An Apology to Brussels Sprouts

Forgive me Brussels sprouts. For I have misjudged you terribly.

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For years (more than 3 decades worth), I have scorned you. Mocked you. Avoided you. Belittled you. I thought I knew you. I thought I understood you. I thought my feelings were justified. I never pushed you on my children because I assumed they would feel about you as I did. I never brought you into our home because I had no interest in you being here. I was content with you being on the shelves of the store, and was not about to bring you home with me.

But then I actually tasted you. And everything changed.

You see, dear Brussels sprout, I had never tasted you before. I had never actually decided for myself what I thought of you.

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I had allowed others’ opinion of you to influence my perception of you. I had allowed what I thought you would be like to keep me from trying you for myself.

Some said you were slimy.

Others claimed you to be biter.

A few tried to force you on me in some kind of odd looking casserole, and quickly grew offended when I declined.

There were those who were either so passionate in their affection for you that, at the time, I just couldn’t relate; or those who were so vehement in their loathing of you, that I was instantly repulsed.

I had judged you based on my perception of you—a perception that came not from my own experience, but through the lens of others.

And oh my little green vegetable how wrong I was!

All I needed was but to taste you for myself. To courageously taste your crispy roasted goodness—and I was all in! To think of the years spent without you in my life! The years that I have missed the slight crunch before the tender roasted garlicky goodness that awakened my tasted buds.

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But now I know. Now I have tasted. And now I am all in.

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And my dear little Brussels sprout, if you—a mere vegetable—have provided such delight, imagine the joy that awaits those who have yet to taste and see that the LORD is good—and far better than the most delectable of any culinary delight!

How many people have judged God—judged Jesus—based on what they thought they knew of Him? How many have avoided Him because of what they saw of Him through others? How many have run away from Him because of how He was misrepresented by those who claimed to know Him?

I wonder what might happen if each one—if every single person—tasted for themselves. Read God’s Word for themselves? What if every one who has refused Jesus based on others’ assessments of Him, read about Him for themselves? What if they read the book of John for themselves—the book where we are given so many of Jesus’ own words?

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What if, as they tasted and saw for themselves, they asked God to show them who He really is?

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8

Could it be that maybe, just maybe, they would delight in Who they would find? And discover a Love that surpasses all others?

Oh little Brussels sprout, you have unlocked a great and vast truth. For while not everyone will taste and find that you are good. I believe that everyone who truly tastes and sees a glimpse of the One true God (as He truly is) will find that He indeed is very very good.

Much love from your new fan,
Jen

[By the way, I am officially obsessed with roasted Brussels sprouts. If you have a recipe you love, I would be so grateful if you would share that in the comments below!]

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So a baptist girl walks into a charismatic concert….

Important facts to know about me before reading this post:
1) I was raised in a southern Baptist church. While we would clap after solos, it was most definitely a controlled clap. An occasional “amen” could be heard during a rousing sermon. And I probably consumed my body weight in fried chicken and sweet tea during my teen years, but hand raising, shouting, and jumping up and down during worship….um…yeah, not so much.
2) I am an introvert and find large crowds rather overwhelming.

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3) I really like my comfort zone and all things familiar.

With those facts in mind picture this scene:

Two good friends and I travel two and a half hours away from home to attend a Bethel Music worship night. (For those not familiar with Bethel, they are an amazingly talented group of worship leaders, singers and musicians who are not the least bit afraid to worship with full abandon.)

So after checking into our hotel, quickly changing into what we hoped resembled slightly trendy concert attire (and might I add boots with too high of a heal for my comfort!), we were off to the concert. After a chaotic start (can we please get rid of the general admission concept?!?!) we were thrilled when the music started to play.

However, it did not take long for me to realize that I was not in Baptist-land anymore! Arms outstretched, voices crying out to God, singers on their knees in complete worship and adoration of the One they were singing about. It was different. It was slightly uncomfortable. It was breathtakingly beautiful!

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As the night wore on, and my feet wore out, I slipped off my boots. I mean when you can no longer feel your toes there is a problem with your footwear! At first I felt awkward taking my shoes off, but as the lyrics to No Longer Slaves flowed through the arena:

We’ve been liberated
From our bondage
We’re the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I could stand and sing
I am a child of God…

It suddenly seemed very fitting to remove my shoes – for surely we were standing on sacred holy ground (even though the weekend before that same ground had held a horse show, and still had the lingering aroma of horse poo!)

My feet, now free from their painful confines, felt the vibrations of the music flowing from earth to heaven. My arms couldn’t help but reach out toward the One we were all there to worship. Tears welled up in my eyes with the weight of the moment. And goose bumps covered my arms as I surveyed the beautiful scene as thousands of worshippers sang out to God in one voice.

Worshippers not defined by denomination, age group, color, nationality, bank account or any other label. Just worshippers worshipping the risen Savior and King.

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Standing on the second level in the arena gave me a clear view of those on the floor. But it was God who gave me a clear view of an eternal truth:

God does not see His children through the lens of our denomination or affiliation. God simply sees us as His children.

Jesus spent so much of His earthly time praying for and teaching unity. Surely there was a reason. A Savior sent to die so that His people could live, surely wanted those people to be more captivated with His gift than with their divisions.

After all, we will not have separate robes in Heaven. There will be no Baptist robe, no Methodist robe, no Pentecostal robe, nor any other earthly-labeled robe. The only Robe that will matter will be the one we could never deserve. The robe of the One who paid the price we never could. The robe that adorns grateful sinners. The robe that we exchanged our sinful rags for. The robe of the Savior. The blessed robe of grace and love upon which God the Father sees His Son’s reflection covering us and therefore grants us sonship with Him!

Standing outside of my comfort zone brought me true comfort like I’ve never known. And it granted me a glimpse of Heaven, where all will worship as One before The One. No divisions. No denominations. No discriminations.

Just Jesus.

 

And oh what a beautiful day that will be!

Much love,
Jen

Here’s a song by Bethel that I just can’t get enough of this week:

Could America be Grieving?

Although I have been writing now for the past five years, my formal training is in counseling. Specifically grief, or bereavement, counseling. I worked for several years as a grief counselor at a local Hospice in Pinellas county Florida, and while there attended a bereavement workshop hosted by a well known grief counselor named Alan Wolfelt. It was at that workshop I heard something which I have held in my heart for years:

During times of grief you have an increased need to be understood, but a decreased ability to be understanding.

Read those words again and let them really sink in. That is a deep and important truth for us all to grasp.

I have seen this truth played out over and over again in the lives of others and in my own life.

In fact, I just had to remind my children of this truth the other day. We recently lost our beloved dog, Bailey, and are all grieving. I have one child who wants to talk about Bailey constantly, who goes around the house picking up tumbleweeds of dog hair, and looks at pictures of our sweet dog on my computer. Yet, my other child finds it hard to talk about or listen to others talk about Bailey, and avoids pictures or objects that remind that child of our beloved dog.

Two very different grieving processes, one not so big house. Needless to say tension can rise quickly.

We have had to talk about what it means to show grace and to honor each other’s process.

Each one wants to have their way of grieving understood, but finds it hard to extend that same understanding.

Then it dawned on me. Doesn’t that sound like what is occurring in America right now???

Each one—each people group, each political party, each race, each religion, each individual wants to be heard. Wants to be understood.

Yet seem unable or unwilling to be understanding.

Could it be that America is grieving?

Grieving what was. Grieving what could have been, what should have been. Grieving our identity, our values, our moral compass. Grieving the devastating effects of sin.

Subconsciously, are we a nation of mourners? Have we been so hurt, so disillusioned, become so afraid that we are grieving our security? Our innocence? Our patriotism? Our values?

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So how do we move forward? How do we begin to heal?

I believe the first step is in identifying the problem: We are a nation that is hurting. We have tried to sweep the pain, the disillusionment, the hurt, under the rug. We have tried to distract ourselves, to numb the pain, and to pretend it isn’t there. But it is and it hurts. Let’s collectively own our pain.

I used to tell the kids in counseling sessions that grieving is like having a large open wound. Sure, you can cover the wound with a bandage and pretend it isn’t there. But eventually that wound will get infected and cause devastating effects. Or, you can clean the wound out (even though you know it’s going to hurt) and can get stitches even though that will cause more pain. But you will heal. You will always have a scar—a reminder of your pain—but you will heal.

We as a country need to heal.

But I believe that the second step in healing can only be found in God. With all my heart I believe that healing can only come from turning to God. Our problems, our grief, are too big for any one man. They’re too big for us to fix by sheer will. We need to turn to the Creator and Sustainer of Life and ask for forgiveness, mercy and grace. (see 2 Chronicles 7:14)

And finally, I believe we need to be extenders of grace. We need to realize that each one of us carries some amount of pain and loss. We are all living in a fallen world. That in and of itself causes pain. Let’s make a conscience effort to see others as fellow pain bearers. To see past their actions and to their pain.

Hurt people hurt people. 

Let’s stop the hurt. Let’s refuse to participate in the cycle of hurt and pain. Let’s grieve together. Let’s link arms and hearts and say, “I recognize your pain, because I have pain too.” Let’s live out Colossians 3:12, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts,kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”

Our pain may not look the same. We will not deal with pain the same. But pain is pain. And pain hurts. Let’s show grace to our fellow man, for they may be facing a great tide of pain.

America, healing is possible. But not from flawed candidates. Not from snarky social media posts. Not from programs, or initiatives, or news stories.

True healing, true hope, is only possible by turing to God. Asking Him to open our eyes to see the pain in ourselves and others, asking Him to forgive and restore, and inviting Him to extend His grace through us.

“Lord, we are a broken and hurting people. We are a grieving and despairing nation. God, have mercy upon us. Stir our hearts and affections to You. Forgive us of our sin and redeem us as Your people. Heal our hearts and heal our land. We turn to You, not presidential candidates, nor politics. Not celebrities nor any man. We turn to You Lord God Almighty and ask that Your will be done. In Jesus’ Name, amen.”

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The Robe

(This short story was inspired by a word picture our pastor, Brian Frost, painted last Sunday. It was a wonderful sermon from John chapter 8. Though I must confess that after he referred to Jesus standing up from His throne and exchanging His glory robe for a servant robe, I could think of nothing else. What a wonderful picture to ponder. That was my attempt below. I hope it touches your heart as it did mine.) 

Unimagined beauty. Glorious perfection. A kingdom of light. Of love. Of truth.

The air is charged with holiness. There is no need for oxygen, for pure grace is inhaled as praise is exhaled. The heartbeat of this kingdom is found in its Center—the Center from which all else revolves. All are drawn closer and closer. Longing to be even nearer. Completely content to be near at all.

Love pours from the Center of the kingdom. A rushing river flows out into a crystal sea. A sea of brilliant glass colored liquid. Liquid grace.

The sounds of this kingdom delight the heart as the cadence of rushing water mixes with the love songs of majestic creatures. Songs of worship. Songs of praise. Songs of wonder. Forever flowing around the Center—around the occupied throne.

Fascinating creatures, beautiful and shimmering, surround the throne. Drawn to it, yet shielding their eyes in reverence, overwhelmed in the Presence of such Power and Love. Gifts are continually offered. Placed before the throne—sweet smelling gifts that fill the kingdom with fragrant aromas and beautiful sounds.

Flying creatures, walking angels, eternal souls surround the crystal sea. The image of the One on the throne is reflected in the still water. A spotless glowing garment adorns the One wearing it. Righteous robes. Holy robes. Worthy to be worn only by the King of this kingdom.

Voices cry out in unison, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come. Worthy! Righteous! Perfect! Beautiful!”

The entire kingdom hums in worship and adoration.

Faces, turned toward the source of their worship, radiate His beauty. Voices once again raise in song. Perfection abounds in this place. Where the rightful One receives the full measure of His rightful worship.

Suddenly, a hush falls over the kingdom as the Worshipped One rises from His rightful throne. His worshippers fall to their knees. Gasps echo throughout the realm as the Beautiful One takes off His kingly robe. He lays His robe gently over His throne. He looks out over the crystal sea. His glorious eyes taking in every image—filling with tears of love, yet tears of something else as well. A knowledge so vast that those bowing silent before Him could never understand.

The stunned crowd watches as the Glorious One puts on another robe. A robe not of this kingdom but of another. He is majestic in His new garment. Majestic, yet disguised.

As quickly as the hush fell, a roar now erupts from the kingdom. Understanding has dawned. The King is ready for battle. A battle He alone can fight.

It is time. It is time.

Those surrounding the throne feel a mix of joy and despair. The King, the beloved glorious unmatched King is wearing rags. He has exchanged His glorious riches for mere rags.

How is it possible for more love to flow from this King. Yet, the weight of love shakes the kingdom, presses in on everyone. Love in its purest form. Leaving all breathless in wonder.

Love that lays aside what it is rightfully entitled and offers itself to those who do not deserve it.

The highest warriors in the kingdom are dispatched to a far away place. Sent to bear news the land has been longing to hear.

The King remains standing, patiently waiting until just the right moment. His Presence fills the throne room. His love emanates from Him and touches all in the kingdom.

He nods His beautiful head—a silent communication that the time has come and He is leaving for awhile. The kingdom holds back a tear. But The King signals to His robe. His rightful robe now adorning His throne. The evidence that He is returning and will once again sit in HIs rightful place

The King disappears from view. All of Heaven leans in. All is silent.

Silent.

…..

A baby cries….and all of Heaven erupts in joyful worship.

The King has gone to show His people the way. Light has dawned. Light has penetrated the darkness.

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.

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Four Powerful Words

“I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words
Thy will be done…..
I know you’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you’re God
And I am not
So, Thy will be done…”  Hillary Scott & The Scott Family

 I first heard the song Thy Will about a month ago. Instantly captivated by the beautiful melody and poignant words, I had no idea how God would use this song to begin to heal my soul. Every time I turn on the radio, this song is on. Every time I hit my favorite playlist on my phone, this song begins playing. It has become so obvious that even my nine year old has noticed and refers to the song as “Mama’s song.”
Thy will be done. Four short words. Four powerful words. Four words when spoken from a broken trusting heart can change everything.
Anytime we are able to say, regardless of the circumstances, “God I trust You,” it is like blow to satan. He wants to destroy, tear down and make us question God’s goodness and love. By uttering four simple words “Thy will be done” and asking God to help us mean them, we fight back against the destroyer.
I like to tell my kids that saying to God “Your will be done” and “I trust You” is like punching satan in the face……and it feels really good!
And so….here is my new fight song. My new anthem. My forever prayer……Thy Will.