The Trade-In

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. Romans 3:27

If you are anything like me, you can often catch yourself striving for God’s approval. But trying to gain worthiness is the way of Hell.

I am hard on myself, so much so that my friends and family worry about me from time to time. While I’m not nearly as hard on others, I hold myself to a ridiculously high standard. That is one of the reasons I believe that God has allowed an autoimmune illness to come into my life. It has been creeping in slowly, beginning with migraines at age two. I’ve never known what it’s like to not be exhausted and in pain. To compensate, I’ve pushed myself above and beyond to become an over-achiever. I do not have the time of day for laziness and whining. So, some of this is good. Very good, even.

But, do you smell the sulfur of legalism here? I do. I’ve lived it. Illness has forced me to be so dependent on God that I am daily aware that my heart can’t beat even once without Him. While my life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, I have joy and know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. There has been very little room for me to get off the right path, but there have been times when somehow I’ve managed to veer off anyway. Through it all, I have come to know that my Heavenly Father boxes me in out of love. I have nothing good to give Him. I have less than nothing because all I have is flesh.

I was grieving in prayer the other day that I didn’t have lovely things (like gold, frankincense, and myrrh) to give the Savior, the One who gave me everything. Then I heard the softest, sweetest reply in my spirit, “Just keep giving me what you have. Trade in and I will give you something better.” The point is that if we give Jesus the soul junk that we harbor, that makes room for His heart to connect with ours. The fact that we care at all means that we belong to Jesus Christ, the ONLY originator and definition of goodness.

Heavenly Father, I look up out of the mire to Your glory. I praise You and am so thankful that You clean me up to be shiny and new. You live in me, making me precious. Being unworthy makes my spiritual adoption all the more lovely.  In Jesus Name, Amen


Do you have parts of your life that look holy but are just legalistic?

How do you discern the fine line between disciplined holiness and fleshy legalism?

Write out a prayer thanking God for His adoption, through Jesus, our big brother.

Tests of Humility, Tests of Friendships

Tests of Humility, Tests of Friendship

Job 1:22
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

We know Job for the incredible testing he endured: loss of property, riches, children, and health. But what about the less tangible yet equally devastating losses?

Job was laid low with his head bowed, and surrounded by his closest confidants. They chose to believe the worst of him despite everything they knew about him. Everyone had an opinion. Fools even ridiculed him. On top of that, he felt more than one evil presence near him when he was alone and trying to sleep. Can you imagine it?

To some degree its human nature to try to figure out why something happened. In arrogance, Job’s friends hurled accusations at him because his life had been destroyed. They believed he had to be at fault somehow. But before we get too hard on Job’s friends, lets remember that they sat with him in grief for seven days. I don’t know many people who would do that. And from what they said, they were true followers of God. They were just not humble in this area and were grasping at straws because they wanted an answer. If Job were guilty of some terrible sin, then all of this tragedy would make sense by their standards. He could have at least had peace that he deserved all of this heartbreak. I can hear them saying, “Job, man, just admit your secret sin and everything will be okay.”

One of the worst experiences ever is to witness a loved one in pain. You would do anything to stop it or, at the very least, make some sense of it. The act of watching can be its own test. We know that Job was innocent but it would be so much harder for his friends to admit that. If he could lose everyone he loved, all his possessions, and his health, then it could happen to any of them.

Heavenly Father, I can never completely know what is in Your head or heart. You alone are God. Give me eyes of discernment to know what to say to friends who are in pain. In Jesus Name, Amen


What is the worst thing that you have ever experienced?

What did people say to comfort you?

Do you feel that you were judged fairly?

Worthless Idols

Worthless Idols

“They worshiped worthless idols until they became worthless themselves.”  2 Kings 17

We want people to believe happy lies about us or just see us as we see ourselves.  Of course, that is sin.

I grew up in a few different Christian communities and attended a number of Christian schools.   It was a mixed experience for me.  The education from a Christian world-view was beyond enriching and I will always be grateful for that.  But there was a downside.   The spiritual environment was such that most everyone policed one another.  Most of the acting was done off-stage.  Appearance, both physical and spiritual was, and remains to this day, the popular idol.

God is sovereign which means that God is in charge.  He can choose to intervene at any time.  In spite of this, we live as if our lives belong to us:  our bodies, our children, our spouse, our dwelling place, our church, our children’s school, and even our country.  And, we’re fixated on the things we want. (Thinness, perfect health, happy marriage, well-behaved children, a clean and well-decorated house, a well-respected reputation, a giant degree from an Ivy League school…)

What I’m learning is that God sometimes withholds our idols to grow a kind of humility in us.  We realize that there are some things we can’t control.  That’s been a tough one to learn.  A few years ago, my own body revolted against me.  For around 18 months, every time I had blood work done, the lab found something bad.  I did all of the right things to take care of myself but my body was not having any of it.  I wanted to be a glowing model of radiant health to prove to the world that I really was being diligent!  Pride anyone?

The other reality is that we can’t control what other people think about us. So, I ask myself, what lies do I value?  What image do I want other people to see when they look at me?  These are idols.  I will always work to be better, by the grace of God, but until Heaven, I will always fall short.  My idols are worthless and if I spend my life pursuing them, my God-given purpose on this earth will be wasted.  I want to be consumed with the things that comprised Jesus’ passion.

Heavenly Father, even Job grieved how he was perceived by others but he always kept his eyes on You.  I give You my worthless idols.  I don’t want my pursuits to be worthless in Your kingdom.  Change my heart and my mind so that I follow You, only!  In Jesus Name, Amen

Ask God to show you any worthless idols in your life.
What are they?
Find and write out specific scriptures that fight those idols and meditate.

Hearts Of Flesh

Hearts of Flesh

So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. Psalm 81:12

A soft heart is a characteristic that our culture flings out the window. Our world desires kindness but a kindness that only goes skin deep.

We live in a politically correct culture, where everyone, including myself, suffers from hurt feelings. (I’m a Christian woman, an adoptee, and of Mexican background so it’s not difficult to figure out what bothers me.) Instead of taking what people say at face value, we ask, “Wait, what do you mean by that!” We read into everything, valuing our very subjective and changeable emotional responses above everything else. Our skin is thin but our hearts are hard.

Thin-skinned people often tread lightly with others out of selfish motivation. Do we actually care about the feelings of others? Not always.

For instance, we don’t want people to be mad at us.. We value the inverse of what God wants. In my family, we pray every day that God would give us a heart of flesh, not of stone. A heart of flesh is tender and teachable, capable of loving. Not like Pharaoh, who defiantly hurt God’s people. It’s the kind of love that desires the best for others, a heart that says, I’m sorry,” not to placate or diffuse a situation, but because there’s true remorse. No one is guiltier of a false apology than me. It’s become such a bad habit, almost like a figure of speech. It’s anxiety driven and not heart-felt. I have bowed before the altar of acceptance and calm instead of rending my heart and weeping over my city.

Oh, God, let my heart be tender and teachable. Never give me over to the gray of a stony path. If being close to You means the discomfort of conviction, I choose you! In Jesus Name, Amen


-Have you held back on saying something you should to someone you know?


– God created feelings so they are important to some degree. Are you ever reckless with your words or even your silences?

Does God Love Us More Than He Hates Sin?

And there I will meet the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory. Exodus 29:43

If God hated sin more than He loved us, He would let us burn. But instead, He made a way out. Sin and death will be defeated, but we will live with Christ forever.

God wanted a relationship with people, so He created them, us. Sin is the enemy’s attempt to separate humankind from their Creator and bring about their destruction. So of course, God hates sin. It twists all that is good and hurts people while promising to be a balm. It is a product from the father of lies.

In our culture, we have become the “whited sepulchers,” creating rules that God did not create and deciding, based on our own personal biases, who can be included. We’ve fallen into the trap and dragged along throngs of others with us. Sin does a good enough job putting distance between God and us, but we feel that we need to add more rules and barriers. This does not point the way to God, but instead gives the push to slide into Hell.

Does holiness matter? Absolutely! But it’s not something we can attain. God gave Moses sharp and clear instructions on how to build the temple, the earthly representation of the human heart. And then He said, “My glory will sanctify the tabernacle.” HIS glory. There is nothing that we can put in there to improve upon the temple. All we do is sully it. We bring nothing. And without our Creator, we are nothing. He is the source of worth. He makes us worthy of love and forgiveness. He makes it possible for us to resemble His Son, Jesus. What a miracle! How marvelous! So, I ask today, can we ask Jesus for a barebones faith? Oh, Savior of my heart, remove the dross of artifice so that I may resemble You!

Heavenly Father, Forgive me of ever thinking that I don’t need You. I praise You for every weakness in my life because they are reminders of how much I need You. I bring nothing but myself and I acknowledge that I can do that only because You empowered me to draw near. Fill me with Your glory so that I may be full of Your love. In Jesus Name, Amen


What does it mean to be saved?

Is salvation about anything that we can do?

Do you believe that God loves us more than He hates sin?

Gentle Revelation

Gentle Revelation

…He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will… Ephesians 1:5

I want answers now. I feel like I can handle all of the facts! Do you feel this way about anything in your life? I want to share some thoughts about what I’m learning while searching.

Most people know whom they come from and where they come from. For me, this has been a giant question mark. As a lover of history, genealogies, and an asker of questions, this has been frustrating. I enjoy nothing more than tracing God’s gospel of love and salvation through the Old Testament only to see it fulfilled. This revelation began in Genesis. Over thousands of years this truth unfolded. That is how precious this is to God. Would we believe if He handed us all of the information at once? Would we value it? That said, my two-year search for my birthfather is a short, simple, and unanswered thing. It is a slow revelation. Thanks to all of the DNA testing I’ve done and all of the connections I’ve made to distant relatives, I am finding out about the past that has helped form me into this person. I’ve known things about my secret history that there has been no earthly reason for me to know. God graciously put in my heart hunches that have turned into actual facts on paper. He walks this journey with me. And while I still have moments of frustration with what has not been revealed, this whole process has drawn me closer to Jesus. More importantly, I’ve learned more about my Heavenly Father in a way that I wouldn’t have without the mystery of my origins. This marvelous slow revelation is precious and merciful because only Jesus knows what I can handle.

So if you are frustrated with unanswered questions, just know that I’m with you. But let down your guard because in the meantime, there are wonderful things that God wants to share with you.

Heavenly Father,Oh, God, You are my father! My soul is satisfied in You knowing that I can trust You with my questions. I believe that You will show me the truth in Your way and time., In Jesus Precious Name, Amen


What questions do you need Jesus to answer?

What questions are we as the Bride of Christ waiting to be answered?

What can we do while we wait?

Bitter Delight

When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. Exodus 15:23

Bitterness is a warning to us both physically and spiritually. But can bitterness turn sweet?

I love bitter vegetables. Bring on the kale, cabbage, and radicchio. I wasn’t born that way but developed a taste for them over time. It’s also important to state that I don’t eat them without preparing them in some way. Bitter vegetables turn sweet when they are crushed, grilled, or roasted. Making a kale salad involves sprinkling the leaves with a little salt and crushing the leaves for just under a minute. This tenderizes the leaves and deals with the bitterness.

Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, told her old friends to call her Mara, which means “bitter.” God did not leave her there. He had plans to use her past to redeem her. He did not forget that her name, Naomi, meant “my delight.”

I’ve been bitter. It was my way of dealing with pain. Anger energized me in a way that grief could not. I felt like there were things that God would not require me to forgive. Of course I was wrong. Bitterness led me down the wrong road for a while. Sin has a way of doing that. It distorts our vision and mutes our ears to God’s sweet voice. It takes crushing or a flame to remove the bitterness. That fire comes both out of God’s holiness and His love for us. And while I can attest that the crushing was painful, I feel more loved than ever. Jesus brought back a sweetness to my life that had been missing for a few years. Now I look back and can smile and say to others, God won’t leave you where you are. Let Him crush you because it will heal you. It will put a new sweetness in your heart because like Naomi, you are God’s delight.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for rescuing me from myself. I’ve been one of my worst enemies. You put peace in my heart. In Jesus Name, Amen


What are the traits of a bitter person?

Is Jesus bitter towards us?

What is the opposite of bitter?

In My Face

And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? Genesis 50:19

We often talk about how simple forgiveness is. But anyone who has been wounded knows that the place where our feelings enter and meet with the technicalities of theology…well, that’s where things get hairy.

I know that I forgive because Jesus forgave me and died for my sin. His resurrection proves that the Holy Spirit’s presence in my heart is enough to help me let go. On paper, it’s so stinking easy. Oh, but the part where the rubber meets the road, all I see is road kill that looks an awful lot like my heart. Have you been there? I’m sure you have. Sometimes you email me and tell me about it, which is always an honor. The carnage is made out of your feelings, your hopes, and your dreams. We can think we have finished forgiving only to have the wrong be rubbed in our faces the next morning on Facebook or in the foyer at church.

Sometimes the waves we have to wade through aren’t unforgiveness as much as trauma. No all wrong affects us the same. If they tap into childhood abandonment or abuse, forgiveness is clouded. Old memories and feelings attach themselves to the pain like cat hair to a polyester sweater.

My husband made the observation that I have often had a difficult time forgiving even though I choose to wrestle with it out of love and obedience to Jesus. He thinks it is because our Christian culture can usher commands to forgive ~ like it’s something instantaneous. They don’t endorse letting it happen organically. My husband, Todd, has a good point. We can make the mistake of trying to forgive while bypassing certain steps, ignoring the messy beginnings. We have to be willing to dive into every part of it. God will take care of the rest.

Today, I endeavor yet again to plant both feet on that road of forgiveness. It is a daily decision and it is a lifestyle. My passage might not end until Heaven but, until then, I will choose to obey.

Heavenly Father, Forgive me for not being quicker to present to you all of the ugliness of times when I’ve been hurt. I know you forgave me first, swimming in the depths of my sin on the cross. Give me the strength to not get ahead of myself because the process is so hard. In Jesus Name, Amen


What has been the most difficult thing for you to forgive?

What have you been taught about forgiveness throughout your life?

Is it accurate?

Mocked For Dreams

Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Genesis 50:17

Have you ever been mocked for your dreams? Maybe they were even God’s dreams. His favor made you a target.

Joseph couldn’t catch a break with his brothers. He was Jacob’s obviously favorite son. Jacob clothed his boy with a bright robe of favor. In case anyone had missed it, Joseph wore his status on his back and shoulders. Then there were those dreams. They, not so subtly, prophesied that the brothers would bow before this younger brother. I stand by my belief that Joseph wasn’t trying to brag. There is absolutely no evidence in scripture that he was trying to rub it in. Most of us know what it’s like to have our good news or our dreams mocked and scoffed. It puts a damper on our joy. I believe that those who think Joseph was speaking with pride are only revealing their own struggle with pride. Dreams are supposed to be safe with those who are close to us.

This theme comes back later after Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers in Egypt. After Jacob dies, his sons send Joseph a message reminding him (as if he needed it) of his promise to forgive them (which he already had) and not take revenge. Joseph wept. It is awful to be accused of revenge when your heart is filled with forgiveness. The brothers hadn’t changed as much as he hoped. They let their own inner strongholds interpret the intentions of their brother.

I want to leave you with two thoughts from this. First, God will protect the blessings and dreams that He has put in us. Most of us learn the hard way to be careful with whom we share. Secondly, we need to examine our hearts with the Holy Spirit before we study scripture because it can skew our understanding.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the plans that You have for me. Show me with whom I can confide. And cleanse my heart so that I don’t put my own personal spin on Your Word. In Jesus Name, Amen


Has God put dreams in you that He wants to bring to life?

What do you need to do to play your part?

What scriptures have you misinterpreted (we all have) in the past and why?



The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is His name. Exodus 15:3

I hate war. I detest it even more than politics. But I am reminded every day when I put on my spiritual armor that there is no getting away from it.

As much as our Western culture tries to avoid war, we still get dragged into it. It’s interesting to me that anyone being interviewed in a beauty pageant is supposed to say that they want world peace. Think about it. Besides the jihadists, the only other people I can think of that want us to enter into armed conflict are contractors that provide weapons or soldiers for hire. In this case, it is love of money and power that kills and destroys.

Furthermore, I am very aware of the irony that the last part of the spiritual armor that we put on are the shoes of the gospel of peace; the shoes of the good news of peace. Jesus is our Prince of Peace, the peace that passes all understanding. The last commandment that Jesus gave us before His ascension was to ‘go and make disciples’ but each of us needs to prepare ourselves ~ knowing that we will come under fire, sometimes literally. This good news angers people. Most people either want to work their way to Heaven (which is impossible) or are offended that they would even need a savior. Both types of reasoning come down to pride of a very Luciferian nature.

Our good news of peace often ends in the messenger’s death. But if we were to change any part of it, it wouldn’t be the truth. It wouldn’t be able to save. It wouldn’t have any power. I don’t mind too much when people don’t like me, but I’m not crazy about the thought of people hating me. Nonetheless, I am called to speak the truth in love even if it leads to martyrdom. The good news about Jesus making peace between the Father and mankind often brings about war of the spiritual kind. Are you ready?

Heavenly Father, Thank you for not leaving us helpless. I put on all of the armor that You have provided. Make me ready for the warfare ahead. In Jesus Name, Amen


What do you hate the most about war?

What scares you the most about spiritual warfare?

The Bible says that God is a Mighty Warrior who is mighty in battle. What does that mean to you?