When Life Feels Like Constructing a Puzzle

JESSICA ROAN|GUEST It happens every Christmas vacation. The anticipation, the buildup, the excitement. My boys can hardly stand it. They are so excited to sleep in, have time off, and do what they want to do.  Then reality sets in. They don’t sleep in but awake at 6:30 am and are bored to tears by 8:30. Then the pestering starts. “Mom, I’m bored. What should I do?” Now, I can’t translate in any language well, but I can read pre-teen and teen boy well. They don’t really want me to tell them what to do. They know the options. They want me to tell them they can have screen time and watch television or play video games. Ugh. Raising kids in a virtual world is a daunting task. So, this year, on a whim in the aisle at Barnes and Noble, I asked my son to pick out a puzzle. It was beautiful, a picture of an idyllic Mediterranean setting. So, hoping to provide some screenless family time, we broke open the bag and started putting together the puzzle’s boarder. We have completed a few larger puzzles a before this, usually with my mother’s expert help, but I’m sorry to say that two months later, our scene is missing more than a few pieces. We are getting there, and we will finish it, but our “holiday puzzle” has sadly outlasted the holidays. A Puzzling Life Life is a bit like an unfinished puzzle. Sure, we have the promise of “everything we need for life and godliness,” but that doesn’t mean each day doesn’t require trial and error, just like constructing a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. For example, sometimes a piece simply doesn’t fit where I think it should. In our recent puzzle adventure, we complained that pieces didn’t fit in spaces where it seemed they ought to fit. This is true in our spiritual lives as well. I often have specific plans and expectations for the way God should do things. More specifically, I think I know who I ought to minister to and what that ministry should look like. Often, however, God brings me a person I wasn’t expecting with a ministry opportunity I didn’t plan for at all...

When Life Feels Like Constructing a Puzzle2022-05-03T21:39:29+00:00

John 13: A Glimpse into the Savior’s Heart and Mind

JUDIE PUCKETT|GUEST “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God, and was going back to God, rose from supper” (John 13:3-4a). Astronomy has always fascinated me. I remember being in elementary school when the mobile planetarium visited our class. We would sit in the dark on the floor and gaze up at the night sky, full of brilliant stars, trying to identify different constellations and distant planets. Still today, I will get up at 3:00 a.m., wrap up in lots of blankets, and venture outside to watch a winter meteor shower or catch a glimpse of a solar phenomenon. While all of these wonders always exist in our galaxy, there are only certain times of the year and specific times of the night when we actually get a glimpse of the magnificent. In John 13, the heart and mind of the Magnificent One can be glimpsed. It is a rare treasure when the Holy Spirit allows us to peek into the thoughts of our Savior. Jesus and his disciples are gathered for their last meal together before our Messiah goes to the cross. John tells us that Jesus knows, “…his hour has come to depart out of this world….” Let’s not pass too quickly over this phrase. Jesus is about to be betrayed by a dear friend, abandoned by all His followers, suffer under the hands of ruthless enemies, die a death He doesn’t deserve and be forsaken by His Father. This is a grave moment of deep and isolating sorrow. And yet, despite His own imminent suffering, the heart of Jesus is to move towards, and not away, from His disciples. He prepares to serve them by humbling Himself to the place of the lowest servant and washing their feet. “…Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper…poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet….” Here is where we catch a beautiful glimpse into the heart and mind of our Suffering Servant. The Spirit shows us His thoughts, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands….” In that moment, Jesus remembers God’s sovereignty. In His suffering and sorrow, God’s control over every detail and facet of creation was at the forefront of His mind. What a reminder for us! Wherever you are today, whether in the midst of broken relationships, deep grief, overwhelming anxiety or an apathy that seems paralyzing, remember God is perfectly sovereign. There is not one tiny detail of your life over which God is not ruling. Every single day of your life has been written in His book before even one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). Like Jesus, it is good for us to remember our God is the uncontested King. Remember who He is...

John 13: A Glimpse into the Savior’s Heart and Mind2022-05-09T01:06:17+00:00

John 13: A Glimpse Into the Savior’s Heart and Mind

JUDIE PUCKETT | GUEST “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God, and was going back to God, rose from supper” (John 13:3-4a). Astronomy has always fascinated me. I remember being in elementary school when the mobile planetarium visited our class. We would sit in the dark on the floor and gaze up at the night sky, full of brilliant stars, trying to identify different constellations and distant planets. Still today, I will get up at 3:00 a.m., wrap up in lots of blankets, and venture outside to watch a winter meteor shower or catch a glimpse of a solar phenomenon. While all of these wonders always exist in our galaxy, there are only certain times of the year and specific times of the night when we actually get a glimpse of the magnificent. In John 13, the heart and mind of the Magnificent One can be glimpsed. It is a rare treasure when the Holy Spirit allows us to peek into the thoughts of our Savior. Jesus and his disciples are gathered for their last meal together before our Messiah goes to the cross. John tells us that Jesus knows, “…his hour has come to depart out of this world….” Let’s not pass too quickly over this phrase. Jesus is about to be betrayed by a dear friend, abandoned by all His followers, suffer under the hands of ruthless enemies, die a death He doesn’t deserve and be forsaken by His Father. This is a grave moment of deep and isolating sorrow.

John 13: A Glimpse Into the Savior’s Heart and Mind2022-05-04T00:44:21+00:00

Trusting God in the Foster Care Journey

SHEA PATRICK|GUEST I have a confession to make. Sometimes when I start a new book, I immediately turn to the end of the story to see what is going to happen. In the same vein, I often read spoilers to know what is going to happen in a television show I am watching. I want to protect myself from being surprised by a bad ending. My desire to know the end before I even start is constantly challenged by our involvement in foster care. Our family has had multiple children in and out of our home, and there is only one thing that you can count on with foster care:  you have no idea what is going to happen when the Department of Social Services (DSS) is involved. Many aspects of our family life— where we live, what kind of trips we can take— are subject to the whim of a court that does not even know our family. For someone who likes to be in control and make plans, not knowing the future can be a nightmare. I am learning I can put my trust in one sure thing: God. Trusting God in the Beginning When we take in a foster child, it is often on short notice. The state (DSS) calls and tells us a case worker is on the way with a child. Many times, the grief the child feels is overwhelming and heartbreaking. There have been times when our other children woke up in the morning with a new child in the house who was not there the night before. It disrupts family patterns and routines. Immediately, I jump into planning mode, arranging doctor visits, school registrations, counseling, and other services. I secure clothing and other needed items. These plans are difficult to make when I don’t know how long a child will be with us. It’s overwhelming to know where to begin. Often, I return to a verse in 2 Chronicles: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (v. 12). The Lord lifts my eyes from the craziness of the circumstances and walks with me through the next steps He would have us to take. Trusting God in the Middle Often in foster cases, the child’s birth family is still involved. DSS schedules visits for the child to visit with parents and siblings. When we first began fostering, I admit things were very black and white for me. I assumed that because these parents had children in the system, they must be “bad parents.” The more that we have been involved in foster care, the more I have seen how this is not true. As we have gotten to know the child’s biological parents, we often see how a bad decision or a string of bad decisions have ramifications for everyone. God enabled us to build relationships and show compassion to those whose children we care for— to honor their birth families and existing relationships. It has been humbling to see how the brokenness in other families often mirrors the brokenness in my own, creating common ground. Involvement in another family’s story can be messy, but we find time and time again that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18)...

Trusting God in the Foster Care Journey2022-05-04T23:31:21+00:00

On the Question Every Heart Asks: Why?

We all know the favorite question of young children is “Why?” Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why do I have to eat this? Why do I have to go to bed? The year 2020 has been a year of “WHY?” questions, often making us feel as helpless as young children. Why do we have to shut down? Why do we have to wear masks? Why are protests allowed when churches can’t meet? Why are they doing that? Why can’t things just be “normal”? For me, personally, those questions have included Why did my sister die? Why couldn’t I be with her in the hospital? Why did they move so far away? Why wasn’t I a better sister? If we gathered into books all the “Why?” questions from around the world from just this year, much less throughout history, the number of volumes could be endless, as the apostle John noted at the end of his gospel about the works of Christ: “I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25b NASB). It is comforting to know that even Solomon in his wisdom, also asked why. Ecclesiastes 7 sounds as if it could have been written during a period like 2020. In verses 10 and 13-14, the author (traditionally believed to be Solomon) gives advice for us to heed today: “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this. . . . Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” This is not a fatalistic view, but it does warn that no man, not even Solomon, is wise enough to know God’s ways. Ecclesiastes 8 concludes, “When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out  the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.”...

On the Question Every Heart Asks: Why?2022-05-04T23:03:21+00:00

God Sized Expectations

If someone asked you in 2015, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” would you have said, “In the middle of a pandemic?” More than likely, it never crossed your mind. Suffice it to say we are all not experiencing what we expected. Here is the big question #1, how do we deal with the gap between what we expect and what we experience? Sometimes it feels as wide and deep as the Grand Canyon. Big question #2 follows closely behind, what will fill the gap? Since we are all riding this fluid wave of uncertainty, the potential fillers are limitless. Here is my real-time confession of what has filled my gap since March. Fear Fear of getting sick. Fear of suffering. Fear of disappointing others in a cancel culture. Fear a scratch church plant named King’s Cross we sought to launch in March will not flourish. Fear of the unknown. In Latin anxiety means “to choke.” There are more than a few days when these fears feel like they are strangling me. But when I look across this insurmountable chasm, I ask my Father for faith to fill the gap. I know without it, it will be impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). Disappointment I am a long-range planner by nature. Last year I traveled to locations all over North America working with Hinged teams to make our conference plans. I remember praying with teams, but I am not sure any of us quoted “if the Lord wills” (James 4:15). These past six months, I have led these teams through a disappointment discipleship course. It was the class we never wanted to attend. It is a gospel classroom where we ask God to transform us in the gap. The curriculum is designed by the Spirit to produce endurance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-5)...

God Sized Expectations2022-05-05T00:20:02+00:00

The School of Sovereignty: Heart Preparation for an Uncertain School Year

Honestly, when I was asked to write this post, the first thought that came to mind was, “I am an unlikely person to write an encouraging article about going back to school.” I prefer the predictable. I am quite uncomfortable in the unknown. I still order chicken nuggets with a coke “no ice” at restaurants because chicken nuggets with a coke “no ice” was what I ordered at fast food restaurants as a child. I seldom swim in oceans, lakes, or rivers because I am not exactly certain which creatures may be swimming near my feet. I struggle when I cannot see every nook and cranny of the waters in which I am swimming. So, now you know my secrets and why I am an unlikely author for this post. I would rather live everyday like it was Groundhog Day—again. When it comes to uncertainty in my life, there is a gospel gap between my theology and the way I live in the unknown. As a mom to four elementary-aged children, God is inviting me into a season of uncertainty. Like many of you, I will be swimming in all the unknowns that come with a new school year during the global pandemic.     Here are some promises I am intentionally massaging into my heart as I learn and grow to trust God in the school of His sovereignty. The Gap Is Filled The gospel gap between what I know and how I live is filled by Jesus. He has already filled the gap; I just fail to remember His power is the only thing that sustains my every breath and stills my every storm...

The School of Sovereignty: Heart Preparation for an Uncertain School Year2022-05-05T00:22:27+00:00

Even If: Hope in God’s Sovereignty

“Sometimes God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.” Joni Eareckson-Tada Guilty confession: I sometimes live in a fake future; a future of my own projection where God is not present, sovereign, or good. Maybe you can relate?  We don’t say it exactly like that, but anytime we project thoughts, emotions, and turmoil into the future— where God hasn’t given us grace to live yet— we are imagining a fake future where He is not God. Living in the Future For me, because I have Multiple Sclerosis, living in this fake future can happen when my nervous system stops sending signals to lift my foot while on a hike, or when there’s a pandemic, or just on a normal Tuesday morning … The pervasive thoughts of this fake future can come in and steal my joy, robbing me of the beauty of the present moment anytime I stop preaching the gospel to my oh-so-prone-to-wander heart. Well, as it turns out, that fake future is a bad place to live. Not only is it gut-wrenching, but it is simply not true. It’s a bold lie that Satan, my flesh, and the world tempt me to live in.  Anytime those three are in cahoots together, say during a pandemic, my fake future is all the grimmer.  And if I live there, I will self-protect, self-preserve, and ultimately self-serve, forgetting about God and others in the present.  This pretend future becomes ridden with the stench of self — what Jesus came to rescue me from!  This future is an awful place where I am the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good and all-wise one. Except, since I’m not those things, it is a place of great fear— a place where God is not present...

Even If: Hope in God’s Sovereignty2022-05-05T00:51:03+00:00

Psalm 139 and Four Comforting Truths in Our Sufferings

Where do you turn in Scripture when God calls you to walk through suffering? During a particularly difficult trial 20 years ago, a wise Spiritual Mother asked me, “What if the worst thing you fear in this circumstance comes true? What is still true?” Her answer pointed me to Psalm 139. The entire Psalm is filled with comforting truths; here are four which have guided me through many a dark valley. God knows me O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Psalm 139 begins with God’s intimate knowledge of me. Not only does he know everything there is to know about me, even the ugly and shameful secrets which I hope to hide from the world, but he knows my thoughts before I think them and my words before I speak them. His knowledge of my path and acquaintance with my ways is not based on observation, but on his sovereign providence in my life, for he predestined my steps according to the counsel of his will before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4, 11). God doesn’t merely know my steps, but he is guiding my every step and holding me close...

Psalm 139 and Four Comforting Truths in Our Sufferings2022-05-07T22:57:36+00:00

We Will Not Be Mocked {By God}

The cancer is spreading rapidly. I have to find a way to fly back for a visit, to say goodbye. We just lost Grandpa at the end of last year. His decline was slow, methodical and I was able to say goodbye the last time I was in the States, a full year before his death. Grandma had been so busy caring for him, then grieving for her husband, that she failed to notice the signs of disease spreading in her.Mom coaxed her to get it checked. The doctors found a small tumor, easily removable. The surgery revealed an aggressive cancer, spanning itself around my grandma’s organs. Treatment plans were plotted out, family was called, and I pleaded with God for a way to get there. Waiting for a Visa The government of the Asian country where I live has been withholding our visa extension for 7 months. Our application is valid. We have followed every law, yet it seems our paperwork is lost in endless bureaucracy. So, I literally cannot leave. We need a visa not only to stay here with certainty, but also to leave the country (and enter my own).A week after Grandma started radiation, I got a text from Mom, “Please pray, I think Grandma is dying.” I spoke on the phone later that night for the last time with her, this straight-forward confident woman now reduced to slurred stutters. She wants to stop treatment and to be put in hospice. The doctors are predicting a few weeks. I sobbed into my pillow continents away...

We Will Not Be Mocked {By God}2022-05-07T23:11:30+00:00
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