Ouch…That One Hurt

 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Daniel 3:7

Devices (2)

A fourth grader recently asked me what my favorite story from the Bible was, followed by: “And you can’t say a Jesus story. That’s too easy.” (Ah, the honesty of children.)

I chose the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I have always loved that story for the complete trust in God it teaches. Those men declared to praise and worship God, independent of if He answered their plea or not. That is true worship! To worship even if the outcome is not what you would have chosen.

But I must confess, I’ve always focused on the declaration they made to the king:

our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

However, recently it was a different verse that caught my attention (causing heart piercing pain at the same time.)

 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Daniel 3:7

At first glance I was smug: Like I would ever fall in worship at the sound of instruments telling me to worship a statue.

Ding. 

Ooh, an email! (Automatically grab phone, bow head towards screen)

Ouch!!!! That one hurt.

I don’t bow to the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe. Nope, I bow to the sound of a ding, a tweet, chimes, a swoosh, a ringtone.

How did this happen? When did it happen? My phone sounds and without thinking I respond. It’s bad enough that I will check mail while talking with a family member or friend. But I find myself even putting God “on hold” so I can swipe my screen.

Nothing like being in the middle of quiet time with the Creator of the universe and telling Him to hold on a second while you respond to an email. I mean after all it’s not like those cookies the room-mom requested are going to take themselves to the class party. Yep, that’s way more important than talking to the very One who gave me life!

I have been so convicted by my automatic response to the sounds my phone makes.

So what are we to do in this technology permeating world? Throw our phones away? Never respond to another email?

Of course not. But we can follow Daniel and his buddies’ example by deciding in our hearts that we will not put our devices above our Lord (OK, so maybe that’s not exactly what they decided, but you know what I mean). Daniel and his friends made a conscience decision, maybe even a pact with each other, to remain pure before God in a land overflowing with temptation.

What if we decided to do something similar?

What if we decided in our hearts to put limits on our devices?

What if we put our phones in another room during our quiet time?

This one might not apply to you, but it certainly does for me: What if we stop treating each email as if it is a potential defcon 1 warning that we must check lest national disaster ensue.

I do not want to choose my phone over my God. I do not want to be ruled by dings and tweets. Instead, I want the peace of the Holy Spirit to rule my thoughts and actions.

This verse hurt, but I’m so glad it did. I’ve always judged those Babylonians harshly. It was pretty hard to realize that I am just as guilty. And whereas they bowed down before a huge idol, I carry mine in my pocket! (Ouch…that one hurts too!)

Thankfully, God is full of grace and mercy. He wants us to turn to Him in our weakness and failures. He can redeem and restore that which we have used unwisely.

I am so thankful for the heart piercing truth of God’s word. And for the silent mode on my phone!

With love,
Jen

Confessions of a 80’s TV Junkie (Dose of Sunshine)

You are my sunshine
You are my sunshine

As a kid I was a total tv junkie. I could quote you every line from every episode of Punky Brewster, Facts of Life, Care Bears, Rainbow Brite and many other 80’s girl shows. I could also sing you every line from any commercial shown during those years. Random fact: my all time favorite show was Kids Incorporated. I rehearsed every scene; you know just in case Renee quit and they needed me on a moment’s notice!

Sorry, I digress….so being such a 80’s tv savant I often liked to test out lines and catch phrases on my friends and family. Given the fact that I was such a shy kid, sometimes this created some hilarious and unexpected situations.
As was the case when my beloved, precious, petite, and oh so sweet Grandmother took my eight year old self out for a shopping day. She bought me several things, treated me to a movie, and followed that by dinner. On the ride home, while basking in the glow of new toys, I decided to try out  a line I had heard on the Facts of Life:
“Grandmother, you may be old, but you sure are loaded!”
I remembered that she laughed hysterically; my parents – not so much!

But hey – you take the good, you take the bad right? 😉

Grace and Jen Dec 1979

Oh how I miss that smile and laugh!

These Dose of Sunshine posts are created with the hopes of shining a little light and humor into your Friday. I hope they bring a smile to your face. If you would like to share a “Dose of Sunshine” story, please email me at jmbleakley@gmail.com

Child-Like Faith in the Midst of Sheer Evil

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (1)

Mommy, will those bad guys ever come to our city and do that?

Normally, I don’t let my daughter watch the news, but the tragic events taking place in Paris came up in living color on our screen as Elf finished playing. We had planned our kick-off Christmas family movie night last night. We laughed at our joint desire to start celebrating so early this year. Normally we watch our first Christmas movie on Thanksgiving night, but this year feels different for some reason. We all want to start the yuletide cheer as soon as possible (and let’s be honest, Elf is just hysterical!)

So Elf finished playing, the kids started doing a silly dance to the credits, I smiled at my husband. And then we saw the headline: Over 100 dead in Paris attacks. “Mommy, what happened? Daddy, who did that? Are they coming here?”

We flipped off the news. Saddened, horrified and sickened we held our kids close. We shed tears for the traumatized broken hearted people across the ocean from us. I could hardly pray anything more than “God be with them.” I looked at my trusting blue-eyed little girl and her rapidly growing brother and told them that we didn’t know exactly what happened, but that her daddy and I would find out and tell them what they needed to know.

I wanted so badly to promise them that what happened in Paris will never happen in our little neck of the woods. But I can’t. And that breaks my heart! It makes me angry. It makes me sick.

Of course I told her what she needed to hear in order to sleep. I told her that God is still on the throne and that His heart breaks over the evil that happened in Paris. I told her that several of the evil men had been killed. I told her that her daddy and I are here, and that her big dog will stand guard all night. We prayed for Paris, we prayed for America, we prayed for safety, we prayed for peace. But then:

“Mommy, let’s pray for the terrorists.”

I’m sorry..what now?

“Saul was like a terrorist before he met Jesus right? He was killing people and he thought he was doing something good but he was really doing bad. But Jesus shined His light into Saul’s live and Saul was changed forever. Let’s pray that God shines His light on the terrorists.”

I could say nothing. I sat there holding my little girl’s hand saying nothing.

“Mommy?”

What I wanted to say was: No! No I won’t pray for them!!! They are evil. They are awful. There is no way they will change. They are too far gone.

“Mommy? God can do anything right?”

Ugh…why do children have to use our lessons against us.

So we prayed for the terrorists. One of us from a pure, child-like faith, trusting heart and one out of obligation. My little girl prayed that God would stop the next terrorist as he walked on the road. That he would be blinded like Saul was so he couldn’t hurt the next person. She prayed that many terrorists would come to know Jesus. She confidently asked her Savior to save those who are so bent on evil. I could only pray that God would stop them and intervene in this mess.

We said amen and she snuggled down, satisfied that she had done what she could do to stop the evil running rampant in this world. She smiled at me and said:

“Mommy, remember our Sunday school lesson from last week? You said that love wins. Love will win mama, cause Jesus wins. Goodnight, I love you.”

Wow. God spoke to me last night through the words of my eight year old daughter. The evidence of “child-like faith” has never been so clear. It is no coincidence that I have been writing curriculum lessons from Revelation this week. The week has been full of reminders that Love does indeed win. We wish it would win every battle. But Love will win the war.

I know today the truth of Love winning the war might not bring much comfort, not when the battle wounds and causalities are so high. But we must not give into despair. Love will win. Jesus will one day wipe every single remnant of evil from the face of the earth. The hands of love will lovingly and tenderly wipe every tear from every eye. There will be no more death, no more grieving, no more pain, and no more darkness.

We don’t know what the future holds, but let’s ask the One who holds the future to hold us tightly in His arms. Let’s pray earnestly for the people of Paris. Let’s pray for strong leadership. Let’s pray for courage and boldness and justice. And let’s even pray for Jesus to shine His light into the impenetrable darkness that is consuming those men and women so bent on evil. Who knows maybe another Saul is walking down the Damascus road even now.

With love,
Jen

A Canine Evangelist (Dose of Sunshine)

You are my sunshine

A few days ago this happened:

IMG_6973

Um….when your dog says pray I guess you better pray!!!!

She got into my preschool Bible study signs. I wasn’t sure if this was a warning, a request, or an apology 😉

It was however hilarious when my kids were screaming: “Mommy, Bailey just got your prayer. Hurry, she is going to chew up your prayer. Mommy pray! It’s pray. Come get it. Bailey won’t let go of pray!”

Does this mean we have a highly spiritual dog? A canine evangelist? Or just further proof she is part goat?

Do You Ever Feel Unlovable?

The LORD your God is with you,He is mighty to save.He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love,He will rejoice over you

Have you ever felt unlovable? Have you ever found yourself wanting to pull the covers over your head and hide out for a few days; maybe even a whole season?

It amazes me how both pride and insecurities can exist simultaneously within a heart, but somehow they can. Oftentimes our insecurities hide behind the facade of pride. We don’t like our insecurities and so we attempt to hide them behind a more confident version of ourselves. This pride serves us well – until it doesn’t. Eventually the facade will shatter and we will be left exposed and vulnerable.

Our shattered pride then taunts us:
     you failure – you thought you were something great, but look at you. How could anyone think you are great now?

Our insecurities confirm the charges pride makes:
     no matter how hard you try to hide me, I will always be here. You cannot get away from me. You might as well not even try.

The war between our pride and our insecurities leaves us battle weary, scarred, and feeling far from lovable. We long for comfort and love, but so often we feel as if we don’t deserve it.

While I expect most adults to identify with this very scenario I battle often, I did not expect a 10 year old girl to understand such feelings. I was leading a Bible study for 4th and 5th grade girls, we were talking about the love of God. I asked the question: Are there times you think that God cannot love you, like maybe you’ve messed up too much for Him to love you?

That was when she spoke up; this one who had not said a word up to this point. She was sitting by herself, her head had been down the entire time, but the moment the question left my mouth, her head popped up and she said, “only everyday of my life.”

She looked at me with a mix of pain and longing in her eyes. She seemed desperate for me to continue, as if she had been waiting the past 10 years for someone to ask her that question.

I could see her pain, her fear, her longing, but by God’s grace I also saw something else.

I saw this girl, not as the quiet new girl. Not as one with messy hair. Not as the loner of the group. Instead I saw her as the precious, treasured, beloved and pursued child created by God Almighty. She was formed in her mother’s womb. She was born for a purpose. And she is loved by Love itself. God doesn’t care about her messy hair. He isn’t bothered by her aloofness. She cannot be too much of a mess for Him. He sees none of that. He sees one of His creations in need of the unfathomable love of her Savior.

Oh to be able to allow her to see herself as God sees her! We talked about how God sees us. We talked about Zephaniah 3:17 and how God rejoices over us with singing. We talked about Jesus covering His children with His own righteousness. We talked about the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery. God began to paint a picture; a beautiful glorious picture of love for his children.

Yet as I spoke to this girl, who hung on every word of truth as if holding to a lifeline, I couldn’t help but think how desperate we all are, not only to hear these words but to fully embrace the truth of God’s love. I am convinced that if we could see even a glimpse of how much the Father loves us, we would be changed forever.

My precious friend, you can never be too much of a mess for God. He loves you with a love that is deeper than you will ever comprehend this side of eternity. His love for you does not change with your circumstances. When you feel lovable, He loves you. When you feel like a mess, He loves you just the same.

God can handle your mess. In fact, He can not only handle your mess, He can bring beauty and goodness from it. You cannot scare God off. You cannot run out His reserve of love and forgiveness.

God is Love. It is who He is. And one day we will all stand before Love itself. Those who have trusted Jesus to free them from sin will be escorted into Heaven by Love. You will gaze into the face of Love. You will hold the hand of Love. You will be eternally embraced by Love.

Ask God to let His love wash over you today. He loves you. If your hair is a mess, if your house looks like a contender for the hoarders show, if your kids are making unwise choices, if you fought with your spouse, if you slept through your quiet time again, if you are feeling sick –  He loves you through it all. His love never ends and it never gives up.

Go look in a mirror and say, “God loves me.” Believe those words and say them often. It is truth. 

With love,
Jen

Friday Dose of Sunshine

You are my sunshine
You are my sunshine

A Bible Study Fellowship children’s leader had been teaching her class the concepts of grace, works and salvation. Curious as to how much they were understanding she began to ask them questions:

Boys and girls, if I gave all my money away to the poor could I go to Heaven?
– No teacher, you can’t go to Heaven by giving money away.

Well, what if I went to church every single Sunday and sang in the choir, then could I go to Heaven?
– No teacher, you can’t get to Heaven just by going to church.

Ok, but what if I memorized the entire Bible! Surely I could go to Heaven then right?
– No teacher that’s silly. You can’t go to Heaven that way!

The teacher was very impressed at their deep understanding of grace versus works. She felt certain this class contained the next great theological minds of our modern day. She joyfully anticipated their answer to her last question:

Well, if none of those things can get a person into Heaven, then how do we get to Heaven?

A little boy raised his hand. The teacher sat up a little straighter with a look of admiration on her face. She called on the young theologian who proudly stood to impart his deep doctrinal understanding onto the class.

Teacher, in order to go to Heaven you have to get dead first!

I guess all great theological minds gotta start somewhere 😉

Happy Friday!

These weekly “Dose of Sunshine” posts are in honor of the sweet, funny and silly things kids do that bring laughter and truth into our lives. If you have a Dose of Sunshine story you would like to share please leave it in the comments or email me directly at jmbleakley@gmail.com

Day 31: Thirty-One Day Challenge….Done!

This post is one in a series of posts called “Glimpses of God” which I am writing as part of the Write31Days blog challenge. You can find the other posts here: 31 Glimpses of God Blog Challenge (#write31days)

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Thirty-one days of purposefully seeking glimpses of God’s glory in my everyday life. Thirty-one posts in a row about said glimpses. Thirty-one days of searching, seeking, praying, reading and writing. Was it worth it? It was so worth it!!!

As I sit here thinking back over the last month, I am humbled and astounded over the precious glimpses I have received from my Savior. When I started this adventure I was terrified that I would have days when I stared at the white space of my computer with nothing to write about. I was so wrong.

However, not every glimpse was what I thought it would be. Not every glimpse was what I would have chosen. Yet every glimpse was perfect and good and beautiful. (Even the ones seen while fighting a stomach bug!)

Confession: I totally thought that God called me to do this challenge so that He would have this marvelous platform on which to announce that my book will be published. Well, that didn’t happen. But you know what? I’m ok with that. While I do hope to be able to shout that news from this blog someday, I have realized that seeing glimpses of God is not always in the big flashy moments. In fact, He seems to reveal Himself much more in the quiet private moments – those moments when it is just Heavenly Father and beloved child. Most of my glimpses came during my quiet time or as a direct result.

This past month I have felt as though my eyes have been opened to a new and wonderful reality. The reality of light shining in the darkness; of hope breaking through despair; of beauty springing up from brokenness. God is present. God is active. God is with us. And He delights in revealing Himself to His children.

I pray that God’s children will cry out to Him; asking Him to reveal His glory to us and through us. I long for the Church to return to her first love; to delight in Jesus more than any other person or thing. I pray that the Word of God will penetrate our hearts, pierce our souls and transform us so that we can shine brightly for the King.

Thanks for sticking with me through this 31 Day Challenge.

In Him and for His glory,
Jen