writing for children

Some “Methodist” Ponderings —

Growing up, my family attended a small Methodist church. We went to church just about any time the doors were open.

 

On Wednesday nights, we attended Bible study/prayer meeting. During those meetings, Mr. Luke Diggs (my grandma’s first cousin) was one of the faithful folks who prayed… and prayed… and prayed. I remember thinking he must have been praying for half an hour, when really it was probably only a few minutes. I thought he was never going to stop. A few times, I even asked God to please let him finish praying so I didn’t fall asleep and get in trouble.

But back then, I didn’t realize the depth and importance of what he was doing.

Mr. Luke wasn’t talking to hear himself talk — he was petitioning God on behalf of our church family and our community. His prayers were fervent and from the depths of his soul. They were not for show. They were not offered for man’s praise. They were offered up to the God of the universe, praising God and asking for His blessing and help. There was something powerful about His prayers – and it had nothing to do with the ebb and flow of his words. It had nothing to do with the fact that he could have given any pastor a run for his money.  Rather, the power in his prayers had everything to do with his faith and relationship with the Lord. God’s Holy Spirit flowed through Mr. Luke’s words and his actions.

Then there were Sundays that we sat with our grandma (May Belle Diggs Lassiter). She always had some chewing gum in her purse and taught me and my sister (and cousins!) how to make the little flowers out of the foil wrappers. She sang in her sweet, beautiful voice and pointed to the words so we could sing along and learn to read in time. She was a peacekeeper and a peacemaker. And when we went to her house to eat, she cooked for an army – even if there were only a few more mouths to feed.

There was something soothing about being in her presence. Yes, she was an awesome cook, had the gift of hospitality, and had a precious, infectious laugh. But her soothing, peaceful spirit wasn’t rooted in those things. Nope. It was a direct result of her faith and relationship with the Lord. God’s Spirit flowed through my grandma’s words and actions. God’s love and peace flowed through who she was and what she did.

Even though both of these wonderful folks were members of the Methodist church for most (if not all) of their lives, I can declare with confidence that Methodism didn’t define who my Grandma was and it didn’t define Mr. Luke.

Instead —

the love of Jesus defined them!

And in turn, they shared that same love with those around them, acting as arrows by pointing others to Him.

There are many other folks that I could name who helped me grow in my faith (including my own parents!). I want my children to have memories like that and be able to point to certain folks in their lives and have similar faith building stories. I want them to know who they are in CHRIST. I want them to know that they are not defined by the denomination they happen to be attached to, but rather are defined by the Love of their Creator – for they are created in His image and filled with His Spirit.

I want them to know that the power in their lives has nothing to do with their job position, money, ability to lead, sing, follow, or any other earthly ability. Rather, it has everything to do with GOD’s LOVE FOR THEM. His power, flowing through them, gives them the ability to do things they could never imagine possible.

As I look back on my upbringing, I am glad that I was given a firm foundation. I was taught to keep the focus on the One Who was, Who is, And Who forever will be — Jesus. I hope that one day, I can be a light to others in the same way my grandma and Mr. Luke were for me.

As for the Methodist church? I don’t know where it is heading or what will happen in the coming years. I don’t know if I will remain a Methodist or join another denomination — but I don’t have to know. Why? Because, like the folks I was blessed with growing up, my denomination does not define me… Jesus does. The One who made me — the One who keeps me rooted in His peace — The One Who loves me. Always.

And I say with confidence —

God is good. All the time.

And all the time – God is good.

Can I get an Amen?  

Ephesians 6: 7-14

Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.

 

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writing for children

Happy Resurrection Day

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb… — Luke 24:1

 

The women arrived with the expectation that the giant stone in front of the tomb would still be in place. When they arrived, it had rolled out of the way.

But if it had not been moved, how did they plan to move it?

I asked my daughters what they thought. They said, “There were guards there. They would have asked them to help.”

I considered that – but I don’t think it is a plausible answer. These were Roman guards — guards who owed nothing to the Jewish women. Even if the women had dared to speak to them, (which I don’t think would have happened), would the Roman guards have agreed to help the women? I don’t think so. They were under no obligation to do so.

The women were under the assumption that Jesus was still DEAD. They weren’t coming expecting the stone to be moved OR for Jesus to have risen. They arrived with anointing oil for his body.

So why did they come without backup help? How did they expect to move the stone? I’ve been praying and asking God to make it clear. I’m sure there are many reasons. But here’s what I’m leaning toward right now, the answer that I hear in my heart…

Even though they knew Jesus was dead — I believe that the women came with EXPECTATIONS.

The truth is, Jesus was dead and they had no way to move the stone.

BUT — they came anyway. 

There was NO plausible way they would be able to anoint Jesus’ body without divine intervention — no way to move the stone on their own and no help to do so —

and they came anyway. They came expecting God to DO SOMETHING to make that happen.

THEY CAME EXPECTING. 

 

Remember when Lazarus died? Mary and Martha were furious and hurt and full of all other sorts of emotions b/c Jesus hadn’t arrived in time like they’d expected Him to do. They had expected Him to come back and heal their brother before he died from the sickness. And when Jesus didn’t, they were distraught. They wept and Jesus wept with them. BUT THEN… when it seemed that all hope was lost, they watched as Jesus raised their brother from the dead.

But this time, it was Jesus in the tomb! Who was going to raise Him from the dead?

They didn’t know —

And they came anyway. They came…

EXPECTING!  

         Provers 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. *

So what about us? What “stones” in our lives need to be moved to allow us to see the miracle of Jesus’ death-defeating power? His resurrection power? His grace, mercy, and truth? When we ask God to do something, is our faith in line with our requests?

Like the women at the tomb — do we come to Jesus EXPECTING Him to do something?

That’s what faith is. It is the HOPE in things not seen… and EXPECTATION that God will do what God does… He saves. He revives. He makes all things new. He makes a WAY when there is not way. He responds to our pain and hurt in compassion and with truth. HE LOVES.

The empty tomb means that we ALWAYS have help in time of need. The one who raised Lazarus from the dead holds the power over sin and death — and moves whatever needs to be moved.

When we shift our expectations and put our focus on Jesus– God’s plan is revealed and no stone can stand in His way. NONE.

What stones are in your way today? God can and will shake what needs to be moved and shaken…

Come expecting! 

 

 

 

 

writing for children

Are Online Arguments Fruitful?

I am a person full of opinions. Talk to me privately and I’m sure you’ll hear them. Ask any of my friends…. they will confirm this fact.  You can probably scroll through this blog and see many, many examples, too. 

cropped-whateverwednesday11.jpgAnd up until a year or so ago, I tended to display my political opinions on Facebook regularly. I did not hesitate to engage in online discussions. I vented and shared my very strong thoughts on almost everything. It felt like high noon at the “FB Corral” every week.

 

But I soon realized that my exuberant emotions tended to hinder my ability to have a civil discussion. I could feel my blood pressure rising every time I saw certain posts and engaged in arguments with those I disagreed with. The “discussions” that I’d hoped might change someone’s mind became heated in a such a way that it only ushered in more dissension.

 

The Lord, in His compassion, mercy, and grace, showed me that I was not speaking in love to the folks I disagreed with… quite the opposite. Instead of desiring to bridge a gap, I wanted to thump some folks upside the head.

 

And NO… I don’t remember a single time that Jesus thumped someone upside the head. Granted, he DID turn over the money-changers tables in the temple, but he still loved them and laid down his life for them… and me. His whole ministry was soaked in the leading of the Holy Spirit and the love of the Father toward His children. But my conversations were more about proving someone wrong than loving them.

 

I am called to stand up for those who are being shoved down and unable to stand for themselves. And I will continue to do that as long as the Lord allows me to do so.  The hard part? I am also called to love those who are doing the “shoving”.  It is much easier to show my love to those who are being hurt and at a disadvantage. It is harder to show love to the ones who are doing the harming. The most recent headlines are a perfect example of that. If you don’t know which one I’m talking about, it’s okay. You can pick just about any headline… it will do.

 

So if you don’t see me posting something on FB about the latest news headlines, it’s not because I don’t care. It’s because I have chosen to intentionally refrain from those online discussions and instead discuss them in-person. Those conversations can get heated, too. But having a real live person in front of me makes it harder to spew whatever I want to say. It reminds me that I am called to love others as I have been loved. I am called to show compassion… even if another person is not.

As a follower of Christ, I am called to follow His example. I fail miserably many days. But staying out of (most) online arguments has helped keep me from forging more gaps in relationships. I still struggle with saying the right things while talking to folks “in person”… but at least they can see and hear the inflection in my voice and hopefully know my heart — even when I mess up.

How about you? Do you engage online? Is it fruitful for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  –Colossians 4:5-6 New International Version (NIV)

 

writing for children

What Do We Want?

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.
Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.
One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

Today, as I pondered our current political climate and rhetoric, I decided to look up verses on Hope. One of the verses that popped up was John 5:6, “Do you want to get well?”

That’s the question for our nation, isn’t it?

DO WE WANT TO GET WELL?

As a nation, we have been in a “condition” for a long time. We are are lame, blind, and paralyzed by fear and sin. We hate those that disagree with us. We complain and shout about the sins others, but refuse to take responsibility for our own failings and hate infused actions. We disregard human life, the yet unborn and the fully living, treating our fellow human as disposable, less than, and as property to be bought and sold.

No one but Jesus could help the man in John 5 — and the same is true for our country. We look to politicians to “save” us from the mess we have created for ourselves, when we need to repent and seek the face of God.

He alone can save, yet as a nation, we refuse to call on the one who raises the dead – and instead settle into tombs of our own design, becoming comfortable wrapped in the stench of death.

What then, shall we do?

Christians have been given the task of loving as Christ loves, but we have chosen to love our own agendas more than the command that Jesus gave us.  We point fingers. We yell. We shout. We disregard the example of Christ in our quest to “convince” others that we love God. Jesus is clear —

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” — John 13: 34-35

We, as a nation, need to repent, seek God’s face, His forgiveness, His guidance, His vision and love for His creation… all of His creation.

We must refuse to allow fear and anger to replace Faith.

We must refuse to allow fear and anger to replace Hope.

We must refuse to allow fear and anger to replace Love.

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. T
 Jesus didn’t stir the water. He didn’t suggest the man get up. He asked him a question… then gave a command — GET UP AND WALK.
The message is the same for us. We must stop waiting for the “stirring of the water”, because too often we are simply watching as others “stir the pot” and we waste time and resources on dead end promises made by mere men.
Instead, we must reply to Jesus’ question. “Do we want to get well?” If so, then we must do as Jesus commanded —
GET UP AND WALK.
I John 2: 3-6 says it all…

“This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” yet doesn’t keep His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected.[a] This is how we know we are in Him: The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked.”

Now that is something to ponder.

poetry · weekend poetry · writing for children

Almost-Saturday in Verse

It’s halfway between Saturdays… so this is either really late or really early. Either way, I hope this poem blesses you, encourages you and challenges you. So here it is…

OUTSIDE THE LINES

by Donna Earnhardt

Let’s paint the world outside the lines

deep hues of joy and peace —

Compassionate tones, to break down walls…

and prayers for wars to cease.

Let’s paint the world outside the lines

let mercy flood this place.

Coat it in faith, lather in hope,

bathed in His scandalous grace.

Let’s love our neighbor as ourselves

As God’s command designs —

Let’s make this world a better place…

And paint outside the lines .

writing for children

Breaking Chains

When I was pregnant with my first child, I experienced a panic attack for the first time ever. At the time, I didn’t know what it was. I felt like I was going to die… yet I could breathe as normally as I am now. It was as if I was being smothered by pure fear. I felt chained! I wasn’t… but that’s how it felt.

I had people praying for me (mainly my mama!) and came through the first attack, thinking it would be the only one. I did have a few more during that first pregnancy, and they disappeared after her birth. But they returned during my second and third pregnancies. I was so thankful not to have many attacks during those times, but I had enough to learn something very intimately…

There is power in the name of Jesus.

During those nights, when I woke up in a sweat and feeling like the room was going to close in on me, I walked out of the house and stood in the fresh air… unable to utter anything but the name of Jesus. Over and over again I whispered his name into the dark of night. And every time — the fear that had been shaking me to the core disappeared. EVERY TIME. It washed over me like the waves on the shore, destroying what had paralyzed me.

I didn’t have a rehearsed prayer. I didn’t have a well-thought out rebuttal to the faceless-fear that gripped me. But I didn’t have to. In the midst of the attack on my mind, emotions and my body…. I whispered the name above all names. Jesus… Jesus… Jesus. Over and over and over again.

I shouldn’t have been surprised — but I was. Just speaking His name brought peace to my heart and drove away the darkness. I am still in awe.

It’s been many moons since I’ve had that type of fear grip me. But there have been many more occasions that I’ve lifted the name of Jesus as my only prayer. His name is sometimes the only word that crosses my lips — and His name is more than sufficient! Just as it says in Romans 8:26, “In the same way, the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, since we do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.”

I know that there is power in the name of Jesus… a power I can’t comprehend, no matter how I try. It can’t be explained. I can only share my experience in hopes that it encourages someone in some way, to reach out to Jesus knowing that He will bring hope to the midst of despair and peace in the midst of fear.

And this song… this song sums up my post. 🙂

 

 

writing for children

In a Stable…

While sitting at church this morning, part of the scripture jumped out at me and really held on. The angel told Mary — “Fear not… for you have found favor with God.”

I know the angel was talking to Mary, but the scripture tells us that if we are in Christ, we too have found favor with God. Not because of our good deeds, but rather because of His grace.

And as I pondered this, another verse popped in my mind: “… He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

When paired with the Christmas story, what I wrote in my journal was this: What God has birthed in you (and in me)… He will bring to fruition.

It doesn’t matter what your situation — God is not limited by the walls around you. He cannot be hidden by the dark night of depression, the dark night of doubt or the dark night of loneliness and fear — instead…the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it!

That also means there’s no hiding from Him, either.

Sometimes, because of fear, we can try to hide in a “stable” of our own making. But other times, we feel pushed away from everyone and mangereverything — into a “stable” that we don’t want to be in.

But we worship Jesus, who was born in a stable – an actual stable. He was born amid the itchy hay, the barn animals and yes… most likely the smell of manure. But… the glory of God was not minimized because of the situation he was born into. Rather, God’s nature was revealed even more.

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man – then laid down his life for us… and picked it up again. And all of this was done because God so loved the world…

NOTHING can separate us from a love like that.
Not fear.
Not darkness.
Not feelings of loneliness or depression.

So no matter what “stable” you find yourself in right now…

Fear Not.
What God has started in you… He will finish.
HE created you.
He loves you.
He has a plan for your life.
He knows all about your situation…
and He has not left you.
And because of Jesus’ sacrifice, His grace, His covering…
you have found favor with God.

Fear Not!

‪#‎Christmas‬ ‪#‎mangertotheCross‬ ‪#‎Emmanuel‬