I hit junior high (or when I watched movies and listened to music at friends’ houses who had less strict parents than mine).

When it comes to your body, I 'm suggesting you keep it holy. Who am I talking to here?

  • You, the one who hasn’t even had your first kiss yet (Save that thing for someone special.)

  • You, Ms. Will of Steel who said long ago you were going to wait and you’re determined you’ll keep on waiting until you become Mrs. Whoever. (Stick to that commitment!)

  • You, the girl who is thinking about giving in, but so far hasn’t (Stay strong even if you’re in the minority amongst your peers).

  • You, who’ve been taken advantage of. Someone took your choice; they stole something you didn’t give away (You’re not responsible or found guilty for what someone else has done to you.)

  • And you, the one who made a choice one time (or maybe even many times) to share something sacred, your body (You aren’t ruined. Your opportunity to keep your body holy is not removed. God is in the business of redeeming what is His.)

God wants the same from each of us. He wants us to honor God with our bodies:

  1. Because following his design brings him glory

  2. Because he knows the turmoil that can come when we make dishonorable choices and he wants to spare us that pain

What has happened to you in the past and any choice you have already made doesn’t put an end to your chance to choose today. Wherever you are in your journey, God is calling you to

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Honoring God by being obedient to him isn’t always easy. Honoring God is impossible without a personal relationship with him. Ask God’s help before you’re tempted and when you’re feeling tempted. If you have suffered abuse at the hands of someone you trusted, or even a complete stranger, allow God to heal you. He will.

Talk to him when you need his help to start choosing better after a time of going against his design. Always remember, nothing surprises him. Nothing is too disappointing or too messy for him to handle. Just try him. He’s waiting.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39 (ESV)

Sexual immorality is the sharing of your body outside of marriage (in many forms including sending nude pictures). God designed the body to be shared in marriage only.

Honoring God with your body requires good boundaries. Which of the following boundaries do you practice?

Relationship Boundaries Checklist

___I go by a rule to not be alone with the person I’m dating.

___I don’t go into my girlfriend/boyfriend’s room.

___The person I’m dating knows that I’m a believer and respects my beliefs.

___The person I’m dating is a believer.

___The person I’m dating knows that I am committed to sharing my body only in marriage and he respects that commitment.

___I communicate with my parents about who I’m dating.

___I communicate with my parents as to where we are at all times.

I talk to God about my relationship:

___when it’s new

___when I’m feeling tempted

___I treat the person I’m dating, the way I would want someone else to treat my sibling. (I treat my boyfriend the way I would want my brother to be treated by a girl.)

___I’m cautious not to fill my heart with movies and music that advertise sex (or treat sex casually.)

___I don’t engage with those who make crude sexual remarks, or ask for inappropriate pictures

___I’m fully dressed when interacting with my boyfriend/girlfriend, even on the phone.

___ I don’t seek dating advice from those who would encourage me to cross boundaries.

___I have someone who I have asked to be my accountability partner when I am dating.  They know they are free to ask me if I’m keeping good boundaries. I can tell them when I am feeling tempted and ask them to pray for me.

Write down the names of (and contact) two people who you can count on to pray for you, be in your business, and help keep you on track as you seek to honor God with your body.




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It started with a Facebook meme yesterday, posted by someone who's obviously ready for summer. “Four Mondays left!”

And then Hallie reminded me that I’d mentioned we should go to breakfast a few times on her late mornings these last weeks of school.

Her dad and I took her for breakfast this morning where she had a bananas foster waffle and thought we were heroes again for just a second.

To make things clear, these aren’t just the last weeks before summer, but the last weeks before she zips up that long black gown and dons a graduation cap whose tassel will swing before those warm brown eyes of hers. We're in the last weeks before she walks across that stage and closes a chapter of her life, and mine.

I’ve already been through this graduating thing with her brother. I spent the whole year crying; one time in my closet to conceal my snubbing.

Though equally touched, I’ve been better with Hallie outside the incident in March where I lost my marbles in Walmart while rolling my cart from the automotive section to the beauty section. The toy aisle just so happens to be between and I accidentally caught a glimpse of girl toys.

My mind went back to hours spent there picking out Littlest Pet Shops which would later be posed; tiny plastic models photographed by Hallie with the digital camera she got from her grandma.

I pulled the cart onto the aisle next to the Barbies and sobbed. The next day she turned eighteen.

Closing chapters is hard because closing chapters means at least a little bit of letting go. A friend reminded me not so long ago that hands that release have space to embrace the next thing coming.

We can't help the tears that come out of nowhere seizing our eyes and somehow stinging the back of our throat. They've earned their place on our cheek or the back of our index finger as we wipe our eye corner before anyone sees.

But make no mistake, as much as I welcome the tears, I invite joy onto these final pages. After some tough seasons we made it.

We have accomplishments to celebrate...Lessons learned to victory over too. Excitement is here smiling ear to ear.

For all the things we leave behind, we carry with us our most precious, treasured memories and those secrets that whispered to us about fragile, beautiful life. We'll meet up with the yet to be discovered in this next chapter. We're just adding to the pages.

Yes, we made it...and we're making it.



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I was texting with a friend yesterday. We were talking about how this Easter would be a little tough. She just lost her mom. I miss her mom too. Just last week her absence was felt at my husband Jason's birthday celebration at work. For past birthdays, and on ordinary days you could count on her smile and sweet countenance to light up any room.

I love holidays, but Easter, and especially Christmas are difficult for those who've endured loss. I've always said that special occasions and remembrances heighten our emotions. The glad get gladder and the hurt can deepen for those who are missing someone they love.

I have several friends who have suffered terrible loss in the past six months. Some have lost a loved one to a death. The pain of that death stays with them. Another has lost her zest for life. She's so tired.  And still another has lost her confidence. She puts the weight of the world on her shoulders with the knowledge that she can't possibly carry it all. Though we still have our earthly bodies, some of us carry around death.

As you could imagine, I found myself reading about death and resurrection today. But it's probably not the one you're thinking of. I'm talking about the death and resurrection of Lazarus. John, chapter 11, tells us about Lazarus' death. Prior to his dying, his sisters sent word to Jesus that their brother was sick.

Jesus intentionally stalls before going to them because he wants to show observers something they need to know. When He eventually goes to Mary and Martha, Lazarus has already been in the tomb for four days. The sisters are mourning.

Mary and Martha separately make the same statement to Jesus, a statement we've all likely felt if we haven't said it...

...if you had been here...

 (John 11:21, 32)

These sisters thought that if they'd had Jesus' presence they wouldn't be in need of a now kind of resurrection. If he'd been there he could have healed Lazarus. Now, they figured, he was dead and they'd have to wait.

Martha's faith had become future focused . "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." John 11:24  She believed, not in a present resurrection, but only in a resurrection that was coming; a distant resurrection.

Though Martha believed that Lazarus would someday be raised from the dead, she was making two statements.

  1. You weren't here.
  2. Lazarus will rise again, but for now we face death.

Jesus shared the good news. He told her, and he tells us,

I am the resurrection (...don't forget this part) and the life (!) (John 11:25)

He told Martha that the one who believes in Him will never die.

As believers, the only death we're intended to carry around is the death of Jesus; a death that resulted in resurrection... for all who would believe. Christ' resurrection affords us life (and his constant presence).  THAT'S what we can carry, even on life's most sorrowful days!

Our sin and alone-ness was put to death the day Christ died. Death died that day too.

While Lazarus still lay in the tomb and Martha's heart was still wrapped up in sorrow. He asked, Do you believe this? (v.26) We're asked the same question.

You probably remember the next part of the story (there is no ending...)

Martha tells Jesus that she indeed believes. She, Mary and others follow Jesus to the tomb where He gives a few more life instructions. He commands those surrounded by death to remove the stone sealing the tomb. He tells them to take off Lazarus' grave clothes. And then he tells them to let Lazarus go. Death no longer has a hold on him. Jesus is the resurrection. Those of us who believe, have life. And he is with us, always.

We have a future resurrection to look forward to. But we live in Christ's resurrection today.

Are you mindful of His presence? Are you sure of His defeat over death? What layers of death will you ask Him to remove so that you can live in the resurrection today?

 

 

 

 



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I remember it well. My oldest, Hayden, had just finished a middle school basketball game.  Let me rephrase that, my son had just finished sitting the bench for nearly a full four quarters. His coach called him out on the court with less than a minute on the clock. For the record, we weren’t terribly behind or way ahead, destroying the theory that just maybe he wanted to make sure my kid didn’t jeopardize the game’s outcome.

I was already a little hot, but what played out in the next thirty seconds burned the stub of the fuse I had left. A time-out buzz drew my attention toward our team’s bench. The coach was waving his hand to Hayden to get out on the court. As far as I could tell there were no words as to direct Hayden to who he would be subbing in for.

Hayden ran out, ready to position himself for some good defense when a fellow teammate (who was a starter) pointed to himself as if to say, Are you coming in for me? Hayden shrugged, unsure.

As the starter trotted to the bench, the coach started shaking his head no, a bit violently, whilst yelling at Hayden, “You’re stupid. Get off the court.”  So, a mere five seconds after being sent out, without playing a single play, Hayden was back on the bench with no idea what had just happened.

I was livid. I pursed my lips until my husband Jason, and the two girls and I got into the car. And then fury flew from my lips; sharp words shot out like flaming arrows. I’ve always secretly patted myself on the back for never cussing. I don’t think I did that day, but I honestly can’t remember what all I said.

All I remember is the impromptu, responsive chant that came from our four year old Rylie in the backseat,

“Ok guys, on the count of three”, she demanded, “everybody say it with me,

Let’s ruin coach’s life.

Let’s ruin coach’s life.”

And then came silence. Guilt and helplessness swept over me as I realized the impossibility of cleaning up hot spilled words; words that had drew equally ill speech out of my pre-k-er.

Our kids don’t always do what we say (“Clean your room.”). Nor do they what we do (Start the dishwasher when it’s full). But when it comes to our weakest character traits, say some sass, sarcasm, insecurity, or a bit of fury, our kids can emulate us with embarrassing accuracy.

I mean it doesn’t feel like they’re listening all that well when we tell them how to complete that math problem, or to go easy on the eye shadow, but somehow when it comes to

  1. How we respond to circumstances

  2. How we respond to others

They’re watching,

Just like I was noticing how my mom could always get my dad to stop for fried chicken on the way back home from my grandmas, even though she claimed not to be hungry every time we left. (I have her power of persuasion.) It’s funny, for all the effort my mom put towards trying to entice me to cross stitch like her and dust the shelves like she showed me, I was a lost cause.

Our unintentional example proves to be much more powerful than the instructions and modeling we deliberately show our children.

How do we react to a bill we shouldn’t have gotten?

To a rude cashier?

When our kid drops a glass full of milk and the glass shatters on the floor?

How do we respond to the elderly man whose car didn’t budge for the entirety of the green light?

How in control of our emotions are we when that teacher has berated or humiliated our kid,... again!

How do we express frustration toward our kid’s dad? Do we let him have it? Do we give him the cold shoulder?

What about our kid’s friend that hasn’t proven to be that loyal or rule following? Do our kids find that we see their friend (or even their enemy) as “The gossip, The jerk, The Drama Queen, The Queen Bee, The rebel or The liar”?  Are our communication and reactions both truthful AND gracious?

The message we don’t intend to send, the one that comes out in a weak moment or when we think nobody’s watching?  That becomes our billboard.

Our kids have the best view of our least favorite habits and impulses. The good news is that our canvas can be used to paint the need for grace and a filling of the Spirit.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  John 6:63



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I couldn’t have designed a better set up for the past few days. I filled up on signature hot dogs and crispy fried chicken (the finger licking kind.) I was fed by inspiring speakers. (In fact Jason was one of them.) We got to attend a phenomenal missions conference in Charlotte, North Carolina where my cheeks hurt and my heart felt so good.


Queen City has been good to us. The temperature has pretty much stayed in my sweet spot (72-76 degrees.) Last night I watched my favorite contestant on American Idol sing for three and a half minutes without getting interrupted. Jason and I even slept in this morning.

I told Jason on the way to the airport that I couldn't even think of what I’d do with one more day and million dollars, so satisfied was I…

And then I got on my phone to see if Amazon had a pair of fringe earrings in ecru. Nothing wrong with looking contented and cute.

I don’t stay full for long. I’ll forget that box of prize winning chicken I had for lunch as soon as I see a kiosk with a bag of peanut M&Ms. A bag of candy and a cold Dr. Pepper sound good right now.

Speaking of what sounds good, a pianist here at the airport is playing the some of my favorite songs nearby. Besides playing a song my mom used to play on the piano when I was growing up, he’s played the theme song from Beauty and the Beast, Journey’s “Open Arms” and then theme song from ET.

I wish the ET song had words so that I could’ve immersed myself in them. Instead, here I am thinking about the initials E.T.

Extra Terrestrial

Terrestrial= earthly

So it must mean, earthly, ...but extra

Extra Earthly.

That’s me. Maybe it’s you too.

Life offers me one twenty-four hour period of blessing and opportunity followed by another. But satisfaction comes in wink-like waves. It moves on as fast as it comes. I just read the third chapter of Philippians yesterday and believe it just might have been the perfect timed verse for me as it mentioned those whose god is their stomach.

Reminds me of the time we got Hayden a Bible for his fourth birthday. It was one of the first gifts he opened. As diplomatic as could be, he held it in his hands, smiled and then gently laid it to the side and whispered, Let’s see what’s next.

I gently lay the truth aside everyday. Let's see what's next, I say, and I pretend to say it to God, but so many times I'm just using my eyes to look.

Sitting here at the airport, I’m thinking about the fact that I missed one of the kids band concert and two singing performances. I wasn't there to give her a pep talk this morning before STAAR.

I could currently check off a hundred items on a list right now of things that are right, but mom guilt demands it be put on the list.

And there there’s me not being there for a frightening situation with another kid. I heard our third kid mentioning that they made pancakes while we were gone. I’m wondering what the house is going to look like, thus adding to the list, Be prepared to clean up a disaster and face a whole slew of things that need to be done.

My default thinking is either intentionally focused on the current good or bad or creatively-sideways stretched (what good or bad things are ahead, or maybe even on the thing that just happened.) Better said, my circumstances and guesses about my future hold all the weight.

It’s an under the sun sort of thinking; an extra earthly kind, a kind that’s subject to gravity.

While it’s understandable to take inventory of blessings and perceived future difficulties or responsibilities, our souls are made to seek more than temporary satisfaction or perpetual mind preparation.

There is more to life than cloudy skies. There is more than that golden ball of warmth overhead that can harm us, given too much exposure.

More than basking in the here in now, or surreptitiously plotting out tomorrow, may we look up. May our heart’s content rest in that which is beyond the sun. He holds the expanse of this moment, the tarried month ahead and a thousand years from now, firmly in His hands.

What if we left what's next in the right hands?

They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

Ecclesiastes 5:20



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Growing up in the country, it wasn’t much of a surprise when we’d have to hit the brakes for a mama deer and her fawns hightailing it across the road to escape harm’s way. The order never changed.  As you’d expect, the mama always led the way, followed by her babies.

Interestingly, the phrase “hightail it” is thought to have originated in the pioneer days and refers to whitetail deer. At the prospect of danger they raise their tail high. The white patch underneath can easily be seen against their brown backside. A deer signals with her tail to others the need to run to safety.

Having a keen sense of urgency, moms hightail it, a lot. Besides the fact that we’re constantly in a hurry to accomplish all the stuff on our list, we have an inner alarm that goes off constantly. Our tails are rarely ever at rest.

We’re often worried about our kids being friendless if we’re not concerned about their choice in friends. We’re concerned about how they’ve been acting different lately, or else about that bad habit they can’t seem to shake.

We fret over their difficult disappointments, hard diagnoses, or the secrets we believe they keep. When our kids hurt (and often when we have a heightened perception of their hurt), we will do near anything to fix it.

The problem with our tendency to freak out with our kids (or over our kids) is that it usually only gives them greater cause for worry. Just like those fawns follow their frantic mom’s lead, our children often see us panic or in distress and they follow, increasing their emotional instability. What do small children do after they fall? Before they evaluate their bloody knee they search their mother’s face to see whether or not they’re ok.

God gave us that inner alarm for a reason. There will be opportunities for us to fix what is bruised or broken, but contrary to our “fix it” impulses, God has a better use for our sensitivity. When our tail is instinctively raised at impending danger or present disaster, we’re called to flee toward Him rather than simply fix or flee our circumstances.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. Psalm 42:1

Consider the deer mentioned in this first verse of Psalm 42. Here is a creature in retreat whose desperation is rooted in the supply before her, not what she’s been fleeing. She pants, not from fear, but because she’s figuratively dying of thirst. The stream meets her longings.

A man who’d traveled to Israel once wrote about wanting to capture a good picture of a hart, the breed of deer mentioned in Psalm 42. Every time he would spot a herd, they were running, alarmed at the sight of the tourist jeep or bus that had approached them. It was only at a stream that he found a deer close enough to capture. That deer was at rest, unfrightened by danger.

Who we run to holds more significance than what we’re running from.

Our children are following our lead.



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I used to ask my friends to punch my dad's forearm. They'd look at me strange, and so did my dad. But I insisted.

His forearm has always been as hard as a rock, probably from almost fifty years of folding chipboard and carrying heavy grill (as well as carrying many other heavy, valuable and tedious things).

I could've argued with confidence those days that my dad was the strongest person alive. I'd still argue it today, but my reasons for believing so have slightly changed. I haven't punched him lately. No matter. His character is a perfect display of what it truly means to have strength.

A friend posed this question a few days ago.

How would you define strength?

I couldn't answer her immediately, but the question has swirled around in my head because it's an important thing to ponder. It got me to thinking about my dad and my Heavenly Father and how the latter has used the first to teach me about being strong.

So here goes.

Strength is having the tenacity to stick with something important when you likely feel it's not working out. It might be praying for a lost loved one or reminding your children one thousand times to put their folded clothes up. Like the men who carried their paralyzed friend through a crowd and then climbed (with him and his mat in tow) onto a roof to get him to Jesus, strength means staying faithful. It doesn't give up.

Contrarily, Strength is surrender. It's stepping back to allow your grown son make his own decisions, knowing that his well-being depends more on his needing you less and needing God more. Strength apologizes when necessary and doesn't hold a grudge.

Strength must be ready. It has a spontaneous quality to it. (There's not always time for a warm up.) Strength doesn't pop off or express road rage. When someone is discouraged, strength is prepared. It has a ready reason for the hope it has when talking with a friend who's worried about her friendless son or her rebellious daughter.

Likewise, strength is loud when another is in need of defense. Strength invites the pariah to dinner. It speaks up when a conversation is turning unkind. Strength is quiet when it knows words aren't necessary or edifying. It doesn't babble or gossip. Strength is both bridled and unbridled; unselfish and kind.

Someone who's strong isn't easily swayed by trends, manipulation or impulses. Their yeses are yes and their no's are no. They refrain from doing what they shouldn't and are faithful to do what they should. Strength isn't afraid to graciously disagree with the number one bestseller self-help book, she doesn't change her mind on what her daughter is allowed to wear just because her daughter said all her friends' moms don't care, and she doesn't go to Target just because she's feeling bored or down in the dumps. (Or she really could need have needed to go discover that cute mini cactus in the dollar aisle.)

Strength is leading, but it's more serving and following. It's not so much, making the rules, as it is becoming familiar with (and longing for) God's plan above your own.

Strength isn't meant to be stored up but rather

  • Renewed
  • Loaned
  • or borrowed
  • And then renewed again

Strength is most beautifully displayed when it's lent to those suffering severe circumstances (when we cry with one who's broken, help someone recover a loss, or find their way.) Strength is knowing where our re-filling comes from when we're on empty. Strength knows its source and how to be a resource.

Consistent, "Can I give a witness" (kind of strength) is unattainable in and of ourselves. Thank goodness for that ever-present help we find in God, our strength.