Our Battlefield is NOT a Playground…

I’ve been trying to figure out how to begin this teaching and I think the Lord gave me a great idea! But in light of all that has transpired for our family in the last week…my father in law James Lee Crismon (94) went to be with the Lord on November 29th at 7:27am and then my grandmother, Clara Marie Hentschke Shutz (96) had her Home-going on November 30th at 12:07pm…

There have been lots of tears, but oh so much joy in KNOWING where they are.  They are with the Lord and their loved ones who’ve gone before them.

As for this blog…here we go…

Let’s first think about what a playground is a what a battlefield is.

That sounds quite elementary (pun intended)…but follow me.

On a playground here’s a few things we have:

  • Safe equipment
  • A playground supervisor
  • Soft flooring in case of falls
  • Friends to play with
  • Games to invent
  • Encouraged to use our imagination

On a battlefield, it’s quite different:

  • Unsafe environment
  • A Superior to take orders from
  • Dirt, rocks, buildings laid waste, etc.
  • Fellow soldiers to fight with and against
  • Rules of engagement to follow
  • The grit of reality

 

Both my father (Robert) and my father in law (Jim) served in the US Navy. But even then, their “Battlefields” were different due to their ages and time of history they served. But both proudly served as they were needed.

My father in law was a 30+ year veteran who served in World War II, Korea, and VietNam. He was a young 19-year-old medic corp-man on the beaches at Normandy. He remembered with clarity the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. Once in Korea he thought he and his entire crew were going to be shot to death as they rounded a corner on a frozen winter day during the war; only to realize that the men who had been poised to fire upon them had literally frozen to death because of inadequate attire.

Although we have heard his stories a million times, what we wouldn’t do to hear again how he was stuck on the island of Fiji for 4 months while the Navy and Marine corp tried to figure out where all the orders and personal information had ended up for his troop. He said the best part of being there was learning to open and eat a mango. Because there weren’t any mangoes where he grew up in the early 1900’s in Pocahontas, Arkansas.

But here’s the other thing about his time in Fiji….Just because he wasn’t in the midst of fighting, didn’t mean he’d stopped training. He knew the time was coming to go back to the battlefield. He listened to his superior officer and followed instructions to the best of his ability so that he would survive the battle. As a medic, he came to the aid of his fellow soldiers and offered them as much help as he could under dire circumstances.

He knew that when he was called to serve his country, he was in it until the battle was over…no questions asked. Although he survived three wars, parts of those battles always stayed with him in the nightmares he had on a regular basis for the rest of his life.

But his final battle is over and he came out victorious!  Hallelujah!!

My father on the other hand, served during the Cold War in the Navy on a nuclear submarine. And if you don’t know what the Cold War is…I’m so sorry your history teachers didn’t tell you…it’s very important too! For many decades though, although he had proudly answered the call to serve in the midst of being employed as a Los Angeles City Fireman, he and others like him were scoffed at by older Navy veterans.  They were told that they didn’t know what it meant to be in battle because they “had it easy.” My father never really talked about his time in the Navy because he felt like it didn’t matter after all. When his naval service was complete, he went back to the fire department, met my mom and built a family…no nightmares from a war; but plenty from his days as a fireman.

Until the day he found a group of Navy Cold War vets, online, and they were going to start having a yearly reunion for those who served on the U.S. Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Marshall. At the first reunion, there were actually men there who were now U.S. Citizens, but at the time, they had served in the Russian Navy.

There’s a special pin that the guys on the nuclear subs wore, and it was a design of two dolphins, to signify “Submarine warfare.” One of the former Russian naval captains came over to my dad, who was wearing his pin, and said, “Aha…It’s because of you. You must be one who served on the US Nuclear Subs. It’s because of you that Russia never attacked the US.  We could never find you because you were so good at staying out of our radar. You and your friends are the reason we didn’t attack the United States.”

My dad is a humble man, but when he came home and told that story, I saw a man who was proud again to have served his country and helped to keep it safe.

Now to regain my composure here.yes…I totally sit and cry when I write!

Let’s bring in the spiritual aspect of our title today…getting off the playground and into the battlefield.

Plain and simple, and I’m guilty of it all the time, we are too comfortable as Christians to make a stand in the spiritual battlefield of this world we live in.  It truly is no different from the days of the disciples of Jesus and apostles that followed.

When you stand up to the enemy, you are committing to what you believe in so much that you are prepared to give your life up.

Games on the playground of capture the flag or even dodgeball, well, you don’t have to give your life…maybe your social life, but nothing dire. Kids will do just about anything to not be picked last. On a playground you want to have fun and enjoy yourself. You want to be with the cool people and you want other people to know that you’re hanging with the “cool kids”.

So let me ask you, how do you see Christians today as if they are hanging out on the playground?

  • Modern buildings
  • Cool music
  • Hipster-dressed pastors
  • Special lighting and effects at every service

Don’t get me wrong…NONE of those things are bad or inappropriate. But if those are the things that we are drawn to and never have the opportunity to grow beyond the esthetics of a Sunday morning, that is the danger.

What about the “playground” aspect of Christianity IS definitely a deterrent to the life Christ has asked us to lead?

  • Not standing up for the truth of the Bible
  • Wanting everyone to feel accepted without responsibility. “Because after all, God is love, right?”
  • The attitude of “my sin isn’t as bad as theirs”

There are quite a few more examples of course, because we see it all over every avenue of social media, etc.

So how do we get back on the battlefield?

I’m sure the first thing we think about is the passage in Ephesians where we read the teaching of “putting on the full armor of God.”

Ephesians 6:10-13 AMP, 10 In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might. 11 Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places. 13Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious].”

 

And what is the spiritual armor of God?

 

Below are the verses from Ephesians 6:14- 17 from the Amplified version of the Bible. I love the descriptive language, as it helps me to visualize a bit of what the Holy Spirit wants us to see in scripture. I mean, if we are created in the image of God, and God had the infinite and incredible capacity to imagine a whole world, let’s use the gift of imagination to bring the Bible to life in front of our eyes!

Ephesians 6: 14-17 says, So stand firm and hold your ground, having tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waist and having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), 15 and having strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the 14 enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news]. 16 Above all, lift up the [protective] shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

We are each to be equipped like this…

Just like a soldier in a war, we are not to run out unprepared and expect to borrow someone else’s armor.  That would be unheard of in battle. If you go into battle and you are not prepared appropriately, not only will you bring harm to yourself, but to those around you who have to work harder to try and protect themselves and protect you…you are putting these fellow soldiers at undue risk.  Everyone has their part in battle. And everyone is expected to show up and fully participate.

Yes, we all have our individually gifting’s. But we are all expected by the Lord to be fully equipped for battle. And for that, we have to train. Just like the examples I shared about my dad and father in law…. they both went through the same boot camp, but then according to their gifting’s continued their training in order to be a reliable and fully functioning part of the squad.  Talk about “squad goals”.

Going further in the end of Ephesians 6, we see a glimpse of what we can do in order to be prepared and equipped to be in the battle.  Verses 18-20 are as follows, 18 “With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people. 19 And pray for me, that words may be given to me when I open my mouth, to proclaim boldly the mystery of the good news [of salvation], 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. And pray that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly and courageously, as I should.”

One of the most important directives we received from our commander in chief Jesus is this…

We are to pray.

We are to pray to the Lord for direction and alertness in all situations.

But we are also to pray for our fellow Christians. Prayer opens wide the spiritual conduit between the earth and the throne of God. How wonderful that God created prayer in order to be able to communicate with us.

The last few verses of Ephesians chapter 6 read as this, 21 Now, so that you may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will tell you everything. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are, and that he may comfort and encourage and strengthen your hearts.23 Peace be to the brothers and sisters, and love joined with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with undying and incorruptible love.”

We are not alone in this spiritual battle. Just like soldiers in war. They do not send one man to fight a battle and expect him to win.

They send a multitude of troops…as they say, there are strength in numbers.

The only man to have ever entered battle on His own was Jesus when He died on the cross. He was still part of the Trinity, but in the moment of His death, He was alone. He prayed every step of the way. And in His resurrection, He had strength in numbers to defeat the enemy once and for all.

Psalm 140:7 Amplified Bible (AMP) “O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation, You have covered my head in the day of battle.”

Psalm 18:39 Amplified Bible (AMP) “For You have encircled me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.”

Real quick, back to the examples of the wars my dad and father in law fought in….

Sometimes, we are on the front lines.  We see the horror of battle. We have the scars to prove it. People know what battles we have fought.

Sometimes, we are fighting quietly. We are entering the depths of spiritual battle to intercede on the behalf of those we want to keep safe from the enemy. We may not be known, but nonetheless are so very important.

Whatever battle it is that God is asking you to fight ~ you have all the equipment that you need.

Find your “captain” that you can be trained by.

Find your troop that you can fight with.

Find your strength in the numbers of spiritual warriors that have gone before you…and step onto the battlefield and fight!!

Blessings,

René

Psalm 140 verse 7

 

 

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Your View: Windshield or Rear-View…

Are You Looking Out the Windshield or the Rear-View Mirror?

I got the idea for this discussion topic from a sermon I heard the other day on the radio.There’s a reason why the windshield on a car is so large and the rear-view mirror is so small.

We need to have a wide view of what is out in front of us so that we can see where we are going. The point of driving somewhere is to move forward to get where we intend to end up. We don’t drive backwards to get to our destination. Right?

I know these concepts are not mind-blowing or something new…but I think it’s a good reminder every now and then to take notice of where our attention lies.

Rear-view mirrors, and side-view mirrors for that matter, aren’t bad though…they are completely necessary.

When we look up to check the rear-view or side-view mirrors, that’s just it…it’s just to take a quick look to make sure we are not in danger of being in an accident or causing an accident as we move about the road. We are not to allow our focus to linger because if we do, we are bound to run into the car in front of us.

Our past is like those smaller mirrors.

There’s a warning bell that sounds in your heart or your head, when you’re about to veer off course.  It’s the alarm that alerts us to check ourselves. Are we about to make the same mistake for the millionth time? Are we about to say the wrong thing to someone…again…knowing it won’t work? Did we forget what happened the last time? And if the mirror checks don’t work, then when we drive over those little bumpy-things (I’m sure they gave a name!) that’s a physical AND audible alert that we need to correct our path or we’ll soon be in trouble!

When we look into the side mirror, we can see that car speeding up really fast to our left and make that quick decision to WAIT to move over.

When we look into our rear-view mirror, we can see that car speeding up behind us or flashing their lights at us, and decide we need to move over and let that person go on their merry way albeit too fast and not get involved in their crazy. We can also see the red lights of a fire truck or police car, alerting us to move over because there’s trohbke ahead!

So how does that this translate into our spiritual life?

What side glances get you off track?

What kinds of things do you think you should be focusing on in your “front windshield”?

Let’s look at some scripture that talks about looking forward or behind.

Proverbs 4:25-26 (AMP) “Let your eyes look directly ahead [toward the path of moral courage] And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you [toward the path of integrity]. Consider well and watch carefully the path of your feet, And all your ways will be steadfast and sure.”

 Right there in scripture ~ “…look directly ahead…”  When we direct our gaze straight ahead, like through a large windshield, we will see the path that clearly leads to integrity!

Hebrews 11: 23-29 (AMP) “By faith Moses, after his birth, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful and divinely favored child; and they were not afraid of the king’s (Pharaoh’s) decree. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, because he preferred to endure the hardship of the people of God rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of the Christ [that is, the rebuke he would suffer for his faithful obedience to God] to be greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt; for he looked ahead to the reward [promised by God]. By faith he left Egypt, being unafraid of the wrath of the king; for he endured [steadfastly], as seeing Him who is unseen. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood [on the doorposts], so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch them (the firstborn of Israel). By faith the people [of Israel] crossed the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; but when the Egyptians attempted it they were drowned.”

 I love that these verses in Hebrews remind us that it is not simply looking ahead & fixing our gaze on the Lord; it is through FAITH that we can accomplish this daily task.

 We are also instructed in God’s Word to take His direction for our life very seriously. When He tells us not to look behind us {dwelling on past sin; obsessing over something you think you’ve missed out on; staying stuck in a cycle of unforgiveness; etc.} then He means it!! 

Genesis 19:26 (AMP) “But Lot’s wife, from behind him, [foolishly, longingly] looked [back toward Sodom in an act of disobedience], and she became a pillar of salt.”

God also shows us through scripture how He provides the way out of a situation. One that is getting a bit frightening or unsettling. In Genesis 22:13 (AMP) we see just that…“Then Abraham looked up and glanced around, and behold, behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering (ascending sacrifice) instead of his son.”

 Let go of the past and start moving forward! Maybe it’s an actual physical move out of the environment you’re in (work, neighborhood, state…). Maybe it’s a shift in your heart ~ an attitude you’re having is causing disruption in your spiritual life. 

Luke 9:61-62 (AMP) “Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord [as Your disciple]; but first let me say goodbye to those at my home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things left behind] is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Don’t linger on looking into the smaller windows. Look through the bigger lens of God’s Word…through His windshield!

Blessings,

René

 

Soil and Roots…

On a recent visit with my in-laws, my mother-in-law was pointing out the great job that her gardener had done on the new landscaping and sprinkler system.  But we noticed that the parkway planter area that held a large beautiful tree, was quite dry.  She told us her gardener assured her, “Even though the soil doesn’t seem like it’s being watered enough from the top, the roots were getting plenty of water from the surrounding soil UNDER the ground.”  He told her what to look out for with the tree to make sure it was growing and not suffering from lack of watering.

I have not been able to get that story out of my head for weeks now.  And here I sit at a new coffee shop and I realize that the mural on the wall in front of me…it’s a painting of roots!  Okay, Lord, I get it!  I’m digging in!!

Jeremiah 17:8 say, “He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

This is exactly the verse that came to mind when my mother-in-law was telling us about her tree.

I would not say I have a green thumb…nor a black thumb…just hands that are really good at purchasing new plants when the old ones die.  Why do you think they sell plants at the grocery store?!  But I have managed to keep quite of few philodendrons alive (and mostly well) in my kitchen and living room.  Indulge me a bit while I share my “gardening” observations.

I have six plants in my kitchen and four plants in my living room.

The 6 plants in my kitchen are fabulous!

One of them I received from a friend who was moving out of state and couldn’t take it with her…my “Jenn plant” has managed to stay alive and green for the 5 years since her family moved. I think it thrives because I notice it more and water it more often…it reminds me of my friend and I pray for her and her family every time I see it.

The larger plant on a stand by the window is the one that thrives the most. I believe because it’s closest to the sunlight, it grows the best. It has the benefit of weekly watering and is daily bathed with the rays from the sun. There are two other plants on the little kitchen sink window ledge that live well with partial sun as well.

Now, the two to the left of my kitchen window, that’s another story. They are in smaller pots, which means that there is not a lot of space for their roots to spread out. But the pots are just so cute…and the shelf they sit on doesn’t really have space for a larger vessel. They are little out of my line of sight, so I know I wait too long to water them. They look quite wilted and give me little hope that they will “spring back to life” just because I water them  But every single time I take them down and give them a good watering, a few hours later I look up at them and they’ve been revived!  It’s amazing what a little water can do!

Well, then there’s the plants in the living room.  We don’t really get any sunlight in there, at least where I have the plants. Those pots are regularly the ones I have to repurchase new plants from the store. They start out full and lovely and after time, I’m watering pots of dirt with one stalk of three or four sad leaves on it. And they don’t perk up at all after the watering.

So what kind of plant are you?

Do you put yourself in a place where you are being watered and cared for?  Do you soak in the sunlight when it’s available?

Do you slowly lose your stamina until there’s almost nothing left?

Or are you the tree planted with deep roots?

When we make the decision to stand firm in our relationship with the Lord, and let Him water the roots of our life in Him, we can withstand ANY kind of storm or drought. Even when the topsoil of our life is dry and dusty, we can still grow and bear fruit of who God is in our life. We need not fear anything because we know Who we are rooted in.

Taking time each day to be rooted in God’s Word ~ that is the only way to remain standing and not sway or break with the ever-changing moments life will bring.

Think of a palm tree. I’ve lived in Florida – palm trees galore. I’ve witnessed the strength and remarkable flexibility of these trees during storms. Being born and raised in Southern California, what is more iconic than the palm tree lined streets of the city suburbs and beaches? Here, the greatest characteristic of these trees is that depending on where they are planted, they are either straight and tall, or they seem crazily slanted…but both features are simply because they desire to be in the full gaze of the sun’s light.

Palm trees are amazing to me when you see them bending like crazy-straws during a hurricane but when the storm is over, it regains its composure.  How?  They have an incredibly fibrous root system that goes down into the ground very very deep.  The palm has roots that keep growing, that continue to gain nutrients to sustain their life, and a leaf system that overlaps the branches all coming from one common trunk.

I mean, I am so excited just thinking about the similarities here between my life as a Christian and how God made palm trees.  I mean, besides how cool they are, what a life lesson they are to us ~ and I know that God does not do anything haphazardly.

Do we remain steadfast and let our roots go deep with God? Do we yearn so earnestly to be in the light of the Son, that we may look a little like a “bendy-straw” to those looking at our life? Do we look like we’re going to simply break in half during the storm of life? Do we regain our strength and stand tall when the storm is over? Do we continue to bear fruit in the midst of a drought?

I know these plants.

Sometimes I contently sit in my “little pot” waiting to be watered but slowly dying inside because I don’t go where the sunlight will strengthen me. But I want more of those times when I’m seen, watered, and cared for by Gardener. Unlike a plant in a pot, I have to be an active participant in the watering!

I know this tree.

More and more I am the palm tree. I know the value of sticking close to God’s Word and burrowing deep so that the roots of my heart and soul are planted securely within the truths of the life He has intended for me to live.

I am this tree.

I’ve been the tree in the desert, the tree with the dry topsoil, the tree that still survives because the roots are deep. It doesn’t mean I have it all figured out. I don’t have the market cornered on staying strong in the midst of the storm. I just know that trusting in the One who refreshed me with water from the spring of everlasting Life in Him.

So even when I look a bit slanted, or a bit like a crazy bendy-straw, just know that I’m in the process of reaching out to be as close to the Son as I possibly can! Come join me!

Blessings,

René

Jeremiah 17 verse 8

 

Don’t pay for the Fancy Water…

On our recent trip to China {totally love that I am able to tag along with Tony on his business trips} I noticed something at each of the hotels, each room we were in had at least two free 16oz. bottles of water. With tags or coasters that encouraged the guests to take the water with various sayings…”stay hydrated” ~ “water is life” ~ “hydrate your mind”.  Although they offered these free water bottles, that  by the way, were replenished daily whether the original bottles had been drank or not, there was also one illustrious extra-large bottle of “fancy water” – a well known name brand.  But that one you would have to pay for.

So each day, the guests have to choose – drink the free water or pay a ridiculous amount of money for the name brand water.

Hey, I was just excited that all of these hotels offered the choice…and yes, I’ll take the free water. Every. Day.

Once we arrived at our 3rd hotel, and the free bottles of water continued to appear, I couldn’t help but think about the life-giving water that we are freely offered by Jesus.

How often have I gone for “the fancy water” & by-passed what the Lord is offering to me as a gift?

So what do I exactly mean by “fancy water”?

I want to be very clear here that the examples I’m about to give are NOT bad or wrong…it’s just that sometimes we place a higher level of dedication and interest in the name brand stuff.

When an author comes out with a new book, I’m clicking on amazon to buy it faster than I should. {Seriously…if y’all are interested in reading/studying just about any Christian book/devotional/study that’s been released in the last ten years, I’m sure I have it & I’ll let ya borrow it!} Sometimes I make myself stop & simply place it in my “book list” for a future purchase.

  • I’m on email lists for online bible studies and daily/weekly devotional.
  • I’m in several different bible study groups on Facebook.
  • I follow a myriad of amazingly gifted & talented speakers, authors, and singers.

All of these things are good.  All of these groups are beneficial to my spiritual growth. All of these people speak/share scriptural wisdom, and are also vulnerable enough to share with thousands of strangers via their insta-stories, what God is helping them work through in their life at the moment.

However…..

When I count on scrolling through social media to get my fill of God’s word through inspirational quotes, meaningful scripture verses, or heartfelt stories ~ I’m drinking the fancy water. 

But wait you say…social media is free! 

Yes ~ but I’m paying with my time.

I’m paying with “quick fix” mind set. 

Let’s be real, if someone were to ask you at the end of the day what the most inspirational post you “liked” that morning was…would you be able to answer them? I know most of the time I couldn’t. I might remember the basic gist of a few but not word for word.

John 4:10, “Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.”

So what’s the “free water”?

It’s Jesus. It’s Him as the Living Word. It’s Him as the fountain of Living Water.  

It’s Jesus. The One with whom we will never thirst again.

When I spend my time reading the Bible ~ apart from bible study time ~ and truly dig in deep asking God to reveal to me what I am to learn that day about His character, then I am truly refreshed. 

The best moments of reading my Bible come when I am searching to know more of who God is and not “what’s in this for me” mode.  The more I know about God, about the Bible, about the story of the Bible…the more that God will reveal to me about who He wants me to be…who He has created me to be for Him.

The Living Water Jesus freely offers to us came at a great price.

It is free to us because we can never {like. Ever. Ever. Not. Ever.} come close to living a life that would earn our way to eternity. Jesus died on the cross, along with all our sin, and rose again so that we could have the gift of bring free of the death that sin brings…the permanent separation from Him will not happen to those who receive the free gift of salvation from Jesus Christ. 

John 7:38, “ The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”

Read your books.

Attend bible studies in your church or online.

Follow your fave people on social media.

Just don’t stop there. 

Actually, don’t start there either.

I’m guilty of this more often than not, so this blog is for me just as much {or more!} than maybe for you. I honestly appreciate the time you have given to read along with my musings of the day. 

Stay hydrated with the Water of Life and your heart and mind will be hydrated as well.  Enjoy the time you spend with  the Lord, praying & reading scripture.

You will come away refreshed without one iota of regret for the time spent with your free water. I promise!

Blessings,

René

John 7 verse 38

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrations and Preparations…

I absolutely LOVE to have parties & get-togethers!! To the point it drives my sweet husband a bit crazy. 

I mean, what better way to get your house clean than to prep for a party! Right? In our almost 27 years of marriage, we have moved 14 times…yep…fourteen! And every single time, we’ve hosted family & friends for a birthday party or holiday celebration within a month of our move in date. My family indulges me, even in the midst of my crazy, to help get the house in order.

Boxes are unpacked, items put away, pictures are hung on the walls, and drawers are filled. And okay, whatever I don’t know what to do with in the moment, stays in the box and goes into the garage! Come on…you’ve got a few (or 20!) of those boxes in your garage too!! 

But inevitably, “crazy-town mom” would rear her ugly head & the beautiful event we were preparing for would be scarred with one of my freak outs. It’s hard sometimes to look at photos of various events from past because they are marred (in my mind at least) by my unrealistic expectations that I poured out on my family like boiling tar over the walls of a castle onto the enemy. It still makes me cringe, and I once again have to give those guilt feelings to the Lord and ask Him to touch my heart & mind with His grace…and grace for my family too.

Over the years, the intensity of planning parties has lessened for me because the true value of these times of celebration is about the people. It’s not about the platters & bowls matching perfectly on an expertly laid out serving table.  And thank the Lord, I stay away from Pinterest…no judgement for you if you have all kinds of things ‘pinned on you party boards’…I just know that for me, it would be more of a burden than a joy.

But I LOVE to celebrate….like, EVERYTHING!  I have boxes in the garage for every holiday…Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Fall, Thanksgiving, and of course Christmas (those take up the most space).  And yes….there is a difference between “Fall” and “Thanksgiving” decorations!!

I’ve been known to put in silly  notes to my kids lunches all the way through high school!  I love to arrange tea parties and coffee dates with friends, just because. Surprising a special teacher at school with treats or their favorite Starbucks drink. Baking cookies during the holidays and throwing old-fashioned “cookie exchange” parties.

I simply LOVE to CELEBRATE!  After all these years, I’m finally getting better at the “pre-celebrations” part!

Several years ago, September 9, 2013 to be exact, my husband’s first book was released!  It was so exciting!  He had worked on it for over two year in-between his day job and keeping up with all of our family adventures.  So of course, I wanted to throw him a party to show him how proud we all were of him.  We wanted to celebrate his accomplishments!

He wanted to go out to dinner with just our family.

So of course, I organized a surprise party for him with our friends and family!  Appetizers for the guests to enjoy until we got back home and yummy desserts to enjoy after we arrived.

I had the task of making sure he didn’t go out to our “garage fridge” so he wouldn’t see all the goodies. Then, I had to figure out how to get him out of the house. The errand I created wasn’t one where we would get dressed up, and I thought, “What does it matter? We’re celebrating his achievements, not our wardrobe!”  I had our three girls ready to spring into action to set up food & decorations after we left. I remember how surprised they were when I told them, “Y’all know where all the serving platters are, you know what food we’re serving, have fun with it, get creative & use whatever you want.”

They just stared at me like I’d spoken in a foreign language. Finally one of them spoke up and said, “Anything? Are you sure? I mean, usually you want things in a specific way.”  And they were right…they’d seen “crazy-town mom” one too many times. I assured them that I would be happy with whatever they did & wanted them to use their creativity. The best part…I meant it…and they believed me.

Oh, and my sweet husband was completely surprised & loved the party. No stress. No craziness. Just celebration!

But what really has spurred my recollection of that party was the “party weekend extravaganza” we recently enjoyed. 

Yes…ENJOYED…every minute of it!!

I enjoyed it thoroughly because I let go of my unrealistic expectations & control. I remained completely present at every event. Not allowing myself to jump to the next one. Each celebration was unique unto itself & could not be repeated.  The help that was offered, was gladly received.  The friends who helped set up and clean up were immensely appreciated. Dirty dishes in the sink for days…didn’t matter because that’s what a dishwasher was for and there was plenty of time later for that.  The people were the important parts of each celebration to focus on.

Within three days, these were the fabulous memory-making parties our family was involved with:

Friday night – High School Baccalaureate for our youngest daughter, followed by a family dinner, and a 10pm showing of “Wonder Woman.” ~ which was amazing!!

Saturday morning/afternoon – High School Graduation (our last daughter graduated..so this was really “it” for high school!), followed by her party.

Saturday evening ~ drove an hour-ish to my nieces “California Baby Shower”…she is such a cute pregnant momma!  So wild that I’ve known her since she was 3 months old and now she’s married and about to become a Mom!

Sunday morning ~ Family Wedding Shower for our oldest daughter.  What a joy to meet with all of her fiancé’s side of the family.  And seriously….my first baby is getting married!  WOW!!!  This shower was lovingly given by his side of the family,  and it was truly a blessing to simply “showing up” and celebrating my girl and seeing how loved she was by her new soon-to-be family.

Sunday afternoon ~ Visit with my father-in-law for his 94th Birthday.  It was worth the hour long drive to see him for a quick bit and tell him how much we love him.  He is not a great health right now, so it was important we go and see him instead of just calling.

Sunday evening ~ Visit with my parents, brother and sister-in-law to celebrate and early Father’s Day (another hour-ish drive).  Our middle daughter was in town for the graduation and Tony and I would be out of the country on the actual day.  Since this was the busiest day, we decided that we would have dessert and coffee instead of a full meal.

Then….back home! Exhausted but happy!

Each of these events were special and worth celebrating fully!  We made it to each one on time (um…yeah….first time to get to graduation ceremony and did NOT have to take the satellite parking shuttle service back to the venue thank you very much!) and I allowed myself to have fun at each one.  Because I was not thinking of the next one!

It was a whirlwind weekend for sure, but absolutely none of the photos that were taken have even a hint of “crazy town mom.”  I love that!

I’m thankful that the Lord is helping me to grow in this area because He created me with a love for celebrating my people!  What I do with that gift is either honoring to Him or honoring myself.  We all know which attitude is better to have.

When I’ve tried to prepare for a party with the intention of impressing those in attendance, it has rarely gone how I expected it to go and end up regretting choices, being ashamed of a negative attitude I allowed to take hold of me, or worse yet, making my family feel like they cannot do anything well enough or good enough simply because it’s not how I would have done it.

I believe God will bring back this “Celebration Weekend” to my mind whenever I start giving “crazy town mom” the keys to the party bus!

God wants us to celebrate…it’s in our nature because it is in HIS nature to celebrate!  The Bible is full of celebrations and feasts, and not one of them was to glorify the host or the party planner.  They were to honor Him….for His goodness, His mercy and grace, His protection, and His joy and love that He has for us.

In no way have I reached perfection in the party planning adventures…but I’m getting much better. I’ve become an expert of the “quick clean” ~ which is nothing to really be proud of…just being honest here…seriously though, don’t open my bedroom door!

But when people leave my home, I want them to go away from the house with a smile on their face, a lightness in their heart, and a feeling of being refreshed because they had been celebrated…they had been warmly embraced and made to feel welcome.

Don’t be afraid of the celebration…of the party planning…of the organization of it all.  Once you have the idea of a party, give it back to the Lord and He will guide you in the steps of the preparations. He really does care about you and how you want to celebrate the people in your life.

So go plan that party!  It’ll be fun!!

Blessings,

Rene’

Celebrations blog

 

A New Calling…

Today, I am living in an “in-between” frame of mind. It is Wednesday morning in Shanghai and it is early evening at home in SoCal. My mind is in two places at once and so is my heart.

I had to write this fine before the memory subsides…that is, if it will.  I wasn’t even sure that I was going to post this for “all to see” but that is the point of sharing what God has laid on your heart.  Let others know so that they can partner with you!  Our stories and our experiences are meant to be shared.

I left the hotel after having breakfast with Tony (my man!), to walk down to the local Starbucks. Yeah, I know….but sometimes you just need the smells & tastes from home.

As I stood outside at the corner waiting to cross the street (or should I say, waiting to play tag with the myriad of cars, pedestrians, scooters, and bicyclists) I was struck by this thought….

“How many of these people know the Lord.” 

I can tell you that I normally don’t have that question running through my mind unless I’m in a situation that I’ve prepared myself to be in. Does that resonate with anyone else? I think living in America, I just figure that everyone at least knows who God and Jesus are. They may or may not believe in Him as their Savior, but they have heard His name.  I mean, I am a “tag along” on Tony’s business trip, not on a purposeful, planned for, missions trip.

The next moment, the Holy Spirit begins to whisper a directive to my heart…a promise of sorts. One that I’m totally unprepared to hear. 

“These are my people and I am calling you to love them. I am calling you to be available to serve my people in ways you have only begun to imagine. I am calling you to love my people around this world who are desperately seeking Me but don’t know how to find me.”

I began to feel completely undone in my heart, the tears started to well up in my eyes, and I was both thrilled and terrified to begin to ponder what all this means.  So I guess I was terrifrilled?

So, not wanting to scare anyone around me as I walked down the street, I let my heart ask the questions.  I was already crying, talking out loud would bring way more attention than I wanted to garner.

“What are You talking about Lord?” 

~ I’m telling you to love my people. You have Me so you have the ability to do that.

“How am I supposed to do what you’re asking?”

~ I gave you the gift of writing and conversation, so use that.

“Do you mean I’m literally going to travel the world?”

~ You have a passport & a 10 year travel visa to China, don’t you?

….ps….I love it when the Holy Spirit has a sense of humor in His answers…

“Okay, what do I do now?”

~ Just listen to My voice and you will know My plans for you.

Um….okay….

But being me, I want to know and I want to have it all figured out…now. 

I will tell you that even now, sitting at a window table in Starbucks, the tears are once again pouring down my cheeks. My heartbeat quickens as I think again about what I feel God just told me. And once again I think, “But what does that mean??” 

The Lord is so good…because as soon as I ask that again, He begins to bring memories to my mind of past conversations.

I’m remembering a conversation I had this past September with a sweet godly woman, Mrs. Trevor Yaxley, as I sat with her in a lovely restaurant overlooking a small pond that was mostly covered with water lilies. I met her because I had the privilege to travel with Tony on a business trip to Snells Beach, New Zealand.  {seriously…it’s so cute!}

Her husband owns a Christian animation company that Tony is connected to via one of their films.  On one of our last days in town, she asked to take me to lunch. It was one of those moments where you meet someone for the first time but feel like you’ve known them your whole life.  

We talked about our kids, stages of life, and what we saw the Lord doing in our life.

If you know me, you know that I love to write and speak/teach within church ministries to women of all ages. My hearts desire is to be a published author and speak to women all over. Admittedly, when I shared this with her, I meant “all over” to be just around the country…the US…safe places. 

She said to me, “Why not the world? What about China?”

{insert sound of tires screeching here}

Wait now…what?!

I just about spit out my coffee! What in the world was she talking about?? What do I want to do that for? I’m a stay at home mom with stuff to do at home. {side note…don’t let anyone make you feel like you are “just” a mom….it’s the hardest job!}

You see, she & her husband have contacts all over the world including China. With their company, they do a lot of business with people in China. That coupled with knowing that Tony travels to China sometimes, she said, “The next time Tony goes to China, you should go with Him. God has a plan and I see you speaking to women all over the world about how much God loves them & wants to pursue them.”

Women from all over the world? Well, living in Southern California, that is definitely possible because of the melting pot of culture we live in. So, okay, sure…women from all over the world.  Check!

To be honest, when Tony found out that I could accompany him on this current trip to Shanghai, I didn’t remember that conversation with this lovely woman. I thought… “Yay…free trip to China? Let me go get my travel visa!”

Which brings another memory swirling to my mind.

When I picked up my Visa at a little Chinese travel office in Pasadena, the man & woman that were there were so happy to see me. I was greeted with smiling faces, “We have been waiting for you Miss René.” What? They are just being good business owners. But still…it totally caught me off guard. I got my wallet out of my purse to show them my ID & receipt of purchase, they checked all documents, and handed me my passport back. 

It was open to the page where my new 10 year visa had been secured. The gentleman said, “You have many trips ahead of you. Please enjoy my country and my people.”  

Um….okay….

Is that something he said to everyone? The woman behind the desk seemed just as enthusiastic in wishing me many good travels ahead.

Back to reality….My heart is once again struck with this memory, more tears are threatening to fall down my face. 

Isn’t that basically what the Holy Spirit just whispered to my heart a short bit ago as I decided to take a walk instead of going back to my room to read?

“These are my people and I’m calling you to love them.”

Right before we left for this trip, I took a friend out for a pre-birthday lunch at one of my favorite places in San Marino called Julienne’s. {If you go…buy a loaf of their Rosemary Currant bread…it’s amazing!!}

I was telling her about a funny thing that had come up for the trip. Tony actually has events & meetings set up with three different companies & the schedule was packed! So much so that he was double-booked one of the mornings. Lo and behold, the contact for one of the meetings asked if I would go in Tony’s place. Well sure, happy to help out. 

Then a few days later, I found out that I was expected to give a speech…in front of 50 members of the press, and about 150 other attendees. Good thing I’m not afraid of public speaking!! Thank you Jesus!!

I shared this with my friend at our lunch, and jokingly said, “My first speaking gig in China.” Haha!! She finished her bite of meatloaf and said, “Why are you laughing. It could be the first of many. You don’t know what God is going to do.” My friend Carla is one who hears so clearly from the Lord, speaks with conviction, and does so carefully as to only share what she hears the Holy Spirit says to her. When she has prophetically spoken over me, I know it’s something to pay attention to.

I didn’t end up giving my 5 minute speech but that was fine.  However, I felt a stirring in my heart during the mtg, but didn’t know why…until I heard God tell me that Tony & I would soon visit this city. Really? Me too? That doesn’t make any sense?  Tony is the business guy. What will I be there for?

Nonetheless, I did my job as VP of our Animation company, and all was good. Then our contact came over to me & said, “Come over here. Someone wants to ask you a question.” Turns out that “someone” was a local newscaster from the city that was hosting the press conference; and along with my interpreter, we had about a 5-7 minute interview. All I know is, there were far more then 200 people who saw that.

What does God have planned??? 

I don’t have anymore to go on right now, but I tell you what…I’m gonna be paying extra attention from now on!  I never have really had an experience where God’s plan has been perfectly laid out before me to follow.

I’m not nervous about the future. I have lived enough of life’s joys and challenges, that I EXPECT to be surprised by God and how He chooses to work.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit sometimes I wished that He worked according to my time table; but I’m always more grateful that He doesn’t. My journey of faith has been one of great triumphs and desperately low defeats. But my faith has grown stronger with each step. Strong enough that even when I get freaked out about life, I know beyond a shadow of doubt, that His plans are the best…that His direction for me is the most fruitful.

So now, I wait. And I watch. And I dig deeper into God’s word to receive His direction.

I share this with you to ask you to join me in prayer ~ to see God’s path & to boldly walk through doors of opportunity, to love His people all over the world. 

Thank you for reading this & thank you for your prayers!!

Blessings,

Rene’

Street in China by hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Careful, your mask is slipping…

I was recently watching a show that I had recorded on TV, called Kingdom of Heaven, taking place in the 12th century during the Crusades, set in Jerusalem. {http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0320661/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1}

It was very fascinating to me that the king of Jerusalem at the time was not a well man, he had leprosy. But that did not stop him from ruling the country. His birthright deemed it so and he did his job to the best of his ability. It was interesting how he wore a metal face mask to hide the ravages of leprosy that had attacked his face. For every day tasks he had a plain mask, where the only thing you could see was his eyes. It was a little unsettling to be able to hear him speak but not see his mouth or his lips moving. The mask was solid in the area all around his face except for his eyes. What I found very interesting was that when he knew he needed to go to war with the enemy, with all of his frailties and disfigurement, he knew as the king he had to be the one to lead his people, his army into battle.

He did not dress down for the battle either. He put on his full armor.

It was so astonishing to see him enter the battlefield dressed in his finest linen edged with intricate gold stitching and amazingly intricate patterns of other gold fabric that had been woven into the garment. But what was even more fascinating was his mask. The mask he wore was absolutely stunning. It had been carved with beautiful flowers and vines that intersected all over the whole thing. When he met his enemy in the middle of the battlefield he spoke with strength and determination and was able to settle their proposed battle without any bloodshed.

Upon his death he wore another mask that was darker in color to reflect the somber situation. The last words he spoke to his sister were, “Please remember me for who I am and what I used to look like in my youth.” You see, she had not seen him in his disfigurement.

He had servant’s that took care of him and his decaying body…and were sworn to secrecy. And I don’t believe it was from embarrassment, I think it was from a place of honor and respect. But after this king had breathed his last, the sister removed mask ~ his beautiful & perfect mask ~ to reveal a face that was hideously disfigured by the leprosy.

She was of course shocked, but you could tell the sadness in her eyes was simply because her brother was now gone. Not because of what he looked like.

So how many masks do we wear throughout our life, our day?

When we are feeling disfigured spiritually by the sin in our life, we put on a mask, and use beautiful garments to hide what is really going on underneath. We have different masks that we wear depending on who we are with. A mask with our family when we are out in public. A mask when we are with our family behind closed doors. A mask that we wear when we are volunteering at our kids school. The mask we wear at work every day. Maybe even the mask we wear with our spouse?

Most of the time I think that mask we tend to put on is just a regular, simple and fairly ambiguous mask. The one that says, “Life is great!” when it really isn’t.

The more beautiful the mask, the more disfigured the soul. The harder we try to distract from the ache of our soul, the deeper the lines are at carved into our mask. We don’t want to let anyone know about what is really going on…

  • Anxiety
  • Financial problems
  • Eating Disorder
  • An abusive relationship
  • Difficult children that are getting out of control
  • Addiction problem
  • And the list goes on and on.

So what happens when that mask slips? When our frustrations and fears get the better of us and we begin acting out of control?

Luke 12:2-3 says, “There is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered, nothing hidden that won’t be made known. Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in an ear in private rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. (HSCB)

How much of our life stays covered and hidden from the Lord?  NONE of it! The masks that we have so cleverly and carefully fashioned over the years, will fall away in the instant that we come before the Lord, humble ourselves, and ask Him to make the beautiful the disfigurement of sin.

I John 5:12-15 reminds us, “The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for. (HCSB) {emphasis mine}

The Lord came to earth for YOU…to bring you back from the depths of sin and eternal death.  He does not want you to experience the death of sin, so He has given us the gift of His salvation.  There is nothing we can do to earn it.  There is no need to wear a mask of perfection for Him…because He can already see beneath the mask.

From personal experience, I know what happens when you remove the masks you where in your life. Freedom happens. But it isn’t easy. God expects us and wants us to be a part of the recovery. We have to be determined to operate within the power and strength of HIS might…not our own.  When we try to do it on our own, the mask will pop right back on!  Don’t save the mask, no matter how beautiful you think it is!  THROW IT OUT!

You find true freedom in walking the path as the person God created you to be, flaws and all. You will bring honor to the Lord when others see that you struggle in life, but more importantly, you put your faith and hope in the power of the Lord.  When the mask comes off, we are proclaiming that we are not perfect, but we are perfectly LOVED by the Creator of the Universe.

And if you have any doubts as to where “the mask” fits into the spiritual battle armor (Ephesians 6)  we are called to wear?

It doesn’t.

There is NO mask.

When the mask comes off, our countenance will tell the story of God’s redemption and His love.

Matthew 5:16 declares, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” {emphasis mine}
Take off your mask today ~ choose to live in the freedom of eternal life ~ and share with others the great glory of God’s salvation!
Blessings,
 René
Luke 12 verses 2-3