Baskets 

James 1:2-3 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.  For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 

Have you ever watched the cooking show Chopped? I recently discovered it is on Netflix and I am obsessed. The premise of the show is four cooks are each given a basket of random foods (octopus, coconut cookies, and purple cabbage for example) and challenged to create something delicious out of the ingredients.  It’s a race against the clock and it makes for awesome television.  

I started thinking today about how we are sometimes presented with a random set of items in our own lives. But instead of random food, we have trials, and we must figure out how to make do with what God has given us. Life is not always how we planned it.   Problems in marriage or with children or with careers, sudden sickness, or the loss of loved ones, any of these trials can be thrown into the basket.  Our challenge is to now take them and make something beautiful.  

Man that’s a hard thing to do.  Who wants to look at our trials as gifts? Yet, the Bible tells us to “count it all joy.” Because when we endure trials, and our faith is tested, we can produce a deep steadfastness in our faith.  

Our love for the Lord is deepened when we decide to embrace all of the items in the basket.

 So scoop them up, give them all to God, and make something truly marvelous.  

Look Around You

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Many of us spend much of our lives in a state of constant busyness. There are kids to tote back and forth, chores to be done, errands to run, and loads of work to be completed. We go through the motions, hardly ever stopping to pause and take in all of the beauty that surrounds us.

And when the storm clouds darken, the rain starts falling and you find yourself in a downpour without an umbrella, it is about a million times harder to look for any type of joy.

Paul writes in Thessalonians to give thanks in everything because it is God’s will for us. Even in the times when we find it hard to be grateful, even when we are knee deep in a world of trouble or grief, pause and take a moment to find something to be grateful for. Whether it’s the kindness of friends or family, the decency of strangers, or just the fact that you have a bed to sleep in, look at it with a heart filled with gratitude. Remember God is on the move in your life always, even if you can’t understand the reasons for your pain right now; trust in Him to get you through it.

I challenge you this week to pause for just a brief moment and to take it in. Take in kindness. Take in joy. Take in gratitude. Take in laughs and take in smiles.

Look for signs of God all around you.

Remember the sun does come out after the storm,  flowers bloom after the rain, and God is always working in your life.

Nice To Meet You

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!

I knew it was something I needed to do, this accepting Jesus into your heart thing and I basically treated it as a box to check off on my list of “Life Things.” Afterwards, I  went on continuing to live my self-centered, “all about me” life. Years went by and although I knew of Jesus and believed He died for my sins, I didn’t really know Jesus. For years I pushed Him over to the side and worried about other things. My family, my job, and certainly my own needs consumed my thoughts. Sometimes He would creep back in and cause me to question why I wasn’t putting Him first, but it was only for a moment and then I tossed Him back into the corner.

Thankfully, He doesn’t give up that easily.

As I look back on it now, I can’t help but smile at how He was positioning me to finally turn that page. He placed the right people in my life and put me in specific situations-good and bad- that helped me to finally realize I was missing the boat completely.

I also finally (FINALLY) decided to acknowledge The Holy Spirit who had been living inside of me. He was in desperate need of being awoken. He needed to be pulled out from the darker parts of my soul where I had placed Him so long ago.

Man was it great to finally meet Him!

My world suddenly became a million times brighter.

My heart a million times fuller.

Life is still filled with it’s daily annoyances and struggles. Bad things still happen and no, I don’t walk around singing Hallelujah all of the time (although I definitely do it more often). The difference is I don’t feel alone anymore. I have Him living inside of me and walking beside me. And I want to spend the rest of my life glorifying Him.

He is first.  He is everything. My strength and my refuge.

I don’t know how I ever made it so far without Him.

 

You’re In Good Hands

**I asked Landon to share his Sunday School lesson from this morning tonight**

Are you saved? How do you know? If you are, can you ever lose your salvation? These are questions I posed to my Sunday school class this morning. These are questions that we seldom discuss, but we all have, at one time or another, asked them, at least to ourselves.

So, what are the answers? Well let’s see what the Word tells us.

Take question one. Are you saved? Sounds easy doesn’t it? You say “well of course I am saved, I was Baptized, I got to church, I even teach Sunday school!” While these are all wonderful things to do and are certainly good for the soul, they do not and will not save you! So what does it mean to be saved? The Bible tells us that when you are saved you become a new creature of God. You are BORN-AGAIN!! That is being saved.

Now, question one and two go hand in hand. If you are saved, how will know? Well, simply look inward. Do you see a new you? Do you not do the things you once did? Does sin bother you? Is there love and forgiveness in your for those who have hurt you? The answer is simple. If we understand Romans 10:9 “ If you believe in your HEART, and CONFESS with thy tongue that Jesus died for you and was resurrected, you shall be SAVED.. “ Only you and God can truly know this.. Although everyone should know this by the fruit you produce!

What about losing this “salvation”? Can we become unsaved? Once saved always saved? Or fallen from Grace? The short answer is no. You can’t lose your salvation. God chose you, He called you, and you answered. You gave your heart to Him and you were a sinner and lost when this happened. If He gave you the Gift of salvation when you were an absolute mess, there is nothing you can do to veto His gift as one of His children.

You say “what about those who accept Christ and then years later, reject Him or “lose” their way? Well, as my pastor says, “you can’t lose what you never had”! He is right. If you are truly saved and you had a true conversion, you will not die in your sins. Think about the prodigal son here. Wayward, yes, prideful, yes, backslidden, yes, but never lost and came home.

Look at what John says: 1 John 2:19 (NASB95)
19 “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”

So there you have it. Give your heart to the Lord and fear not! He has poured out His Grace and offered His son in your place, all you need to do is believe!!

Enough

1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

I have a student who is a big help during one of my group reading times.  She loves to help students get their materials straight and make sure everyone has everything that they need. The other students have started calling her Mrs. Tucker because she acts like a miniature teacher when we are together.  It’s something she seems to have been born with. She is a complete natural and I make sure I tell her this all of the time. Even though she has trouble learning how to read, she is still a very bright girl with many other talents.

Today, I leaned down, smiled and whispered that I couldn’t wait for her to grow up and become a real teacher just like me.

Oh you should have seen her smile.

It lit up my world.

I don’t know what God has in store for my sweet student. He might lead her down an entirely different path when she grows up. But, I do hope she will remember those words as she goes through school and doubts her ability to succeed.

Words that build us up are everything.

They latch onto our hearts and help to keep us moving, even in the darkest of days.

But sometimes we just can’t seem to remember the kind words of others,  or we fail to even believe them at all.

That’s when we  look to the Risen King to lift us up.  He helps calm our fears, prepares us for battle, and loves us as much as God loves Him.

Wow that’s a lot of love.

He is our ultimate cheerleader, cheering us on from the sidelines. The ultimate teammate, right beside us through every play.  The ultimate coach, helping us to make it over the finish line.

Don’t ever think you are not enough.  We are enough for God

And that’s as good as it gets.

The Wrong Places

Proverbs 8:17 “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.”

My boys absolutely hate to look for things. Their clothes, their shoes, their video games, their homework, for some reason it’s like they all have magical feet. If it is not right in front of their faces, then they don’t want to put in any extra effort to find it. Sometimes, they will purposely check in the wrong places so they can say how they “tried” to look for it.  No, your shoes are not going to be in the food pantry. No, your homework is not going to be in the bathroom.

It drives me bananas.

I think I look in the wrong places sometimes too. Well, probably most of the time really. I look in the wrong places for my joy, for my security, for my contentment. I think a new bag, or a new job, or a new friend is going to somehow provide me with what I have been missing. Instead  of running towards Jesus for my peace, I try everything but Him. I look in the pantry instead of in the bathroom and in the bathroom instead of the pantry.

Why is it so hard for us to find the one who created us? We become so blinded by our own selfish needs and desires that we can’t see past ourselves. We want what we want.  If Jesus doesn’t fit into that well then- too bad. We want to feel loved. We want to feel accepted. We want to feel needed.

We can’t see what’s right in front of us.

When you accept Jesus into your heart, He gifts you with something amazing. He gives you everything you will ever need. He is our provider and our comforter. He accepts all of the bad and all of the good parts about us. We don’t have to look for our joy anywhere else.

Stop looking in the wrong places. Spend time in prayer and time in the Word. Fill your mind with thoughts about Him. Spend time with other believers. Spend time praising our Creator.

Start looking in the right places.

Pantry included.

 

Burnt Cookies

Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

Making cookies at my house is kind of like a science experiment.  There is always the question of whether or not they are going to turn out to be edible. Usually they are not. I just don’t have the knack for this baking thing. I enjoy doing it, but it is truly (truly) not one of my gifts. The boys enjoy helping though and our baking nights have become one of our favorite traditions, even if we burn the entire batch or forget to add the vanilla (that was last night).

So even though the end result is not always a guaranteed win,  we still enjoy the process. The cracking of the eggs, and the stirring with the blender, and the spoon licking are all still very exciting to my boys. I hope when they grow up they will remember those times and not so much the hockey pucks that sometimes come out of our oven.

Parenthood is messy and complicated and dramatic and so very exhausting.Just like with baking cookies, we aren’t ever sure how our lives, or the lives of our precious babies, are going to turn out.  We might get some perfect batches and we also might get burned. God has control over all of that. But, what we can do is make sure to take in all of the beautiful small moments. The cracking eggs, the sipping milkshakes, the reading bedtime stories,  and the tickling bellies. We can take a step back from the messiness and enjoy the little things that make our children smile, that make them giggle, and that make them ours.

So yes we might have forgotten the vanilla last night, but I hope they won’t ever forget the memories.

***The cookies actually turned out OK last night- after we added a little bit of icing and sprinkles!***