“The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” 1 Samuel 18:1.
All I wanted growing up was a sister. I had two brothers when my mom became pregnant with number four. I can’t explain how, but I knew I was finally getting my sister.
I sobbed my eyes out when my grandmother announced that I had a healthy baby brother. Another brother. It just about did me in.
Though I never got my sister, God has been so good to me by blessing me through the years with some absolutely awesome friends. Some of those friendships have only been for a season, but they have left a lasting mark on my heart. Others have stood the test of time and are just comfortable and precious. But then there are those few that are different; ones that I have a hard time finding the right words to adequately explain them.
Grace is one of those.
Recently, her husband gave her a surprise birthday party. He asked some of us to roast/toast her at the party. He told me that he wanted me to go last and REALLY roast her!
Oh, I got this!
I began to think back over all our years together and to jot down a few roast worthy things. Then I came to my senses and went back and scratched some out because I realized that if I shared them, I would be embarrassing myself, too. And really, I am learning that it really isn’t all about me so the attention really needed to be on her. Far be it for me to take the attention off of her.
I realized that we are really different in some areas.
She likes to get on these health kicks, and when she does, she’s all in and expects for everyone else to be all in too. I, on the other hand, have no interest in torturing myself or anyone else. In the 90’s she got on this juice kick. It almost killed all of us. I remember walking into her house one morning and being met with a full glass of something unidentifiable that she had just juiced. She said it was carrot, but it wasn’t orange, so I don’t know. When she turned around I poured it down her drain. I am not even lying – the drain spit the stuff back up at me. Obviously, the rest of her family was doing the same thing because they had to call the plumber several times that summer.
She juiced 24-7 and she juiced everything. When the goldfish turned up missing, I was suspicious. Sushi in a cup? Just saying.
She likes to drive when we go places for several reasons. One, she likes to arrive on time; I do not. Two, she thinks herself to be good with directions; I can get lost in my backyard. One morning we took off to pick our boys up from a camp near Rock Hill, SC. Campers were to be picked up by 10 o’clock so we left pretty early. She was driving because she knew the way. After all, she had gone to the same camp growing up. We arrived to find our boys sitting on their tiny suitcases in the parking lot all alone because the other campers had been picked up 2 hours earlier…at 10 o’clock. If we hadn’t gone to Rock Hill by way of North Carolina, I feel sure we would have been on time.
Did I mention that the camp was in South Carolina and that we live in South Carolina? So I really have no explanation as to why we were in North Carolina.
I am pretty black and white on most things. I tend to look at the evidence and draw my conclusions. She…not so much. Just recently, we were on our way home from a shopping trip when a highway patrolman pulled up behind us and turned on his blue lights (Clue #1).
I suggested that she might want to pull over, but she insisted that he was not after her. She changed lanes so he could pass her. He switched lanes, too (clue #2).
This happened 2 more times (clues #3 and 4).
No amount of rational and logical reasoning on my part could convince her that he was in fact after her. When he finally turned his siren on, she decided that maybe she should pull over. As she was pulling over, I was texting my husband to tell him that I was probably going to need some bail money.
Despite our differences, there are a few areas that we have in common. Neither one of us will turn down a good argument. If I have heard her say, “You’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why,” once; I have heard it a thousand times. We are both very good at thinking ourselves to be always right. It’s just a talent we were both born with. We are so good at it, that we have been known to convince each other to change positions on a matter at the same time. It is just wonderful that we are willing to see the other’s point of view, but not so wonderful when we realize that we are now, once again, in opposition because she has adopted my original way of thinking and I have adopted hers.
Grace: “You’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why.”
Me: “No need. I got it. It was my argument first.”
So what does any of this have to do with souls being knitted together?
Nothing. I just wanted y’all to know what I’ve had to put up with over the years.
Today, though, when I read about Jonathan and David and how their two souls were knitted together, I thought about several precious friends, one of them being my friend Grace.
We have grown up together in The Lord. We have that iron sharpening iron kind of friendship. For all the times I joke about her talkativeness and easy distractibility, she is the one who often speaks truth into my life with great accuracy and precision. She can listen to me and cut right through to the heart of the issue, and she loves me enough to tell me what I need to hear not what I want to hear.
“You’re wrong, and this is why.”
And she’s right.
And even though she has gotten me physically lost on more than one occasion, she has a way of helping me find my way when I most need it. I will never forget the night I was driving back home after my mom passed away. I was in the car alone having a hard time making sense of what I was feeling. In my heart, I knew I needed to call her. I don’t remember anything she said, but to this day I remember the comfort that fell over me as she talked and I drove.
Over the years, God has knitted our souls together, and because He has, our friendship has turned into sisterhood. Which makes total sense in light of the fact that we have the same Father.
I am better because of her friendship, as are so many of her friends.
I pray this kind of relationship for my own daughters.
Have a great week!
The other morning I woke up, sat down, prayed that God would show me something in His word and then asked that He would tell me what to do with it... here it is.
I’m currently reading the book of John chapter 4, where John recalls Jesus declaring His Messiahship to the woman at the well. He begins describing this metaphor for living water and never thirsting again, but in this passage she just wasn't following Him. Jesus was trying to speak to her spiritual needs and when that didn’t work, He kind of called her out.
Now, I don’t want to make Jesus sound rude or insensitive, but He knows us, right? Sometimes (often times) we need to be told straight up, how things are in our lives. I am a real person and I need to be talked to in the same way. Too much fluff and flowers and you can lose my very direct, straight forward mind.
This woman at the well had been with several men and Jesus brought it up to her. She was at the well at a time when no one else was, due to what I imagine was great shame and shunning by her community. But Jesus met her there AND acknowledged her.
After talking with Jesus, the woman was so moved by her encounter with Him, the one who knew all of her sins and still offered her an eternal “well of life." He showed up and her shame left. Scripture says that she left her waterpot at the well and went straight to the townspeople in the city to tell them of her experience with this man called Jesus!
I have read this story before and I've heard this story told in sermons several times, but when I read it the other morning, it seemed different in some way.
The shameful woman at the well was no longer the focus in my mind.
Her sin was no longer the focus of this story for me.
It was her going immediately to the townspeople and telling them about her encounter with Jesus.
Here is this woman, who wouldn't even collect water at a well when others did, leaving her waterpot, and going to the townspeople to declare boldly about her meeting with this man who "told (her) all things that (she) ever did!"
For a woman with her reputation, bringing up past sin wouldn't normally be an encouraging thing (I mean, who would enjoy that?)...but it wasn't about her sin. It was that this man, Jesus, knew her sin and STILL HE MET WITH HER. Still He acknowledged her. Still He offered her what He knew she needed most.
When we encounter the LOVE of Jesus...the grace filled, forgiving LOVE of Jesus, we are compelled! We run! We share it! WE LOSE OUR SHAME.
Shame that keeps us hidden away, disconnected from loved ones, drowning our feelings of worthlessness or self pity in anything and everything. Sometimes it's substances and sometimes it's other relationships. Sometimes it's actions, things we do, and other times it's things we buy or partake in. But guess what? Typically those things create more shame or only a temporary haze to keep our shame just out of view for a little while. None of those things take it away though.
But here, in just a moment... it was gone. And as a result, she reached out to others who were then so moved by her words, her testimony, that they left the city and went to find Jesus.
How often do we let fear of others or influence of others keep us from sharing what God has done in our lives or better yet, BROUGHT US THROUGH? We've all done things, said things, experienced things that we are not proud of. That's called sin.
My name is Ashley, and I am a sinner. I sin. Every day. Major bummer.
Ok, now that that's out of the way, guess what?....
There is forgiveness for that, BUT....and it's a big one...there is also an undeniable influence in that! When we turn our shame into a testimony of what God has done, that brings Him GLORY! And glory is evidence of Him; it's showing the world that my God is real, and here's how...
"But I don't want to share this horrible thing with others!" ...no one is making you, but if you have come out of it, whatever situation "it" is or was, there is a story to tell. Maybe your ending was better than you could've imagined, or maybe it was worse than anything you've ever experienced...either way, don't let the shame keep you at the well by yourself.
Maybe you're there, at the well, pulling up your bucket and you don't even see Jesus anywhere, so how could you possibly hear from Him?
Ask Him to meet you at the well. Sitting by yourself with nothing but your shame, looking for something, anything, that will fill the longing you have. the thirst. the hunger.
He will meet you. But you've gotta be at the well...that place of humility where you know no one else is gonna show up and sit with you. It's gonna be hard. But if we don't all go there at some point, our shame will keep us so far from the one who takes away our sin. The one who breathes life and love back into us again.
I think that's why God gave me these words. Too many people I know are walking through tough things right now, but not sharing it with anyone because of their shame. Because of their concern with other people's perception of them or their situation.
Maybe you know someone who is walking through something right now. And man, it looks bad. It's covered in filth and what looks like a long road and so you've just checked out. You've left them in the middle of their shame, all for a little less "ick" and a lot more comfort on your end. I get it. I've been there before too. But maybe try and revisit that person or situation. Maybe it's only in prayer, but maybe it's also in person. There's nothing that says "I'm here for you" like a warm, living, breathing, body knocking on your door.
So I want to challenge you. I want you to think about your life, or maybe it's someone else's life that comes to mind, and I want you to pray and ask God to help you. Maybe helping you looks like bringing you to a place of humility, so that you can make your way to the well. Or maybe helping you looks like the Holy Spirit giving you courage and grace to step back into someone's life who could really use a friend...and if you have a box of donuts and a movie, those wouldn't hurt to carry on you either.
Sometimes we need those too.
With love & laughter,
1st Photo by Qang Jaka on Unsplash
2nd Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash
3rd Photo by Claudia Soraya on Unsplash
Media- you’re everywhere. You’re so loud that it’s deafening.
You’re deafening our ears to hear truth,
blinding our eyes to see direction,
yet somehow amplifying our mouths to speak opinion…
to speak our views or judgements we’ve formed from you, Media,
with our deafened ears and our blinded eyes.
We have become like overly pompous horses.
We appear grand, strong, powerful, galavanting the great wild world,
yet with bridle and bit in mouth, our stance is directed by someone else.
By something else.
It’s you, Media.
What is truth anymore?
We’ve taken this guiding light and altered it to fit our perception of reality.
But that’s not truth.
We seem to have lost what truth is.
We no longer seek it earnestly, instead we settle for being led by uncertainty.
What happened to education? Where have all of the books gone?
We no longer thumb through pages of factual information,
rather settle for a comment feed without any rationalization.
Where do our convictions lie? I can’t seem to find them.
What was once an internal voice of logical process
is now a methodical scroll thumbed thoughtless.
Our hearts seem to be led by self-righteousness, no longer led by love.
Our words led by “likes,” as if that were ever enough.
We are affirmed by our “friends” and motivated by a “follow,”
all of which returns void when what we post is hard to swallow.
So we settle in for hate and slander, all done through our words.
So gratified in our voice, finally being heard.
But what have we accomplished? What’s been made better?
We still live in a virtual world, filled with friends who are fair-weathered.
We have to put down our devices and stand up with our back bones.
Get out of this world’s vices and find our way back home.
Because home is where we left it, where we lost all of our hope.
Where we chose our own knowledge, our own truth, when He warned us, “No, don’t!”
Now we’ve let the enemy in, and he’s running all amok.
And we’re all just looking for hope again, with no such luck.
We’re crying out to leaders; we’re giving them the blame.
But they’ll never be able to hear our cries, because our hope has a name.
Jesus is our hope, the way, the truth, the life.
Watch as He’s running after us, His forever, eternal bride.
So Media, I’m using you now, to accomplish some good.
To remind a hopeless people, that their pain is understood.
I’m unplugging the deafened ears and removing bridle and bit.
To no longer be guided by the world and constantly listening to it.
For my hope, He has a name, and His father suffered great loss.
They both know our feelings of pain, for their pain involved a cross.
And right now ours does too, a crossroads of sorts.
Do we buy into this Hope? Or stand idle with abhor.
If we want to go to battle in this never ending strife,
We must make sure we are standing behind lines worthy of our lives.
The fight we choose will be costly, no matter which side.
So we must be sure we choose wisely and set aside our pride.
I have chosen to seek the Truth, while He may still be found.
I want to have eyes that see and ears that hear, when the trumpet sounds.
If curiosity has sparked, a twinkling in your eyes,
ask me all your questions but tell me no more lies.
This Truth for you is free, for the price has far been paid.
So rest assured you weary heart, do not be dismayed.
For what Hope did for me, He’s also done for you.
And where Media, you confuse us, our Hope, you will speak Truth.
Our Savior will come through.
Taking hold of that Hope,
Jesus was busy today teaching in parables – lots of parables. He covered obedient and disobedient sons, greedy farmhands, wedding banquets, even paying taxes. He told them what the greatest commandment was and what the second greatest one was. He denounced hypocrisy and He let the religious leaders hold it. He warned them about the signs of the end times, and at the close of the day, Jesus talked about how He would separate the sheep from the goats when He one day returned to sit on His throne.
What an incredibly busy day! I can’t help but wonder if He was trying to squeeze in every bit of last minute teaching He could manage to squeeze in before He left them.
I found myself focusing in on two things Jesus said.
Loving God with all our hearts, souls, and minds was and still is the most important thing above all else. But then He went a step further and told them that the second most important command was to love their neighbors as themselves. (Matt. 22:34-40)
Love for God and love for others. How well do I love? How well do you love?
Jesus said, “A new command I give you; love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)
And we know how well He loved us…
I am cross-eyed this morning as I begin to write this letter to all of you because I stayed up through the entire coverage of the 2016 election results. I wanted to go to bed, but I couldn’t tear myself away. I will probably pay for it today. Pray for your brother still living at home!
This has been such a heart wrenching process full of anger, hostility, and fear. I am aware more than ever of the tremendous division in our country and it is truly heart breaking. As I watched the election process unfold, as I watched the response of the media, and as I watched the wide range of responses from the American people, I felt a mixture of emotions that I don’t think I have ever experienced before in the aftermath of any presidential election.
As your mom, my heart wants so much for all of you. I want an America that is once again great and stable and safe. I am so keenly aware this morning that Donald Trump will not be able to provide that for you in the next four years; neither would have Hillary Clinton or any other candidate that ran for office been able to. It is a task too great for fallen man.
But, there is a God in heaven.
I want to share with you what I do believe to be true about my God - your God. He is sovereign above all things. He will accomplish what He intends to accomplish, with or without the cooperation of man. Because I believe Him to be sovereign, I believe that He has chosen the next president. You have just witnessed something that many are saying, “defies human logic”, and is “a miraculous event”. What I want to make sure you recognize is that you have just witnessed first hand God actively steering the course of history. Daniel 2:20-22 says this:
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are His.
He changes times and seasons;
He deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
He knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with Him.
Don’t miss this, guys. He is still in control. While some are saying that this will be a time of great revival in our country, others fear that this will bring about our destruction. But don’t you ever waver in believing that He is who He says He is. He can do what He says He can do. He has His eyes on you, always. You are precious to Him, the apple of His eye. He alone holds your future in His hands and He is a good, faithful Father to all generations who love Him and obey His words.
One last thing, if we truly believe Him to be sovereign, then we are to act on that belief. If our choice for president did not win, we are not to grieve or be fearful because we know He is in control. If our candidate did win, we are not to gloat or act disrespectfully, but compassionately and lovingly. Instead, we are to continue to pray fervently for our country. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, loving people where they are and proclaiming the truth of God’s word.
We need to pray for unity in this country so fractured by hate and indifference. But we have to put feet to our prayers. We have to be the instruments though which God heals this land. We have failed miserably. He is giving us another chance. Let’s get it right.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment was, “To love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” But then He added, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 36-40) Sadly, Christians are not known for their love. Jesus also told us that other’s would know we were His by the way we loved one another.
Let’s take very seriously our responsibilities as His disciples. Let’s not let Him down.
I love you all,
Wait. What?" I asked, as Justin handed me a bottle of lotion.
"Yeah but only rub down the guys who need it and are too weak to do it themselves. Some of them just like it. Only the ones who need it," was the answer I received from our volunteer coordinator.
Prior to yesterday, the most uncomfortable act of service I've ever been asked to perform was the washing of the already-pretty-clean feet of a close friend. Now a volunteer coordinator at a Mother Theresa home in Calcutta is pointing at some ashy old dude with one toe, who's looking up expectantly at us.
I look to the sound, and Justin is holding the bottle out to me, his own hand already full of pink moisturizer.
Now mine is too.
No turning back now.
Today we celebrated Palm Sunday, the beginning of Jesus’s last week. The King of Kings climbed onto the back of a donkey, not a mighty stallion, as would be fitting for a king, and began His journey into Jerusalem as the Messiah.
As He looked over the city, he wept because even in spite of His great love for His people, they continued to reject Him.
But, their rejection and His anguish and fear would not deter Jesus. He would not turn around. He was determined to continue on into the city and on to the cross because of his great love for The Father and for His children.
What kind of love is this?
Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for a friend.
The Message puts John 15:12-13 this way, "Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends."
This, so far, is my favorite picture from Becca’s wedding last Saturday, really, for a couple of reasons.
One, it’s just typical of how our family rolls. We don’t just bustle a wedding gown, that would be too easy, and boring. Nope, we turn it into a, for lack of a better word, fiasco.
The dress had multiple layers that had to be bustled before Becca entered the reception. Knowing this, my daughter in law, Sarah Kathryn, and I practiced our bustling several times. We had it down pat. We were ready, or so we thought.
Well, when time came to bustle, we could not for the life of us find all the buttons and loops that we needed to find. It was hot, we were sweating, and gnats were flying up our noses. We had layers of wedding gown over our heads, which of course made things even hotter. Then to make things even more frustrating, we had irritating husbands trying to rush us. It was about to get ugly, fast.
This has been an exciting weekend for my family. On Saturday, we all piled into cars and headed to Augusta, Georgia for a celebration. Except, one member of the family knew nothing about it, and that made it all the more fun for the rest of us. The surprise was for my daughter. The occasion was her engagement to a sweet boy she has been dating.
She was very surprised, in fact, she was so surprised that she didn’t answer him when he dropped to his knee and asked her to marry him. She just cried and stood there. I finally couldn’t contain myself any longer and yelled out from our hiding place, “Say yes, Becca, say yes!”
Seriously, what would she do without her mother’s guidance and direction?
After we all hugged and kissed the newly engaged couple and each other…and a few bystanders, who appeared somewhat shocked, we all headed to a picnic shelter for some food and about 1003 more pictures.
I began texting family and friends to share the exciting news, but something went wrong. Some people only got the picture while others only got the text, which said something to the effect of, “Will have a new son June 6!” Now, if the picture had gone with the text, it would have made perfect sense. However, without the picture to bring context to the statement, the meaning of the statement took an interesting turn.
My phone began blowing up with comments like:
“And you’re ok with this?”
“I hope you are referring to a new son-in-law?”
“Are you getting senile?”
“Is that possible?”
I began texting back as quickly as I could trying to explain that I was NOT having a baby June 6, I was getting a son-in-law.
Right after that all my children gathered together for a picture… all EIGHT of them. Four of them I birthed, the other four God gave me in different ways. But make no mistake, in my heart they are all mine. Every - last - one - of them. For me, that means that the four I did not birth have the same rights and privileges as the ones I did birth. Sadly for them, there aren’t a whole lot of rights and privileges…but still, if there were, it would be theirs.
Each of those four has my heart. I see them as I see the others, a blessing from God. They are my children. I love and tend and protect them as I do the others. I have fretted over them, wept for some of them, and spent countless hours on my knees before the throne on their behalf. I have felt my heart burst with pride over them, and I have issued some maternal correction and guidance to a few of them… Who am I kidding? I have issued motherly correction and guidance to all of them because, well, it’s my job and I like telling others what to do from time to time.
You know what I realized as I reflected on my love for these four? My God loves me like I love them, only much better. I am an adopted child through faith in Jesus Christ. God chose to adopt me because it gives Him great pleasure (Ephesians 1:5).
2 Corinthians 6:18 says, "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
As I look at the picture of all of them standing there, I realize that my first statement, “I will have a new son June 6,” was exactly what I meant. I am thrilled for this new son. I am overjoyed over my adopted children. And, I am most grateful for a loving Father Who found great pleasure in adopting me.
Have a wonderful week!
Well, they weren’t actually in the house; they were in Turner Field, the Braves Stadium. Anyone who knows our family knows my husband and daughter are HUGE Braves' fans. So, at least once a year we give our TV a rest and make the trek to Atlanta for a game.
My husband is not only a Braves fan but he is a “thrifty” Braves fan, and we have perfected the art of watching Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrell through binoculars. Once we even enjoyed cheering on Chipper Jones through a telescope. No easy task for three people! However, on this momentous occasion three weeks ago, my husband scored 3 AWESOME tickets 23 rows up, right behind home plate! We knew that Turner Field had beautifully manicured grass from the 162 games we have seen on TV, but to actually almost touch it from our seats …priceless.
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