What I Have Learned Directing Challenge A

I sit on our front porch, my favorite coffee cup in hand, reading the remaining few chapters of The Bronze Bow, the last book my students are to read this year. It’s raining and almost 3:00 PM and still my boys have not come in for lunch. The grating sound of the drill rings out over the pasture and I see them by the zip line, immersed in their work, unaware of the time. Their food is laying out in the kitchen, welcoming the flies, just as their school books wait on the table for them. A read aloud I have yet to do with Thadd, Latin to go over with JP. A meeting with Addie. They are working on a new fort they are building all on their own, with their cousin Justin’s help. They’ve already set the posts and built the platform and are starting on the frame. It’s good work. Impressive craftsmanship. And they are only fourteen and twelve!

I sigh as I finish a chapter. This book is so good and I have just three chapters left to read. I don’t want it to end. It hasn’t been this way with every book I’ve taught this year, but Elizabeth George Spear is a master of her craft. How she can write! She makes me want to take up my pen again from the long neglect and writer’s block. How I will relish the conversation my students and I will have on Tuesday about this piece of historical fiction.

This year is our third year with Classical Conversations, a Christian homeschool community that meets once a week to learn and interact with other like-minded individuals. It has been my first year directing a Challenge class, which is the upper level of the community, corresponding to Junior High and High School. My class consists of six students: four boys (one of which is my own son) and two girls, aged twelve through fourteen. They have six classes, or strands as they are called, consisting of Latin, Mathematics, Exposition, Science, Reasoning, and Cartography. We meet fifteen weeks in the fall semester and fifteen weeks in the spring. The kids come to class having already completed their work for the week and we meet for an entire day on Tuesday going over each strand and having rich conversations about them. I am a facilitator, among other things, with my main objective as a director being to engage them in the art of the dialectic. I help them to sort out all they are learning and to synthesize the information so that they can be equipped to learn how to think. The content that they learn is varied and difficult: translating Latin, drawing the entire world from memory, learning the art of persuasive writing, thoroughly engaging in the scientific method through a science fair. But the things that we are learning go so much further than mere academics. These children are learning how to listen to one another, how to have respectful conversations, and how to see the work of God in every area of life.

As I come to the end of a very rewarding and challenging year, here are a few take-aways:

  1. It is possible to learn Latin as a forty year-old.
  2. Some days are better than other days. Some days the conversations seem forced and trite, while other days, I am blown away by the Spirit-led moments and integrations.
  3. Prayer is of supreme importance. In prayer we wait in expectation of what God will do in the lives of those He has entrusted us with. I can do nothing on my own, but I am completely dependent upon the Lord.
  4. Junior-highers are absolutely hilarious and in need of constant correction. Whew! What a class!
  5. Asking good questions prepares the way for fruitful conversation. I am still learning this art.
  6. Rest is absolutely necessary. If I do not take the time to stop and to just be and to fill myself up with what is life-giving, I will have nothing of value to offer anyone.
  7. At the end of the day, what matters most is knowing God. The character of our students is far more valuable than whether or not they can decline a noun or draw the continent of Africa. The spiritual formation of these kids comes as they encounter the Living God for themselves. It is to this end that I strive. And it is a worthy goal.

It has been a good year and I am a bit sad to see the end, just as I am with the book I am reading. But, of course, I must finish both for there are more conversations to share, more topics to discover, more adventures to unfold.

The Good Shepherd

I went out looking for the cows at exactly noon on Good Friday, the time that Jesus was nailed to the cross. I had let them all onto the back pasture the day before because the grass was greener and longer on that side of the gate and we had run out of hay. Being content with the lush and tender spring grasses, none of them made their way to the barn this morning, except the horse, when I called them in for feed. I wasn’t worried about it, knowing they had their fill of grass. But at noon I was concerned that they might find the low part of the fence and hop over onto our neighbor’s property. So I went looking for them.

This is our sixth spring out here on the land and every time, the season dazzles me. In winter I forget what lies dormant and forgotten in the earth. Then the land awakens with a newness that always catches my breath and still leaves me dumbfounded that resurrection is possible following the cold and death of the prior season. The vibrant colors of the flowers, the welcome warmth of the sun, and the bright green everywhere awakens the coldest of hearts. Hope is possible. It is tangible.

As I’d see them in the woods, I’d name the cows one by one. Mocha, Jingle, Shalom. Bobby Sue, Jack, Little Rascal. Around the corner was King, the horse. In the top part of the pasture I found Sam and Charlie, then Sweet Baby Rae, then Squanto. There was Milk Dud. But where was Annabelle? I made my way across the creek a different way than I had come and saw a pitiful sight. Annabelle was lying in the creek. Her head was back and her body was sprawled out. She had a long vine of mesquite thorns wrapped around her body. Having three-inch long, vicious spikes, the kids call them the Jesus thorns. Eery does not begin to describe what I came upon.

I raced to her, knelt in the mud and water, and lifted her head up by the halter that was still on her. Here we go again, I thought. She is the same cow we have struggled with all year. I prayed a brief prayer for wisdom and, knowing I couldn’t lift her on my own, ran back to the house to get some help. I returned with my boys and my in-laws and I instructed them to get behind her and push her to a sitting position. With all of us heaving and pushing, we managed to get her to sit up and begin to get the air out of her system. I had no idea how long she had been down. Whenever she had gone down in the past, we have had to place straps around her and lift her with the tractor. But there was no way we were getting that tractor down the steep bank of the creek and lifting her safely. I Face-timed Jason from work and there wasn’t anything he could do . But, to our utter astonishment, right after hanging up the phone, Annabelle stood up! She got up with her back legs, pushed herself to her front knees, waited a while, and then stood completely up. It was another small miracle. Another resurrection of sorts. Another answered prayer for these animals that I have been entrusted with.

This is the creek where Annabelle was lying.
Standing next to Annabelle after she miraculously stood up on her own. Her right eye is terribly swollen from lying in the creek.
A new perspective of the shepherd’s staff. The boys used it to drive away the other cows from Annabelle’s feed so she could eat.

Leading up to this day, the Lord has been doing a deep work in my heart. I found myself dealing with deep grief from the past that I hadn’t completely worked through. It seemed to come from nowhere and hit with such a tremendous force that it startled me, really. I began to seek out close friends and ask them to pray for me as I worked through whatever this was. It turned out that what I was dealing with were lies that I believed about God. Lies that affected my relationship with Him. Lies that He was malevolent and uncaring. But as I repented of these lies and asked the Holy Spirit to give me the truth about who He really is, He gave me so many scripture passages that speak of His tender love and concern for me. My favorite one He gave to me was Psalm 103:14: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.”

My care for these animals grossly pales in comparison to my Good Shepherd’s love for me. His eyes are laughing as he watches over his flock. Over me. He loves me and I know it. He holds my hand and gently leads me along the way I am to go. He protects me and stands in my defense. I am his and he is mine. He went to great lengths to redeem me, laying down his life. The Shepherd becoming the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. My sins. And the sins of those who sin against me and against those whom I love. My Good Shepherd is the one who came to seek and to save that which was lost. He is the one who leaves the 99 sheep in search of the one that was lost. He came and he found me.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23

Stand!

The morning before Christmas Eve I looked out my bedroom window to see a sight that had me running out the door immediately, pulling on the rubber boots on our old porch and rushing out to the middle pasture. Annabelle, our Jersey cow was laid out on her side, her head back, eyes rolled eerily. The dirt by her feet was trenched as if she had struggled for a while to stand. Jason was on shift that day and my boys were at their cousins’, so I hollered into the house for Addie to come and, in vain, try to help me do something.

Farming, like other things in life, is manageable and even easy-going when things run as they should. When animals are healthy you feed them and let them be and they do not dominate your every waking thought. But when things go wrong, everything changes.

When we first got Annabelle five years ago.

This wasn’t the first time Annabelle had gone down. Three weeks before she couldn’t stand right before she went into labor with her calf. We had to lift her four times with the tractor and actually pull the baby out. That night Jason and I lay awake struggling with God and pleading with Him to help her to stand. Jason checked on her about 3 AM that next morning and came into the room and told me he thought both baby and mama were doomed, as she was still on the ground. Some point during the watches of the night I had to surrender my cow to the Lord. But in the morning, I went out to check on them and at once burst into tears to see Annabelle up on her feet.

But that was three weeks ago. The day before Christmas Eve I contacted Jason, who told me to call the emergency number for the vet and, when I didn’t get ahold of him immediately, called my neighbors. Our cowboy neighbor just so happened to be available and came right over and helped get Annabelle up on her right side. We were pretty sure she had bloat from being down on the ground, which is a condition that could kill a cow if the air is not released from the cow’s stomach. Fortunately, she began to belch and sitting up as she was, looked so much better. The vet finally contacted me and came over to look at Annabelle. Everything looked okay, except that she was terribly skinny and very weak. But he did not seem hopeful. Normally if a cow does not stand up within 24 hours, they will die. My neighbors and I tried to get her to stand with the tractor that day, but she wouldn’t put any weight on her feet. It didn’t look good.

That night as I was saying goodnight to Jeremiah he said to me, “Mom, I don’t want Annabelle to die.” I looked at him and rubbed his back. My 14 year-old son was a lot bigger than he was when we moved out to the land five years before. Back then we knew nothing about dairy farming, but we plunged right in and each child would take turns milking with me twice a day.

“You know what I would miss the most if we lose Annabelle?” I asked him. His back was muscular and strong. “I will miss the mornings milking with each one of you kids, when the sleep is still in your eyes and you tell me all about the crazy dreams you had the night before.”

Jeremiah laughed. “Thadd was the one with the crazy dreams!” And then, quieter, “Mom, I don’t want to grow up. I don’t want to stop doing the same things I did as a kid.”

My heart surged and fresh tears came as I agreed with him, “I don’t want you to grow up either.” Already my children were growing out of their childish ways. I relished the thought of them remaining children, but I knew it is not meant to be. Things change. But this cow. How precious she would always be to me because of so many things. She was so gentle as she trusted us completely. Her milk literally nourished my family. And she bonded me with my children in a tender way nothing else could.

Christmas Eve 2015
October 2020

Jason came home the next day and successfully raised Annabelle to her feet using the tractor. Hence began one of the longest weeks we’ve had, caring for Annabelle and then another cow, who also decided to get weak and not stand. Jason lost out on two family Christmas get-togethers because he was caring for the cows. We would have to get Annabelle to stand, make sure the calf was nursing, give both cows ample food and water when they were down, shelter them creatively in the rain, and cover them and warm them in the cold. It has been laborious, but we are slowly seeing improvement in Annabelle and she is getting stronger every day. She has started to stand up on her own now, but isn’t out of the woods yet. Bobby Sue, our other cow, is still down.

Farming teaches me so many things about life. How absolutely dependent we are on God. How important it is to simply stand up. How precious life is. How vital hope is to the soul. That the mercies of God are new every morning. That His faithfulness is great.

As 2020 comes to a close, I am reminded again how very dependent we are upon the mercies of God. And how important it is to stand.

I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of the gruesome pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my footsteps. And He has put a new song in my mouth, a praise to our God. Many will see and hear and shall trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man that makes the LORD his trust. Psalm 40:1-5

Afraid? Of What?

At the beginning of quarantine, way back in March, I pulled out one of my favorite books and Jason and I began reading to our kids in the evening. The book, Safely Home by Randy Alcorn tells the story of Chinese Christian, Quan and his reunion with his long-lost American roommate, Ben. It highlights the truth of the Chinese persecution of the Christians under communism and depicts the true heroes of the faith who do not back down from proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, even at the expense of their possessions, families, freedoms, and even their very lives. It took us a while to read through as a family; we finally finished it in October! But towards the very end of the book, when Quan is in prison and Ben has just encountered his own transformation, a conversation between the two roommates gripped me.

Ben asks, “When you pray for me, what do you ask?”

Weary, imprisoned, but victorious, Quan tells his American friend, “That you will face persecution.”

“What?”

“And that through it you will learn to grow. That you will learn to stand strong. That you will know you are in a war, and that you will learn to put on your armor and learn to use the sword of the Spirit, God’s Word.”

Christian persecution, in my experience, has always been something that happens on the other side of the world. In the Middle East, in North Korea, in China, in Africa. I never really thought it would come to America. And I, for sure, have never prayed for it! There are a lot of things I never thought would come to this nation, until this year. And persecution seems nearer than ever before.

There is an outright attack on the truth. Truth specifically in the Word of God. Scripture proclaims that people are sinful, not inherently good, that sexual immorality is wrong, regardless of the cultural justification for it, that marriage is sacred, between a man and a woman, that the earth was created in six days, that murder is wrong all the time, regardless of the economic circumstances. Those who hold to these views are considered archaic, hateful, stupid, and intolerant. I hold to the truth of the Word of God and it is vastly unpopular these days.

But these truths don’t just end there. They lead us to the cross, the greatest good that has ever come to this earth. There is salvation from our sins in Jesus Christ alone through faith! They also lead us to the acknowledgement that God is God and our response to Him must be worship and submission.

As Americans, who hold to the truth of the Word of God, there very well may come persecution. This is sobering. Sometimes very scary, if I’m honest. But we have not been called to fear. Just the opposite! For we know the end. As Christians, we fight from a position of victory because Jesus has already won!

As Christians, we fight from a position of victory because Jesus has already won!

What do I mean by fight? I mean we take up the weapons of our warfare: salvation, righteousness, truth, faith, the Word of God, the readiness of proclaiming the good news, and prayer and we go to battle against the true enemy. The spiritual forces in the heavenly realms.

Let the church arise with power and confidence in her task of fearlessly proclaiming the breathtaking news that there is salvation in Jesus. That there is hope in this desperate world. And let her always be looking forward to that day when the skies will part and her Savior will return.

Afraid? Of what?

To feel the spirit’s glad release?

To pass from pain to perfect peace,

The strife and strain of life to cease?

Afraid-of that?

Afraid? Of what?

Afraid to see the Savior’s face

To hear His welcome and to trace

The glory gleam from wounds of grace?

Afraid-of that?

Afraid? Of what?

A flash, a crash, a pierced heart;

Darkness, light, O Heaven’s art!

A wound of his a counterpart!

Afraid-of that?

Afraid? Of what?

To do by death what life could not-

Baptize with blood a stony plot,

Till souls shall blossom from the spot?

Afraid-of that?

E. H. Hamilton

Like Arrows in the Hands of a Warrior

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I looked up at the night sky as I listened to my dear friend, Laura speak about what God has been doing in her family. I had wandered onto the far side of our back pasture as I spoke to her on my cell phone, engaged in her story, not really paying attention to where I was walking. God was moving, working within her and doing mighty things in her family’s life. Tears came to my eyes as I rejoiced with her about the breakthroughs she was experiencing. And along with the celebration came another familiar emotion. The kind that robs a friend of completely sharing in the joy of another. Envy.  Oh how I longed for God to move within my own life like that! Within my children’s lives. Life had become dry and I was seeing things within my children’s hearts, my heart, my husband’s heart that needed revival. A fresh work of the Spirit.

My eyes were drawn to two bright stars that, if you were to draw a straight line through them, pointed to the constellation, Scorpio (the scorpion), which is always prominent in the August sky. I had to find out what those stars were. I opened up my star app and pointed it at the stars and found they were not stars, but Saturn and Jupiter, which just so happened to be within the constellation, Sagittarius, the archer. Not only were they in the constellation, but they lined up perfectly with the bow. They were like an arrow directed at the scorpion. Interesting. There was something there.

I love the night sky and the constellations because they tell the wonders of God. I don’t live my life by the stars or the signs of the zodiac. I live my life according to the Word of God. But sometimes I believe God uses His creation to declare truth to His people. And there was something about those stars that He wanted me to see and understand. But I didn’t have a clue that night what it was.

A few days later I woke up and went for a run. It was a crazy day and I had so much to do, but running motivates me to get things done. Our missionary friends from Mexico have been staying with us all month and that day was their daughter, Kiersta’s birthday. She had a special request to be baptized in our pond on her birthday. As I ran that morning, I asked the Lord if He would also grant Thaddaeus the desire to be baptized that day. It is a prayer I have prayed for him for several years. That he would have the courage to show the world that he wants to follow Jesus.

I returned to a house full of people and work to do in preparing to teach the next day. As I hurried around, fretting over the demise of our computer and stressing over the preparations I still had to make, Thaddaeus informed us that he did, in fact, wish to be baptized as well. Everything in my frantic world stopped suddenly as the truth of what he said soaked in. Nothing else mattered. He crawled up on his Daddy’s lap as Jason explained, in a few moments’ time, what baptism meant.

“It’s a picture of what God did in your heart when you trusted Jesus. The old man is dead, buried in the grave, the new man is alive, raised to walk in newness of life.”

We hadn’t expected this that day, even though it was my prayer, so we all threw our bathing suits on and our small group headed over to the pond: our family, our missionary friends, and Jason’s parents. I was able to FaceTime my mom so she could be a part of it as well. I brought my guitar and we sang the song, “No Longer Slaves” and then we witnessed Kiersta’s baptism first in our slimy pond. Her father, Ben baptized her and after she emerged triumphantly out of the water her mother, Angela prayed over her. It was our turn and Jason and I stepped into the squishy mud with our son. Thaddaeus stood tall and expectant as Jason asked him if he had put all his trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross on his behalf. “Yes!” he declared so the small party could hear. Jason baptized his youngest and we celebrated “Antioch-style” as he was raised up from the water. I prayed over him then and found myself asking God to make him an arrow that God uses to shoot into the darkness of our world.

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I realize now what God was trying to tell me.

Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies at the gate. Psalm 127:3-5

It was such an unexpected gift. To see my son declare that he desires to follow Jesus all of his days by being obedient in baptism.

I know. I know that parenting is hard. My job is not done. There are many more years of tears and praying and discipling and training to do. And some days I will feel like an absolute failure. I still have so much to learn. But God is so gracious. He gives the strength for each new day. He gives the wisdom and the perseverance to keep on doing the hard work and to renew my conviction that parenting is a holy calling. It is a good and noble work. And it is a work of a warrior.

 

Deliver Us From Evil Within

Unsettled.

That’s the word that has described my spirit recently. Like a swift wind before the start of a torrential downpour whips at the trees and does mayhem to the stray hair about my face, so have the current events facing our world right now blown through my heart and my mind.

The thing is, so many have very different and very strong perspectives on this virus. The opposing arguing has become heated and ugly. I have my own opinions about things. Sometimes I share them, sometimes I refrain. But what I have seen grow within me as of late is something that has threatened to rob me of my firm footing and my peace and my joy. It’s been this unsettling. People are divided. But what is even worse is that Christians are devouring one another for sake of being right and sharing the truth. This should not be.

My question was and remains: As Christians, what should our response be to the madness surrounding us? 

I have been meeting with several ladies from my church on Zoom every Sunday afternoon to study the book of 1 Thessalonians together. It has been so timely, as a good amount of this letter that Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church 2000 years ago deals with the second coming of our Lord Jesus and how the church is to respond and live in light of His coming. In 1 Thessalonians 3, Paul is writing this fledgling church to tell them that because of their trials and persecution, he sent his dear friend, Timothy, to them to encourage them in their faith.

“so that no one would be ‘unsettled’ by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted.” 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4

There was that word, “unsettled”. Didn’t Jesus Himself prophesy that we would have trials and tribulations? But then, He also said, “Take heart! For I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33) He has overcome the world.

Sometimes it really doesn’t look like it. There is still sickness. There are still evil men in high positions. There are still broken lives. There is still sin without and within. It’s the sin within me that I must confront before I confront the evil outside of me. I must continually choose to humble myself and repent of my pride and my self-righteousness and cling to the truth of the gospel.

And here is the good news that we must remind ourselves daily and tell the world as long as we have breath: Jesus has already triumphed on the cross! He has judged the devil and this world by His death, burial and resurrection. And though evil still remains, Jesus is biding His time in order to give the opportunity to the world to repent from sin and to turn to Him and be saved. To be saved from the evil within us!

One day, maybe very soon, the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised, and Jesus will come back to this earth to take His proper role as King. True and final judgment will be issued upon evil and upon death once and for all.

As a believer in Jesus and as a citizen of His Kingdom, my response during these days must be settled conviction that He is with me and He will one day make everything right! I can rest in His sovereignty and His goodness and His justice. That doesn’t mean that we can’t vote or invest in causes that are near to our hearts or even disagree with others. But it does mean that our ultimate hope is in a King and a Kingdom that is coming to this earth.

Awake! Be sober and be watchful for we are children of the Day!

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A song I wrote entitled Children of the Day.

 

 

A Letter to Mothers During These Strange Days

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“Be very careful , then, how you live, not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” Ephesians 3:15-16

Dear Mother,

Most of us are under some kind of shelter in place regulation due to the Coronavirus Epidemic and have found ourselves in a situation where our children are at home with us. It is a forced family time, such as I have never experienced before in my life and I know most everyone else has not either. Working moms are either working from home, or, if they have “essential jobs”, are having to navigate the strange waters of having their children at home and not in school, while something is creatively worked out for their safe care. Stay at home moms may have it easier, but this new-found homeschooling has created challenges as it has catapulted most everyone into spending more time together. And then having nowhere to go.

I can’t even begin to understand how difficult this must be for you. It’s hard for me and I’ve been homeschooling for a while now!

I am not writing to give you resources that I’ve found helpful or to give you tips on how to homeschool your children. The online help is abundant in that arena. I am writing because I would like to tell you the main reason that I chose to homeschool my children over seven years ago.

My grandmother was a missionary in Honduras in the sixties. She loved Jesus in a way that made me want to know him more. Her life motto was a simple phrase and she said it often: “Only one life ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” This concept that our lives are short, that our time here on this earth is temporary is the number one message that must be comprehended when faced with the great responsibility of caring for small human beings. We are mothers. We have been entrusted with a precious gift of a life. Or more! The people in our homes are made in the image of God with the capacity of doing great good or horrendous evil. Our time with them is short and absolutely crucial for shaping the next generation. I do not homeschool my children because I think I am the greatest teacher. Nor do I keep them home because I’m trying to isolate them from the world. My main reason isn’t even that I want them to have the very best life with the best education they can have, though those are reasons.

I homeschool because I see the discipleship of my children as my number one responsibility as a mother. By discipleship I mean the training of their hearts to know and to love God. There is no higher calling than that. I see homeschooling as a means to disciple them throughout the day as we read good literature and have deep conversations, as we discover the laws of science and marvel at God’s creation, even as I have opportunities to address their disrespectful hearts or their math mistakes. It’s all discipleship! It’s all training. The pointless grammar or the tedious writing, the repetitious memory work or mundane handwriting all delivers opportunities to grow in grace and patience and kindness. It is a gift.

These days at home are a gift. Use them well, remembering that in just a little while those children will fly away.

Sincerely,

Kristin Joy

“Only one life ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” C.T. Studd

Why Integrity?

 

As I waited in line at Target yesterday, a lady with platinum blond hair motioned for me to come into another line to get checked out. She had one of those quick-scan card readers and we chatted mindlessly about their novelty and then she asked the inevitable question: were my boys twins, since I was buying two pairs of white shirts, khakis and shoes in the same size? They’re not, but two years apart. She opened up to me about her siblings, all eight of them, being two years apart and how several of them had already passed away. I offered my hurried condolences and took my bags. I then looked down at the receipt and realized that she had failed to ring up both pairs of shoes. The decision wasn’t a difficult one to make, as integrity is the culture of my family. I went back and showed her the mistake. She apologized and then referenced my honesty as being something very rare. It was then that I had a perfect opportunity to explain why I would take more time out of my day to go back and pay for something I hadn’t paid for, but my mind went blank. I had the perfect opportunity to share the gospel. But instead I stood there trying to grab hold of why I did what I did. Why honesty? Why integrity? I finally said that I try to live according to the Word of God and that I follow Jesus. She immediately asked if I was LDS (Mormon) as she had become one later in life, after all the tattoos. I told her I was not. And that was the end of the interaction.

But I am haunted by that interaction. The Lord actually woke me up at 2:00 AM and brought me to my knees this early morning. He brought me to repentance for not living my life with a sense of the urgency of the gospel. He brought me to the place of desperation for His Spirit to fill me so that I can then boldly proclaim the message of the gospel, which is that Jesus has come into this dark, dark world to bring hope and light and rescue from sin and ourselves and death. I am far too easily lulled into sleep, while people around me wander in the dark. Why Integrity? Because God has made Himself known to the world. He has stepped into the darkness and has given His very precious Word, which includes laws about honesty and not stealing, because of His love for the humanity that He created. We are to live lives of honesty and integrity because they reveal to a watching world that God is. That He has spoken. That He has come. That He is Truth.

Oh precious Holy Spirit, quicken us! Awaken your church from the deadly sleep of apathy! Bring us to repentance and let us depend again on your filling so that we may be used to bring hope to a dying world.

Run with Me

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It’s been one month since Jason and I ran the Houston Half Marathon and I am just now getting down my thoughts on a page. Life in this season of homeschooling older children is busy and the new decade has overtaken me without much time for processing that which has impacted me. But I am choosing to take the time today.

When the idea popped into my head last August that I should begin to train for a half marathon, my children thought I was out of my mind, my husband wished me well, and I secretly hoped I wouldn’t die in the process. I reached out to my friend, Andrea, who had run it before and asked if I was crazy to begin to train for it. I mean, I would turn 40 right before the race! She assured me I was not and urged me to run it with her on January 19, 2020. So I found a plan and I began to train. In a moment of weakness, Jason agreed to run it with me IF he promoted to Driver Operator before the next promotion list expired. This was back in September. The list expired October 1 and at that time he was number one on the list to promote. He began to run with me.

Dr. George Sweeting, beloved teacher and former President of Moody Bible Institute, once said, “Discipline, not desire, determines destiny.” This applies to running so well. The secret to running 13.1 miles is discipline. It was the day in, day out commitment and follow-through that took me from hardly being able to run a mile in the humid August heat to running half a marathon in the frigid January cold. I followed my plan and I ran, gradually increasing my distance and slowly picking up my speed.

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“Discipline, not desire, determines destiny.”

It turned out that Jason did not promote to Driver Operator before the list expired in October. He had to test again. Yet, he had begun to train for the race and so he continued with me and we pressed on together as the runs got longer and our bodies began to feel the miles we were putting them through. Some days we felt invigorated and strong, like we were made to run. We’d share our hearts with each other, laugh and pray, listen to music and worship. Others day were ugly and we limped our way through the miles, not talking to one another, heads down, one tender foot in front of the other. I didn’t exactly like the days I’d run with Jason for the sheer fact that he pushed me faster, harder. When I’d run alone, I’d enjoy it more because I ran slower. But he was good for me. Somewhere along the way I discovered I could run faster and, of course, it was the culmination of all of the hard days running with my husband. Jason, being much faster than I was, had signed up for a faster corral than I did in the Houston Half Marathon. But, for some reason, he chose to stay in my corral and run at my speed and spur me on during the race.

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The morning of the race, thousands of runners huddled together in the streets of Houston, trying to keep warm, minutes before the start of the run.  Andrea, Jason and I were among the throngs of people who had trained for this day, some to run the full marathon, others to run the half. The race began and we started through the crowded streets, running around slower runners, laughing at the funny signs held up by family and friends, doing what we had trained to do: run.

Though the atmosphere was intoxicating due to the amount of people and the music, the 13.1 miles were not all that different from some of the longer runs we ran together in training. It was just the next step, the next longer run. The first five miles were easy, but my pace slowed a bit after that. My niece, Mikayla, and our three kids were waiting for us at mile eight, a place I knew was a tough mile for me. They cheered us on and Jason and I unloaded our jackets upon them. It was then that I felt a change. It was harder for me to keep up with Jason. We were no longer zig-zagging through the runners, but he was several paces in front of me and I was struggling to catch him. The sight of his out-stretched arm waving me forward became the standard for the next two miles. Early on in the race Jason and I had pushed ahead of Andrea and we lost sight of one another, but at mile ten, during my hardest mile, she suddenly appeared. There is nothing like the appearance of a dear friend during a hard, long run. It filled me with unexpected energy and hope and truly gave me what I needed to finish the race. The last mile I pushed harder and ran side by side with my man until the finish line. We had done it together. We had finished the race!

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There is nothing like the appearance of a dear friend during a hard, long run.

Oh the countless parallels to the Christian life! The discipline and the pain and the triumph in the end. How together we are so much better than we are alone.

We’re all in for the long road
We’re all in for life
Run with me baby
I need you more than ever
I won’t let you
Won’t let you down
Run with Me by Hudson Taylor

The First Hundred Years Are Hard

Jason and I visited a Messianic Jewish synagogue last week in celebration of Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets. A new experience for us, we fumbled with the Siddur, the prayer book, as we found it to read backwards to forwards, and we tried to keep up with reading the Hebrew. It was a three-hour celebration and we found ourselves unused to the longevity of the service. Yet, I enjoyed it immensely. We are in the “Days of Awe”, a time of preparation and anticipation of the Return of our Messiah, Yeshua. For the first time I listened, in person, to the shofar, the Ram’s Horn, practicing the final performance of the Ages when the shofar of God will sound and Yeshua Himself shall descend and raise up His bride to be with Him forever! I sang in Hebrew the words from Revelation 22, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come, and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”

calm blue sea during golden hour
Photo by Sasha Martynov on Pexels.com

The very next morning, right before my run, I received some sad news concerning the miscarriage of a lady from my church. I don’t personally know this family, but the announcement of death had such a sobering effect on the morning. It seemed to go against everything about the Feast of Trumpets, this celebration and anticipation of resurrection. I put my ear buds in and willed my body down the road, as the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” filled my soul. I remembered the words that my pastor’s wife had spoken to a gathering of women the week before. She was sharing her personal story of how the Lord had pulled her out of her despair over the death of several people in the church. The Lord had said to her heart, “Only I can touch life and death.” It’s moments like these that make me bow to the sovereignty and the holiness of God the Father.

I contemplated the Lord’s sovereignty in the midst of our suffering and our loss. I recalled the stories of so many of my precious friends and family members who are still in the middle of difficult trials of sickness, pain, betrayal, and trauma. My dear friend, Ruth, who is no stranger to suffering, disclosed to me a poignant saying that a wise woman once told her, “The first hundred years are hard.”

Yes. This is so true. Life is hard. Suffering is reality. Sin is still here on this earth. Things do not always go the way we had hoped or prayed. The first hundred years are hard.

But as I ran, scripture from the night before came to my mind. Scripture that speaks of something more powerful than suffering. More victorious than sin and death.

If it is only for this life that we have put our hope in the Messiah, we are more pitiable than anyone. But the fact is that the Messiah has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a man, also the resurrection of the dead has come through a man. For just as in connection with Adam all die, so in connection with the Messiah all will be made alive.  1 Corinthians 15:19-22 CJB

Paul, the author of these words, had a close relationship with suffering. He understood what it meant to be hungry, poor, imprisoned, sick, burdened, beaten, and, ultimately, martyred for his faith. But he says that if we have hope only for this life here, we are to be pitied! His hope was solidly in the resurrection of Christ and in the eventual resurrection of all believers from the dead.

Listen, I tell you a secret- not all of us will die! But we will all be changed! It will take but a moment, the blink of an eye, at the final shofar. For the shofar will sound, and the dead will be raised to live forever, and we too will be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 CJB

The first hundred, or however many years the Sovereign Lord gives us on this planet, may indeed be hard, but after that? After that, for us who love the Messiah Yeshua and have put our faith in Him, we will be forever with Him! And if He returns while we are still alive and remain, we will be caught up to meet our Lord in the air and changed by the resurrection of the dead!

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God’s shofar; those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we who are left still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord. So encourage each other with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18 CJB

This is surpassing news, almost too good to be true! But it is our blessed hope amid the suffering of our day and why we keep looking to the clouds.