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L.I.F.E. Inside LCA

Dying With Eyes Wide Open

June 20, 2019
By Kimberly Oden ~LCA Mama & Co-Founder
I love Psalm 125:5-6!  In my 26+ years of parenting, that has been one of the cornerstone promises of God on which I stand.  There have been many seasons through the years where I have wept as I aimed to plant seeds of wisdom, hoping and praying they would take root in my sons, all the while wondering when the day would come that I would indeed, “sing” as I “returned with the harvest.”  I think it is the longing of every parent’s heart to see their sons and daughters walk in wisdom and to experience the fruit of following Jesus!
Well, this verse was included in my One Year Bible reading for the day and as I read it, new revelation surfaced.  Before I share more, however, I need to give some context.  The past few weeks have been grueling.  I will not share the details, however at one point I had a conversation with a friend who described the passing of her brother.  My heart ached as she talked about the last few moments she had with him.  As she did, she used a phrase that pricked my heart…she said, “…right before he passed, he opened his eyes…he died with his eyes wide open.”
“Dying With Eyes Wide Open” <= that phrase landed on my heart like a lead weight and it wouldn’t shake as the day unfolded.  That evening I met with a friend for dinner and she talked about picking up our cross and following Jesus.  It made me smile because it was such a visual for me of, “dying with my eyes wide open.”  If we are all learning to lead by choosing to follow Jesus, then there is no place that is off limits, including his death (AND resurrection), right?  
Just a few weeks prior, I read how Jesus knew that His time to return to heaven was nearing so He, “resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”  (Luke 9:51)  Another version says that He, “steadfastly set his face for Jerusalem,” the place where He knew He would be crucified!  The word, “resolutely" resonated so I looked it up:
Resolutely – Sterizo – to fix firmly; to buttress; to firmly establish; to solidly plant in order to eliminate vacillation
Jesus steadfastly set his face like flint in order to return to the very place that would lead to His death. He approached his death with eyes wide open.  He did not vacillate in his gait towards death and if we are choosing to follow Him then neither should we!
The very morning that my friend shared her story with me, the One Year Bible reading for the day had Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  John writes that, “Jesus FULLY REALIZED ALL that was going to happen to Him, so He stepped forward to the meet the men that had come to arrest Him."  Did you catch that?  He stepped forward.  He stepped towards the men that He FULLY KNEW would arrest Him and lead Him to his beyond excruciatingly painful death. 
He didn’t shut his eyes.  
He didn’t try to hide. 
He didn't step back.
He FULLY REALIZED that they had come to lead him to His death
and even so,
He, “stepped forward” to meet death with eyes wide open. 
As I read that, I wonder if He pondered what He had spoken just a few chapters prior when He proclaimed,
The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.  
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.  John 12:23-24
Then in verses 25-26, He gives us instruction on how to follow…
He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternity.  
If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there my servant will also be.
Jesus knew He had to die so that those who accepted His free gift of salvation might live!  Not only did He KNOW this, but He made the conscious decision to leave His holy and high throne in heaven in order to live a life with eyes wide open realizing full well that it would end in mocking, ridicule, persecution and death  - all so that we might live!  
Ok, sidebar for a sec – anytime the Lord gives me a fresh revelation, I find that He often provides opportunity to walk it out before I write or share about it…remember how I mentioned that the past few weeks had been grueling?  Well the end of the wearisome week had finally drawn near and it came to a close with one of those, “Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Days”.  Tears were leaking out the corners of my eyes as I pondered the gazillion tasks that needed to be completed within the next hour.  I had a song playing on repeat that had surfaced during my morning workout.  The title is, “Eyes On You”.  (Can you even believe it? Yes, God did that in His perfect timing! He provided a song that SO spoke to the revelation that was unfolding!)  I received a text from another friend who asked if we could talk before the day ended.  I replied “Yes, but I need to finish up a few things first.”  I finally made my way to meet with her, exhausted, completely spent… As she began to speak, I noticed that her face was a bit flushed and that her heart was beating so hard that I could hear the tension through her breathless words.  She was sitting and I heard the Lord whisper, “Kneel down before her, Kimberly”.  I did… She was eating a cracker so as she continued to speak, tiny little cracker pieces flew through the air towards me...  
I wanted to interrupt.
I wanted to stand.  
I wanted to tell her what a difficult day, hard week, heck, long year, this has been but the Holy Spirit whispered, “Remain right where you are, sister.  This is practice.  Let me show you what it means to die with your eyes wide open.”  I listened with grace and compassion through the Lord’s leading and by His indwelling peace and understanding.  The conversation ended with hugs and with fresh insight of what it means to plant my flesh in tears…dying with my eyes wide open, cracker crumbs and all! As I later processed the conversation, I had a funny thought that turned into the title of this blog:  “Dying With Eyes Wide Open | Warning: Safety Goggles May Be Needed” :)
All these years of parenting I thought that I was planting seeds of wisdom when perhaps all that needed planting was my flesh?!  A popular parenting phrase is, “More is caught than taught”.  Perhaps all of my talking and telling was less effective than simply waking in humility and love?  I have mentioned this so many times in my musings, but there are MANY moments in my past years of parenting when I wish I could just, “highlight, click and delete”!  Moments when I thought I had so much to say; moments when a loving and listening ear followed by a simple question would have impacted my sons’ hearts far more than the wisdom I thought I had to share...
I wonder in the grander scale of life if those moments, (moments when we want to be known, we want to be seen, we want to be vindicated, respected or honored) can become a beckoning invitation by Jesus, to be planted so that our flesh might die and the Spirit of the Living God might fully live?!   Yes, I wonder if, “planting in tears” might be a Divine invitation to die with our eyes wide open?
Oh, Jesus, we need You!  In and of ourselves we do not have what it takes to follow in your Divine footsteps...Living life this side of heaven is SO full of ups and downs and wants and needs and yet if we are truly honest, all we need is eyes fixed on you, the Maker of heaven and earth!  Our Resurrection!  Our very life, indeed!  The world in which we live tempts our flesh moment by moment to rise up and bite the apple of offense, to sit, soak and sour in hurt and hard circumstances as if they are dear friends.  Jesus, you said that if we “hate” our life, we will keep it for eternity!  We desire this more than anything we think we deserve!  Father, I confess the moments when I thought I had so much to offer – my own thoughts, my own opinions or even just a desire to be known.  I confess the moments when I thought I deserved anything other than death and the subsequent resurrection life that only You can offer!  Help us all to pick up our cross and follow You.  Yes, help us to fix our eyes on You alone!  May You alone hold all of our affection.  May we, like Jesus, fix our face like flint resolutely setting out to follow in Your footsteps towards the death of our personal feelings, thoughts, decisions, and actions.  Have Your Way with us as we allow our flesh to die so that You might redeem our very lives, allowing them to become a living testimony that reveals who You are in us! Father, Son and Holy Spirit, strategically lead us with eyes wide open, wooing us to plant our flesh in tears so that we might one day raise shouts of joy as we return with a harvest of life!
p.s.  Here is a  the song Eyes On You  by Mosaic MSC
Isn't it so easy to take our eyes off of the Father, our sole Provider, and look instead at the facts that lay ahead?  As the lyrics poured through my office the other day, I was reminded that nothing compares or comes close to our Father who loves and cares for us all the way down to the deep recesses of our heart and soul. When tempted to falter in our faith or to let our flesh rise up, may we follow the lead of the lyrics allowing our flesh to die with eyes wide open all the while keeping our gaze firmly fixed on Jesus, the only One worthy of holding our attention:
Eyes on You
You have all my attention
Eyes on You
You hold all my affection
Always You
Forever, I will keep my eyes on You
Eyes on You
You have all my attention
Eyes on You
You hold…

Ok, one last tidbit...I decided to take a break and watch the video above when suddenly I remembered that the keyboardist of Mosaic MSC is a graduate from LCA during the Bristol Oaks days!!!  Collin graduated with my oldest son in the class of 2010!  What a tangible and visual reminder of the "why" behind the "what" of years of dying to our flesh as we co-founded LCA!  I mean God is so good to reveal this tangible fruit in the midst of learning to die with eyes wide open!  I love that His God-winks remind us of His foundational faithfulness and that we can trust Him to reveal resurrection life in and through our lives as we learn to lead by choosing to follow Him even unto death!

Just Like Riding a Bike

June 13, 2019
By Kimberly Oden ~LCA Mama & Co-Founder

Whenever someone says, “It’s just like riding a bike!”, I am immediately transported back to the fall of 1976.  It was the year I learned to ride a bike.  My sixth birthday had arrived and my parents led me to the garage where a red, white and blue banana seat bike awaited.  I was beyond excited and hesitant all at the same time because although this bike had streamers, stars, stripes and reflectors, it also didn’t have training wheels. 

I have always been a planner, one who calculates the steps and risks involved, so I had a bazillion questions rattling through my thoughts as I wondered how the day was going to unfold. 

My dad quickly led me outside and said, “Ok, Kimmie.  How about you hop on and take a spin around the yard?  I will hold the back of the bike and walk with you.” 

I mean did he forget who his daughter was?  She’s a planner.  She calculates everything all the time and the risk involved seemed massive!  (Keep in mind this was before helmets and pads!)  My nervous and fear-filled thoughts were immediately interrupted by another invitation from my father to hop on… 

Ever so hesitantly I did. 

He said, “Ok, I’ve got you.  Begin pedaling.” 

I did and suddenly to my surprise I was moving forward steady as can be!  I said, “Dad this is amazing!  I think I’ve got it!  I don’t know what I was so worried about!  Should I turn around or should we keep going forward into the neighbor’s yard?  Dad?  Dad?...” 

He didn’t answer because as I looked behind me he was yards away!  I had been biking all on my own and didn’t even know it!  Ay Yi Yi!  I suddenly panicked wondering what to do, how I was even doing it, then I began to slow down and the bike began to wobble and yes, down I went!

As I learned to ride a bike that day, I felt a little bit of scared and a whole lot of reckless.  It reminds me of the day I chose to follow the wooing of my Heavenly Father.  I was only in fifth grade at the time but I remember my teacher sharing the gospel in our little class and feeling the prompting to accept the invitation to follow my Heavenly Father.

Sometimes following Him feels like that day – it feels a little bit of scary and sometimes a whole lot of reckless, but as I look back on the many years of following and the sprinkled years when I didn’t, I can testify to His ever-present faithfulness.  There have been moments when I have called on His name and He didn’t seem to answer.  There were moments of panic when I tried to figure things out, when I stopped believing that my Father in heaven had things handled, and then there were moments when I chose to trust like a little girl who believes that her dad hung the moon!  And not only did He hang it, He created it along with the heavens and the earth! 

As Father’s Day approaches, I wonder if we could use this special day or remembrance not only to celebrate our earthly fathers, but to also remember the faithfulness of our Heavenly Father?  I wonder if when things get uncertain and we just don’t know what to do, that instead of panicking and trying to figure things out, we choose to follow Him with the same sort of reckless abandon we had when we learned to ride a bike?

Just this morning I read Psalm 131:1-3 in my One Year Bible.  The psalmist proclaims,

My heart is not proud and my eyes are not lofty.  I do not concern my self with matters too great or too awesome for me. 
Instead I have calmed and quieted my soul within me.  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord – now and always.

 I LOVE this verse as it is such a picture of a child-like trust, hope and faith.  As Father's Day approaches, may it be a springboard to help us remember that our Faithful Heavenly Father is worthy of following with the same sort of reckless abandon we had when we first learned to ride a bike! Whenever fear tempts us to forget, may returning to trust in Him be as easy as riding a bike!

Oh, Father in heaven, thank you for your ever-present faithfulness!  I thank you for amazing dads who reflect your undying love!  And Lord some of us might have dads that just haven’t been there over the years or worse yet, dads who hurt us deep.  I thank you Lord to know that was not Your plan for the position of father.  I thank you that regardless of our earthly father’s presence or lack thereof, we can choose to follow you with the same sort of reckless abandon that we had when we learned to ride a bike.  When things are difficult, when we are faced with fear and we just don’t know what to do, may we keep our gaze fixed on You, the Author and Perfector of our faith!  Our Father whose steadfast love and faithfulness never fail!  We love you, Father, and collectively choose to honor and glorify Your Name this Father’s Day!

P.S. I have had this song on repeat this week – titled, “Hello Fear” by Kirk Franklin.  The lyrics address fear as it were a person…it has so ministered to my heart as I am reminded that the seat fear once occupied has now been reserved for my faithful Father who is ever in my corner.  Hope it blesses you as it has me

Tags: Fear, Follow, Lordship

In Due Time

May 31, 2019
By Kimberly Oden ~LCA Mama & Co-Founder
Proclaiming Praise through the Paradoxical Season of Firsts and Lasts
Grow not weary in doing good for in due season
we will reap if we do not give up
Galatians 6:9

“The incessant tick-tock of the clock can feel like a thundering roar in your ears that leads to a melancholy moment in your heart…”  That is what went pinging through my thoughts like a pinball the other morning as I pondered the prior evening.  LCA held commencement ceremonies for the class of 2019 and as always, my eyes leaked as I witnessed a small class of 12 receive spoken words of affirmation about their future and listened as a few of them spoke with conviction about who they have become, but more importantly, about understanding WHOSE they have become!  I watched a son console his mama when his sister, the valedictorian, made reference to her grandmother who had passed a few years prior.  The mama wiped away tears while her son put his arm around her, loving her right where she was – in a moment of firsts and lasts with her daughter while remembering other moments of firsts and lasts with her own mama. 

When my children were younger the mark of the end of a school year was a “Woo hoo!  Yes!  We are D-O-N-E!” celebratory moment!  Since three of my sons have already graduated, the month of May has now become a reminder of firsts and lasts, past seasons that have closed and new seasons that are right around the corner.  Yes, the incessant tick-tock of the clock can pull one into melancholy musings if they are not redeemed with Truth.

It got me to thinking about time…if we are honest, truly honest, we simply do not have the capacity to:
  • Make time
  • Inherit time
  • Borrow time
  • Buy time
  • Steal time
  • Speed up time
  • Slow down time
  • Manipulate time
  • Multiply time
And if we are being totally transparent, it begs the questions…
  • Can we spend time or does it just keep ticking?
  • Can we waste time or does it just keep tocking?
  • Do we really have “free” time?
  • What is the purpose of time?
  • Most importantly, what does God say about time?
I mean the bottom line is that we can beg for more time, but if we are walking in our Divine calling and purpose why would we need to?
That evening I watched a movie titled, “The Arrival”.  It was about aliens visiting the earth for the purpose of providing revelation.  As I watched, a few lines in the movie caught my attention as they had to do with time.    “Time isn’t the same for them.  To aliens, time is not linear and does not have a direction.  The weapon {they offer} is their language…If you learn it... really learn it, you get to perceive time the way they do…”
My guys can poke fun of me for over-spiritualizing things, however, my interest was piqued as I pondered the spiritual implication of what I had just heard…We know from the Word of God that His perception of time and our understanding of time is not the same (2 Peter 3:8).  Time for us IS linear, it IS directional…but if we begin to understand God’s language, His Word, perhaps we might begin to understand time and perceive our purpose through the stewardship of the time with a fresh new lens?  A lens that reminds us of the Source of our security, identity, belonging, and purpose?
In John 8:14 Jesus makes a proclamation that speaks to security, identity, belonging and purpose: For I know where I came from and where I am going.

Jesus knew where He came from (His Father in whom He trusted) and He knew with conviction where he was going…so how can we?

If you look back at verse 12 He tells us, I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.

The journey this side of heaven can feel so cloudy at times. 
I mean how do we know if we are following Him or our feelings? 
How do we know what He is saying? 
How will we know if we are on the path that leads to life?

These are the questions that followed me to the gym the next morning…while there, two songs washed over me as I wrestled through the questions…

The title of the first song, “With You (Paradoxology” initially caught my attention, but then I was quickly captured by the lyrics:
Beneath the surface
Of my anxious imagination
Beckons a calmness
That is found in you alone
It washes over every doubt, every imperfection
Jesus your presence is the comfort of my soul
There's nowhere I'd rather be

When you're singing over me
I just wanna be here with you
I'm lost in your mystery
I'm found in your love for me
I just wanna be here with you

Here in the waiting
I won't worry about tomorrow
No need to focus
On the things I can't control
All my attention
On the wonder of this moment
Jesus your presence
Is the comfort of my soul

Immediately following this song, “Hallelujah Here Below” began to play.  Timestamp 4:20-5:20 caused me to pause right there in the middle of the gym and listen to that section four times through!  What’s fascinating is that when I pulled into the garage after the workout, I heard music blasting from inside the house – I opened the kitchen door only to hear worship filling the air!  THE VERY SAME WORSHIP SONG was playing along with one of my sons praising along with the symphony of singers!  I told him that I had just listened to that song several times at the gym and he went on to tell me “the why” behind the artwork of the song – it had caught his attention as well! 

I plopped myself down to research the songs and learned that both songs are from the same album, the title of which is, “Paradoxology”!  There’s that word again! I couldn’t wait to dig into the word to see what the Lord had to say…

I opened my Bible and said, “Lord I’m still pondering the questions about time and purpose and now this strange word “paradoxology” has surfaced…how does it all connect?

The next hour was spent researching what the Lord has to say about time and the bottom line is that our only response (or our response-ability) when it comes to time is this:
We are commanded to redeem the time.
 (See Eph 5:16, Col 4:5, James 4:13-17)
“Redeem” comes from the word Greek word Eksagonazo which means:
  • to buy up
  • to ransom
  • to save from loss
  • making the most of a present opportunity recognizing its future gain

So our response to time is to utilize our abilities to ransom time from loss, to make the most of the present recognizing its future gain!!!

Ok, this is good, I thought, but how does this connect with the songs and the word paradoxology?  Well, paradoxology is defined as the use of paradoxes, but if we look closely, we see that it is comprised of two words:

Paradox: an opinion that conflicts with common belief that seems absurd but in reality exposes a possible truth.  My friends like to call this, “a both/and”.  A common example of this would be, “This is the beginning of the end.” How in the world can a beginning be an end all at the same time??? 
Para: alongside – think of parallel lines
Dox: to seem good; to take or accept
Doxology: praise; giving glory to God ; to speak – The use of paradoxes
Dox: to seem good; to take or accept
Ology: from logos – which means to speak; to collect or to gather
If we combine the meanings of these definitions, we see that they point to:
DOX - Accepting what is good and to
OLOGY - collect and gather the good in order to speak praises to our God
PARA - who is alongside us….
So in essence, paradoxology is accepting what is good by collecting and gathering the good in order to speak praises to our God who is with us!!!  Doxology is paradoxical when our praises fly in the face of facts that seem contrary to the Truth of who He is and who we are as His sons and daughters!!!

We currently reside this side of heaven where hard things happen, where we face lack or loss on a daily basis and yet we have the opportunity to enter into this idea of paradoxology…  a place where we can proclaim praises of our most kind and mighty King, praises that are in direct opposition to “common belief” regarding the facts we face.  The declaration of our praise, giving glory to God Most High may at times seem absurd but in reality expose not just a possible truth, but THEE TRUTH! 

As we proclaim the Truth about the goodness of God and the salvation of our Saviour, we are reminded that Jesus is our Way, our Truth and our very life!  We might not know the specifics of why a season seemingly ended early or why another seemingly abruptly begins – it’s a paradox that we face daily, but what if we allow the paradox of shifting seasons become a springboard for paradoxology???   …a moment where we reside parallel to heaven, walking through the perils of this earth all the while proclaiming praises contrary to the facts we face, allowing the Holy Spirit to, “beckon us to calm…”?

We do not know what the future holds, or even if there is a tomorrow, but we can glance back to the past and witness the worthiness of the One who has gone before us, the One who died for us and the One who now resides within!  He is the One worthy of our trust! 

As much as we’d like, we cannot go back in time, change time, borrow time, buy time or even make time, but what we CAN do is redeem the time by following the One who created time!  As we leave the business of the school year and transition into the saunter of summer, may we remember that we all of a response-ability to redeem the time...may we respond to the "extra" time we have this summer by watching more sunsets than Netflix, collecting more memories than things and practicing the ministry of presence more than the aim of accomplishment! 

Oh, Father God, there is so much here…it feels like a book of revelation far too deep to grasp!  What is the one thing you wish us to understand about time, about seasons, about paradox and about doxology?  Lord Jesus, even though our imaginations can wander into worry about tomorrow or to things we simply cannot control, be our Peace.  Beckon us with your Presence.  Let us become lost in your mysterious love for us in such a way that causes us to respond with a proclamation of praise!   Your Word says that the dead cannot sing praises to the Lord for they have gone into the silence of the grave (Psalm 115:17), but we are NOT dead!  Lead us make the most of our time!  Remind us that WE can praise the Lord now and forevermore! May the lyrics of our lips become words that confound the enemy.  May our words become your Word – the Word that was here at the beginning of time and remains steadfast even until the end when we enter into endless eternity with You, Emmanuel, God With Us!  And in that moment where we rest and reside in Your Presence, may we become a people, (brokenness and all), who proclaim a, “Hallelujah {from} Here Below!”  Yes,

We are an altar of broken stones
But You delight in the offering
You have the heavens to call Your home
But You abide in the song we sing!!!

Ten thousand angels surround Your throne
To bring You praise that will never cease
But hallelujah from here below
Is still Your favorite melody!

We sing Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

p.s. Here are links to the two songs mentioned above - praying they give words to praise and help you proclaim a hallelujah from here below!



React or Respond? Forgiveness in Action

May 23, 2019
By Kimberly Oden ~LCA Mama & Co-Founder
React or Respond?
Forgiveness in Action
Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function
regardless of the temperature of the heart.

The other day our family was discussing the horrors of the Holocaust.  As we looked at pictures of the atrocities that unfolded at the leading hand of Hitler, my son asked, “How did this happen?  How did people take pictures and do nothing?  Did someone at least hold Hitler accountable?!!!” 

He paused for a moment and then asked, “How did he die?” When he heard that the man who led the genocide of over six million Jews committed suicide, he looked incredulously at us and almost shouted, “You mean he had the privilege of taking his own life?!  I would have made him suffer!  I would have started by pulling his toenails out one by one!” 

The thought of that made my stomach flip flop, but if I were honest there have been moments in my own life when I have shared a similar desire for justice.  Just in the past week, I had a heated conversation with my husband and another with a dear friend.   I left both circumstances in tears with my heart hurting deep.  In the moment, when the angry words assailed, I kept thinking, “Do not react, Kimberly…choose instead to respond in the peace and love of The One who resides within…this is not the person standing before you but rather the enemy who is having his way with their emotions and they need prayer.” 

I wish I could say that I continued to, “give a gentle answer that deflected anger”, but in both instances my flesh overrode the prompting of the Holy Spirit and I responded with harsh words, which in one instance DID make tempers flare all the more!  (See Proverbs 15:1)

We all know that ASKING for forgiveness takes a great amount of humility.  My husband likes to call it, “eating some humble pie.” :) If you think about it, however, OFFERING forgiveness requires the same degree of humility. We cannot offer that which we have not received!!!  It is so easy to hop into the judgment seat only reserved for Christ and pass my judgment on to the offender who hurt my heart so deeply.  In fact, the enemy L-O-V-E-S it when I do this!  It means he is winning the battle against the Peace and Presence of Jesus within! 

But what if in that moment when someone assails us with angry words that cut deep, when a decision is made that causes us to feel discounted, when our children disobey, when our spouse disregards us, when a driver cuts us off…what if we chose to remember from that which WE have been forgiven and extend that same forgiveness, loving the broken with the Father’s love?  What if rather than giving into the wiles of the enemy who is tempting us to react, that we would choose instead to respond by pleading in prayer, asking the Father to help us to love with HIS love? 

If we are honest, all offense is rooted in entitlement.  We think we are all entitled to love, to honor to respect, but the bottom line is that the only thing we ALL deserve is death.  All sin separates us from our high and holy God (Is 59:2; Rom 3:23) – we have ALL sinned and all sin has the same effect => separation from God.  There is no degree of separation.  Jesus tells us that hatred is the same as murder (Mt. 5 21-23), lust the same as adultery (Mt. 5:28), so when I hold judgment against someone for murder, it would serve me well to remember that the anger I hold in my heart towards that person is hook of sin that can yank me under the same judgment that I extend!

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2

Matthew 5:23-24 is a passage that was thee catalyst of my decision to follow Jesus fully as my Lord and Savior once and for all…it is another story for another day, but it is well worth the read and ponderance…do I hold anything in my heart against another in the form of judgment – a hurt that I might humbly extend forgiveness?  Or do I need to humbly ask for forgiveness from another so that they might not hold anything in their heart?

The bottom line is that we are ALL sinners.  All sin deems death, but we serve a King who died for us so that all sin might be washed clean by his blood that was shed on our behalf! (See Romans 6:23)

I am convinced that if we as parents could walk out this revelation of extending forgiveness in and through the love of Jesus that we ourselves receive, not focusing on the offender but on The One who covers the offense, that our lives would be transformed.  Our children would see the grace in which we walk as we learn to lead our children by following in the footsteps of the inexplicable love and mercy of Jesus!

As I close, I offer this last morsel – my mother had the privilege of meeting Corrie ten Boom, a survivor of the Holocaust.  My mother describes this gentle soul as one who loved deep despite what she endured.  If anyone had a “right” to cast judgment, it would be Corrie, and yet, she is known for her tidbits of love-infused truth – divine revelation granted to a woman who aimed to live a life saturated with the love of the Father.  She once said, When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off.  You sit still and trust the engineer.  A moment of hurt can feel like a dark tunnel.  The moment when we face the decision to react in anger and hurt or to respond in love is pivotal.  We sacrifice our peace when we choose the former and can rest in the bedrock of security when we choose the latter.  Praying for all of this today, that we might humbly remember all that we have been forgiven so that we might keep our peace as we extend that which we have undeservedly received. 

Help Us To Love by Tori Kelly



Simon Says

May 16, 2019
By Kimberly Oden ~LCA Mama & Co-Founder
Have you ever played, “Simon Says” with your children?  I remember playing this game with my guys when they were little. There is something exhilarating about tuning your ears to listen with intention and then trying to follow only what Simon Says.  Even though it was just a game, I have sometimes thought to myself over the years how easy parenting would be if it were just a big fun game of, “Simon Says”!  I mean how simple would it be if we could just tell our children what to do, when to do, how to do, what to think, how to feel, how to process, how to give, how to forgive, how to receive, how to ask for forgiveness, how to extend love when anger nips at your heals….ahhhhh, soooo much!  There have been many days in my 26+ years of parenting that I just wish I could take the knowledge and wisdom I have gained through life’s highs and lows and strategically place them inside the hearts of my sons like a priceless gift!
Such was the case the other day when I awakened at 4:45 am to a series of texts from one of my guys… He had received some shocking news that tempted his emotions to go reeling as if being tossed about by the waves of a storm-riddled sea…The news he received came on the heels of two other hard moments that unfolded just a few days prior. 
Sidebar: The day before these texts I had JUST confessed to a friend how I have felt “under siege” as of late…how circumstances from all angles were tempting me not to take Jesus, The Word, at His Word.   I went on to share how the one thing that seems to cause my own heart to reel is when my sons go through difficult circumstances…I had JUST confessed that the day before I received those texts from my sweet son…(This is another topic for another day, but it has me wondering the power of what I confessed into open air…that I possibly gave artillery to the enemy simply by confessing an area of weakness / temptation out loud?! Hmmmmm.....) 
Anyway, as I read through the texts from my son, I had that, "Simon Says" moment…the moment when I wished that I could steady his heart FOR him with MY faith…wished that I could say, “Son, Simon Says, strengthen your heart!  Son, Simon Says be of good courage because we serve a God of miracles!  => A God who brings dead things to life!  => A God who creates something out of nothing!  Son, Simon better yet, JESUS says, “Peace. Be still.”  Oh, son, let Him still your heart…when enemy assault is strong, when he whispers sweet nothings that tempt you to shake in your shoes, stand firm therefore on the steadfast Rock of our Savior!”
I continued to ponder Simon Says as I made my way to the gym.  I hopped on the treadmill and turned on my YouTube app.  A song began to that I had never heard before and boy did it catch my attention.  I have it playing now as I type...  As I listened to the lyrics, I suddenly felt my throat begin to close and tears begin to drop down my cheeks on my race to nowhere…The timing of the counsel and comfort of the Holy Spirit for some reason always takes my breath away…I immediately knew that I was to share the song with my son.  (I think I have played the song 30+ times in the past week.  It is well worth a watch – not just a listen – the drop at 1:08 is what made my eyes leak. )
Just for me
Many doors you've closed
Just for me
Sometimes you will say no
So I'll be
Tested in your fire
To purify my desires
So my blessings won't be
Just for me
So caught up in myself
I couldn't see
The world did not revolve around me
So storms are in your will
So I can feel what others feel
Their needs, if I could speak honestly

It don't feel good
But growing it never does
It don't seem fair
For you to call this love
But if necessary pain
Is the ingredient for change
Even when life may be bittersweet
It's working
Just for me…
I know in my heart that there have been so many times in my life, even right now, that the Lord does things, allows things, or withholds things, just for me.  I have experienced closed doors and trial by fire so that He might purify my desires.  Even though, “it don’t feel good”, I can look back and confirm that “growing never does” and yet sometimes, “necessary pain IS the ingredient for change”.  Oh, how I wished I could encourage my son to trust the Lord even when, "it don’t feel good…"
When I arrived home from the gym, I opened my One Year Bible and found myself in an intimate moment between Jesus and Peter.  Luke 22:31.34 tells how Jesus had just finished the Last Supper with the disciples and then he says this to Peter:
Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat.  But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail.
Peter replies, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you and even to die with you!”
I LOVE this part – I read the first sentence as if Jesus was from the Eastern seaboard ;)
Jesus, said, “Peter, let me tell you something.  Before the rooster crows tomorrow, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
Y’all there is SO much here!!! Did you notice that Jesus calls Peter, “Simon”?  AND that He says it twice?  “Simon, Simon…”  I was so curious to know the meaning of the name Simon – I knew that Jesus had given Simon the new name, “Peter” and that it meant, “Rock”, but why did He suddenly call him, “Simon”?
Are you ready?!  The name Simon literally means, “to hear”!   In essence, he said, “Hear, hear…Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat”
Another sidebar is that we learn that Satan asked permission to sift them and that permission was granted!  Did he ask permission from God the Father???  (Remember the lyrics, “It don’t feel good…it don’t seem fair…”) 
THEN Jesus proclaims that He has pleaded in prayer for Simon that he might not falter in his faith!  The Father allowed the sifting and the Son pleaded in prayer knowing what was to come!  Jesus knew…he had full foreknowledge, so what did He do? He pleaded in prayer on behalf of Simon that his faith might not fail! 
I am going to share one more tidbit that does not directly relate to this post, but I find it contextually fascinating enough to share….
Most of us know the rest of the story…Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane…Peter follows at a distance as he is taken away.  Peter then warms himself by the fire wondering what will happen to Jesus when suddenly a servant girl begins to stare at him intently and finally proclaims,
This man was one of Jesus’ followers!
Peter promptly denies the “accusation” saying, 'Woman, I don’t even know him!'
After that, another looks at him and proclaims, 'You must be one of them!'
“No man, I am not!” Peter retorted. 
(btw, “retorted” means to make known one's thoughts! Yikes!)
Then about an hour later, yet another insists, “This man MUST be one of them because he is Galilean too!”
But Peter said, “Man, I don’t even know what you are talking about…”  and IMMEDIATELY WHILE HE WAS STILL TALKING, the rooster crowed!
And AT THAT MOMENT, the Lord turned and looked at Peter. 
Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind,
‘Before the rooster crows…’
 And Peter left the courtyard weeping bitterly.
So WHILE Peter was still denying Jesus for the third time, the rooster crows and WHILE the rooster crows, Jesus turned and looked at Peter!  OH MY GRACIOUS!  Did you catch that?!  Jesus was within earshot and eyesight of Peter at the very moment Peter denied Him!  When you look up the word, “looked”, it means, “locked in gaze with special interest love or concern…”
Jesus locked eyes with the man who was known as one of Jesus’ most zealous followers, the follower who had just forsaken him, and yet He, Simon’s Savior who was prepared to shed His blood for this forsaken follower, locked eyes with Simon, with a heart of compassion, love and concern.  You see Jesus KNEW what was going to unfold.  He could have played, “Jesus Says” and MADE Peter hear and follow, but He chose instead to, “plead in prayer for Simon, that his faith might not fail.”
Deep exhale….wow….speechless…wow…Oh, Jesus, that I might be like you as I shepherd my own sons…When I am tempted to anger, when I am tempted to offense, when I can SEE what is about to unfold and they, in their youth are not only blind, they also do not ask for input, let me plead in prayer FOR them that they might not falter in their faith!  And Lord, give me eyes of compassion to listen without a solution because, Jesus, You are the only solution for each trouble we face…
Later that day, I connected with my son…asked him to watch the video of the song I heard during my morning workout.  It ministered.  Then we sat down and I shared the story of Peter.  I shared how Satan had asked to sift the disciples, then shared the definition of sift – it means to prove by trial; to shake as in a sieve; an inward agitation to try one’s faith to very verge of overthrow!  (Doesn’t that sound like a siege?!)
I asked him if I could pray…with eyes brimming with tears he said, “no thank you.”  I pressed anyway…”Son, this is the best thing we could do right now  - I am going to ask again but in a new way…would you be angry if I sat next to you and prayed on your behalf?”  He pulled his sweatshirt above his face to cover the tears that began to fall and shook his head no…so I sat next to him and began to pray.  And as I did, I recalled a verse I had read earlier in the week from Judges 2:23-24:
These are the nations that the Lord left in the land to test those Israelites who had not experienced the wars of Canaan.
He did this to teach warfare to generations of Israelites who had not experience in battle.
Parents…our sons and daughters WILL experience warfare this side of heaven and what a blessed opportunity for it to unfold while we still hold influence and can speak Truth into the circumstances they face.  I LOVE that my sons still reach out to share their struggles even when it causes my heart to ache on their behalf.  We as parents have ALL experienced warfare to some extent in our lives.  We have all felt under siege or experienced a season of sifting.  We have the opportunity to come alongside our sons and daughters to train train means to be with. Its not just telling, it is being present with and through… Jesus was WITH Simon when he encouraged Simon, letting him know that he was warring on behalf of his zealous disciple THROUGH prayer! 
And then Jesus was WITH Simon as he denied Jesus and even THROUGH that forsaken moment, Jesus was WITH him and looked upon him with love.  We can do the same!  When we are tempted to walk in, “Mama Says”, or Daddy Says”, what if we turned to the Word of God to see what JESUS says or what our FATHER in HEAVEN says and choose to speak His Word as a weapon of warfare? 
THIS is training. 
Training requires intention. 
Training requires presence. 
Training requires vision. 
Training is simply another word for discipleship and as my friend Suzanne Phillips says, “The sacrifice of discipleship is time!” 
Unlike the quip of this world, we actually don’t have all the time in the world (See Psalm 90:12).  We only have a breath of 18ish years and then our sons and daughters launch.  We can be “Simon” in their lives while they are littles, but what are we doing to prepare, equip and train them to have ears to hear and eyes to see the Holy Spirit telling them,’ This is the way, son / daughter, walk boldly in it!”???
This charge is heavy.  It is weightier than any earthly responsibility I have ever carried.  We have been granted the stewardship of the position of parent.  Our children are not our own but have been placed in our home under our authority for this purpose:  to prepare their hearts to know Who they can trust, to know who they are, and to know Whose so that they might create Kingdom impact in the specific sphere of culture wielding the facet of the Father that He sovereignly placed within them.
WOWZA!  This is a long one and yet I sense to leave it as such….to lessen this post would be to lessen the message and the weight we carry as parents.
Oh Father God, lead us.  Our children did not come with a handbook or manual, and even if they did I cannot say I would be inclined to consult a manual!  What we do have access to, however, is our Creator God who created our sons and daughters in His image with purpose and for a purpose. Holy Spirit, would you show us how to train our sons and daughters to seek you as their, “Simon Says”?  Give them eager hearts to follow you.  Let them see their fathers and mothers seeking you first thing, making you the priority of their hearts and homes and woo them to follow in their parents’ footsteps.  Father, when hard things come in our children’s lives, remind us that this is yet another incredible opportunity to train them in the ways of God more accurately! (Acts 18:26).  Holy Spirit, remind us to plead just like Jesus did so that our children’s faith would not fail.  Let our faith be steadfast and sure, locked onto The Rock, modeling what it means to have faith that doesn’t falter.  We love you, Father.  Teach us your Word so that your Word might become the Source and foundation of Truth that we guide and direct our children as we steward well this position as parent.  Bless this next generation with the heart’s desire to hear what The Word says and the courage to take The Word at His Word!  We pray this in Jesus name, the name above all other names, amen!
p.s. As I mentioned above, the song is well worth the watch - no tangibles as to why a watch verses a listen, other than two of my sons agreed with me that watching it ministered to them more than listening ever would have... ;)
Just For Me by Kirk Franklin

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