Joining the Masses

This morning, I found myself singing this song:

Oh cleanser of the mess I’ve made
Upon the hill our places trade
Stretched on a cross Your body crushed
By human hands You formed from dust

How wonderful Your mercy is
How awesome are Your ways
I come, I come
To worship You
For all You’ve done

Oh cleanser of the mess I’ve made
Your boundless love for me portrayed
With patience for my learning curve
By holding back what I deserve

How wonderful Your mercy is
How awesome are Your ways
I come, I come
To worship You
For all You’ve done

Oh cleanser of the mess I’ve made
With everything at Your feet laid
I watch as all my cares erode
And from my soul these words explode

How wonderful Your mercy is
How awesome are Your ways
I come, I come
To worship You
For all You’ve done

As I let myself go to really sing this song from the depths of my heart, I thought about some stories in the Bible. Men and women who really made a mess of their lives and yet, because of God’s mercy and awesome ways, they could have penned the words to this song. People like:

  • King David who committed adultery and then murdered a man after attempting to cover up his sin. But David was called a “man after God’s own heart” and God still used him to fulfill His promises.
  • King Manasseh who was one of the evilest kings Judah ever had. His sins against God included, but were not limited to, putting idols in the temple, worshiping everything he could but God, leading his people into “more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites” (2Chronicles 33:9), and sacrificing his children into the fire of Molech. But after being captured and having his nation decimated, Manasseh experienced God’s mercy and grace in extravagant ways when God restored his kingship and nation.
  • The women at the well who had 7 marriages and was in an adulterous relationship when she met Christ. He changed her life in ways we can’t imagine but her story changed a town in Samaria.
  • Paul who arrested, tortured and helped put to death Christ-followers but who God used to spread the gospel to all the world.

And there are so many others I could name! Their names are all over Scripture, their stories well known. But it doesn’t stop there. Their names and stories are all over history. Some are well known though honestly most are not known at all. There are literally countless people who walked this earth before me who did horribly evil acts whom somehow, God got a hold of and instead of condemning, punishing, and just being done with them completely, He poured His mercy and grace on, bringing them into deeper and deeper relationship with Him. There are literally countless people who are alive today that God has done this with and is doing this with as I write these words.

This is what was going through my mind as I sang this song this morning, knowing full well that as much as these words apply to all those people, they most certainly apply to me as well. And so I sang even louder (thankfully I was home alone!) as I joined my voice with the masses who are gathered around the throne singing:

How wonderful Your mercy is
How awesome are Your ways
I come, I come
To worship You
For all You’ve done

 

Zoe Group Singing For All You’ve Done

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Me As A Minor Character

So let’s say just for a minute that there is a book being written about your life. Obviously, you would be the main character and everything that happens in that book happens to you or because of you or for you. Can you imagine that? I suspect, if you are anything like me, you can because that is pretty much how I view my life and most often how I live my life.

 

Back the book. You are the main character and everyone you interact with is a minor character. But you, my friend, YOU are the main character. Are you there with me? Are thinking about how chapters would be divided up? What chapter titles would be? How would the author describe you? What would be the highlights of the book? Sit and think about that just for a few minutes.

 

Personally, as I think about that book, I want to read it, at least most of it. There are parts I would skip or maybe wouldn’t want to be written for sure but still, it could be a decent seller. Not NY Times Bestseller or anything like that but I think it could sell pretty well for $.99 on Kindle! I am an intriguing main character, right? Yeah, not so much, really. But there are some pretty amazing minor characters in my life that make the story of my life much more interesting, way more exciting and increase the value of my overall stories in ways I couldn’t do on my own. I am tempted to start telling their stories here because I would much rather talk about them – people like Jason who for some reason has put up with for almost 20 years; or Sue and Jhansi who daily keep me accountable to being in Scripture; or Amy and Lynnae who have been lifelong friends; or my spiritual mentors in Texas who continue to guide me even though we no longer live close to each other; or friends in my current city, or friends in my previous cities; or this adorable little boy named Matthew; or these amazing NICU nurses; or the 76 pre teens and teens I had the privilege of living with; or the families we have adopted as we have moved around the US; or my mom and step dad; or my mother-in-law and father-in-law; or my siblings and siblings-in-laws; or my nieces and nephews; or my coaches; or…well honestly, the list of people I can add to my story as “minor characters” is so long that I almost think that maybe I don’t play as big of a role in my own life story as I think I do.

 

But here’s the interesting thing I think about as I consider those “minor characters” and my life story. All of those people – my husband, my friends, those kids, those mentors, those family members, those adopted family members, those teachers and coaches, those nurses and yes, even that sweet, tiny little boy Matthew – all of those people and so many more whom I have not mentioned, also have a script being written about them where they are the main character and because my life intersects with them, I am a minor character in their story. Some of them, I get the privilege of serving as a long term minor character but there are others in my life who only make a brief appearance and then are gone.

 

All of this is on my mind because a preacher friend of mine is currently doing a sermon series titled “Minor Characters. Major Impact.” He is looking at people in Scripture whose stories are written down for us to know. These are people who may only have a few sentences about them but who because of what they did, still had a major impact on someone’s life. It might be someone who saved the life of a major prophet; or someone who just used his God-given skills to help craft the tabernacle; or people who supported Jesus’ ministry. As he has dug into the “cracks and crevices” of Scriptures, he is finding these stories that God decided needed to be recorded and have lessons to teach us.

 

Returning to us, though. The thing that has struck me as I listen to his sermons and as I think about the role and impact the “minor characters” of my life had on me, is that they have had a major impact on me in ways I can clearly identify and in ways I will only understand on the other side of eternity. But if that is the case, then that also means that in playing the minor character role in their lives I have also had a major impact on them, some in ways they can clearly identify and some in ways they will only understand on the other side of eternity.

 

And it is that impact that I can’t seem to get away from –  my impact as a minor character in the lives of other people. It gives me pause. It makes me really stop and think about what that impact is. Because here’s the thing, y’all – for every story my friend is highlighting of positive people and their major impact, there are just as many people he could highlight in Scripture who had a negative impact on the people around them. People who had a God-given talent and didn’t use it or worse, used it for evil; people who used their resources to support the wrong things; people who threatened and even took the lives of major prophets, not to mention the life of Christ…again the list can go on and on, right? And yes, God has and will continue to redeem all of those negative impacts. But what I find myself asking is “Do I want to have a positive impact initially? Or do I want God to have to redeem something I have done?” The answer for me is obvious – I want to purposefully have the positive impact. I know that there will be plenty of times that because of my fallen nature, because of my selfishness I will end up needing God to redeem some things for me. But I want to be a minor character that has a major positive impact in your story.


Because here’s the thing, it is not just your story or my story. As another preacher friend of mine is focusing on this summer, it is God’s story that has always been written, is still being written and will continue to be written. Even in that book where I think I am the main character, I am really not; He is. I am a minor character in God’s story and He gives me the freedom to choose how I will be an impact. 

Today I choose the positive impact in the story of the next person I meet, in your story and His story.

Will you join me?

On Mother’s Day, 2017

I am one of the lucky one’s today. On this day, I am able to not only celebrate and honor but actually talk to my mother and my mother-in-law. My mother, Cynthia, is one of the hardest working, faithful women I have ever met. In my 41 years of life, I don’t remember a day where I didn’t see her work harder than people half her age. And there is never a day goes by that I don’t see her working to shine the light of Christ into this world in some way. She is stronger than she gives herself credit for and I cannot begin to tell you how thankful I am to have had this strength imparted to me. And Mary, my mother-in-law, unbelievably allowed me to move her son from California to all other parts of the US without holding a grudge and instead loving me unconditionally and without fail. I have no clue how she managed to raise the perfect for man for me, but she did and once again I cannot begin to tell you how thankful I am for this. I consider myself one the lucky ones because I have literally dozens of friends, of all ages, walks of life, belief systems, genders, religions and nationalities who no longer have this privilege. Some are facing this day without their mom for the very first time; others have walked this road for years. However, the pain they experience is the same and it is for these men and women that I pause and say a prayer of peace and strength.

 

Because of who my mom and mother-in-law are, I also consider myself one of the lucky ones because on a daily basis, I see one of the worst parts of humanity – moms who either can’t or choose not to put their kids first like my mother and my mother-in-law did. I see moms who abuse and neglect their kids. I see moms who don’t protect their kids. I see moms who just give up on being mom and walk away. Sometimes that walking away is the best decision for the children, other times it is not. No matter what the reason, no matter what the cause, children and moms are left hurting and left to spend the rest of their lives cleaning up the mess. So it is for those children, those adults who were those children and for those moms that I say a prayer of peace and strength.

 

I am one of the lucky one’s today. On this day, I have been celebrated and honored as a mom. For years, I had the privilege of shaping, educating, molding and loving “my kids.” It is truly an honor to be able to love those children and to see who they have become now. And then of course, I have the privilege of being Matthew’s mom. One of my greatest honors, joys, challenges and callings is to be his mother. Unexpected and crazy as this journey has been it is still one of my favorite roles. I consider myself one of the lucky one’s because I know literally dozens of women who have never had nor will they ever have this experience even though they long for it. And so it is for these women that I pause and say a prayer of peace and strength.

 

I am one of the lucky ones today. Throughout my life, I have been adopted by by at least half-a-dozen women who served as “mom” for me. These women have and will always take me in as their daughter, love me as one of their own, and continue to show me what it means to adopted others. It is because of these women that I never stop looking for those around me who need some “mothering.”It is because of these women that I know that no matter what happens mother or my mother-in-law, I will always have a “mom” to call on, seek advice from and love. I consider myself one the lucky one’s because I know literally dozens of people who have never had this experience and are often left feeling alone, unwanted and needing love and guidance from an older woman. So for these women, I pause and say a prayer of peace and strength.

 

I am one of the lucky ones today. In my immediate circle all the way to the most outreaching edge of my circle of friends I have the opportunity to witness some amazing mothers. Many are expecting mothers who are working hard at keeping themselves healthy while preparing their homes to welcome their little one into the family. Others are in those really tough years where the kids are young, needy, clingy, and have questionable decision making abilities. Just to make it through the day where the kid or kids are alive and fed is an accomplishment. Still others are in that “wonder years” stage – you know where a parent wonders exactly why they thought this parenting thing was a good idea! Preteen and teen hormones are raging, relationships between mom and child are strained, and everyone wonders if they are going to make it through these years still in the family. Thankfully, some of my friends have made it through all those years – giving hope that it can be done – and are now trying to navigate what it means to be a mom to someone who is supposed to be full grown but still has so much to learn. They have the opportunity to build friendships with their kids and are excited to see what life holds. Still other moms I get to be in relationship with are deep into their friendship with their children, loving on their grandchildren and just enjoying their role in the family. I am astonished every single with the direct contrast I get to see when I look at my friends compared to the moms I come with whom I come in contact at my job. For these women, I pause and say a prayer of peace and strength.

 

I am one of the lucky ones today. I have mentioned my job twice now and there are some moms I with whom I come in contact that are often unspoken, unnoticed heroines in our community. These women, some on their own, some with their spouses, take in kids who are not their own. There are those in our community who do that in an unofficial way – they see a child in need, open their doors and provide a place for sleep, food and emotional safety. Others take in their nieces, nephews, or grandchildren because someone, either a parent or child protective services, has asked them to do so. Still others spend hours training, make sure their home is updated appropriately, and end up taking in kids through a foster placement. These placement can be short term, long term and some even turn into an adoption. Honestly regardless of who a child goes into a surrogate family, it is never easy, never simple and never not heartbreaking. I know from experience that these children, even when they leave your home, never leave your heart. For these women, I pause and say a prayer of peace and strength.
If you are reading this, you more than likely know that today is bittersweet for me. Please don’t think that I am trying to look at this day through rose-colored glasses. I am not. Today, just like every other day of my life, I know that I am member of group that dreads this day on many levels. This is hard day for those of who have already said “Goodbye” to a child because we don’t get to hear “Happy Mother’s Day” from our child. I am one one of the lucky ones today though because I have a husband who has spent the day just being with me, doing for me what I want to do and loving on me in the most perfect way. He actually started this on Friday when he had a dozen red roses delivered to my work  I am one of the lucky ones today because I have friends all over this world who took the time to acknowledge that today was hard for me and expressed their love for me. And just like I do so many other days, today I pause and say a prayer of peace and strength for women who find themselves in shoes similar to mine, for those who have a the support system I have and those who don’t. For them I say a prayer of peace and strength.

David’s Example

I was reading a song of David’s yesterday during my daily devotional reading and I was struck by the pure honesty, heart and gratefulness that David expressed. I was slightly jealous of this in him, but I realized that is probably more because his words were so eloquent, have stood the test of time and can be applied on so many different levels, not just the physical level he was often speaking about.

It got me to thinking about how so much of what David wrote down or sand to God was truly just for him and God and yet how amazing it is for us to have it for our records, our edification and as a guide to how to speak to and interact with God when we are hard pressed, stressed out, scared, angry, depressed, sorrowful, repentant, sad, happy, joyful, ecstatic and relieved. And as I thought about that, I wondered how David felt about having all those things he said to God in the heat of the moment, or at his most depressed or while celebrating written down for all the world to see for all of eternity. Is he humbled by the state of his heart? Is he ashamed by his honesty? Does he regret anything he said or that is recorded? Does he duck his head, his cheeks reddened with embarrassment at how he let loose with God, either good or bad?

Now, if you are anything like me, there is a defensiveness for David that you get as you read those words. I tried to defend David even as I wrote them. And then I tried to justify why I was completely and totally wrong – David now knows how it all works together, surely David can’t be embarrassed or ashamed now, right? But before you go and defend David or his current situation maybe do what I did – ask yourself why I would think that this is David’s reaction.

I gave this thought about twenty four hours before I ventured a deep dive into my thinking. I could only come up with one reason why I think David would react like this – because I react like this. Or I suspect I would react like this. I know that we don’t have every single one of David’s prayers or songs, but we have get to peek into some pretty intimate moments. He cries out to God as he is being chased to death by his best friend’s crazy father. He rejoices when he and his men have killed an entire army with the help of God. In despair and humility he humbles himself and begs for forgiveness and mercy after he sins with Bathsheba. These and so many more moments shape my prayer life and my worship to God in ways I don’t realize because David was brave enough to be vulnerable, honest and transparent with God and with others around him.

I work really hard to be vulnerable, honest and transparent, but apparently I have found one of my limits. I have used this blog to share parts of my heart, my journey, my grief and my healing but there literally dozens of prayers and songs I have written that will never been seen by your eyes because I am ashamed that I have had to say to God what I have said. I am embarrassed for you to read the depths of my heart. I would blush and feel weak if you read my words adoration and praise in some of my most grateful moments.

 

Lord, give me the courage, openness and trust that David did, not only to be honest and real with you but to share that with others.

 

God’s Goodness

Each day, I am privileged to participate in a Bible Reading plan with two of my very best friends and sisters in Christ. We pick a plan, read it and email each other our thoughts on those readings (thankfully, they are both full of grace towards me because I am not so great at making it a daily habit sometimes).

The last 40 days, we have been reading a plan about God’s goodness. I was a little hesitant about this plan because, if I am completely honest I don’t feel like I have experienced much of God’s goodness lately. So while I probably needed to hear what Scripture said about God’s goodness, I wasn’t really sure that I wanted to hear it. Ever been there?

Our last verse in this reading plan was 1 Peter 3:8 “to sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;”

When I read this verse this morning, what I heard was “Because of God’s goodness …In light of the fact:

that God does not forget about me when I am suffering (Psalms 9:12),

that God will give me the strength to do anything I need to in Christ (Philippians 4:13),

that no temptation will ever be too much for me with God. (1 Corinthians 10:13),

that God will rescue me from evil and lead me safely to His kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18),

that I can trust God at all times, pouring my heart to Him because He is my refuge (Psalms 62:8),

that I can hope in God because He is where I get my support (Psalms 42:11 ,

that God is with me, is my God, will strengthen me, help me and uphold me (Isaiah 41:10),

that His angels surround me when I fear Him and he comes to my rescue (Psalms 34:7),

that Every word he speaks is tested and He is my shield (Proverb 30:5),

that I don’t have to be afraid because God goes with me, he will not fail me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6),

that God will supply all my needs in Christ (Philippians 4:19),

that the maker of heaven and earth is my helper (Psalms 121:1-2),

that God is my salvation and will teach me his truth and ways when I wait on him (Psalms 25:4-5)

that God is my safe place and help in trouble (Psalms 46:1-2),

that I don’t need to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34),

that I will receive what is promised if I do God’s will (Hebrews 10:36),

that Because the Lord is my shepherd, I will not want (Psalms 23:1),

that God is kind to me, tender-hearted towards me and forgives me (Ephesians 4:32),

that God will never desert me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5),

that Our Father has loved me in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18),

that the Spirit helps my weakness and intercedes for me (Romans 8:26),

that my soul can delight in God’s comfort (Psalms 94:19),

that I will gain a new strength, mount up with wings like eagles, run and not grow tired, walk not become weary (Isaiah 40:31),

that God is faithful and righteous to forgive me of my sins and cleanse me of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9),

that I can be sure of things that I hope for and certain of what I do not see (Hebrews 11:1),

that I can be fruitful in works of grace (2 Corinthians 8:7),

that Our Father is with me as I pass through the waters and I will not drown and He will protect me when I walk through fire and I will not be burned (Isaiah 43:2),

that God hears my pleas and receives my prayers (Psalms 6:9),

that God is my rock, my salvation, and my stronghold (Psalms 62:6),

that Our Lord is near to me when I call him, will fulfill my desires, will hear my cry and save me (Psalms 145:18-19),

that my hope is in the Lord (Psalms 31:24),

that God’s anger with me only last for a moment, but his favor in my last forever (Psalms 30:5-6),

that I can make all my requests known to God (Philippians 4:6),

that God’s grace is enough and I have the power of Christ within me (2 Corinthians 12:9),

that no suffering I face, no need I have is too much for the Lord to deliver me from (Psalms 35:10),

that the Lord is my help and deliverer (Psalms 70:5),

that the word of God is my comfort and can revive me (Psalms 119:50),

that all of my sins are removed from me by God (Psalms 103:12), and that

that I can give everything I am worried about, anxious about, or stressed about to God beacuse He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7)

…In light of all that goodness, to live in harmony with other people, to be sympathetic, to treat my fellow humans as if they were family, to be kindhearted to people, and to be humble (1 Peter 3:8) is not that much to ask.

For really, if I read through that list again, isn’t that what God’s goodness is about?

 

A Letter To Matthew On His First Birthday

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Dear Matthew,

It seems so cliche to write you a letter today and yet I have in some ways been scripting this letter for 365 days.

For 30 weeks, you were knit together in my womb. Though I didn’t know it, you were being watched over, being perfectly fashioned by the Creator of the Universe. He made sure that every part of you was perfectly formed, right on time and just as it should be. He created you into perfection. Every part of you was exactly where it should have been, developed exactly on time.

You rocked our world that day. Never have I felt the depth of love, commitment, loyalty,anxiety, hope, confusion, and joy as I did in those moments when I held you in my arms as your dad knelt in front of me, waiting on the paramedics to come to the house. Oh, you were beautiful and amazing, Matthew. I held you close, in awe each time you took another breath that you were here and you were ours. You were our son. We had a son.

I remember looking at your dad, kneeling in front of me, looking at you in amazement. Oh, he fell in love with you instantly. I will never forget how he went from a man’s man and the strong hunter into your daddy in the blink of an eye. You lit a fire in his heart that forever changed who he is.

I can’t tell you how many times in first few hours of confusion and excitement, your dad and I looked at each other said “Hey, we have son.” And we would laugh and laugh. You brought us a joy and happiness we didn’t know existed until we met you.

I will always remember trying to name you. Most parents have a least a six months to name their child. But not your dad and I. So many conversations with your doctor, Doctor Martin, would start with “Does he have a name yet?” We would shake our heads and laugh and Dr. Martin would continue with an update on you. I believe God had your name picked out for you long before we knew it, but once the fog cleared and the excitement of your entrance into our lives calmed down for a brief moment, we knew exactly what to name you – “Gift of God.” That is what you were, Matthew; that is what you will always be. Our gift of God.

I wonder do you see how you changed our world? Do you see how we understand God’s love differently? Do you see how because of you, your dad and I are closer than we have ever been? Do you see how you taught us to trust, to pray, to love, to laugh, to cry and, to hope like never before? Do you see the thousands of lives that were touched by your story? Do you see how we have tried to honor your life? Oh, Matthew, I hope you see those things.

I wonder too, do you know how deeply loved you are? I have no words to describe the depths of our love for you, son. But beyond our love, your Granny and Grandma who met you, love you. And though they never met you, your Aunt Tammy and Aunt Lockie love you deeply as well. And your cousins, oh, Matthew you are fiercely loved by your cousins Stephanie, Kristen, Riley, Abi and Josh though they too only knew you from afar. And you have some “siblings”, kids that your dad and I helped raised for a time, that still love you as well. And the list goes on and on of family in Kentucky, California, Tennessee, Utah and Texas who love you still. Man, Matthew you are so loved by your family. And I cannot begin to tell you how deeply loved you are by thousands of other. People all around world watched you, prayed for you and praised God for you. They still do, son. We all do. But most importantly, and I know you know this better than the rest of us right now, you are deeply loved by God. And though I can’t explain how it happened, because of you, I am convinced now more than ever that your dad and I are deeply loved by Him and by so many other people in this world.

I wish I knew what you were up to right now, what it is like to be experiencing oneness with God without the problem of sin interfering. There are so many questions I have, so many things I wish were different, so many things that are unknown. But in my really good moments, I know some pretty powerful things. As I have already said, I know that you are loved and will forever be loved. I know that you are perfect and whole. I know that you are free of pain and struggle. I know that you will never have to face any of the problems of this world. I know that you are forever and always with our Father. And I know that one day, your dad and I will get to hold you and be with you for all eternity. Until then, son, I will hold you in my heart.

Thank you for making me a mom a year ago today, Matthew Lee McBride. Thank you.  

I’ll love you forever.
I’ll like you for always.
As long as I live.
My baby you’ll be.

Love always,
Your mom

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