When God Serenades, Pandora-Style

My firstborn and I snuggle. This was taken about four years ago.

My firstborn and I snuggle. This was taken about four years ago.

I heard Sam trot down the hall and peek around the corner, grinning into the office where I sat.

Twenty minutes ago I snuggled him in for a nap. Now, my 2-year old looked high on caffeine and sugar.

This day was not going as planned.

My heart sank at the thought of a round-two nap. My mind raced and fingers itched to write, and I didn’t want to “squander” my next hour cuddling a toddler.

As I begrudgingly gathered my son close, pulling the covers over both of us, God reminded me how He so often gathers me close, persuading me to rest.

I consider how He tucks me into His presence and speaks in heart whispers, still and small.

As I lay next to Sam, I understood why the psalmist said God gives sleep to those He loves, (Psalms 127:2). Zephaniah 3:17 even paints God singing over us as we sleep.

Almost like God poured a bucket of love over me, I lay next to my son drenched, soaked by His compassion to draw me close. Then, I heard these lyrics stream from my phone’s speaker.

“When the rain is blowing in your face,

And the whole world is on your case,

I could offer you a warm embrace

To make you feel my love.

 

“When the evening shadows and the stars appear,

And there is no one there to dry your tears,

I could hold you for a million years

To make you feel my love.”

 

The words caught me off guard. Seldom do I feel God’s love. Love’s deficit, I know. Stress. Condemnation. Performance-ism.

Hadn’t I asked to feel the love of God yesterday? The tears sneak from my eyes as I realized the good gift given by a good Dad.

The O’Neil brothers continue to croon about romantic love, but I know Papa sings about agape love—a love I’m only beginning to catch a glimpse of.

“The storms are raging on the rolling sea

And on the highway of regret.

The winds of change are blowing wild and free,

You ain’t seen nothing like me yet.

 

“I could make you happy, make your dreams come true.

Nothing that I wouldn’t do.

Go to the ends of the Earth for you,

To make you feel my love

To make you feel my love.”

 

Sam looked at me with concern written across his face and asked why I was crying. How do you tell a toddler you’re weeping because of joy?

How do you tell him how grateful and stunned you are that God can serenade you through Pandora’s lullaby channel? That tears can be beautiful prayer to Jesus?

 

A recent shot. Too big to cuddle? I fear the day.

A recent shot. Too big to cuddle? I fear the day.

Finally, my Sam Man sleeps. *Sigh of relief*

Finally, my Sam Man sleeps. *Sigh of relief*

I’m beginning to see this crucible of motherhood as chance after chance to see with new eyes how God loves us. To see, how over the years, God keeps on loving us.

Beyond the cross, I can’t think of a better way to show us self-sacrificial love.

As parents, our days are chock-full of training and correcting. Most days, I’m so consumed being a parent, I forget how to be a child.

As I lay with my son, I remember whose child I am and marvel how we never pack up and leave this house of love Jesus built for us. God’s no empty- nester.

His father heart beats in the middle of all our moments, compounded throughout time. Until the day when we’ll step out of time—even then, we remain children of God.

The room is dark and still, now. My chest no longer heaves in sobs. Sam sleeps in the crook of my arms, and I know this feeling is fleeting. But I linger, hoping to keep the song in my head.

He stands over you singing too, friend. Listen, do you hear it?

 

Four Things I Learned from Living with Cockroaches

Photo by Kathy via Creative Commons Flickr,

Photo by Kathy via Creative Commons Flickr.

Another Kathy photo, via CC Flickr. "Eating at night always makes me gain weight."

Another Kathy photo, via CC Flickr. “Eating at night always makes me gain weight.”

My ability to see a cockroach out of the corner of my eye borders on a superpower.

I honed this skill after five months of watching these creatures crawl back into walls when I turned on the kitchen lights.

I worked among roaches, too.

Since my work commute included a jaunt into the spare bedroom, crawlers surrounded me all day.

Can someone say heebie-jeebie? I shudder to type the word roach now, but I will for two reasons. I want to face my phobia and tell you what I learned about tough times from these little fellas.

1. Hard times can infest any home. Just as roaches don’t care whether you live in a mansion or a shack, difficult times are no respecters of persons.

We all go through valleys and slumps in life and have moments we long to do over.

2. Only God gives lasting peace. I know my little roach story may not compare to real suffering, but I know the One who carries us through the large and small trials.

This peace Jesus gives—this Peace He is—doesn’t go away. It’s permanent hope for our life and can be applied to ANY circumstance.

Believe me, those five months living with roaches tested me. Our roachy apartment showed me how peace can calm an ocean of fear.

We always have the ability to tap into this peace through prayer and meditating on His truth.

Kathy, you may have too much time on your hands. Still, nice name, "I think these make my antennae look fat." Via CC Flickr.

Kathy, you may have too much time on your hands. Still, nice photo title, “I Think These Make My Antennae Look Fat.” Via CC Flickr.

3. Cockroaches love a dirty house, like hard times love a messy life. Ever met someone whose drama never ends? At some point their drama snowballed and started creating its own drama.

Sometimes God leads us through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and other times we pitch our tent there.

I wish I could tell you I’ve avoided self-inflicted difficult seasons, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. Here’s what I know. My life gets “messy” when my thoughts stray from God’s truth.

When I choose to let my mind feast on the negative, tough times are almost sure to follow.

4. Move on and don’t let any bugs (or excess drama) come along. Since roaches are natural hitchhikers, I consider it one of God’s greater miracles these bugs didn’t follow us when we moved into our house four years ago.

These are the things nightmares are made of. But I did take a ton of precaution to keep the little dudes from jumping into our boxes. (I bagged everything in plastic).

Hard times teach us to rely on God. Sometimes we need extra time and care from Him. If you’re in one of these seasons in life, please believe, God longs to meet with you and speak to you. He’s not against you. He’s always for you.

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:2-5).

Hide and Seek God

 

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**Author note: The following is from my work in progress—a book about overcoming worry. I couldn’t wait to share it. I hope you enjoy it.

I remember my oldest son’s toddler days when his soft curls would bounce as he paraded around the house. But one day his parade didn’t circle back to me as usual.

When his silence grew louder, I became suspicious. Sixty seconds of panic turned into two minutes of me yelling his name, opening and closing closet doors. I frantically checked outside in the yard.

Then I heard a rustle coming from the kitchen. I retrieved him, cheeky smile and all, from one of the lower cabinets. That day we graduated out of peek-a-boo into the era of hide-and-seek.

I always knew when the game was on. The sparkle in his eye spelled mischief. The he would flash a cheeky smile and dart away. His game usually left me searching for him in grocery aisles and check-out lanes.

Once, I spent a harrowing few minutes seeking him at the mall, only to find him hiding inside a circular clothing rack in a department store.

Like my son once did, Scripture speaks about God hiding himself so we will seek Him. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings” (Prov. 25:2).

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Jesus furthers the analogy when he compares the Kingdom of Heaven to hidden treasure. When I read Matthew 13:44, I always picture the loot you might find on board a pirate ship.

Rubies, emeralds and gold coins spill out onto the soil. The prize of kings spills on the turf of the common farmer. And who is this God that would hide treasure in a place so common where anyone can find it?

When we seek God through his Book, meditating on truth and his character, we can find him in mundane places. At the desk, or the shop or the kitchen sink, we can imagine him and see him in a thousand ways we haven’t before.

Jesus’ parable ends in the same way our quest to know God and overcome worry and anxiety begins. The excited man sells everything he has to buy the field where the treasure is hidden. He pays a small price for a fortune.

If the parable of the hidden treasure explains hiding, Jesus’ next story, about a merchant hunting for the best pearls, describes seeking. “When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it,” (Matt. 13:46 NIV).

We too must pay the price of focusing our minds on Christ. Union with Christ requires our total attention. We wield meditation as a tool of knowing Christ.

How to Scratch Out Joy On Your Worst Days

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While the dinner dishes sit in the sink, my body slumps into the sofa, mind and soul sagging.

Irritability sneaks into my voice. Or do my kids conspire against me to see how many times I will say “brush your teeth,” before I start yelling?

I know I need to stop for prayer. So, I resist the urge to conquer baths and bedtime routine for a much needed timeout.

If the timeout age rule—one minute for every year—applied to moms, I’d be in heaven. 31 minutes in the corner? Sure, sign me up. But I settle for five minutes, and the dialogue does a little like this.

“Help.”

Maybe toddler speak has stunted my vocabulary. Or maybe Anne Lamont is right, and “help,” “thanks,” and “wow,” are the most profound prayers of all.

Sometimes that’s all it takes—30 seconds of “Help me, God,” and Jesus resets the tripped breaker of my attitude. Other times, well, I’m in for a long night of rewiring.

Some days it’s a crank up-the-Hillsong-worship and come-to-Jesus-kind-of night.

Know what I mean?

There’s one guy in Scripture who really knew how to get alone with God. When life got REAL, David knew how to beckon joy.

We watch David grasp for gladness with this prayer. “May all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness IN you,” (Ps. 70:4).

He didn’t look inward at himself, outward at his circumstances, but upward at God. David’s prayer gets better.

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“Those who LOVE your salvation repeatedly shout, “God is great!” (Ps. 70:5). According to David we “love” our salvation by thinking about it “repeatedly” and turning our thanks into woops of praise.

Yeah, if it sounds like all sunshine and roses, it’s not. David wrote Psalm 70 running for his life, hiding in caves, afraid to sleep—afraid to wake up with spear to his throat.

No one has ever brandished a spear at me, but I can relate to his desperation in the next verse.

“But as for me, I am poor and needy; please hurry to my aid, O God,” (Ps. 70:6).

David knew how to scratch out impossible joy on the worst days of his life. Once, when His wives and children had been captured, his camp plundered, we catch a glimpse of his secret.

“He encouraged himself in the Lord,” (1 Sam. 30:6).

We, too, can learn this holy habit.

David wasn’t practicing positive self-talk. Instead he made a warrior’s decision to place his faith in God.

Next time you’re discouraged, take a cue from David. Don’t look inward or outward—but look toward the only One who can speak courage to your fears.

An Interview with Authors Mary DeMuth and Frank Viola

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Authors Frank Viola and Mary Demuth stop by the blog today to talk about their their latest book, The Day I Met Jesus.

Why did you write this book?

Frank: Back in 2007, I got an idea to create a new genre of Christian literature. I call that genre “biblical narrative.”

The new genre would contain autobiographical fiction closely based on the Scriptural narratives and faithful to first-century history. It would also contain a nonfiction section that applies the narratives to our lives.

God’s Favorite Place on Earth (2013) was my first book in this genre. In it, Lazarus tells the story of when Jesus came to His hometown Bethany and all the amazing things that took place there.

The Day I Met Jesus (2015) is the second book in this genre. I wanted it to tell the story of five women whom Jesus encountered, allowing each woman tell their own story. I also wanted to draw out practical lessons and critical insights from each narrative.

Because I’m not a woman, I couldn’t do justice to the stories on my own, so I asked the top female Christian fiction writer of our time—Mary Demuth—to coauthor it with me.

Mary: I wrote it because I love stories, and I felt that some of these encounters with Jesus didn’t get the air time they deserved. By doing careful research and weaving more of a story arc into the five women’s encounter, I hope to show people that the “characters” of the New Testament are actual, breathing people with stress and dysfunction and hopes just like us.

Tell us the story of how you two came to coauthor it.

Mary: Frank wrote God’s Greatest Place on Earth and had long wanted to do something similar with five women of the New Testament. He approached me about writing the fiction side of The Day I Met Jesus after he found out I wrote fiction as well as nonfiction.

Frank: I had known that she was a non-fiction writer, but had no idea that she could “switch hit.”

You feature five women from the Gospels. Why pick women in particular as your subjects? 

Frank: Some of the most gripping, instructive, inspiring stories in the Gospels involve women. The longest recorded conversation that Jesus ever had was with a woman. And some of the most amazing things He said and did related to women. So I thought that a book in which some of these women told their own stories about Jesus would not only bring the Gospels to life in our minds, but it would also bring Jesus alive in our hearts.

Mary: Women had significant, personal encounters with Jesus, a fact that we sometimes miss. I love that we’re elevating these stories, helping people reimagine just how radical it was that Jesus so beautifully interacted with these women.

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Which one is your favorite and why?

Mary: For me, it’s hard to say. I love them all in different ways. This week, I’ll say it’s Mary of Bethany. She didn’t have a blatant “need” for Jesus. She was just downright faithful and often misunderstood. I think a lot of people can relate to that.

Frank: Mary of Bethany is my all-time favorite disciple of Jesus. This came home to me when I wrote God’s Favorite Place on Earth. Mary was the sister of Lazarus, so she gets ample airtime in that book.

I love Mary because she knew Jesus better than most, anticipating His reactions and even His impending death. She also paid the price for loving Him, for she was falsely accused by both her sister and the other disciples.

Why would someone want to read the book?

Frank: If someone wants a good story to get tied up into… or if they want to see the Bible come to life in a compelling way… or if they want to experience Jesus Christ anew and afresh… or if they are lacking love for the Lord and want that love to be rekindled…, they’ll want to read The Day I Met Jesus.

Mary: Someone would want to read it because it’s truly unique. It’s biblical narrative, but in short story form, but it doesn’t end there. After you’ve been absorbed into a page-turning story, Frank exegetes the wisdom from each encounter and helps you apply it to your life.

Tell us about the course that supplements the book. Frank: The Day I Met Jesus Master Course is designed for those who wish to delve deeper into the themes set forth in the book. It includes a workbook and 20 audio messages delivered by Mary and me. In addition, it includes 8 bonus eBooks from Mary and me. It also includes a closed forum where people can access us both directly for Q&A and dialogue. People can check it out at http://www.thedayimetjesus.com/coursesalegraphic

Tell us what readers get if they purchase it from March 3rd to March 17th from Parable.com.

Frank: They’ll get these 7 exclusive bonuses.

  1. An exclusive audio interview where Mary and I give a behind-the-scenes look at all the facets of the book. The interview covers where the idea of the book came from, why we wrote the book, what it was like collaborating, the hardest part about writing it, and much more.
  2. Mary’s Book Beautiful Battle in Kindle & Nook.
  3. My Book, Rethinking Spiritual Growth in PDF, Kindle, and Nook.
  4. A never-before-released audio conference message entitled “A Woman Inside of a Man.”
  5. Mary’s Book What To Do After People Poop on You in PDF.
  6. A never-before-released audio conference message entitled “He’s Not Ashamed to Call Them Brothers and Sisters.”
  7. A 15% discount off The Day I Met Jesus Master Course.

Click here to order The Day I Met Jesus from Parable before March 17th and get your 7 exclusive bonuses.

Readers Won’t Forget the Book The Day I Met Jesus

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Books affect me and leave their mark, but it’s not often a book makes me feel like I’m sitting at the unsandaled feet of Jesus.

When I read The Day I Met Jesus, I felt like I had been transported back to the first century. As I read the inner thoughts of these women, I found soul sisters, kindred spirits and desperate women in need of grace.

I found myself on the pages of this Biblical narrative.

I bookmarked every other page to use as pull quotes in this review. I was tempted to save the last few pages for later, to savor it and to keep the book from coming to an end.

Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth have written a stunning book unlike any book I’ve ever read. Half of each chapter reads like a diary entry. The other half explains the Biblical text, providing historical context.

The Day I Met Jesus chronicles the day Jesus changed the story of these five women.

  • The prostitute who loved much.
  • The Samaritan at the well.
  • Mary of Bethany.
  • The woman with the “issue of blood.”
  • The woman caught in adultery.

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I didn’t expect this book to impact me the way it did. I didn’t expect the five fictionalized characters from the Bible to embed themselves in my heart.

I was a little nervous reading the fictional backstories of these women. But what Frank and Mary have done in this book breathes life into the Scriptural account.

No longer am I rereading the same stories I’ve read countless times. On the pages of this book, I feel like I’m meeting a real person. I’ve rediscovered the power of their faith and the radical Christ I fell in love with years ago.

I met Mary of Bethany afresh and watched her wrestle with the need to be an ideal woman—a battle I fight daily. I watched her throw away the need to please and enter a man’s world to sit at the feet of Jesus as his disciple.

She loved Jesus more than she cared about what others thought of her.

I wept for the woman with the “issue of blood.” I felt her ache and rejection. When she met Jesus, I rejoiced with her and saw Jesus anew through her eyes.

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I don’t have the space here to tell you how the women caught in adultery challenged the way I thought about my love for Jesus. I wish I could tell you how the woman at the well’s radical exuberance for the Savior challenged the way I approach sharing my faith.

I won’t soon forget this book, and you won’t either.

I’ve been a student of the Bible, formally and informally, for years, and I learned more about first-century customs from this one book than a pile of my theology books. The authors do a great job of explaining details that we as modern readers fail to see.

This book needs to line the bookshelf of every home and church library.

You can read the first chapter here, and buy it at 50% off here. Stay tuned for an interview with the authors this week!

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