I’m cited to offer another FREE PRINTABLE with one of my favorite quotes about grace. Simply save the image to your computer and print. Image is 8×10 and ready to frame. (Special thanks to Sarah Parisi for the lovely photography and design!)
My church is passionate about seeing people’s lives changed by the power of the gospel, and I’ve had the privilege of being part of the team that helps capture some of these stories—stories of how God’s grace has gotten hold of people and turned their lives upside down in the best possible way.
Here’s a preview of the latest story by Jennifer Mamminga:
Maybe you’ve been following God for a while now, doing all the right things, going through the Christian motions. But somehow it feels like there’s something missing. Where is the joy and peace your soul is longing for?
It was only when she surrendered everything to Jesus that she made a life-altering discovery about her true identity.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
You can watch the video of Jennifer telling her story here.
When I was growing up, I had lofty aspirations of becoming an astronaut. In retrospect, this desire was likely sparked by watching SpaceCamp one too many times rather than by any real interest in scientific advancements or lunar landings. (And, for the sake of full disclosure, maybe I was also enthralled by those cute little packages of astronaut ice cream.)
But when it came down to it, the greatest pull of the astronaut life was the adrenaline-laced takeoff. After months, maybe even years, of training, it all comes down to one big moment. As the seconds tick backward from ten, you hold your breath, knowing that this critical juncture marks the difference between launch and disaster, success and failure, life and death.
That moment contains all the drama of new beginnings, new explorations, new adventures.
In good news for all of us, this website launch has significantly less drama attached to it. And unless for some unforeseen reason I die of embarrassment at some point along the way, the stakes are not life-or-death. But even so, I am holding my breath in eager expectation of this new beginning.
I’m looking forward to connecting with you, hearing your stories, and sharing glimpses of grace together. God tends to do some wildly beautiful things when he brings people’s lives to intersect, and I’m eager to see what he has up his sleeve for all of us.
So thank you for joining me here. I invite you to nose around the website, check out Sarah Parisi’s beautiful work, and make yourself at home.
And now, for that SpaceCamp moment you’ve been waiting for: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 . . . takeoff!
I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
In honor of the website launch, I’m giving away a free necklace today. It was made by a woman who was rescued from the sex industry in Bangkok, Thailand. I had the privilege of serving on a short-term trip with Kay and Mike Killar of Samaritan Creations several years ago, so it means a lot to me that this necklace was made by one of the precious women in their ministry. To see more beautiful products made by at-risk or rescued women, check out the Women at Risk site here.
For your chance to win, simply answer this question in the comment section:
What new thing is happening in your life right now? Is there something you’re getting ready to launch?
Be sure to submit your answer by Friday, February 28!
I’m over at Today’s Christian Woman today, writing about what an old bed-and-breakfast taught me about the hard, beautiful work of marriage.
When my husband and I went away for the weekend to mark our second anniversary, we were looking for a place that fit in our budget and could squeeze into the boxes on the already-full calendar. What we hadn’t anticipated was that we’d meet a house with a story—a house that served as a poignant metaphor of marriage. . . .
Click here to read the rest of the story.
Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands. —Psalm 119:5-6
Let’s just say for a moment that the standard for getting into heaven is being able to long-jump all the way across the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean. (It’s not, of course, but just humor me for a moment here.) Imagine that the standard has been set, and everyone knows the expectation. Some people train for this moment from early childhood, building their muscles and doing exercises to improve their jumping abilities. Some athletic types are inherently better suited for the event than others. And some people have longer legs, giving them an inborn advantage over their peers.
When it comes time to jump, however, no one could ever come close. Maybe the person with short legs who hadn’t trained at all would make it a few feet. Perhaps the person with the strong quads would make it a foot farther than the average person. And maybe the Olympic long jumper would set a world record, launching his body a whopping 29 ½ feet.
But do you know what? It wouldn’t matter, because none of them would come anywhere near the goal. None of them would get far enough to even see the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, let alone jump there. Even if one person jumped three times as far as everyone else, they would all be so far from the target that the difference would be practically indiscernible. Whether you made it one foot across the ocean or 30, the more important issue is the thousands of nautical miles you have yet to go.
To read the rest of the devotion (or to listen to the audio), click here.
Two of my great passions in life are helping other people share their stories and seeing God’s extraordinary grace at work through ordinary people. So when I was given the opportunity to be part of the Gospel Stories project at my church, it felt like a beautiful collision of those passions.
Today I’d like to share Ken and Sally’s remarkable story with you.
Have you ever felt like life had you around the neck and then started squeezing? You want to cling to hope; you want to believe that God has good plans for you, but all your circumstances seem to indicate otherwise.
Ken and Sally Marino know what it’s like to be hit with one blow after the other. But it has been precisely in the midst of some of those challenges that they’ve experienced the depths of God’s faithfulness in keeping his promises.
If you are in need of a breath of hope today, we invite you to watch the Marinos’ story. It’s a story of God’s goodness in hard times, a story of laughter and joy where you might expect tears. And ultimately, it’s a story of hope.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. —Jeremiah 29:11
To watch their story in their own words, see the video here.
Two of my great passions in life are helping other people share their stories and seeing God’s extraordinary grace at work in ordinary people. So when I was given the opportunity to be part of the Gospel Stories project at my church, it felt like a beautiful collision of those passions.
Today I’d like to share Mike and Amy’s inspiring story with you.
In those quiet moments, when you stand back and take an honest look at yourself—the things you regret, the ways you’ve fallen short, the people you’ve let down—what words flash before your eyes? Selfish? Dishonest? Defeated? Unforgiveable? Maybe you’re afraid that your most significant relationships have been fractured beyond repair, and even worse, you’re too far gone for God to rescue.
Mike has been there. He got to a point where he thought his marriage was over and he was beyond hope. But then, after he got a tangible glimpse of God’s grace through this wife, Amy, Mike came to see himself as God sees him: forgiven.
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. . . . But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. —Titus 3:3-5
You can watch the video of Mike and Amy sharing their incredible story here.
“Wanna know what this bucket is for?” the seasoned sailor asked, throwing a pointed glance in my direction.
He was taking us out in his sailboat on Lake Michigan, and I was the only one in the group who had never been sailing before. Apparently he was afraid I’d be green in more ways than one.
I did my best to laugh, desperately hoping I wouldn’t need the bucket.
Then it was the sailor’s turn to laugh. “Oh, this bucket isn’t for you—it’s to clean up the deck afterward!”
On the way to the boat, we were regaled with sailing stories—about the time his boat flipped over in gale-force winds, the time the fog was so dense he couldn’t find his way back to the dock, the time he was several miles from land in the middle of a lightning storm. I was feeling queasy already, and we hadn’t even set foot onboard.
I tried to prep myself for every possible scenario. But when we finally got out onto the water, we encountered the one situation I hadn’t envisioned: everything was utterly still. I held my face up to the sky but couldn’t detect so much as a hint of a breeze.
There we were, sitting in the middle of the huge lake—normally filled with cresting whitecaps but on that day looking as smooth as glass. The sails hung limp and lifeless above us.
The sailboat boasted every possible gadget you could imagine—a GPS that told you exactly where you were in relation to your destination, a gauge that read the temperate both in the air and in the water, a sensory device that detected the depth of the water and how many fish were camping out beneath the surface. But none of it mattered if we couldn’t leave the shoreline. We had no manmade gadget that could perform the function of the wind. (Although my husband, funny guy that he is, tired his best to fill his lungs and blow on the sails in an attempt to create some action.)
It turned out to be a lovely, if anticlimactic, afternoon on the water. But as we basked in the sun and ate a picnic lunch on the idle boat, it got me to thinking about the Holy Spirit, of all things.
The Bible often uses wind as a metaphor to describe the way God works. Like the wind, a tiny puff of his breath has power to set us in motion, to move us forward, to change our course. We may not be able to see him, but there’s no denying it when we’re in the wake of what he’s doing.
Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind . . . so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.
Our boat outing revealed a nautical and spiritual truth: if God’s Spirit isn’t breathing power into a venture, no amount of huffing and puffing on my part will make it move.
The breath of God isn’t something we can control. But we can be ready for it—we can embrace it when it comes. His breath is a gift of movement, a gift of direction, a gift of power. Ultimately, it is the breath of grace.
Forgive me for being sacrilegious, but every time I sing “Jesus Paid It All,” I can’t help but think about ketchup.
My husband played his bass at church last week, and we sang the lines of that old classic spiritual:
Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
While other people were no doubt musing about spiritual things like substitutionary atonement, I was instantly transported to the teenage version of myself. On a big yellow school bus, no less.
I was sixteen, and just a few months prior, I’d made the first major clothing purchase of my life: a beautiful brown suede leather jacket. I’d had my eye on it for a long time, and after saving up my heard-earned babysitting money, I finally made the purchase.
I felt pretty cool wearing it to high school (even if I was mortified to still be riding the bus). One morning I was minding my own business, doing some finishing touches on my homework on the way to school, when all of a sudden I heard a sickening splat. I looked down at the arm of my precious caramel-colored jacket. It was smeared with ketchup, the casualty of crossfire between two punky boys who were apparently having a post-breakfast food fight.
I was, in all the drama of teenagerdom, devastated.
Later Mom and I took the coat to the dry cleaner’s. The lady matter-of-factly told me they’d be able to get the ketchup out but the coat would never be the same. I was crushed. But I also knew I wouldn’t be able to stand smelling vaguely like McDonald’s for any length of time, so I handed over the jacket.
They were right. The coat was never the same again. It lost its velvety finish, and the discolored spot where the ketchup hit its mark never went away.
When I think about the stain of my sin, I have the same fear—that the stain will never come out. And that even if does, I’ll never be the same again. So I hold back from going to the only one who can make me clean again. I try in vain to mask the ketchupy stench that trails me wherever I go.
At the risk of stating the obvious, Jesus’ cleansing abilities are infinitely more effective than the dry cleaner’s. Sin has indeed left its crimson mark on us, but it’s no match for his forgiveness. He washes us white as snow, and leaves us better than he found us.
“Come now, let’s settle this,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
I will make them as white as wool.”
Whatever marred spot you are trying to hide, it’s time to come and settle this. There is no sin too great, no stain too deep, that he cannot wipe it out.
But even so, if you ever find yourself on the school bus with punky kids, I’d advise you to leave the leather jacket at home.
This summer our small group is taking a break from our usual routine of studying and discussing and making our way through a book together. In an attempt to go deeper with each other, we decided that at each gathering we’d have two people share about what God has done in their lives.
All the stories are different—some of us grew up knowing about God; some of us didn’t meet him until later in life. Some of us went down such dark paths we probably shouldn’t be here to tell about it; some of us were more subtle in our sins of choice. But there’s one thing we all have in common: we’re all broken and in desperate need of grace.
As we started sharing our stories, we noticed a pattern woven throughout each one. As we looked back, the places we could see God at work most clearly were the lowest points in our lives—our most grievous sins, our darkest seasons of failure, our struggles through grief and loss and loneliness.
After one person finished her testimony, there was a moment of sacred silence. Finally Daniel broke in: “Isn’t it amazing to think how we’re hemmed in and held, even when make the wrong choice . . . even when we don’t do the right thing?”
I thought of the three men in the Old Testament who were thrown into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)—how if I’d been in their shoes, I’d no doubt have asked God to take me out of the fire. But as it turned out, God was right there in the midst of those flames.
And I thought of Peter walking on the water to Jesus as the storm raged around him (Matthew 14). Scaredy-cat that I am, I surely would have asked God to calm the storm. But Jesus surprised Peter with something even more profound: he was right there in the midst of the waves.
So what about my own life? I beg for the fire to be quenched, for the storm to be stilled. Sometimes he does just that. But other times Jesus is right there with me—in the midst of the flames, in the midst of the waves.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me. . . .
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
—Psalm 139:1, 5
Even in the storms and the fire—maybe especially in the storms and the fire—we see the face of Jesus. It’s then that we are hemmed in, held.
God is here.