Sunday, February 15, 2015

THE NUMBER OF GRACE

Five years ago today, a baby boy was driven across town and carried into the small, quaint courtyard of a little guest house in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  He had no idea that the family he saw waiting outside had been praying for him since before he was born.  He had no idea that the God of the Universe had been working on his behalf, for his good, since the beginning of time.  He simply had no idea.

Five years ago today, a woman opened her arms to receive the gift of life.  She had no idea what all she would be opening her arms and her heart up to.  She had no idea that the gift of this sweet baby boy would completely change her life forever.  She simply had no idea.

Five years ago today, a man was able to hold his boy for the first time.  He had no idea how this little life would change his family forever.  He had no idea that God would use this baby to change the calling He had on the man's life.  He simply had no idea.

Five years ago today, a little boy proudly stepped into his role as big brother.  He had no idea that his new role would prove to be very challenging.  He had no idea that God was going to use this little guy to shape him into the person he was purposed and intended to be.  He simply had no idea.

Five years ago today, God grew our family.  He called us, prepared us, and went before us.  He knew exactly what He was doing.  He knew every struggle we would face.  He knew that the addition of this little life to our family would make us look more like Jesus.  He knew the whole time!

Five.

In the Bible, numbers can have literal and symbolic meanings.
The number five represents God's grace, goodness, and favor.
Five, the number of grace.
SERIOUSLY!… I am beside myself!

Five years ago today, God gave us the gift of Miles.  Learning to love Miles, parent Miles, and do life with Miles has taught us so much about God's grace and His goodness.  Believing God is good, truly good, is the truth He has sealed on my heart the last five years.

Don't stop on four because the number of grace is coming and it is worth the wait.

If you keep up with our family at all, you know that Miles' birthdays and gotcha days weigh heavy on my heart.  I've settled into the fact that they always will.  Miles had a Mama before me.  She was the first to open her arms to this precious gift and the fact that I had the same privilege is a sacrifice I just can't seem to reconcile.  My heart hurts for her and yet is grateful to her all at the same time.  I pray that God will pour out His grace, goodness, and favor on the brave one who gave life to my gift.

Happy Gotcha Day, Miles.
You are so deeply loved and we celebrate you today.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHAD!

This guy.
He was a coworker that became a friend.
He was a friend that became family.

Chad served alongside Keith for years and this past November,
God called him to something new, something different.

And for the first time in over 10 years,
we have to say Happy Birthday and celebrate him from a distance.

Three states.
Three churches.
Ten and a half years of memories.

He has been a friend to Keith, a role model for Alex, and a brother to me.
Over the last decade, Keith has had several associates, lots of interns, and hundreds of youth workers, but Chad has been the constant in our lives.

Chad, your friendship to my husband has meant so much to me.

You were trustworthy and loyal.
You loved him and faithfully served by his side.
You freed Keith up to be Keith so he could fulfill the call God has on his life.
You put up with all of the oddities that make him who he is.
You never failed to challenge him and point him to Jesus.
You made him a better man…. and for that, I will be forever grateful!

The two of you… you made an amazing team.


You brought balance to someone who lives life on the edge and the amount of things the two of you have accomplished for the Kingdom is nothing short of amazing.  Thousands of lives forever changed because of your commitment to live out your unique calling.  I am so glad I have had a front row seat all of these years!

And Alex…
How do I even begin to explain to you the amount of gratitude I have for you being the kind of man I would be proud for Alex Harmon to model his life after?

You filled the role as brother when it looked like he was going to be an only child.
You patiently allowed this little extrovert to completely invade your introvert world.
You were a substitute grandparent when he lived away from family, you were his trusted movie critic when he was deciding if a movie was a good choice for him, and you were the only person he ever wanted to come along with us wherever God called us next.

If Alex Harmon could choose to be any superhero in the world, I am confident he would choose you every time.  Thank you for being a hero to my tender hearted little guy.

You have done life up close with us and it hasn’t always been pretty.

You have witnessed our family walk the hard road of infertility.
You served with us when we lost our second baby.
You prayed with us as we fought to bring Miles home and then prayed for us as we fought to learn to parent him.


To say the last 4 years have been the toughest for our family is an understatement.  But, having you at the church to daily do life with Keith and Alex was such a comfort to me because life at home was so hard.  You will never really know how much we appreciate you not being afraid to be a part of the messiness that is our family.

You are and always will be family to us.  I have prayed for you over the years like one of my children.  In January, I claimed this as your year.  I told God I wanted to mark your name off of my “Single Guys on Staff” list that I pray over.  Guys that don’t have a wife to stand in the gap for them.  I circled your name and wrote 2014 on the card and have been claiming this as your year.  Little did I know that God was already working out something special.  The only thing that made the transition bearable was that, as I watched God close out this chapter in all of our lives, He was writing a brand new chapter that included the most beautiful love story.  The love story that I have been praying for you and over you the last 10 years.

Thank you for walking out your single years in front of Alex with integrity and purity.  For showing him what it looks like to wait for your person and trust God’s timing.  You made trusting God look easy.

I pray that as you begin your next chapter, one that includes marriage and children, that God will bless you with a “Chad”… a friendship whose hearts are knit together by God, a person who will love your children like their own, someone who will be an example of what it looks like to chase after Jesus, a friend who will be a faithful brother in Christ as you have been to us.

Happy Birthday, sweet friend!
I am so absolutely crazy about you, your family, and the sweet girl God has gifted you with and I hope your birthday is wonderfully fantastic!

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

FORTY

This man.

Today is his birthday.
Today he turns 40.

I never get tired of celebrating his life.
He is such a gift.

He lives everyday all-in and out-loud.

No matter who is around and no matter what the situation,
Keith doesn't know how to be anyone other than Keith.
And I love that!

He has such an amazing heart.

He loves Jesus and has committed his life to serving His church.
He cares deeply about people and desires to help them live out their calling.
He supports and sacrifices for his family and I am certain there isn't anything he wouldn't do for us.

Together, we have two boys.
One five. One fifteen.
They both adore him and I pray they grow up to be just like him!

This man.

There is no one in the world I love more.
There is no one in the world I would rather do life with.
There is no one in the world I have more respect for than this man.

Happy 40th Birthday, Keith!
You make me smile.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

TRANSITION

After twenty-one years of Student Ministry, we are saying good-bye.

We have served at five different churches in five different states.
We have had to say good-bye more times than we care to remember.
But this is different.

This has been our life.
This has been our calling.

Over the years, we have had the honor and privilege to love, support, hang out with, and point thousands of students to Jesus. We have watched them grow up right before our eyes and we have loved them like they were our own kids. To imagine life any other way seems impossible.

I am so honored that their parents trusted us with their children by allowing them to come to our home weekly for Bible study, by sending them with us as we did mission projects, youth camps, leadership conferences and weekend retreats. Thank you, parents, for believing in and trusting us with your most prized possessions. Thank you for allowing us to partner with you. The seriousness of that responsibility is not lost on us.

For those of you with teenagers in your home, I pray that you will see them the way Keith and I see them. They are not your little boy or little girl. They are leaders. They are world changers. They are the Pastors, the CEOs, the business men/women, the Moms/Dads, the teachers of their generation. They each have a unique calling on their life and God wants to use them to change their world!

If you were in our Student Ministry at one time or another, please know that we dearly love you. You changed us. We would not be who we are today without your influence in our lives.

Some of you surrendered your lives to Jesus and are serving in ministry/missions.
We are so proud of you!
Some of you are husbands/wives and you are working to have a Biblical marriage.
We are so proud of you!
Some of you are Moms and Dads and you are pointing your children to Jesus.
We are so proud of you!
Some of you had the deck stacked against you and you changed your family tree.
We are so proud of you!
Some of you are working hard in the workplace supporting your self/family.
We are so proud of you!

And some of you, you're struggling. Somewhere along the way you took your eyes off of Jesus. Please come home. The body of Christ needs you. Your church needs you.
We will always love you and believe in you!

In the last twenty-one years, we have had hundreds and hundreds of Youth Workers, Associates, Interns and Admins that have been like family. You sacrificially gave of your time and energy to serve Students. You were the foundation. You were the heroes. We came and left and many of you stayed the course. It has been such an honor to do life with each and every one of you. Words can not express how much we loved serving along side you and seeing how God used your unique giftedness to serve the body of Christ. Thank you for loving and supporting us all of these years. Sometimes up close and sometimes from a distance. We will never be the same because of you!

So what's next for our family?
We are staying at Cross Church and in the next month, Keith will transition from Student Ministry to Marriage Ministry.

God sort of snuck up on us.
He has been using our struggles the last few years to turn our hearts.
He has given us a burden for Marriages and Families.
Specifically, a burden to help couples build a strong foundation based on the authority of God's Word.

Doing life with students the last twenty-one years, we have hugged, cried with, and ministered to hundreds and hundreds of kids whose hearts were shattered because their families were falling apart.  This transition allows us to do Student Ministry from a different angle.  We get to love and support the people who have the single most influence on their lives.  We get to grab a shovel and help their parents dig through the dirt and gravel that Satan throws their way as they work hard to build a solid foundation for their family and the thousands of generations to come.

We are excited.
We are scared.
We are humbled that God would choose to continue to use us.

Please pray for our family as we make this transition.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

GRACE EXTENDED


I am so excited to continue our marriage conversation.  The adventure called marriage was all God's idea and when it is done His way, it is a beautiful and creative way to translate [to illustrate] the love of Jesus to a broken, hurting, searching world.

If you are just now joining us, welcome!  Here are our previous stops... 

One of the many things that I have wrestled with the last several years is this idea that my children are my others.

"Do for others what you would want them to do for you."
{Matthew 7:12}

I always thought of others as, well, others.
Neighbors.  Friends.  Co-workers.
Anyone outside my home.

Somehow, this topic came up in our marriage counseling.  We were discussing this idea of others in regards to our children and I mentioned the fact that viewing my children this way challenges me to look at their heart and be quick to allow them a do-over.  And our counselor, doing what he does best, posed the question, "How does this play out in your marriage?"

If my spouse is my other…
…do I love him as I love myself? {Matthew 22:39}
…do I give him more honor than I give myself? {Romans 12:10}
…do I forgivingly restore him? {Galatians 6:1}
…do I pursue peace in a gentle, humble, patient and accepting way? {Ephesians 4:1-3}

Our others are to be loved because they are "presented to us as the object on and by which we are to show the reality of our love to God." [Pulpit Commentary]

The Bible has a lot to say about our relationship with others.  From the beginning of the Bible to the end, God gives us instructions and examples of the way were are to do life with our others, which became a struggle the moment sin entered this world.

Stop #4– DO-OVER: Grace Extended

Do-over. Grace.
Grace means kindness and favor.
It implies reaching, inclining, extension/leaning toward.

What a beautiful word picture.
[Holy and righteous] God reaching for and leaning toward [sinful and selfish] us for the purpose of pouring out His kindness and favor and freely giving Himself away to us.

Grace is never about us.  Grace is never something we deserve.
Grace speaks to the character of the person who is doing the reaching, the leaning, the extending.  If I received the undeserved grace extended to me by a loving God, then should jump at the chance to love others the way God loved me by being the one who gets to reach out and offer grace.  To give another chance.  To allow a do-over.
"My children, our love should not be only words and talk.
No, our love must be real. We must show our love by the things we do."
{1 John 3:18}

God is so gracious to go before us and model how to love and how to forgivingly restore someone by offering a do-over.  He even gave us several examples of do-over's in the Bible.  My favorite picture of grace happens around the warmth of an open fire.  There is only mention of two charcoal fires in all of the Bible and both surround the do-over we are going to look at today.

In John 13, Jesus and His boys, the disciples, are eating supper.  Jesus is trying to prepare them for His death, which He knows will be soon, but they are having a lot of trouble understanding Him.  When Jesus is asked where He is going, He answered, “you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”  Peter gets frustrated and finally asks, “Lord, why cant I follow you now? I am ready to die for you!

Jesus answered, “Will you really give your life for me?
The truth is, before the rooster crows,
you will say three times that you don’t know me.”
{John 13:37}

If we skip ahead a few chapters, we find Jesus and the boys entering a garden to pray. They were met by a group of soldiers and officers with lanterns, torches and weapons. Jesus was betrayed, arrested, bound, and taken into the court of the High Priest.

Peter and another disciple followed Jesus to the courtyard.  If you and I stick close to Peter, we see him walk past a servant-girl at the gate who says to him, Arent you one of this mans disciples?  Peter denied it.  He made his way over to the charcoal fire that the servants and guards had built to warm themselves.  While he was standing with them, he was asked again, Arent you one of the followers of that man?  Peter denied it a second time.  One of the servants spoke up and said, I think I saw you with him in the garden!  Peter screams for the third and last time NO, I WAS NOT WITH HIM!

[insert rooster crow]

What do you think Peter felt in that instance?
Peter.  Standing around a charcoal fire on a cold night confused and scared.
People all around are talking, whispering, yelling.
Jesus is being questioned.  Jesus is being hit.

Im sure his mind was racing, trying to make sense of what is happening.

The smell of smoke invades Peter's senses.  It's in the air, in his clothes, on his skin, and in his hair.  But the moment he hears the rooster crow, I imagine his heart skipping a beat, his ears going deaf to the sounds around him, his eyes looking up and making eye contact with Jesus.

And suddenly, Jesus' words come flooding back, “will you really give your life for me, [Peter]? The truth is, before the rooster crows, you will say three times that you dont know me.”

Did you know that Jesus changed Peter's name?
His new name gave him a new purpose.  It allowed Simon to see himself the way Jesus saw him.  He was no longer Simon, but instead Peter, which means rock.

"And I'm going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.
This is the rock on which I will build my church."
{Matthew 16:18}

As the rooster crows and the sun begins to rise, the smoke of the charcoal fire falls on Peter like a blanket of fear, guilt and shame.  Luke tells us that Peter ran out of the courtyard weeping uncontrollably.  In that moment, Peter wasn't the unmovable rock he thought he was and it rocked him to the core.

As the day went on, Jesus is beaten beyond recognition and crucified on a cross.  He is dead and buried before sunset.  Peter never got to say sorry.  Never got to say goodbye.

So much happens from the time Jesus was buried to the only other mention of a charcoal fire, which is where our journey is taking us.  Everything in me wants to keep going.  To fill in all the blanks -- the details of the discovery of the empty tomb, the resurrection of Jesus, the multiple appearances to His boys along with several others, not to mention the little details John includes than make me laugh and reminds me that these aren't characters, but people.  Men and women just like you and me.  But, a charcoal fire has been built on the shore of the Sea of Galilee so we need to go.  We are suppose to be sticking close to Peter and he's on his fishing boat about 112 miles from here.

In the last chapter of John, we find seven of the disciples doing some night fishing.  They were out all night and caught nothing.  Jesus is standing on the shore and says to them, "do you have any fish?"  The boys didn't know it was Jesus.  After they yelled back "no", Jesus said to them, "cast the net on the right side of the boat..."

"The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, 'It is the Lord!'  When Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his coat and threw himself into the sea."
{Matthew 21:7}

Peter hears John say the man on the shore is Jesus and can not get to him quick enough. If you know anything about Peter, you know this is not the first time he jumped ship to get to Jesus.

After the boat makes it to land and Peter helps them haul the net full of fish ashore.  Jesus invites them to breakfast and they all make their way to the charcoal fire that was already in place.  Can you hear that?  If I'm not mistaken, that is the sound of Peter's heart pounding out of his chest.  This feels uncomfortably familiar.  As he sits down, the warmth of the fire feels suffocating.  The distinct smell the charcoal fire triggers so many unresolved, unsettled emotions in Peter's heart.

When they finished breakfast, the conversation quieted.
Jesus addressed Peter saying, "Simon, son of John,.."

Simon. He called him Simon.
That is Peter's old name.  His old identity.
Jesus has Peter's full attention.

"...do you love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," Peter replies, "you know I love you!"
Jesus repeated the question, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
"Yes, Lord," Peter said, "you know I love you!"
For the third time, Jesus asks Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
A very hurt, deeply grieved Peter replied, "Lord, you know everything. You know I love you."

Peter was certain he was ready to die for Jesus, but instead he denied knowing Him, not once, not twice, but three times in one night.  Jesus saw his hurt and pain and gave him a do-over.  The smell of a charcoal fire no longer triggered guilt and shame, but instead served as a beautiful reminder of the redemptive love of Jesus.  The three denials no longer defined his lack of commitment to Jesus because the opportunity to declare his love and affection for Jesus reminded him of the solid, stable rock that Jesus knew he would be.

Do-over.  Grace.
Grace was never about Peter.
Grace wasn't something he deserved.
The unsolicited gift of grace spoke to the character of Jesus. 

Jesus.  The cross.
The ultimate do-over.
The ultimate redo.
The ultimate act of love, kindness and grace.

So, I'll ask the same question our marriage counselor asked us,
"How does this play out in your marriage?"

Has there ever been a time in your marriage that you said or did something you immediately wish you could take back?  Yeah, me too.  Has there ever been a time in your marriage when you were the one left hurt and disappointed?  Yeah, me too.

When you have been hurt [offended, wronged] by your spouse, you have the power to free them up to be all God intended them to be by being generous with forgiveness and grace.  By being quick to offer a do-over in order to keep your one-flesh relationship healthy and intact.  By caring more about the condition of their heart than your feelings.  By using them as a tangible way to show the reality of your love for God.

The reality is that we are going to mess up… a lot.
Give your spouse permission to be as imperfect as you know you are.

Choose love.
Extend grace.
Offer a do-over.

[insert make-up sex]

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