Encircling My People

Encircling My People

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I feel like a lioness rounding up her cubs after an attack, encircling them physically (by treading a path around & around) and spiritually (by calling out their names one-by-one to the Lord on high).

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photo from Pinterest by Design You Trust

We live in a broken world, and as I age (50 this year!) it’s becoming more and more evident. The enemy is alive and well. (But so is Jesus!) I recently read this phrase in Acts, “There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews . . . ” (Acts 14:5 NIV). Sounds like the beginning of a Sherlock Holmes book. “There was a plot afoot . . . ” I kind of chuckled and had to read it again. But the truth is, there is a plot afoot. Our enemy is making plans to destroy us and our testimony. And he will use whatever means possible. Our marriages. Our families. Our health. Our relationships. Our finances. Our addictions. The list is endless.

My mama antennae are up — not just for my biological (and adopted) children, but for my spiritual children as well. I am encircling my people – the ladies I have come to love and will defend. I am thinking of the ladies in our small church family, but there are others. The ones I’ve laughed with and cried with. Celebrated and mourned alongside. I am saying to the enemy, “These are my people–God’s people. You can’t have them.” I am praying fervently to God on their behalf. I am believing and trusting in His faithfulness and promises.

The enemy is trying to crush us as a church, as families, as witnesses. But we have the power. We have hope. We have the One who defeats. So this is my heart-cry: Let’s ban together. Let’s love each other and pray for each other. Let’s be there for each other because we need each other. Let’s be on our knees asking God on high to redeem and heal and forgive. To love and penetrate our hearts. Because we know Who wins and we have hope.

” . . . let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

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Happy Father’s Day

To new fathers wondering how fatherhood works,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers of teens still wondering how fatherhood works,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers who are now grandfathers,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers with hearts that soar over their child’s accomplishments,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers with hearts that ache over their child’s failures,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers who play ball with their children,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers who struggle to maintain food on the table,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers who go to bed weary,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers of an adopted child,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers of a foster child,
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers who tell their children “I love you unconditionally,”
Happy Father’s Day

To fathers who lead their children by following Christ,
Happy Father’s Day

To my father who is a source of encouragement, strength, and wisdom,
Happy Father’s Day

Barb and Dad dancing Barb and Dad

Afternoon Break

children at pool

During the summer my children and I try to spend an hour or so at the pool several days a week. Many times I find it difficult to desert my chores to accomplish this task. Ah, therein lays the problem—I think of it as a task, one more item to cross off my list of to-dos. In the midst of my hurried day—between picking strawberries and cooking supper—it’s hard to stop and sit still while my children play with their friends at the local pool.

Yet the break in my routine typically refreshes me. It’s a marvelous excuse to soak in the sun and catch up on my reading or prayer time. My thoughts are forced to slow down and focus. My body has no choice but to relax. And my Spirit finds time to connect with the Lord. It’s a time to re-group.

Often, I find myself delighting in the laughter of the children, the splash of the water, the colors of the swimsuits, and the joy evident on the faces of my children. And I am thankful.

With this renewed attitude and perspective, I am able to dive back into my chores with more energy.

Does your daily routine allow for a break?

Do you find a slight break in your day refreshing?

Are You Awake?

bare feet

The car thermometer read 38 degrees as I pulled into the driveway. Two girls ran out. Neither wore a coat, but what caught my eye was the youngest one’s bare feet and runny nose.

“Where are your shoes?” I asked.

“I couldn’t find them,” she replied.

Several weeks ago I noticed an empty place in a pew two rows behind me. An older couple, out of town for the weekend, typically sits there with their “kids”—children they pick up from various homes every Sunday morning. I didn’t know the little ones; but seeing the empty spot triggered a thought. There is no reason for those children to miss church when Mr. & Mrs. Evans are gone. I can pick them up just as easily.

The next Sunday I told Mrs. Evans I would gladly transport her “kids” the next time she was out of town. I didn’t have to wait long. She called a few days later, “My husband and I will be gone next weekend. Were you serious about getting the kids?”

“Definitely,” I answered.

That’s how I ended up sitting in my van waiting for the girl with no shoes to hop in. She found a seat and I handed her a tissue. By this point my van was full. The three older children I picked up first helped these newer ones get buckled as we got acquainted. I learned the youngest one’s name was Janelle. I wondered why I hadn’t bothered to get to know these children before. Could it be I was so wrapped up in my own world I hadn’t been awake to what was around me?

I dropped the children off at the proper Sunday school classes and proceeded to my own. I smiled. I had poked my head out of my comfortable world and helped others. No, it wasn’t a big deal. It had cost little. But God used this simple act to remind me I was His vessel to reach a lost world, and it felt good.

After Sunday school, I gathered the children and walked to the sanctuary. Janelle sat next to me drawing carrots and pink crosses. When I asked about one sketch, she pointed to the chandelier hanging above her head and said, “It’s that.”  She sang her ABC’s and asked about the angel in a book she was looking through. I don’t know why, but I was surprised by her intelligence. Her questions and drawings indicated a depth I didn’t think was there. I put my arm around her.

The title of the sermon flashed on the screen: Are You Awake? As my husband, the pastor, joked that he was not testing our alertness, Janelle put her fingers in her mouth and leaned into me. A few minutes later, she scooted down, laid her head in my lap, and closed her eyes. As I watched this precious child sleep, I thought about how I would have missed out on this moment had I not been awake – awake to God’s presence and aware of my surroundings.

Are you awake? When was the last time God used your surroundings to nudge you?

*This blog post first appeared on Lisa Cowman’s blogsite Real Life Faith .

Witness

I stepped off the airplane and headed toward baggage claim. As I rounded the corner, I spotted him . . . my husband. My heart leapt! An unexpected surprise! I had driven to the airport, so his presence was unnecessary.

I smiled. “Why are you here?”

“I missed you,” he replied. “Besides, I want to be here—I am the witness to your life.”

I knew the reference. It was from a movie we had watched together, Shall We Dance? In the movie, the main character, played by Susan Sarandon, explains why people get married. “We need a witness to our lives . . . in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. . . You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

Don’s declaration means that he not only loves me, but he values me and our time together. He treasures the time we spend together and desires to know me—the whole me—intimately. He expresses this in numerous ways. He cheers for me. He listens to me. He consoles me. He counsels me. He encourages me. He helps me. He leads me. In essence, he emulates Christ. And because of his actions, I better reflect Christ to others, especially our children.

Which makes me wonder . . . shouldn’t I be the witness to my children’s lives? Who, besides the Lord, cares for them more? Don’t they need someone to hold them when they are hurt, pay attention to them when they are discouraged, and listen to their stories even when they go on and on with no ending in sight?

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So when you see me shout the loudest after Melinda makes a basket, know it’s because I am her cheerleader.

track meet

When you see me yell, “You can do it!” as JT runs past me at a track meet, know it’s because I am his encourager.

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When you see me assist Kenneth during a magic show, know it’s because I am his helper.

drummer

When you see me attend a rock concert in which Kevin is the drummer, know it’s because I am his promoter.

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When you see me wipe a tear as JT and Kevin walk down the aisle in their caps and gowns, know it’s because I am their teacher.

I am the witness to their lives.

What about you? Whose life are you witnessing?