What We Really Deserve

When I was in school as a kid all I could focus on was getting stickers on my chart or earning the coveted trip to the Treasure Box for another dollar store toy. I wanted to earn the favor of my teachers so bad! Come to think of it, I guess I continued this behavior all the way through college—but instead of stickers and slinkys, it was A’s and honor societies.

I always needed approval. I guess I thought I had to earn love or to prove my worth to others. That’s why I had such a hard time accepting God’s free gift of grace.

But I couldn’t do anything to earn God’s grace. His standard is too high. He says every person sins and we all fall short of his requirement of perfect holiness (Romans 3:23). In the book of Matthew Jesus said that even thinking about something bad is just as bad as doing it (Matthew 5). I remember my roommate in college once said,

I just realized that all I deserve is hell. None of us deserve Heaven.”

She was right. I don’t deserve to be forgiven and I can’t be accepted by God based on my good deeds. That’s why Jesus steps in. His sacrifice made me able to finally be “good enough.” In Isaiah chapter 61, verse 10, it says,

I delight greatly in the Lord…for he has clothed me in garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness…as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Jesus is the only one who makes me good enough! He puts the righteousness on me. He makes me beautiful. He makes me acceptable to his Father.

I’m so thankful that I don’t have to fill up a chart to be good enough. And I’m so glad we believers in Christ won’t get what we really deserve! Thank you, Lord!

God of the Nobodies

Sometimes I too caught up in the holiday masquerade. Do you? We work hard to look our best or make the best dessert to impress those certain judgmental relatives. We just want them to know we’re not the failures we feel like inside, that we are somebodies.

But in the middle of all of this I forget that the Christmas message—the news that the Son of God humbled himself to the point of diapers to save me—was first given to the nobodies.

The first people to hear weren’t churchy or successful or famous people. They were shepherds. They were poor and uneducated; maybe the equivalent of factory workers or garbage collectors today. The angels told the shepherds where the baby was. The king of their land couldn’t even find the baby. But God cared about the nobodies more than the somebodies. (See Luke chapter 2)

And that’s why he sent Jesus for you and me. No matter who you are, he loves you. Enough to die.

“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2

We All Deserve to be Cancelled

Anyone else notice the new American fear? It’s not terrorism or earthquakes. It’s something that haunts us in a deeper level: the fear of being cancelled.

Just a few years ago, Americans discussed different viewpoints with an ounce of civility. There was always Uncle Fred—or that neighbor that gets real emotional—and you’d see someone explode in rage. That happens.

But something has changed this past year. Americans are taking sides. Disagreements that used to cause a little distance are causing divisions in families, churches, communities, and more.

There is a new mindset that has permeated popular culture since 2020. We can thank the race riots and the riotous race for president. The media trumpets this message louder every day:

“If you don’t fall in line, you will be kicked out of the crowd.”

There is a media stronghold in this country, and anyone who opposes it—or even just says something they consider disagreeable—that person gets “cancelled.” In other words: shunned. Pushed out of the discussion about the country. Snubbed from having any right to say anything. It’s the grown up equivalent to your parents sending you to your room when they didn’t “like your tone of voice.”

Popular culture has created a new religion, and it’s called “being woke.” The way to earn your salvation is to toe the line and be as politically correct as you can be. Your righteousness is in how “woke” you prove yourself to be.

Americans are shaking in their Nikes over this. What do we do? What if it happens to me? Will I be cancelled?

Here’s the truth: We all deserve to be cancelled.

The Bible says, “There is none righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10) All of us fall short of righteousness. All of us sin. None of us are good enough.

The media and its pundits would have us believe that we must think a certain way or vote a certain way or we are “bigots” or “racists” or “Uncle Toms.” Even though we know these labels aren’t true, they strike fear into our hearts. (I’m guilty of this fear too.) But the righteousness of the woke means nothing to God.

When we stand before God—not as an ethnic group or a race or a gender, but as individual humans—we will each see how our “good deeds” meant nothing to earn our individual salvation. Only those who believe in Jesus as their Savior will be seen as clean. Our social justice involvement won’t earn us a pass. Neither will our amount of melanin. How oppressed we feel or what gender we are won’t get us a better spot in Heaven.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

Acts 16:31

Only Jesus. Only He can save us. Only He can make us worthy. Because it’s not about anything we do or have done, it’s only about what He did for us on the cross. We have all sinned (yes, even bad thoughts are sin) and deserve eternal punishment in Hell. But Jesus Christ stepped in and voluntarily took that punishment in our place. That fact means that my future is secure no matter what the world thinks about me.

So, bring on the cancel culture. We all deserve it. But if you’re a believer, Jesus steps in and says, “You can cancel her, but I never will.”

What I Learned While Driving Uber

So I started driving for Uber on the weekends just to bring in some extra cash. I was a little nervous, being a woman. I didn’t know if it would be safe.

People told me, “Just deliver food.” But I didn’t want to; I wanted to carry people. I thought I’d just try it out.

I’m glad I did.

I have learned a lot. I’ve learned that this country is not as divided as they say. People are still people. Political parties and “Institutional” divisions have not destroyed Americans.

You see, the critics want us to focus on the “them.” They want us to see divisions in our heads. To expect to be treated badly. To see “that group” as our enemies. They want us always seeing differences between us and other groups.

But when people get into my car they are not a group, a race, a political party. They are an individual. A unique human being, created by God. Beautiful in their uniqueness. Not just one in a crowd. Not just a member of an ethnic group or a skin color.

None of that matters in my car.

We see each other as people. We talk like friends. My riders and I laugh and share stories and act like what we are: people made in the image of God, brought together for a short car trip but connecting as human beings.

I wish we could all see each other that way every day. Free of tensions and stereotypes and fears. I pray daily for God to help me see each person I encounter through His eyes. He’s working on me and answering that prayer.

So, next time you ride Uber, especially if it’s my car, take the time to enjoy the miracle of a person driving or sitting beside you or in the cars around you. We are all worth getting to know.

American Esther

I’m blessed to live in a country with a document that says I have the right to state my opinion, even if it’s unpopular. I’m thankful for my country; however, things are changing. More and more Americans do not feel safe voicing their opinions.

I’m thankful to live in a country where I can participate and live out my beliefs without fear. However, that is starting to change as well. For all of the Bible’s talk of love, some people publicly accuse Christians of hate simply because we have differing beliefs on certain things.

I’m grateful to live in a country with a free market, where I can start my own business or give people rides in my car to bring in extra income. But, yes, that too is changing. Many of the most powerful activists and leaders in Washington DC promote Marxism—an economic system where “equal”citizens equally own nothing and live as pawns in the hands of a rich group of rulers.

Even though, I’m blessed and thankful to live in America. God has put me here, right now, for a reason. He has a plan for each one of us. He does not make mistakes, and He is working all things out for our good (Romans 8:28). Just as God used Queen Esther to speak the truth in a dangerous time, He has called me to speak truth in “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

Let us live boldly and trust in the One who allowed us to be here at this very time in history, and who has a plan for each of our lives (Jeremiah 29:11). Let’s pray that America will prosper and be a land of freedom for all. But, let’s be faithful in trusting the Lord in what He allows and where He has placed us—even if things get worse.

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” Acts 17:26

Trust God. Speak truth. Love others. God bless America!

Who Are You?

Ok, we humans got a problem.

We don’t know who we are.

I mean this in two ways. First, at least in America, we have lost our sense of unity and pride in our country. We are divided to an extent that this History teacher has not seen in a long time.

The other identity problem we have, however, is worse. Since our culture has thrown out God, we have thrown out our hope and purpose.

You see, the Bible says that every human is made in the “image of God.” We are all made to represent Him. He thought us up—each of us—and He has given each of us a specific role to play in the story of life. Psalms 139 says, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb” and “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Each of us was planned. No one is an accident.

But most of us in Western society have forgotten that. We have been been persuaded by popular phrases like “Follow your heart” and “Make your own destiny,” thinking that we are actually the source of who we are. We have become the captains of our own ships, leaving God as an afterthought. However, this empty way of thinking will lead to nothing but anxiety and depression. (Oh, yeah, and it’s no surprise those are some of the top issues that Americans struggle with.)

I work at a facility for teenagers with major life trauma. They have been abandoned, raped, assaulted, hated,…pretty much everything but loved. And these kids have some serious identity issues. Most of them cut themselves regularly and do other things to injure themselves. Others try to commit suicide. Others attack people, verbally and physically. Many of them are confused about their sexuality and gender identity. These kids have no concept of who they are, and it permeates every area of their lives. They are miserable.

But God loves them and created them. I try to tell them that as much as I can. I want them to know they are created who they are for a purpose.

Skeptical?…Read Psalm 139. It tells about how God knew you before you were born. He chose you. He created you. He knew every day of your life. He loved you immensely—and still does.

And as believers in Jesus we can say, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live I live through faith in the one true God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). My identity is in Jesus Christ. It’s not about me anymore. It’s about him!

What identity security!

Jesus, You are my home

The world seems to be going crazy.

The U.S. is overcome by chaos.

So many of us are feeling overwhelmed by what the future may hold.

But Jesus is my shepherd. He takes care of me, just like a shepherd cares for a sheep. He provides for me and protects me. He is my constant companion.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, LORD, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:1-4

Jesus, you are my home. My safe place. Help me to run and hide in you when I am afraid.

the weight lifter

“I am the Lord your God. You were slaves in Egypt. You were bent low from the heavy weights you carried as slaves. But I broke the heavy weights that were on your shoulders. I let you walk proudly again.”
‭‭Leviticus‬ ‭26:13‬ ‭ICB‬‬

Have you felt more than tired under a heavy weight? I have. The weight of regret. The weight of sin. The weight of fear. So many weights…

But God is a weight-lifter. Not in a gym—though that would be fun to see—but in our lives! He can carry your burdens. He wants to take them. All you gotta do is turn to him and ask him to take whatever is weighing you down. He will do it.

Jesus said in the book of Matthew, “Come to me, all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

Lean on Him. He’s there for you!

Do Miracles Still Happen?

Do you believe in miracles? I mean, really?…Most people don’t nowadays. I struggle to believe in them too.

But this one really happened.

My mother-in-law has a terminal illness. It’s so bad that she has not walked or eaten or even changed the tv channel by herself for years. And she’s in her 70’s. Not someone you want to get the Coronavirus.

But she got it. And we all prepared for the worst.

She was sent to the hospital a week ago, and—no surprise—no one could visit her. It broke my heart that she was there, possibly dying, all alone.

I started to pray for her. I had a crazy idea and prayed that God would send her an angel—or even Jesus himself—to visit her and comfort her in the hospital. I know, it sounded kinda like a ridiculously big request to me too. I prayed it a couple times over the course of the day and then forgot about it for awhile.

Well, this is where it gets interesting. The next day I asked my husband how she was doing and if he had heard anything that day. He said the nurse had actually helped her call him on the phone. He said she mumbled a few things (normal for her condition) and told him she loved him and wants him to visit. Then he said something interesting…he shook his head and said, “She kept saying something about Jesus being there…seeing him in her hospital room…”

My heart stopped beating for a minute. I had never told anyone about my prayer. Yet his mother specifically said she was being visited by her Savior.

Could this be some kind of hallucination or silly gibberish from a sick woman? I might think so if I had not just prayed that prayer and specifically asked for what she reported.

The truth is this: God is still at work. Miracles still happen. Keep your prayers big and your eyes open.

Dont stop believing,

Lauren

P.S…My terminally ill mother-in-law, who’s in her 70’s, is going home from the hospital tomorrow. Not for hospice. No, she is better. She has survived Covid.

As CS Lewis wrote: “Aslan is on the move.” Take heart!

The Picket Fence Lie

I used to think that the goal of living was to someday end up in this “happily ever after” life in a beautiful house with a white picket fence.

I guess I just always assumed I’d get there and THEN I’d be happy.

Well, my life fell apart once again last month. Once again my dreams were shattered. Once again I had my heart broken. My picket fence seems farther and farther away.

I found myself looking wistfully at a cute little house with a picket fence the other day. That’s when I realized: It’s a lie! I’ve been believing a lie!

I don’t have to wait until I have the perfect life or the cutest house to be happy. I can choose to be happy now! In fact that’s the only way “happy” works: in the right now. I have to choose to be grateful and content where I am right now. Not when _____ happens or when I finally get to do ______ or buy _______. I have to make up my mind to choose happy every moment.

“I have learned the secret to be content with whatever I have….I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:11, 13

Choose happy today! 😊