Live forward

If today you hear His voice, live forward

If you have been living backward, move forward

If you are expecting things to change while doing the same, force forward

If you are on that wheel and can’t get off, jump forward

If you are praying with no result, think forward

If you are stuck right where you’re at, lean forward

If things are not going as you planned, breathe forward

If you have nobody to console you, be forward

If you are on the borderline of decision, leap forward

If you are standing in a wide open space, build forward

If you are comfortable right where you are, leave forward

If you subscribe to the theory that life sucks and then you die, break in forward

If you are living in the land of indecision, creep forward

If you are all alone, embrace forward

If you have nowhere to go, make forward

If you have not chosen Him, step forward

If your heart is ranting and pacing, walk forward

If you have nowhere else to go, find forward

Whatever you do, don’t go back…. go forward

For the God I love

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My son Collin, a gifted student in the 2nd grade, won the county-wide haiku contest, beating out all students in the county up to 5th grade. Collin has been diagnosed with ADHD, a daily struggle for him. We have overcome, by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony.

 

For the life that I was not supposed to live

For the days I spent doubting my existence

For the pain and suffering I could not explain

For the God I loved, and the God I let go of

For the many books I read about why bad things happen to good people

For the day I quit life, and the day I found out it again

For the God who just wouldn’t let me go

For the child he gave me who was never supposed to be

For the child that couldn’t walk, and lagged far behind

For the child that they told me would never be… anything

For the child they told me wouldn’t make it

For the one to which they said, give up… now

For all the days I chose to believe God over them

For the many nights I stayed up crying

For the days where I was slowly dying

For the pain to return in the form of my son

For the struggle I relived as if we were one

For the times God called me to move him

For the times I was afraid

For the face to the floor praying, and nights of waiting

For the child they told me would be, was  … nothing

For the life I believed he would have

For the Christ child to which he was bound

For the savior who he had

For the one that held me up

For the seven years of life

For the moment I’ve only dreamed of

For the disability that has been his greatest ability

For the thorn in his side that has been made strong in his weakness

For the God who loved me

For the God who made Him

For the God that just refuses to let go

For all of these things, He is, I AM

Free Christmas Gifts for You

branch-and-bird

I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. (John 15:5, The Message)

In the U.S., the Thanksgiving holiday is over. Yet my thankfulness exceeds a five-day weekend feast.

I am incredibly thankful for the peace-filled place I am in, joined with Christ who led me into my Father’s embrace. God’s arms are full of unconditional love, extravagant compassion and outrageous grace and mercy.

My mission as a follower of Jesus is

to bring others back to Him. It is central to our good news that God was in Christ making things right between Himself and the world. This means He does not hold their sins against them. But it also means He charges us to proclaim the message that heals and restores our broken relationships with God and each other. (2 Corinthians 5:19:20)

I subscribe to this mission and to Christ’s directive, from our Father, to love each other, love our neighbors, and yes, love our enemies. I believe this is the only effective and provable way to lead people to our faithful and loving God.

It is one way as a branch of Christ I live out my faith. It is one way I can reach out and offer my gifts, received through God’s Spirit, to you.

After an 8-year journey of writing, editing and re-writing, today I offer to you free, my Branches Devotional Workbooks.

All five. All free. All year.

As a favor, would you please reblog so this gift reaches as many brothers and sisters as possible?

Thank you.

To receive one or all, and read more detail about these devotionals, visit Branches Devotionals.

Is God in control?

This year, for those living in America, a new president was elected, it was not pretty. Both candidates drew such ire that many wished we could start from scratch, but such is not in the cards (or the law). Regardless of who was elected half the nation would be more than disappointed.

Since the results were announced there have been protests and riots. Cars set afire, businesses broken into, even a few law enforcement officers have been injured, all by people upset because their candidate did not win. This year it cannot even be contested in the courts as the margin was not close – 51 electoral votes separated the two candidates, far more than anyone anticipated, and in the opposite direction. Many of the protesters appear to be Christians, I say “appear” from their appeals to God, signs, and comments to the reporters, but are they? Or have they become so lost in the quagmire of their daily lives that they have lost sight of what is really important?

Jesus told us that one thing is important – to love the Father, and through that love to love each other, unquestioningly, and completely. To love even our enemy, and to show that love like a light on a stand, for all the world to see. He did not differentiate between ideological and physical enemies, but told us to love everyone because, as with the Samaritan, we do not know who is really a friend and who an enemy.

Jesus also did not get embroiled in the politics of the day, keeping his attention focused on what really matters in life – loving God, and helping others to see the light of God in everyone. We live in a unique time upon this earth and, if you are among the lucky, in a unique cultural environment. We have a voice in our leadership, that does not mean we always get the leadership we want, but we have the opportunity to help select that leadership. Also, our leaders are limited in what they can, and cannot, do. Sure, they can make life difficult for a while, but they cannot take your life away from you, and they can do nothing to harm your immortal soul. Jesus tells us not to worry about those who can do us harm, but to be concerned more about those who can harm our immortal soul.

What has happened here in America (to those whose candidate did not win) is not the end of life, not the end of your immortal soul. It is but a wink in the eye of time. It’s ramifications, passing. It’s effect on his plan, minor. Eight years ago the other half of the population decried the election, but the people survived, the nation survived. Four-eight years from now it will be the same. Our lives may, or may not, be disrupted, but our immortal souls will survive if we but love God and his children, no matter whom they may be.

God is in control.

His Embrace

father-holding-newborn

When we search His call, abide in love,

as we open all to God above

in our praise and prayer, we worship and declare

our God none to compare,

we feel His embrace, feel His embrace.

 

If we see neighbors through Father’s eyes

(neighbors – those heirs who we may despise),

it’s not “them” we see, but seeds of Diety

Who made us family.

We feel His embrace, feel His embrace.

 

And He loves without prerequisite

even though we doubt and won’t commit.

There’s plenty of space to make enough mistakes;

He gives mercy and grace.

We feel His embrace, feel His embrace.

 

His command: we are to love bar none

no matter what our likes, says Savior Son.

We have a choice, yet His will remains unmet;

in this will we regret?

We feel His embrace, feel His embrace.

 

Open hearts and heads to Life and Light;

His lavish grace will spread to all in sight.

As we pass kindness along, we become blessed,

have moved to His likeness.

We feel His embrace, feel His embrace.

 

 Luke 10:25-37

Cornerstone

chief-cornerstone

In giving honor today,

For all who are fallen –

In remembering who are our heroes

And who is our enemy –

 

In giving honor today,

To the One who fell;

The same One who has risen

And remembering who the real enemy is

 

Let us give thanks

To all those who embody Him

Who stood and stand tall

And transmit His light and grace

 

Those who are bold and courageous enough

To fight when fighting is appropriate

To be living sacrifices

To never hate and always love

 

To those who raise His standard

And rush in to be His hands and feet

Lay their bodies and hearts on the line

Thank you.

"Tribute in Light" memorial
“Tribute in Light” memorial

This is what the Almighty Lord says:

I am going to lay a rock in Zion,
a rock that has been tested,
a precious cornerstone,
a solid foundation.
Whoever believes in him need never be shaken.”
(Isaiah 28:16)

Then Jesus asked them, “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures?

‘The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing,
and it is wonderful to see.’ (Psalm 118:22-23)

I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit.” (Matthew 21:42-43)

 

Thank you to John Lewis at Not For Punks for the inspiration for this poem.

I will make you fishers of men

meadow-lake-fishing-campSunday I was fishing with some friends on a local lake. The weather was beautiful, though a bit hot (87F) at midday. While I enjoy going out with them on our annual trip, they are not the greatest of fishers. As I said, the weather was hot, and so was the water; rather than fishing out in the deeper areas where the water was cooler they kept picking the shallow areas, as a result we got nary a bite, much less actually bringing something in. But, fishing has always been just a reason for us to get out once a year and enjoy each others company while our non-fishing family members enjoy their company at the pavilion. Continue reading

Hawks and Doves

 

Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge
Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

I was awakened Saturday morning by a beautiful, red-tailed hawk on a tree branch inches away from my open bedroom window.

I heard the screeching and did not know what it was at first. A bird I did not recognize.

Creeping silently to the window, I raised my head to see this wondrous creature yowling into the morning sun. And then I looked down.

The diet of hawks is about 85% rodent, which is what I expected to see. What I saw horrified me; in the claws of this great raptor was another bird, dead and limp.

These are the birds that usually waken me with soft songs of love and grace. Harmonies of hope and new beginnings. Not today.

“We are under the sad delusion our mission is to be hawks for Christ”

As I watched the hawk attempt to both feast and hang onto her prey, I was further disturbed as she plucked the feathers one by one seeming to ravage her quarry as she laid waste to the spoils.

I wholly recognize this was the hawk’s way of getting to the meat it needed to survive.

Yet, an hour later, as I sat down to write my Sunday poem of praise and love, the Spirit would not allow me to do so. He took me back to the image of that hawk and opened my eyes to the way we treat each other.

red-tailed_hawkWe aim our hawk-eye, judgmental sights on one another. We dive down and capture our prey. We pick and pluck and extricate each lapse, defect, mistake. We are under the sad delusion our mission is to be hawks for Christ and hunt down every sinning miscreant; pluck out each feather of iniquity so we can gorge on the intestines of ostracism.

We want to savor the spoils of our “success,” beat them into submission and walk away as we pat our self-righteous, hawkish backs, engorged with a meal of “I did it for Jesus.”

~                      ~                      ~

Here in my little corner of the world, I continue to beat the quiet drum of the dove.

The drum that says we are to love; we are to be peacemakers. The drum that says we are to show the grace and mercy of God; the compassion of Jesus, the outstretched arms of our Father.

We have two missions, if we choose to accept them, which I wrote about in Back to Basics 3 and Part 4.

We are to be the light and love of the Lord so people can see and experience Jesus through us, and to bring the Good News to people, creating an open door through which they might step and choose to be embraced by the Father.

It isn’t important what we say but how we are heard. If all we do is rant and screech, we are like fingernails on a blackboard, like clanging symbols.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Instead of focusing on what we want to say, let’s pay attention to what Jesus says, those red-lettered words. Let’s bang the drum of love:

“For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17 NASB)

“So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.” (John 13:34-35, The Voice)

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8 NLT)

We must not mistake accusation and condemnation for love. We must not mistake what we think of as brutal honesty as ministering in love. We must always test our own thinking and agendas with the Words of God. And we must always yield to love, abiding in the wisdom and fruit of the Spirit.

Sharing My Crayons

I would love for everyone to know the people in my life that have affected me in a positive way. I want to share my friends like I would share my crayons. That sounds hokey but it’s as simple as crayons. For me, crayons have been as close as friends. The various colors and what can be discovered from them.

In a world where the creative ones have a bit of a harder time fitting into the norm, my friend Ann has been a source of comfort. I’ve only known her a little while yet I do know that a lifetime of kindred spirits has just begun.

Here is the exact post from her Facebook page. She has given me permission to post these insightful words on parenting. The raw deal and the real deal. Enjoy the read and be looking for her blog to begin soon (we are working on that this week).

Cate B and Ann

Meet Ann:

“I took this photo almost 2 weeks ago and I’ve been thinking about posting it ever since. But I knew that if I did, I would want to be real honest about this particular picture. 

This sweet mother/son selfie was taken on a date I went on with Kaiden. I can hear it now, “Awww! That is so sweet! Awww!” And you’ll begin to envision what a sweet, loveable, fun, bonding time that must have been. 

And I must interrupt your envisionings with a bit of reality. Those were the envisionings I had when I had planned this date. But then I went ON the date…. And the picture you see was one of the very few, very few, sweet bonding moments of the whole evening. 

The majority of the evening was spent “bonding” if you will, in a battle of wills. Fishing him out from under the table because I wouldn’t let him play games on the little game thingy that was on our table. (Thanks Applebees, thanks a LOT!) He didn’t want to eat his food, he talked back… The list goes on. It ended with an epic tantrum in the parking lot. NOT exactly how I would have preferred our date to go. 

You see, right now we are going through a sowing season with him. A season of working the soil of his little heart. And it’s a HARD, gritty, sweaty, endless (or so it seems) toiling, thankless, season. It’s a season where we are planting seeds. The thing about planting is that you don’t see the fruits right away. That’s the hard part. You put the seeds down and they get covered up and because you can’t see them down in that soil, you can’t see what they are doing, you can’t see if they are germinating and taking root. 

So we work that soil constantly, going after the weeds relentlessly. Relying on the grace, power, and instructions of the Master Planter. Carefully tending the soil of our own hearts. Living on faith and refusing to listen to the uprooter of the seeds. The lies that he whispers: “your child should not be acting this way in the first place.” “You’re messing him up.” “You’re not doing enough.” “You’re not doing it right.” “You’re not good enough.” 

We stand firm on the Word and we water that soil with truth, love, and destiny. And we choose to live by faith, that we will see those precious seeds sprouting, come spring and summertime. And eventually there will be a full, thankful, abundant harvest. 

You might wonder why I’m writing about all this. Well, getting these words down where I can see them, it encourages me, it boosters my faith. And I value transparency. Social media can really make it seem like we have perfect relationships, perfect lives. I am working daily to lay down perfection and pick up LIFE. It’s messy, it’s hard, it’s real, I don’t have it all figured out, but it’s beautiful. 

And maybe, along the way, another parent who is going through this hard season of planting seeds, will be encouraged along with me. We got this friends, because God’s got us. And he supplies the seeds and the knowledge for the planting.”

Ann and Kaiden
Ann and Kaiden