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In the Stink

So it was the Christmas week church service at my in-law’s church. Hubby was in Germany. The kids and I rode with dad and mom, my sister and nephew. We met up with my brothers and sisters and their families. Most of the kids went into their own classes. Our two youngest stayed with me in main service. There we were all lined up in the church seats.

Worship began and soon baby fell asleep in my arms. Worship ended and we all sat to hear the message. The pastor began reading the account of Jesus being born in the manger. “And you know, there were animals all around him… A donkey… Now don’t go looking around you, but perhaps you have been surrounded by some stinky…” (He pretended to be sniffing.)

I can’t tell you what he said next because at that moment I looked over to my right and their is mom, bent over, sniffing around like crazy… I thought she was kidding around at first until I realized it was no joke. She had smelt something. She reached down to grab her handbag, lifted up her hand, and her face took a sudden look of both curiosity and horror. There was brown stuff on her hand. She shows me her hand, gives it a sniff, practically gags and mouths “Pooooop!”

Now people, I am not one to be disrespectful in church but I was struggling. My eyes filled with tears and a laugh pressed so hard in my throat that all I knew to do was bury my head into our baby who was in my arms, bend over and attempt to look moved by the message.

More sniffing. More searching. More tears.

There was poop on the purse.

There was poop on her shoe.

There was poop on our sleeping baby’s shoe, and on the chair that his foot had brushed up against.

Poop was all around us… Dog poop to be exact. We had strolled into church with poop all over us.

If a sermon ever hit close to home, this one was it!

Because there we were, listening to this account of Jesus being born in the middle of the stink, and in the middle of our stink, all I could do was laugh.

Because the pastor warned us, not to go looking around… And sure enough when we did, there it was. My niece said she had smelt something from the start. But I hadn’t. And it wasn’t our poop! We had just been walking along trying to do right and stepped in someone else’s poop.

Aren’t stinky situations so often like that?

But here is what God showed me in that moment, that stinky situations don’t need to steal our joy.

Jesus came to bring joy. He came in the middle of a stinky situation.

So my prayer tonight for anyone who may be in a stinky situation is this: May God cause you to be filled with tears-flowing, belly-hurting-because-you-laughed-so-much joy in the midst of the stink. Know it will all get cleaned up. It will. And yes- you may have to get your hands more in it than you would prefer to get it cleaned up, but isn’t that what Jesus did? Took the cross to clean us up? It wasn’t his “poop.” It was ours.

Know you are loved by God. Know that God is still faithful to bring new life and joy out of the stinkiest situations.

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Ironing a little girl’s dress, Ironing out my heart

It’s 11:30 p.m. as I start to write this. I still have a little girl’s dress to press to get ready for church in the morning… And to be honest I am having a hard time balancing a joyful, thankful heart and a totally broken heart. And I have a feeling, I am not alone.

My mind keeps going back to pictures of little ones whose bodies were being gathered together… Children in Iran who fled to the hills with their families for fear of death, only to starve and die of thirst. I keep thinking about her, that little girl who looked so much like our youngest daughter, limp in a man’s arms.

Our baby girl smiled earlier this evening, held up her pretty church dress, and I started to think of that little girl again, and the many others, children’s heads on sticks, women and mothers being raped, fathers being hung… And meanwhile, elsewhere there are women and children stuck in human trafficking, children and spouses stuck in abusive homes, friend’s who have lost loved ones unexpectedly, hurricanes, and mudslides… Yeah, I think of all those things and suddenly what we are wearing to church seems so trivial. Whether this dress gets ironed out not so important… But instead ironing out my heart.

Because I truly believe that God is not blind to what is happening.

Exodus 3:7
Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress…”

He is not deaf to the cries of his people. But I fear that all too often… We are… And we are by choice.

And somewhere in the mix of all of this it has really dawned on me that while I so desperately want to “save”so many… When I open my heart to the pains of others… It frees ME. It frees me from ingratitude. It frees me from being numb. It frees me from the little “happy bubble” that I like to stay in. And truly we aren’t meant to float around in a happy bubble. We are meant to feel- to take compassion. To cry…

“Jesus wept.” The shortest verse in the Bible and yet perhaps the most profound to me. That the all powerful Savior of the World wept. It was part of his purpose. Part of the reason he came and entered our world. He came to feel our pains, because only by feeling our pain could he free us from it.

We live in a great, big, broken world. And as we allow our hearts to feel it – to be broken for others, cry when they cry, pray when they ask for prayer- I really believe we WILL see miracles- including those that happen within our very own hearts.

I urge you friends- especially those of you who, like me, don’t like to let your happy bubble get popped- start clicking those links: see, hear, feel, fast, pray, cry… Let the heat of the world’s hurt hit your heart and let God iron out the shriveled and wrinkled places. Be moved. Move. And wait for a miracle.

 

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Discouraged or Anxious?

I lead a group of young ladies at our local church on Wednesday nights. Last night God touched our meeting in such an incredible way. Each and everyone of these young ladies were dealing with anxiety and discouragement. Each and every one. And something my heart has been pondering was only confirmed in that meeting last night: One of the enemy’s greatest tactic’s is discouragement, and another of his favorites is anxiety.

Nehemiah 9:10 says the JOY of The Lord is our strength. What better way to steal joy than with discouragement and anxiety?

Make me anxious about tomorrow and I will miss the joy of today.

Make me discouraged enough about areas where I have fallen short and perhaps I will stop trying all together.

But remind me of Christ, his love, his purpose, his strength, his power, his gift of right now…

And Joy returns.

Peace floods a room.

Faith cannot share living quarters with anxiety.
Discouragement cannot bunk up with Joy.

If you have been feeling discouraged or anxious, perhaps it is time to serve some eviction notices.

Go ahead, tape these words to your heart:

“Discouragement and anxiety- you are out of here, by the power of Jesus Christ.

Joy, contentment, encouragement, peace and power… Come on in. There is plenty of room for you now.”

God loves you friends. He is for you. And every breath you breathe is a gift from him. Every need you have is known by him. You have nothing, absolutely nothing to fear with him as your guide.

Right now, in this very moment, is the chance for JOY and PEACE. Don’t miss it. CHOOSE it. Choose JOY. Choose PEACE. Choose FAITH in Christ and rest in His love.

 

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Why Family and the Local Church are So Important

It’s been eight weeks since my husband left home for training for a new job. It’s been three days and two nights now of me, confined to my mother’s apartment with resounding orders to “rest,” given to me by the doctor in the emergency room Thursday morning, and my mother, and our local church.

Nearly two weeks ago I took on the task of doing some serious gardening, brush and overgrown hedge removal. In areas where our children play, poison ivy had grown. I tried to be careful. When I started the process I was super careful. Long sleeves, long pants, high boots, gloves… All of that. Carefully bag, wash clothing, wash boots, wash gloves, wash skin, again and again… All of that.

But as I worked day after day in those areas and continued to emerge rash free, my super carefulness became less careful. And my confidence in my ability to handle the vine increased. The weather also got hotter. It was uncomfortably hot to be in the long sleeve shirt. So, not heeding my own- advice about, “Pay close attention to those hesitations,” I attempted to bag a certain long vine I came across without long sleeves on.

There was a moment- when I thought to myself, “This could cause it.” But I had been around the poison so much, and came out clear so much, that I brushed off the hesitation and in turn I was brushed on the arm by the vine.

Let’s stop here for a moment. Because truthfully- I don’t know that you will read this whole post, but as I sit here, arm still itching, if you made it this far, I would hope you hear this:

You can be around “the poison” so much, and come out clear “so much”, that you stop regarding your hesitations.

The problem with that? Those God-given hesitations are there for a reason. They are there to protect you.

You can heed them or heed the consequences of not heeding them.

It took almost a week after that little brush up before any spots showed up. Soon spots were on my arms that became patches. And you know, they weren’t horribly itchy. Annoyingly itchy but not horribly itchy.

Seven days later, patches still there mom suggests I go to the doctor. I did not go. She had work. I had six kids, ages ten and under that would have to come along and line the wall. It wasn’t unbearable. I stayed home and continued with our schooling.

Come 3 a.m. Thursday.

I begin to feel nauseous. Horribly nauseous. And cold. Horribly cold.

First trip to the bathroom.

I wake the baby.

I go to get him and he feels hot. Horribly hot.

So I take him up to my mother who has been essentially living with us to help me for the past eight weeks and I tell her, “He feels so hot.” To which she responds, “He’s not hot.”

She then takes him.

Fast forward four hours… It is 7 a.m. I am so ill, stomach churning, body shaking, cold sweating ill, that I am crying out in my soul to God to make it stop. To heal me. “Take it away! You parted the Red Sea! Make it stop!”

He didn’t.

And I was mad. I will confess that.

I was mad at God for not healing me, right then, miraculously. I was mad at him for not taking away the pain.

I went from crying out in my soul to sheer frustration and anger.

“Poison Ivy, God? Really? Is Poison Ivy greater than the Red Sea?”

No answer. No change in my pains and rash covered arm, I gave up on my miraculous, immediate healing.

Broken down and completely convinced that my body was having some horrific reaction to the poison ivy, I texted the women I knew would be most likely from our local church to help me in that moment. And right away, Marge texts back.

Instantly.

The two others soon texted back as well. All wanting and willing to help.

Marge took me to the ER where I was diagnosed with a highly contagious bacterial stomach virus, which evidently was totally unrelated to the ivy except for one major thing. An immune system compromised from a pre-existing condition is far less capable to fight off a bacterial stomach virus.

In the ER I was given liquids and an antibiotic intravenously. I was given antibiotic pills to take for the next 7 days, as well as hydrocortisone for the ivy rash. The entire time in the ER Marge stayed with me, talked with me. Her presence alone brought strength and comfort.

The doctor said he wanted me to rest. It was very important that I rested. He asked me what I do during the day. I told him, “I care for 6 children.”

Quickly he said, “No. You can’t do that. No children. This is very contagious you should not be around children.”

I told him, “But they are my children.” To which he said, “You need to try and rest and stay away from them as much as possible.” I honestly thought in that moment,

“That’s not possible.”

Marge suggested I go stay at my mother’s apartment and not go home. My mother agreed that it would be best. I was essentially being quarantined.

God will quarantine you in a place of healing.

I got discharged feeling very rough. Vomitted once trying to leave the hospital. (Thankful for the blue plastic barf-bag). Puked again while waiting for the pharmacy to fill my prescriptions. Yes, I was that lady on the grass at the side of the drive through, puking in the barf bag. Yep. That was me.

I was the woman kneeling down, having a fresh revelation of the softness of grass, the incredible gift of sunshine, and a cool breeze that blows hair away from my puking face… That was me.

I wanted to lie down on the soft grass. I wanted to stay in that sunshine and let that cool breeze sweep over me.

I felt him there on that patch of grass. I felt his hands holding the hair back from my face. I felt him sweeping over me in the breeze.

Marge pulled ahead in order to get my medication quickly. I greatly appreciated her choice. The driver in the car next in line, I thought about that driver. The one right next to me… Two feet from me in my moment of yuck. I imagined what it would have been like for that driver to step foot out of his or her vehicle, put a hand on my back and pray for me.

What would that have felt like in that moment?

Like gold.

Like God.

But no- their windows stayed up. Their doors stayed closed. There was just God in the breeze. Yet still, the thought lingered,

What would it look like, what would it feel like in our world if we all opened our doors, stepped out and reached out?

Like Gold.

Like God.

I made it back to my mom’s apartment. Rest and healing began.

And now it has been three days and two nights that I have been here while my mother and local church care for our six children. I lay here writing, stomach still churning but feeling significantly better. As I do the church is watching and feeding my children.

Marge has been my attending nurse, stopping in and checking on me, as well as another sister-in-Christ, Betty, who God brought into my mother’s and my life when my mother moved into her apartment complex.

Marge and Betty have insisted they will bring me anything I need. And many have offered to do the very same thing. Our Pastor’s wife offered to do the very same thing, to bring me anything, anything I need. And I know she would. She has done it before, years ago when it was one of our children that were sick. She was there in the wee hours of the morning helping me, praying for my baby.

My mother and my church insist, absolutely insist, that I stay here two days longer. They insist on taking on six kids ages ten and under and allowing this mama to heal and rest.

I actually said that it would be impossible for me not to take care of my children for five days. I absolutely thought it was just too much to expect. My mom had work. She is technically the only “family” we have here and I truly didn’t expect our local church to somehow fill an entire 5 days of babysitting six children, providing meals, and care runs to me. But our church has done just that.

Who does that?

Who shares the responsibility of caring for you and your household?

Family does.

So why is family and the local church so important?

Because of this:

For those who are far from family, the local church becomes family.

God grafts his orphans into a family in the local church.

And for those who have a family and live near family, the local church only expands their family.

God’s love for his people and help for his people is manifested in the local church.

Why do I say all this?

Because there is an ongoing trend among Christians to stop stepping foot into a local church.

They love God. They love people. But they have given up on the local church.

Many are spiritually fed through online sermons and podcasts.

An online sermon will feed your spirit but it will not drop off food to your doorstep.

A Spirit filled podcast may help heal your heart, but it will not drive you to the emergency room.

And even though I know God is always with me, there is something about having a friend sit with me, talk with me, and listen to me.

When a child of God is in my physical presence, I feel a God who came and still comes to us in the flesh, who still sits with us, speaks with us and listens to us in the flesh. I feel God in a person. I feel Jesus.

We need people.

God can be felt everywhere, but there is no greater reflection of God, than a person moved by his love.

God is felt in the text messages and the, “I’m praying for you, love you!” comments on Facebook.

God is felt through the person dropping off crackers and ginger drops and bottled water “because you don’t want to drink the tap water.”

God is felt in the hand of the person who reaches out and touches you to pray for you knowing full well you have been deemed contagious.

God is felt in the words written by a person on a card and a balloon and the flowers in full bloom by your side.

God is felt at the table of six young children and a grandmother partaking in a meal brought straight into their hands.

God is felt through the silly jokes texted from a person. His Joy. His Laughter. Those are gifts ushered in from him through a person.

Our church family has blessed me and our family with so much laughter and joy in the midst of this.

God is felt in the high-school aged boy that comes over just to step foot into three young boys world for a few hours and bring laughter into their day.

God is felt in the sister-in-Christ who, in total bravery, steps foot into a home with six young children under the age of ten, in order for their mother to heal and rest.

God is felt seeking his children when she plays hide and seek.

God is felt by a tired and reluctant baby,

A baby who is not her own by physical birth, but hers for a moment in the love of Christ,

God is felt as she rocks him to sleep while humming the tune of “The Wise Man built His House Upon a Rock” because she “didn’t know any nursery rhymes” but racked her brain and remembered a tune.

God is felt in her smile and tired face as she reports back to mama, “Sleeping babies are so peaceful.”

God’s presence is felt in the presence of his people.

His joy is felt in his people.

His healing flows through his people.

My doctor’s prescriptions, my IV antibiotics, my fluids, all of my in the ER care was delivered to me through people. These are the people he made with God given intelligence and a passion for medicine.

God is felt in the doctors and the nurses that he has placed in this world.

His people are everywhere.

His church is everywhere.

But one of the best ways I have found to get hooked up with his people is this:

Step foot into the local church.

That is what our family did almost five years ago. We had just moved to a new area. We quickly began attending a local church nearby. After staying for sometime there and realizing it was not the fit for us, we prayed hard and finally felt the leading to begin our search.

My husband visited a few more of the local churches. He prayed and asked The Lord to place us where we belonged in the Body. We call it that- “The Body,” because the Bible tells us that the church is the body of Christ.
After some searching and repeated visiting with the church we are in now, my husband knew, “This is where we belong.”

I don’t know where you belong in the body of Christ, but I assure you- you belong somewhere.

A knee belongs somewhere.

An elbow belongs somewhere.

A hand belongs somewhere.

We belong somewhere in the body of Christ.

And I get it- I get that some have been knit outside of buildings.

There are “churches” that are truly just a group of believers determined to seek God and serve people that don’t meet in a corporate building or setting.

They meet.

They have God and they have each other.

Each person is accountable to someone.

Their inclinations can be tested among others.

They are there to help and counsel each other.

The Bible teaches there is wisdom in counsel. It teaches us to not neglect meeting. There is a reason it teaches that. And these people get it and they meet consistently.

They are essentially a church without walls. They are a body within the Body.

It is possible to belong to a church without walls, and truly every believer does belong to God’s church that has no walls, but finding the church when it has no walls isn’t exactly easy.

God knew that too. He created the tabernacle as a place where his people could go to find him. And I know that was Old Testament and the Spirit of God now resides in people.

You don’t have to go to a tabernacle or any set building to worship God. I get that. I praise God for that. But that doesn’t take away the necessity of there being places where people can come together to meet with each other and with God.

When the scriptures tell us to go to the elders in the church and have them lay hands on you and pray for you… How does that exactly work if the church you attend is online?

Or if the Body of Christ, as a whole, decided to stop meeting in buildings?

Many of the online sermons and uplifting podcasts and worship concerts that are shaking this world through the World Wide Web are coming from churches meeting in a local public “church” building.

But not just that.

Where would I have gone if there was no ER but instead all the doctors treated patients secretly in houses somewhere? How quickly would I have found one?

There are times when we urgently need to find believers who will pray for us and minister to our soul.

There are times when we simply need to feel the touch of a hand on our shoulder and hear a personal word for us that can only be prescribed and described as “from God.”

There are times when medications have failed and our prayers have failed, our strength has failed, but God has the healing waiting at an altar.

There are times when God doesn’t miraculously and instantly heal us.

When God doesn’t heal us, he leads us.

He leads us to a place of healing.

I have had and seen so much healing and leading come from the altar of a local church.

Take away the altars, and you will still have the church, but finding those altars will be far more difficult.

And people in power who oppose the church, they know this.

They know, “If we take away the building, we take away the ease of them finding each other and meeting.”

They are afraid of the church meeting.

They are afraid of the power of the local church.

There is power in the local church.

Sadly, I think many have been hurt rather than healed within a local church.

Accidents happen.

Hurt happens.

Bitterness begins to spread like poison ivy, like gangrene truly, and the body of Christ starts losing members.

Still, God can heal that bitterness.

If you are bitter-
God can heal that
.

If you are the leader who messed up-
God can right that
.

There is healing for the body.
There is healing for each member.

And, there are times when God does lead a believer to leave a local church body for various reasons. But his desire is for us to leave in love.

Like an organ transplant, God will lead his people to transplant into new church bodies with the care and love of the church.

People move, visions stir up, and the Spirit of God confirms among the local church members that it is time for a member to be transplanted somewhere else. It is not a bitter thing but a joyous thing. The Pastor and leaders lay hands on a shoulder, and the entire church prays for the member that is leaving the church and they pray for the church they will be joining. It is a beautiful thing.

God will also lead a person to transplant from a “dead church” into a living, healthy church.

Stop here.

If you made it this far, and you feel you are in a “dead church” please consider this:

God may actually be calling you to be at the heart of that church, pumping life into what is dead.

God still raises the dead.

There is hope for every local church and there is hope for every believer.

And I believe that every believer belongs somewhere.

There are many orphans in the faith, run away Christians and Christians who have essentially been traveling from church to church like a child going from foster house to foster house.

If you desire consistency- There is a place of consistency for you.

If you desire family-
There is a family for you.

If you desire the care of others-
There is a place of care for you
.

If you desire to be more actively involved in caring for others-
There is a place for you
.

It may take some traveling but God, if you let him, will lead you and confirm to you where home is.

God desires for us all to be in a family and the local church is not a building but a home filled with family and with love.

I have no doubt, as I lay here, quarantined by love, that God led my family to exactly where we belong in our local church.

So, as I close this incredibly long post that I have been able to write thanks to our local church, I can only think to end it one way, with thankfulness.

On behalf of me and my husband:

Thank you so so much to our local church and to my mom. Thank you to our local family. You made the impossible possible. And thank you to my friends and family who have extended your love and support with prayers and texts and messages. I love you all so much and thank God for you.

And from me to you, reader, I pray that if deep down you desire to be a part of a family, to be connected with a group of people that will extend God’s love to you, you would consider getting hooked up with a local church. You are loved greatly, reader. God loves you so much. Hands on help and family is as far as a local church.

Much love,
Charity

Some pictures from the past two days:

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Many, many not pictured here but in my heart forevermore.

Thanks again to our local family, our local church.

 

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Giving Follows Thanks

“Thanksgiving”… Two words wrapped into one: “Thanks” and “Giving.” And tonight as I consider this one word it seems only fitting that “giving” follows “thanks” because those who are truly thankful, give.

Consider how you can give back to The Lord this thanksgiving.

It may be simply reaching out to a friend or neighbor and extending a seat at your table.

It may be volunteering to feed the homeless.

It may be paying for the groceries for the person behind you in line at the checkout.

It may be spending extra, purposeful, time with a relative who needs an encouraging touch.

I don’t know how The Lord will lead you, but I want to encourage you to keep your eyes and ears and heart open.

Look for ways to give and give to the glory of God. In this we live out our thankfulness.

 

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Pomegranates and Bells {Touching the Hem of His Garment}

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A few weeks ago our children discovered the wonder of a pomegranate. It was a neat lesson for them, but truly, I had not thought much about it since, until early this morning while reading scripture.

Did you know that the hem of the priest’s garment was described in Exodus? It is described as a pattern of “a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about.” (Exodus 28:34)

A bell, a pomegranate, a bell, a pomegranate, this uneding pattern about the hem of the garmet.

The hem of the garment…

Reminded me of another story in the Bible, the story of a woman who had an issue of blood, who broke through the crowds, touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was made well. (Matthew 9: 20-22)

Wide eyed this morning, my heart fixed on this:

There is a way to “stop the bleeding.”

The pattern was laid out long ago in pomegranates and bells.

Pomegranates– fruit filled with seed, extremely time consuming to eat, as each little seed needs taken out and meticulously sucked on to savor the juice of the pomegranate. Delicious and meticulous, that is the pomegranate- and incredibly similar to this: the Word of God. In fact, Jesus said the Word of God is seed. (Luke 8:11)

Golden Bells– the sound of pure joy, the sound of pure praise.

His Word, Praise, His Word, Praise…

This unending pattern…

This royal hem that can still be touched.

What is your issue today?

Break through the crowds, draw close to God, take hold of His Word, pick it apart little by little, savor and receive into your spirit every promise. Let your heart ring his praise.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

This is what stops the bleeding.

May you touch the hem of his garment today.

– Charity

 

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Those who Keep their Minds Fixed

I had to step out of church service this morning to go to our eight month-old son who was not settling down in the nursery.

Cuddles, bottle, snacks, toys… Nothing was going to get his mind off his mama. He just cried and cried and so I came to him.

He settled as soon as I held him.

It is not uncommon for babies to do that. It is a stage that will pass.

But today, his actions really challenged me.

Incredible inspiration really.

I held him in church thinking, “I want to keep my mind fixed on The Lord like that.”

In this world full of distractions, this little baby boy reminded me, that those who keep their desire placed solely in The Lord, will indeed see His face. He will answer their cries.

Psalm 34:17
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.

 

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