The Reason of the Universe

The New Testament was originally written in Greek, so oftentimes looking up the Greek word provides helpful insight in understanding verses in the Bible. John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Word in Greek is Logos. The Greeks used logos as an impersonal reason of the universe, a sense of purpose, holding everything together. John goes on to explain that Jesus is the Word, or the Logos. Jesus is the personal, reason of the universe.

The whole first chapter of John is an introduction to the identity of Jesus Christ. John tells us that Jesus is God (v1), the Maker (v2), the true Light (v9), the Son of God (v14), God the One and only (v18), Lamb of God (v29), Chosen One (v34), Rabbi (v38), Messiah (v41), the One Moses wrote about (v45), the King of Israel (v49), and the Son of Man (v51).

How can Jesus be all these things? Because He is God. God became a man, so we can have a relationship with God.

In this first chapter of John, we see the beginning of Jesus’ disciples. Andrew had been following John the Baptist until he saw Jesus and declared “look the Lamb of God.” Andrew left John the Baptist and started following Jesus. The first thing he did was go and tell his brother Simon Peter about Jesus and bring his brother to meet Jesus. That’s exactly our mission too – tell others about Jesus, starting with your family. Simon comes to Jesus and Jesus changes his name to Peter, telling him that He has greater things planned for him.

Then Philip finds Jesus and follows him. Jesus calls Philip to discipleship: a surrendering of himself to follow Jesus. Philip tells his friend Nathanael, who is not so quick to believe. But Jesus knows Nathanael before He meets him. Hearing what Jesus already knows about Nathanael, he chooses to believe, declaring “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

Before He meets them, Jesus knows the disciples’ past and He knows their future. The same with us – He knows your past – the good and the bad. And He is calling you to a greater future. Don’t let your past hold you back from living the life Jesus has for you.

A Strange Introduction

I’m hosting a summer Bible study for women and children, complete with a babysitter to do games, crafts and Bible stories with the kids while the moms chat and study the Bible. But this first week I did the kids’ lesson. I thought you’d enjoy it too or want to share with your kids.

John 1:1

“The Word was in the beginning. The Word was with God. The Word was God.” (New Living Translation)

What does this even mean? Who is this about? It’s actually about Jesus! In fact this is an introduction. When you meet someone you might say, hi my name is Debbie. But what if they want to know more? What else would you say? You could add how old you are, where you are from, maybe your parents’ names.

That’s exactly what John is saying. He is introducing us to Jesus. If we replace “Word” with the name Jesus, it makes a little more sense to us: Jesus was in the beginning. Jesus was with God. Jesus was God.

Now we have a little science experiment. We’ll take this empty plastic bottle and fill it 1/3 full of hot water. Then I’ll take this ice cube and put it over the top opening of the bottle. Do you know what ice is made of? Water! We have water in the bottle, frozen water (ice) at the top, and in the middle what is forming? Fog – that’s another type of water. All three things are water, yet they are all different. That is exactly like God! God is one God but in three forms: the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son Jesus Christ.

Let’s read a few more verses: “He was with God in the beginning. He made all things. Nothing was made without Him making it. Life began by Him. His Life was the Light for men. The Light shines in the darkness. The darkness has never been able to put out the Light.” (John 1:2-5)

Now I have some glow stick bracelets for you. When you wear these, you can remember that Jesus is the light. When you feel “darkness” – like sad or scared or lonely – you can talk to Jesus and remember that He makes the darkness go away. Jesus is the Light!

*If you live in the area, send me a message and come to the next Summer Study (Tuesday mornings). Stay tuned: I’ll be posting some of the adult lessons too!

A Piece of Me

For 8 years, a piece of my heart has been missing. When my first son Caleb was born, 8 years ago today, he went straight to heaven. We held his tiny body. 10 fingers, 10 toes. Daddy’s nose. Eye lashes, finger nails. (Lord may I humbly suggest you work on the vital organs and lungs before nails and eyelashes.) Caleb was born prematurely and wouldn’t live on this earth.

The joy of being a new mom immediately replaced with the sorrow of losing a child. He never called me Mommy or told me he loved me. But the day he was born my heart grew so much. I loved Caleb more than I ever knew I could love anyone! Saying goodbye at his grave I buried a piece of my heart. A big piece.

In the years that followed, Jeff and I had two more sons Jack (6) and Parker (3). Some people say things like “sorry for Caleb’s loss BUT at least you have Jack and Parker.” I understand what they mean and their good intentions. But there is no BUT. I have sorrow and grief about Caleb’s death and no other child can replace him or fix the grief. At first I thought it would.

When Jack was born, I thought now I have my boy. But it was different. There should have been two boys. Then we had Parker and I had my two boys. But there should be three. Sometimes I’ll buy matching clothes for Jack and Parker and have this longing to buy a third set. There should be three.

Chasing Jack and Parker around certainly fills my time and brings me joy. But my heart will always be split. My heart and ability to love has grown exponentially with each child, more than I ever thought possible. But a piece of my heart will always be in heaven with Caleb until one day we are reunited.

Until then I rest in the knowledge that God is good, faithful, and trustworthy. He is near to the broken-hearted. He sees every tear I cry. He gives me peace that passes all understanding. Thank You Lord.

Happy 8th Birthday Caleb!

Jesus is a Love Expert (Part 3)

img_4182Read part 1 about Discovering your child’s love language and Part 2 about Discipline with love languages. Also check out the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell.

Ultimately our example is Jesus. The Bible says “the Lord disciplines those He loves.” So how did Jesus discipline? Two stories stood out to me.

Jesus and the Woman at the Well (found in John 4:1-26, 39-42)

Jesus is passing through Samaria and stops at a well in the middle of the day. A woman happens to be getting water at the same time and Jesus starts a conversation with her. First, we should notice some things: women usually got water in the morning to avoid the heat of midday, so this woman probably wanted to avoid the townspeople. She is surprised Jesus is talking to her because not only did men and women not talk to each other much, but Jews and Samaritans didn’t talk to each other.

Jesus asks for water, she’s surprised He’s talking to her and He says you should ask me for living water.  So she does. Jesus says go call your husband. I don’t have one, she says. Jesus says that’s true you’ve had 5 plus the man you live with now is not your husband. Probably feeling convicted or guilty, she tries to change the focus of the conversation by acknowledging Jesus must be a prophet, and asking him a controversial question about where people should worship. Jesus says a time is coming when the place you worship doesn’t matter, because we will worship in spirit and in truth. Finally she asks about the Messiah and Jesus says I am He.

The woman leaves her bucket and immediately runs into the town to tell the people about Jesus. Many of them become believers. They hear Jesus teach and they tell the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

What Love Language did Jesus use? Quality Time. He spent time with this woman – probably something she was craving. We know she had been bouncing from relationship to relationship with six men. She avoided the townspeople because they probably gossiped about her. Jesus spent time with her and the result was that she believed, she told the town, and many others believed in Jesus.

Jesus and the Woman Caught in Adultery (found in John 8:1-11)

Jesus is teaching in the temple court and a crowd of people are gathered around Him. The religious leaders & Pharisees interrupt and bring in a woman caught in the act of adultery and ask Jesus “In the law, Moses says to stone such women. What do you say?” They were trying to trick Jesus so they could accuse him.

Jesus seemingly ignores them, bends down and starts writing in the dirt with his finger. These men keep badgering him “what do we do? She was caught in the act!” Finally, Jesus stands up and says “whoever has not sinned can cast the first stone.”

We don’t know what Jesus was writing. We can pretty much assume if this woman was “caught in the act” then she’s not wearing much clothing if any. So when Jesus bends down to write in the sand, where does everyone look? Do they look at the woman? No they’re looking at what Jesus is writing. They want to know what his answer is.

Was Jesus making a list of sins in the dirt? This woman did something wrong, but so did the men who caught her. Probably so did the town. Maybe Jesus is writing “Gossip. Lust. Jealousy. Anger. Malice. Hate.” Slowly one by one the crowd walks away.

Jesus asks the woman, “has no one condemned you?” No. “Then neither do I. Go and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus showed some love languages here: Acts of Service by protecting the woman from this angry crowd, Gifts of mercy and grace, Words of Affirmation. He showed her she wasn’t alone in sinning.

Then Jesus gives her a command. He doesn’t make a request, Would you please leave your sinful life? No, He makes a command and tells her “Go and leave your life of sin.” But because He has shown such love to her, she is more likely to listen, isn’t she?

Jesus was perfect and lived a sinless life. He could have condemned that woman. But He chose to give her grace. We are not perfect. I hate to break it to you friends, but you are not perfect. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. And our children are sinners in need of a Savior. God has entrusted dither to us so we can discipline them – train them in the way they should go. May we demand less perfection and show more grace.

Saying Goodbye

Yesterday we went to the memorial service for my neighbor, Kathleen. She was a kind, cheerful woman, always smiling. We would chat over the fence about gardens and landscaping. She would hire Jack to pull weeds because he was trying to earn money for something, but then of course, she had to sit with him and teach him which things were weeds. Kathleen was a loving person, thinking of others even when she was facing trials of her own.

My neighbor is actually Renee, Kathleen’s mom. A few years ago Kathleen moved in with her mom in case the 80-something year old ever needed help or someone to care for her. But Renee had raised a dozen children, mostly on her own, so she rarely needs help from others. Kathleen was the oldest of the family. I asked her how she was doing living with her mom. She said “It’s wonderful! I’ve been waiting my whole life for one-on-one time with mom!” She always had a way of looking on the positive side of things.

But instead of daughter taking care of mom, it turned out that Kathleen got cancer and her mom was taking care of her. She battled for several months before being diagnosed as terminal. Still she remained joyful.

Psalm 139 says “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. … For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (verses 7-16).

When things don’t go as we planned, we can take comfort from these verses. We can trust that first, God is faithful. He will never leave us. Even when we try to get away from Him, He is still there to hold us and guide us. Second, the Lord loves us. He created us. He wants to be with us. The Psalm goes on to say that His thoughts about us are precious. God LOVES us! Third, we can trust that God is good. We may not understand His plans, we may doubt there are plans at all. But His word says He planned all of our days before we were even born (Psalm 139:16). No one dies “too soon.” Surely they die sooner than we wanted. But God had all of these days planned. There’s nothing we could have done to lengthen their life.

img_4001When you find things not going as you expected – when not if, because I’m pretty sure a time will come – I hope you cling to these same truths. God is faithful. God loves you. God is good. May you find peace in knowing your Creator is with you. And like Kathleen, may you find joy no matter the circumstances.

Jonah: More than a Fish Story

Jeff took this picture in Sydney, Australia on our honeymoon and it has been hanging on this wall for almost eight years. Despite being a high traffic zone in our house, and us opening and closing the doors nearby multiple times a day, this picture has never been crooked. Until two weeks ago.

The details are a little fuzzy in my mind, but it probably involves one or two children not getting out the door as fast as I planned. So, being the rational, Godly woman I am, I slammed the door shut. Very hard.

“Do you do well to be angry?” God asked Jonah.

“Do you do well to be angry?” God asked me.

For two weeks that picture has been crooked. No matter how many times I straighten it each day, it’s always crooked. One day I asked Jeff if he had some poster putty to fix it. “It’s so weird that the picture is crooked now,” Jeff said. Yeah, so weird…

I confessed my sin to Jeff. I think he rolled his eyes. I immediately felt regret for slamming the door, but I had a two week crooked picture reminder that my anger doesn’t accomplish anything.

How many times do I have the boys in their car seats and realize I forgot my keys, or sunglasses, or water? I’m just as guilty for making us late as they are. And does it even matter if we are a few minutes late?

After Jonah was swallowed and vomitted by a fish, he finally obeyed God and told the people of Ninevah that God was going to judge the city. The people repented. They changed their ways and called on the Lord to not destroy them. And God had mercy on them. He relented from His anger and showed them mercy. But Jonah… He wasn’t happy about it all. He was angry. Angry about a plant that provided him shade but then died. Angry that God sent him to Ninevah, only to show mercy to them. Angry that he couldn’t choose who received God’s favor.

Do you do well to be angry? It’s not worth a crooked picture frame for weeks. Or worse. Take a breath. Be thankful for the mercy God shows you, and start showing that mercy to others.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20

Stop Your Whining

My car is only one month older than Jack

My car is only one month older than Jack

My car was making a weird noise and it’s less than two years old, so I brought it to the dealership. I planned on waiting the one hour for them to diagnose the problem, figuring I’d have to make another appointment for them to fix whatever is wrong. Jack and I entertained ourselves by sitting in every car in the showroom, watching every show on my iPad, and eating every snack I brought all Car4within the first 20 minutes. Now what?

After one hour 15 minutes, they still couldn’t figure out what was wrong so they put me in a loaner car. Now you need to know: 1) I drive an SUV. 2) they only had a sedan available. Ok that’s fine, it might not fit my stroller but I’ll survive. But my car guy was nice “I have kids. I know what it’s like. I’ll get your stroller to fit.”
By the time I signed the papers and got out there, Nice Car Guy had moved my stroller into the loaner AND was securing the car seat for me! How wonderful!

Car3The next day my car was “fixed” (the “quotes” are some foreshadowing for you), I returned the loaner, hoped Nice Car Guy would move the car seat for me again but he wasn’t there. I struggled to move it while keeping Jack from being run over, or running away.

One week later: noise returns. I schedule an appointment to bring my car in and immediately
get a loaner (since we’ve already sat in ever car on the showroom floor).

The loaner they gave me was pretty much a shoe box with wheels. We might as well have just put an engine on Jack’s little pull wagon. I joke, but I’m kind of serious. Kid stuff takes up space. Just fitting the car seat in the shoe box loaner was challenging.

In addition to its small size, the Shoe Box with Wheels didn’t even have bluetooth. How am I supposed to listen to music? Especially since my main radio station was doing their annual fundraiser. Also, this car did NOT fit my stroller – no way around it – and we had plans to go to the zoo. After some complicated conversations with friends, I discovered a Car1friend who had an extra stroller IN her car – imagine a double stroller and single stroller in your car at the same time, and I couldn’t even fit one stroller in this car. Oh, and Jeff didn’t really fit in the car. He had to sit in the backseat.

I drove the Shoe Box for almost a week and I complained about it for almost a week. It was a brand new car. It was safe, reliable, and got us where we needed to go. Oh, and it was free. Totally free. And I complained about it for a week.

The last day we had the Shoe Box, Jack and I went to my cousin’s house and I was going to pick up McDonalds on the way. Jack was whining in the backseat about something or nothing, and my whining and complaining about the car was starting to sink in.

Jack, you are going to stop whining, and Mommy is going to stop whining.

Little Jack just 3 months old in the big stroller.

Little Jack just 3 months old in the big stroller.

And then I looked up and saw McDonalds was actually on the left and I was in the right turn lane. So much for McDonalds. I guess we’ll get a Lunchable at the gas station (don’t judge my parenting eating choices, this post is about complaining.)

“Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Do you know who said that? Do you hear this quote much? If we were friends in high school, you might recall that it was our theme verse for every youth group trip. It’s in the Bible. Philippians 2:14.

We are commanded not to complain. Which means that complaining is a sin. I knew all this even as the words were coming out of my mouth complaining about the Shoe Box, I mean Loaner Car. But we live in a culture of entitlement – I’m entitled to a loaner car equivalent to my real car. And when we don’t get it, we complain. My complaining was usually kind of funny. You probably laughed reading this post because you can sympathize. But it’s still sin. Sometimes sin is funny – to us. It’s never funny to God.

BusPhilippians 2 is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. It admonishes us to encourage, comfort and love each other. Don’t be selfish, be humble, and think of others as better than yourself. Have the same attitude as Christ – though He was GOD, He humbled Himself to death on a cross. Don’t complain, don’t argue. Be blameless and pure. Shine your light. Hold firmly to the Word of God.

Next time you hear me complain, call me out. I don’t want to get sucked in to living like this world. I want to live like Jesus. I want my joy for Christ to shine, even in a Shoe Box With Wheels.

The Little Things

If a day comes when you think you are really a patient person, I have a challenge for you: try to find a parking spot in downtown Hinsdale at lunchtime on a weekday. I’m speaking from experience.

I’m not upset with downtown. After all, it’s because of Hinsdale that I know how to parallel park better than anyone who did not grow up in Hinsdale (imagine drivers ed class tests of parallel parking between a Mercedes and a BMW).

As I circled downtown many times, willing to park even blocks away, I started questioning my desire for Chinese food. I had already placed the order and only needed to run in and pick it up. I started looking for someone walking by that I could give $20 to get my order for me. After about 73 laps around town, I prayed out of desperation “Lord, puh-leeease give me a parking spot.”

Ta-da! A spot opened up RIGHT in front of the Chinese food store. Maybe I should’ve prayed 72 laps ago!

Does God care about parking spots? Not necessarily.

But God cares about ME. He cares so deeply about me that He provides for EVERYTHING I need. Did I need a parking spot? No. But I felt God showing me in that moment that He will always provide for me because He loves me. I am His daughter.

This is a lesson I need Jack to learn. You are my son and I love you. I will give you what you need.

And right now you do not need to watch The Cat In The Hat.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry. (Matthew 6:26-31)

Jack, I will provide for you.
Lord, I know You will provide for me. Help me not to worry. And thanks for the parking spot!


Hello You Have Reached…

photo 1Does anyone even use a home phone anymore? We have one just in case one day we have a babysitter who doesn’t have a cell phone and needs to call 911 for an emergency… although I’m pretty sure even junior high kids have cell phones these days. Lately our home phone has been ringing a lot, even though we never answer it. The telemarketers haven’t figured that out. They have a tough job! People rarely answer the phone if they don’t recognize the number, and then if they do answer they aren’t happy to be speaking with someone trying to sell them something.

As I was doing dishes and letting the phone ring I wondered if I ever treat God like that… not answering when He calls, or answering but being upset. It seemed a strange thought. Surely I wouldn’t do that. I want to answer God and I’m happy to hear from Him.

photo 2Lately I’ve been wanting to wake up earlier (I use the word “wanting” very loosely) and spend time reading the Bible and praying. But every time my alarm goes off I hit snooze. Or Jack wakes up before my alarm goes off. Then I remembered a few days last week when Jack woke up early (around 5am) and I held him and convinced him it was still nighttime and he went back to sleep. As I was on my way back to bed, I remembered my desire to spend time with the Lord … I could just stay awake now and go read the Bible. Maybe God woke Jack up just to get me up. Maybe that was God calling … I didn’t answer. I went back to sleep.

How else has God been calling me? Maybe the ideas to bring cookies to the neighbor, dinner to a friend, email a friend to see how she’s doing. But I get distracted from these good intentions. God calls and I say “hold on.” The Creator of the universe, my Maker, my Redeemer calls me. Am I really listening? Are you listening?

In Genesis 22 God calls Abraham and Abraham answers “Here I am.” God gives Abraham instructions to sacrifice his son, the one God promised to Abraham whom Abraham had waited for many, many years. Abraham is obedient and brings his son Isaac up the mountain for the offering. Isaac asks where the animal is to sacrifice and Abraham says “God will provide.” Abraham takes the knife in his hand, ready to slay his son in obedience to God, but God calls him: Abraham. “Here I am,” says Abraham. God says to him, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Now I know you fear God because you have not withheld from me your son.”

God called Abraham and Abraham answered – twice. If Abraham didn’t hear the second time, Isaac would have died. If Abraham didn’t hear and obey the first time, he would have missed the miracle. He would have missed the testing of his faith, which produces perseverance, character, and hope. Abraham trusted God and God did not fail Him.

May we have ears, minds, and hearts that listen for when God is calling us. May we respond “Here I am” – willing, available, ready. May we answer Him joyfully, with gratitude. May we grow in our faith, trusting that God will always provide.

It’s a Love Day

I could write about the Valentine’s Day when Jeff got me a muffler for my car, or how our exciting plans tonight include possibly attending a high school indoor track meet (how romantic!) or how all of my pajama pants for at least 10 years had hearts on them because my mom always bought me some for V-day and I racked up quite a collection. But there’s a love greater than parent & child, husband & wife, me & vanilla chai.

For I am convinced that 
neither death nor life
neither angels nor demons
neither the present nor the future
nor any powers
neither height nor depth
nor anything else in all creation
will be able to separate us from the LOVE of GOD that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing. Not your death or the death of a loved one. Not the concerns of today or your worries about the future. Not your singleness or your marriage. Not your parenting. Not your sins, not your fears, not your desires, not your selfishness, not your faithlessness. Nothing. Nothing can separate you from God’s love for you through Jesus Christ.

God’s love is so strong for you that He sacrificed His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross and pay the penalty for all of our sins so that we can have a relationship with God. The only thing we need to do is accept such an incredible gift. “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Say it and believe it.

Thanksgiving JD

No matter what your relationship status, today and everyday you can celebrate the incredible, unfailing love of God for you. A love that never runs out. A love that gives better gifts than mufflers.