Real Friends Give You a Shofar for Your 50th Birthday!

Last night, my funny, sweet, smart, Sunday school class surprised me with a birthday party. Oh it is hard to utter, but I will be 50 on June 24th.

Each Sunday, we gather to dig out biblical truths and try to wrap our minds around how we get to live it out the following week. There is a lot (I mean a LOT) of laughter, tears at times, and always gut-honest conversations about our successes and struggles as we strive “2BLike Him” (our class name).

Trumpet in Hebrew is shofar (or showphar). It was blown to usher in the Year of Jubilee!

Of course they gave me the things every 50 year old needs…antacids, muscle pain reliever, gas reliever, false teeth (thanks Jo Lynn). But they also gave me something they knew would grab my heart – a shofar.

Each January I pick my “one word” to keep me focused. This year I chose “jubilee” because it is rich in meaning, especially as I was headed toward my fiftieth year. You can read an in-depth explanation of the biblical meaning of jubilee here: Year of Jubilee.

In short, in Old Testament times, God instructed the Children of Israel to set aside every 50th year as the Year of Jubilee. All kinds of great things happened in this 50th year…slaves were freed, sold land was returned or leased to the original owners for fair prices, and it provided a rhythm of rest for the land and people.

8-12 “Count off seven Sabbaths of years—seven times seven years: Seven Sabbaths of years adds up to forty-nine years. Then sound loud blasts on the ram’s horn on the tenth day of the seventh month, the Day of Atonement. Sound the ram’s horn all over the land. Sanctify the fiftieth year; make it a holy year. Proclaim freedom all over the land to everyone who lives in it—a Jubilee for you: Each person will go back to his family’s property and reunite with his extended family. The fiftieth year is your Jubilee year…Lev. 25 (MSG)

Shofar is the original word for trumpet…basically a ram’s horn. The Children of Israel ushered in the Year of Jubilee, the 50th year, with a blast of the shofar. What a way to celebrate!

If you hear a loud blast of a ram’s horn on June 24th, it will likely be originating from my back yard. I need to be set free from some things. I need a sabbath from strongholds.

I get it…Jubilee is definitively a Jewish thing. But I am so thankful that Jesus provided our ultimate year of Jubilee the day we surrendered our sin debt to Him. The debt on our account was canceled, but it was transferred to Jesus’ account on the cross…“by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Col. 2:14

With all of this in my heart and my head, I am not dreading my birthday. I am looking forward to starting this new year of life with my husband of 30 years and family/friends whom I dearly love.

Happy Jubilee!

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I Am for Peace

I am for peace…

Not in the sappy “Miss America” world peace kind of way…but for true, abiding, Jesus-giving peace. (No offense to any past, present, or future Miss America intended.)

The news headlines yesterday were very disturbing…Shooting in VA at the Republican Congressional baseball practice.

The hatred fueling the shooting has me remarkably puzzled. I wonder how politics could fuel the flames of hatred so hotly that it explodes into a torrent of gunfire on such an innocuous event.

And the hatred explosions burst in all directions…republican, democrat, independent…whatever! The outliers of any political party will and do have their “crazies”.

But when I reflect on some root causes that may have ignited the spark, I am brought back to very public figures who have exhibited inflammatory behaviors.

Suddenly it has become the Hollywood “in vogue” thing to not just bash, jab, and mimic the POTUS, but to spew hateful speech and misogynistic ideas toward the office. Should I name names? Madonna said she entertains the idea of blowing up the Whitehouse; Kathy Griffin (I can barely even type that name without gagging) with her picture of a decapitated Trump; the Julius Caesar play in NY that depicts the stabbing of a Trump-like Caesar.

Please do not think I am defending only President Trump…I am defending the office of the presidency. Trump has done some pretty indefensible things himself.

However, no sitting president deserves that kind of bashing. Furthermore, it insights the fringes of political parties, the outliers, to justify their violent acts.

Even though these public crass displays of disrespect are deplorable, the actual ammo for it is hatred – pure and simple.

I still remember how exhausting social media was before and after the election due to all of the hateful comments on all sides being launched like hand grenades. FaceBook and Twitter were no longer enjoyable. Can we all drop our political grenades? Colossians 4:6 urges us to “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

Psalm 120 is attributed to David – admittedly a man of war. However, his heart’s desire was peace even though he lived among a people prone to hate peace…

 Too long has my soul had its dwelling
With those who hate peace.
I am for peace, but when I speak,
They are for war. Psalm 120:6-7

Yes David, I am for peace too! But Jesus is our only true source of peace (For He Himself is our peace…Eph. 2:14).  He is the only One who can douse the flames of hatred and restore peace. My prayer is that my behavior and speech is always filled with grace and light and be seasoned with the salt of Jesus.

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The 7 Seals – Honor Thy Mother

How do you even begin to describe a woman who bore seven children? Tired – yep – that would probably be a good place to start.

VaVoom – Mom posing in her bathing suit!

First her name: Shirley Jean Seals. She is a fiesty 5’3″ diabetic who loves her cappuccinos, her pastries, her smokes, and her dog – Bobbi – with an “i”.  And don’t mess with any of her seven kids.

Shirley Jean can mix a drink (former bartender), drive a pulpwood truck with a stick shift, sew a dress in no time flat, and handle a multitude of kids. Our favorite meals that could feed an army of nine people (plus whatever friends might show up) included tacos, chili, spaghetti, goulash, and potato soup.

This is how we emerged from Shirley Jean – Rick, Mike, Carrie, Kevin, Shelly (me), Doug, and Kelli. We were pretty evenly spaced apart by two years.

I surveyed a few of my siblings to see what their favorite Shirley Jean memory or story is. Here is a little sampling:

  • Kelli remembers Mom checking her out of kindergarten every Monday to go eat

    Mom and me on a road trip. Try not to let the smoking hot halter top obscure the Buick we are sitting on.

    at Pizza Hut. What? I only got to do that once or twice!

  • Carrie recalls a memory while living in what we referred to as the “watermelon stand” house – literally a watermelon stand Dad converted into our house. Every Friday when the paychecks came in, Mom and Carrie would cross the Mississippi River bridge into Burlington, IA and hit the McDonalds and get supper for the family. It was free-for-all Friday and everyone got exactly what they wanted!
  • Many nights before Mom headed off to work, I would make a tissue paper (ok toilet paper) flower for her hair. She would tease up that beautiful black hair and pin it in. I thought it looked great – not sure it made it through the night though!

Life threw some hard twists at this little lady. She was raised with 15 children herself under the authority of a father who was quite harsh. It is not cheap raising seven kids, so she was always a hard working mom, inside and outside the home. Two of her sons have passed on into eternity, easily the most heart-wrenching experience of her life.

But guess what? Shirley Jean is still standing – scarred, hurt, understandably depressed at times – but still standing. “Still standing” is a testament to perseverance. When life has thrown hurt at you, sometimes persevering is about all you can do.

But I am so thankful that in our scarred, hurt, and depressing times, we can still hold onto hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

Mom, I could buy you any number of things for Mother’s Day, but this gift of hope is better than anything wrapped in floral paper. It is better than any corsage or bouquet of flowers. It is better because it comes from the true source of our joy – Jesus.

Thanks for always being the person who thought her kids were the BEST.  There had to be days when you didn’t want to come home – but you always did and I am thankful for that. Thanks for not giving up on the seven little wild Seals kids who made you proud, broke your heart, and wore you out! Love you!

Recipient of Grace

It is Good Friday…and one of the first things I heard this morning was a man on the Today Show saying, “It is a very humbling experience to be the recipient of such grace from strangers.”

Now his statement had nothing to do with Jesus, Good Friday, or Easter. He was talking about something totally unrelated. But his statement went straight to my heart and hot tears ran down my cheeks.

On Good Friday, anyone who has received Jesus as their personal Savior, received a portion of immeasurable grace. The grace of God was poured out on us when we didn’t deserve it, when we didn’t ask for it, and when we didn’t expect it.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Ephesians 4:7

As humans, we may have received a bit of grace from another person.Whenever we have been forgiven by a person whom we truly wronged, we have tasted a bit of grace from another imperfect person. Just when we feel our knees may buckle under the weight of the wrong we have done, someone extends beautiful grace to us.

The extension of grace brings out all the feels…thankfulness, joy, relief, but mostly, I feel humbled. Yes humbled…because I deserved whatever consequences I had earned. But when someone choses to extend grace, it utterly changes the situation.

This week, I have been struggling under the weight of some mistakes I have made. I was living in dread of the consequences. But instead, I was the recipient of grace from some amazing people in my life. Instead of getting raked over the coals, I got encouragement and support. Maybe that is why the statement on the Today Show caught my attention this morning.  I was living in the sunshine of grace.

Experiencing grace from another imperfect human being is powerful. However, Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God’s grace. He knows how rebellious we have been, He knows the sin we have committed…but He still chose to pour out grace upon grace to us. And not just a little grace…abundant grace.

and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. I Timothy 1:14

For perfectly holy God to send His perfectly holy son to demonstrate true grace brings me humbly to my knees. And on this Good Friday, I am reminded how blessed I am to be a recipient of such amazing grace.

And if you have never experienced such amazing grace…we should talk! Here is a link to get you started: Find Peace With God. 

When You’re Not the Girl with the Dramatic Testimony

Her story took my breath away.

The crowd listened intently as she shared how God saved her out of a life of prostitution and drug abuse. She found Jesus in the most unlikely circumstances! The whole place was swept away in the emotion of her story.

In my head, I wondered if I could ever have such a close, intimate relationship with God without experiencing such a trial. When I compare my innocuous story to the dramatic details of others’ testimonies, it makes me doubt that my walk with Christ is as “significant”.

I was saved at age 12, never had a drug problem, have been married to a great man for 30 years, my two kids are serving Jesus faithfully, and I am in great health. No particularly earth-shattering drama – nor do I want that. But in Christian life, we sometimes glorify the dramatic testimonies over the muted, when in fact, they are both amazing works of God’s grace.

Testimonies are powerful vehicles to point people to Jesus.

But we need to check our motives as we share. If the focus is completely on our autobiographical story – a story about us – we need to change the focus. Make sure our testimonies are all about Jesus – not about ourselves.

The woman at the well in John 4 absolutely had a dramatic testimony.  After encountering Jesus, she urged people to “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” She did not lure the crowd in with the sordid details of her five marriages or her live in boyfriend. Her focus was strictly on letting people know she had met the great I Am – and He had forever changed her life.

And if you are a girl like me, without any kind of dramatic life story, do not underestimate what Christ has done in your life. He shed the same blood, went through the same pain, and gave His life for you just as He did for anyone else. Remember the woman at the well and the legalistic Pharisees needed Jesus equally.

If you are not that person with a dramatic testimony,

thank God you do not struggle with the long term consequences of sin such as battling addiction cravings or being haunted by your promiscuous past. Be overjoyed that you have not experienced the pain of divorce or an abortion. Be grateful for what God has saved you from, but don’t be prideful in it either. It is God’s grace working in us, not our own righteousness for sure.

One of God’s Hebrew names is Jehovah Rapha (God our Healer). Look at how it was used in context to the Children of Israel in the wilderness: God said, “If you listen, listen obediently to how God tells you to live in his presence, obeying his commandments and keeping all his laws, then I won’t strike you with all the diseases that I inflicted on the Egyptians; I am God your healer.” Ex. 15:26 (MSG). 

That verse clearly tells us God withheld some diseases for those who are obedient to His commands. We have no idea of what we have been spared. So be grateful for your “innocuous” testimony because God has spared you a great deal of mental and physical pain!

If you are that  person with a dramatic testimony,

listen to the Holy Spirit carefully. He will direct you as to how much and when to share it. Oh friends, your story has power, but don’t let the seduction of the making the story all about you take over. We can make our past circumstances our idols if we solely focus on them.

It’s not the testimony that is amazing – it’s the GRACE!

 

 

 

 

Written in Red



“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

How in the world do you unpack the most well known, most loved verses in the whole Bible?  John 3:16 is the gospel in it’s simplest form.

If the whole of scripture were to some how disappear except for this one beloved verse, there is enough contained in it to lead “whosoever” to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

Writers, preachers, and speakers alike often neglect this verse because it has become common and overused. Anybody remember the guy that wore the rainbow wig and John 3:16 t-shirt at major sporting events in the 70’s and 80’s?

More recently Tim Tebow wore eye black with John 3:16 inscribed in it during the 2009 BCS championship game. Google got millions of hits when fans googled the reference.  Amazingly, 3 years to date later when Tebow played in his first NFL game, ESPN reported Tebow threw for 316 yards and averaged 31.6 yards per completion!

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Dark Night of the Soul

I’ve often heard it called the dark night of the soul – a season of life where God seems to fall silent and uncaring. 

We really don’t like to talk about it because it sounds sacrilegious. So instead of dealing with the darkness, we stuff the reality of our walk through the dark night until we become numb. How do we handle the feeling that God is being cruel?

Have you been there my friend? Are you there at this very moment? Do you feel your heart’s cry for deliverance has stopped at the ceiling? Or maybe you have stepped outside and screamed at the top of your lungs, but your cry dissipates into thin air without reaching the ear of God?

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Record the Vision

Did 2016 leave you scarred and battered? A full revolution around the sun can leave us dizzied and confused.

But there is something exciting about sitting on the edge of one year, ready to leap into a fresh new one. We are filled with hope that this time, our trip around the sun will be better than the last.

I love to use this time of year to reflect and do some long range planning. This is the second year I have used Lara Casey’s Powersheets to launch a new year. It is a great tool to help keep me on track and motivated toward my goals.

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It’s Your Turn

Many people have written about waiting on God.

And honestly, I am a little tired of hearing about it. Umm, did I say that out loud? Before you click away from this page, let me explain.

We bemoan how difficult it is to wait on God and ask “How long O Lord?”  When we talk to people about our wait, we remind them how we shouldn’t get ahead of God and give examples like Sarah’s plan with Hagar to get a son. No, we mustn’t get ahead of God lest we get the same kind of result.

Yep – been there, done that.

But what if we changed our paradigm?

Could it be, at times, God is waiting on us to take our turn? Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we must “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him” (Ps. 37:7). However, we might get stuck in the waiting if we are not truly listening to God.

Yes patience is a virtue, but stepping out in faith into what God has promised is too.  I think we often use “God has me waiting” as a way of not taking our turn.

If you read my blog regularly, you know I never make claims without backing them up with scripture – so here we go. Get your Bible and go to Joshua 18. The book of Joshua is all about taking possession of the promised land. In chapter 18, we see seven tribes who had still not possessed their inheritance. 

This scripture leaped off the page and into my heart!

So Joshua said to the sons of Israel, “How long will you put off entering to take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?” Joshua 18:3

Boom – there it is! HOW LONG? God was waiting on them to take their turn. And I wonder if this happens to us  more often then we realize.

If you feel like you are in the “waiting zone”, take a small step of faith toward the promises of God. In Joshua 18, their step of faith was to send three men from each tribe to go survey the land and write down a description of their inheritance. It was their turn!

I am not advocating that you pull a “Sarah” and suggest to your husband he have a baby with a handmaid because you are tired of waiting. That is foolishness. But what if Sarah had just prepared the baby’s nursery? What if she had just started taking prenatal vitamins? Steps of faith are steps of faith – big or small – they get you closer to the promised land.

Here is the truth about God’s promises…

“Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” Joshua 21:45

BUT…the children of Israel had to “take possession” of the land and drive out any enemies that were in their way. Yep, they had to take their turn.

If God is giving us a turn to step step out on faith, why aren’t we taking it? Could it be the pain of failure? Well, truth is we might fail and it might be painful. But remember, it is not necessarily the result of taking our turn that pleases God – it is the act of faith.

Without faith it is impossible to please God…Hebrews 11:6

God does require us, at times, to take our turn. One of the themes of Joshua’s book is “be strong and courageous”. Yes, it takes strength and courage to step across the threshold of the promised land. Yes, it takes strength and courage to take our turn and attempt the impossible.

We will suffer pain either way. If we take our turn in faith, we experience pain from growth, change, and the fear of the unknown. However, the worse pain is that of inaction, not trying, and settling. Choose your pain friends.

When we do take our turn, God patiently and graciously meets us at the border.

God may be giving you a turn. Will you take it? Are you waiting on God or is He waiting on you?

Let this new year be the year you take possession of all God has for you!

When Love Came Down

“When Love Came Down”. Check out Tricia Robinson Art at www.triciarobinsonart.com

The love of God came down on the day Jesus was born. This beautiful expression of God’s love for each of us was not a last minute decision.

As soon as Satan struck with the incurable wound of sin in the garden, God provided a remedy. God knew His love would be sent down in His son, Jesus.

I’ve had this head knowledge for a long time, but this Christmas, it became much more real in my heart.

Honestly, Bible study had become a bit like studying a text book rather than looking into the Living Word. In January, I earnestly started looking for and creating graphics that could express the correct interpretation of scripture AND it’s beauty.

This search led me into the “Bible journaling” world where scripture is turned into illustrations. Not being very “artsy”, I needed a lot of inspiration and practice. My illustrations are not perfect, but that is not point. The point is to “let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” (Colossians 3:16). If you want some inspiration, check out Blessings By Me, by Mary Esther Elam.

As I clumsily try to illustrate biblical truths, the Word is becoming more real and is making it’s home in my heart, which is what dwell really means.  I think that is why the painting, When Love Came Down, from Tricia Robinson, has been so dear to me this Christmas season. I actually won an original painting in a FB contest she had. Isn’t God sweet to give me a little wink to affirm my meager illustrating efforts?

God told us in Deuteronomy 6 (and repeated by Jesus in Matthew 22:37) to love the LORD God with ALL your heart, soul, and mind. By using a combination of inductive study and Bible journaling, I am studying God’s Word with my WHOLE mind. And the bonus is this – it has truly brought my heart and soul back into the beauty of the Bible, not just the facts.

During the Advent season (the four weeks leading up to Christmas), I challenged myself to journal/illustrate each day. This practice has kept me focused on the deep meaning of Christmas and I realized how each and every prophecy of His life has been fulfilled. 

Now we are in a second season of Advent as we anticipate the second coming of Christ. This advent will not begin in a lowly manger, but rather in the clouds of glory. Jesus will not be a sweet baby, but will be crowned King of Kings with honor and glory. There will not be any doubt about His true claim to the throne, for every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord of Lords. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

We all so busily prepare for the events of Christmas. We fill our time with baking, buying and wrapping gifts, and decorating. But have you prepared your heart, first of all, by accepting Jesus for who He is and what He has done to save your soul? If so, have you prepared your heart and mind for His next advent?

This video is a compilation of my Advent Bible Journaling. I pray I have strung the images and scriptures together in such a way as to tell the whole story. When Love Came Down all those years ago, it was a game changer for all of us!

Merry Christmas – may love come down in your heart and home today.