Rejection or Redirection?

We all know what it feels like to have our hearts set on something. We may even pray and ask God for the desires of our hearts. But when God’s answer is “no” and doesn’t look like our expections, do you take that as a rejection? Hind sight is always 20/20 and we can look back and know God had a plan the whole time. It may not look like what we thought we wanted, but we need to trust that the Lord knows what we need better than we do. Instead of taking that “no” or “not now” as a rejection, think of it as a redirection. Click on the play button to watch this month’s “Ask Aimee” segment and be blessed. 


Stay the Course

If you’re like most people, there have been times in your life when you thought about quitting: a job, a friendship, a project, a marriage. Sometimes when things feel heavy, the temptation to throw our hands up and simply quit can be very real and very strong. 

Conversely, there are times when we should quit. Just ask any recovered addict, abuser, cheater, liar, gambler…they’ll tell you that quitting was the best thing they ever did. We all have something(s) that we should give up. Quitting is sometimes a necessary brushstroke to create a complete picture of healthy physical, mental, emotional and spiritual living. 

I traveled to South Carolina to visit my eldest daughter not too long ago. As I was passing through Rock Hill, I noticed a billboard for a family law firm on the side of the highway that depicted a woman sporting a smart business suit and short-cropped hair, smugly postured with a hand on her hip. The caption on the billboard read:

“Life’s short.

Get a divorce.”

That billboard broke my heart, and I thought it about the remainder of my drive, and throughout the rest of my day. I could hardly believe anyone would think that message was appropriate to broadcast to passers-by. 

Later that day, my girls and I decided to go to the zoo. While I was waiting for my daughters to come out of the ladies’ room, I stood in the shade and did a little people-watching. Red-faced, smiling children were oohing and ahhing at the different animals, dragging their obedient, happy parents here and there. I noticed a father and son pair with their matching fire-red hair, pairs of siblings with cute matching outfits. I marveled at the beauty of family, the innocence of children, and how blessed I feel to be a mother. And then I saw them.

A young father was pushing a toddler in a stroller, and beside him walked his beautiful wife…although she wasn’t simply walking, she was ambulating with the necessary aid of a rather intricate and complex-looking pair of crutches that were guided by her small forearms. To my eyes, she moved with what appeared to be relative ease, but it was readily apparent that she had a physical disability. There was something about the normalcy of her gait and the ease of their movement together as a family that made me realize that she may have been afflicted, but she wasn’t affected. She may have been disabled, but she was not at all unable. 

My mind flashed back to that ridiculous, horrible billboard in that moment. “Life’s short. Get a divorce.”

Sometimes when we see strangers, we build stories around them based upon the context in which we encounter them. In that little family, I saw strength and perseverance and love. I saw a family that didn’t quit. But I also pondered.

What if…what if…that young woman had quit? What if she didn’t realize her value and gave up on aspirations of marriage and motherhood based on her own insecurities? What if her husband had been unable or unwilling to accept and embrace the woman’s disability? What if he had never spoken the first word to her, or worse yet…what if he had shunned her? I thought about her pregnancy, the physical change in her center of gravity…how difficult (and potentially dangerous) it may have been for her to carry her sweet baby to term. Did her doctor ever discourage her by saying, “You should avoid having children” or perhaps even “You can’t have children”? Naturally all of these questions are mere conjecture, but I have thought of that family many times since that day. When I reflect on how difficult her life must be (in the story I built around a stranger within just a few minutes’ time), I also think of the disgusting contrast of the terrible billboard. What if either of those humans had said, “Life’s short. Get a divorce.”? What if they had quit? The excuse of finite time is not an excuse to quit. 

To be clear, I write this as a divorced woman myself, and certainly not from a place of judgment. I have given up before. I have quit a marriage. Granted, I didn’t quit the marriage by myself, but I did take part in the quitting. I have quit friendships. I have quit jobs. I have quit hobbies and diets and exercise routines. I quit big hair and in the late 90’s (as aforementioned, some things may be shamelessly quit). The only Constant in the roller coaster of our lives is God. He never quits us. 

The unsettling command of the billboard juxtaposed over the gentle, beautiful strength of the couple at the zoo has stayed with me, keeps speaking to me, and I feel led to remind the reader reading this not to quit. I’m not speaking exclusively about marriage…the value of perseverance extends across many facets of our lives. I encourage you to trust God in all that you do, in His purpose and plan for you, that you seek His guidance in your decisions. As I write this, I feel the Father using me…to also minister to me in this season of my life. 

In the past few weeks, I have been thinking quite a bit about the Lord’s promise to deliver Paul to Rome, which mirrors His promises to deliver us into the purpose that He has planned for us. In Paul’s case, the Lord appeared to Paul in Acts 23:11 (KJV), saying: “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.” Paul was promised passage to Rome…but what Paul didn’t know was that he would go to Rome as a prisoner. God doesn’t promise us that our journey will be easy, He only promises us that if we move in obedience to His guidance and direction, He will not leave or forsake us.

Notice how the Lord begins His promise to Paul: “Be of good cheer…”

The same passage in the NIV Bible begins: “Take courage…”

I find the difference between the translations revealing. In the latter translation, “Take courage” almost seems to serve as a caution of impending trouble. And it would be a just warning. Paul was indeed bound for tumult before he would reach his destination. But in the former translation, “Be of good cheer” reminds me that God commands Paul, and us, to have joy regardless of our circumstance. Neither taking courage or being of good cheer make me think of quitting. Taking courage reminds me of the power of God, and being of good cheer reminds me of our power in God. Both of those sentiments make me want to keep going, to soldier on, to persevere. But I also understand the temptation to quit, and the insecurity, overwhelm and feeling of hopelessness that can drive that temptation. Maybe the key to not quitting is actually to quit…to quit leaning on our own self-reliance and lean into the loving, protective, understanding arms of the Father.

I saw a local church marquis yesterday that read, “Even broken crayons can still color. Don’t give up on God’s plan for your life.” True, we may at times feel broken and inadequate and fearful. But God still loves us, and He still supplies us with purpose, and the strength and resources to execute that purpose. He calls us to stay in His will, to lean on Him for guidance…not to give up. He will show us the way, even if the way isn’t easy.

If I were to erect a billboard, I would word it something like this:

“Life’s short.

Stay the course.”

God bless you. Stay safe, stay in prayer, and stay strong in the Lord.
 


“Space for Grace”

We all know those people who say things like:

“I need my personal space.”

Or, “I have a personal bubble.”

Or (my favorite), ”I was socially distancing before the pandemic.”

 

That’s me. I’m “people.”

I admit it. I like my space.

When I’m at home, in my space, I don’t mind kids, dogs or cats (or oftentimes chickens) in my lap, or in my space.

On the rare occasion that I spend time with friends…intentionally…because I want to…on purpose…I don’t mind being around people or having them in my space, or being in theirs.

I have a creative space…when I’m painting or writing or studying, I generally love that quiet, uninhabited space.

But my work space…I really like my work space. I prefer my professional space to be uncluttered with people if I’m busy. I mean, I’m a mom. I can multi-task. It isn’t necessarily an issue of annoyance, it’s an issue of unbridled productivity.

My office is my professional sanctuary. Most of the time it’s just me and my fish Seamus, doing our best work and living our best lives. (Seamus is a great listener, but not such a great conversationalist, which works well for me.) I have honeysuckle wax cubes simmering and soft jazz or worship music playing in the background. It’s an environment wherein I do my best work. It’s private and calming and conducive to good work.

My office is the only office in my building. If people come into the building where my office is located, they’re there for a reason.

Tuesday, I was deeply involved in a project when I heard the jingling of keys outside my office door. I cringed. I knew what that meant…distraction.

One of my security guards turned the key and let himself into my office. (Side note: I do not travel with a security detail…I’m a security director, so they come with the job.)

When he entered my office, not looking up from my work, I snapped, “Doesn’t anybody knock anymore?”

Matter-of-factly he replied, “I don’t need to knock…I have a key.”

I took off my glasses and closed my laptop, prepared to make him feel the weight of the distraction he’d caused me, and he sat down in the chair across from my desk and said, “I need to talk to you.” It was then that I realized the inappropriateness of my clipped response. My employee, but most importantly my friend, was having a problem and needed me. Not an everyday work gripe, not complaining about a business matter, but a problem. I was instantly convicted by my graceless behavior.

I instantly thought of our immediate, all-the-time access to The Father. The “OPEN” sign is always on with God.

Let me say this…I am in no way comparing myself to God. I am a weak human, flawed and entirely insignificant by comparison. What I am doing is holding myself accountable for my response and embracing a new self-awareness of my lack of availability to my fellow humans. I was embarrassed by my abrupt and unwelcoming demeanor, and while I listened to the problems of my friend, I felt more and more convicted about my general inability to be present when I am needed by others to be present. To listen, to be available, to be in the moment with them when they need it. Sometimes I just feel too “busy”. I think sometimes we all do.

God is busy. He is truly, truly busy. Every second of every day, He’s busy healing bodies, touching hearts, saving souls, changing lives. Real work. Yet He always has time for us. Whether it’s curing that disease, healing that hurt, mending that fence, or doing something comparatively unimportant like helping us find our car keys on a frantic Monday morning…there is no request that we bring to God that He doesn’t hear, the moment we cry out.

“I don’t need to knock…I have a key.”

Praise God that we don’t need an appointment to have a word with Him, that we don’t have to schedule time with Him to talk about our problems. He doesn’t “pencil us in”. He is immediately available to us when we need Him. He’s available when we just want to praise Him. Not only is God omnipresent, He is ALWAYS present. Not only is He everywhere, He’s everywhere all the time.

Jesus is the key to our availability to God. He goes before us, is our Advocate and our Intercessor, and through His death BECAME the key. The veil was torn so that we would have access to The Father, all the time. In our times of worry and sadness or joy and thanksgiving…Jesus is our key to The Father.

The veil of the Temple separated the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant, the early dwelling place of God’s earthly presence, from the rest of the Temple. Only the High Priest was allowed to enter that space, which he did only once each year, on the Day of Atonement. On that day, the High Priest would make intercession for sin on behalf of the people.

The veil represented the separation between God and man…a separation caused by sin. At the time of Christ’s death, that separation was removed, and all mankind could forevermore have direct access to God the Father, which was symbolized by the tearing of the veil.

Matthew 27: 50-51 says: “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

It was Christ’s sacrifice that removed the veil, brought down the barrier between us and The Father. Jesus became the key.

I challenge all of us to remember that God is never too busy, never too far off to hear our cries, or to receive our praise. It is our responsibility as Christians to strive to be Christ-like in our walk, displayed in our behavior and evident in our interactions with others. We are charged with letting God’s light shine through us, that we may allow others to see Christ in us, that they may desire the same peace and promise that we have in Him.

While we all have our own brands of personal space, let’s remember to leave space for grace. The same grace we are afforded by way of our access to The Father, we should freely extend to others. In today’s tumultuous political, social, and even sometimes professional climate, it is not only our duty, but an honor, to show others the same grace that The Father shows us.



“Tears”

God gives us different tears for different seasons and different reasons. John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible and it is two words – “Jesus wept”. WATCH THE FULL VIDEO BY CLICKING THE YOUTUBE LINK
 



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A Bovine Revelation

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The Lord speaks to us sometimes in the most unlikely of ways.
 
For me, it was through a cow. True story. 
 
I was driving down the highway to pick my daughter up from school on a Friday afternoon a couple of months ago, and it was lightly raining. It was raining that misty, annoying kind of rain…so barely a rain at all that you hardly needed your windshield wipers, but present enough that if you didn’t turn them on, your windshield would turn into the same blurry confusion that a Monet painting offers when viewed close-up.
 
I approached a large livestock trailer on the freeway, and as I began to pass it, marveled to see that it was full of cows. Big, black-and-white cows. I’ve always loved cows, and childlike wonder always fills me when I see a large metal box transporting them on open roads: the way they gracefully withstand the movement, as if they were created with the knowledge of how to endure it.
 
I slowed my pace and drove alongside the trailer, noticing that one of the cows was sticking its muzzle out of an opening in the side of the trailer, licking at the mist in the air.  Licking, licking, licking.
 
I was struck with sadness.
 
The cow, at least to my logical mind, was thirsty. It was so desperate that it was licking the scant rain to quench its thirst. My heart broke for the poor creature. I knew that the cow’s thirst could never be sated by that barely-there rain.
 
My first thought was, “Lord, please don’t let this cow die thirsty”. To my mind, the trailer was bound for a slaughterhouse, with a thirsty cow on board. What a horrible fate, to die thirsty.
 
In truth, I didn’t know where those cows were headed. But God constructed a story in my mind to teach me a lesson, to speak to my heart, to convict and inspire me. All I could think was, “This poor cow is going to die thirsty.” I was in tears, watching this poor creature lick the rain, in a futile attempt to quench its need for water.
 
It was in that moment that I thought about the lost…the lost human souls in the world who don’t know Jesus.
 
Just as that cow could never quench its thirst by licking the rain (but believing that it could), lost human souls can never quench their desire for true peace or happiness in the promise of everlasting life by building or fortifying their joy with the superficial, empty pieces of temporal and temporary happiness that the world supplies.
 
I wept for the perceived plight of the cow, and I wept even harder thinking about the larger spiritual implications for the human lost. I didn’t want that sweet creature to die thirsty. But on a broader scale, I didn’t want humanity to die lost.
 
But…the Bible reminds us so many times that Jesus loves the lost, the thirsty.
 
The word “water” is mentioned 722 times in the Bible. In fact, the Bible essentially begins and ends with the mention of water.
 
Genesis 1:2 tells us, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
 
Revelations 22:17 says, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”
 
Water matters. Water is crucial to our lives for our health, our hygiene, to nourish our crops and provides a home to creatures that sustain us. Water is essential to our physical lives in innumerable ways, and is arguably the most critical substance we take into our bodies. Humans can survive between one to two months without food, but only three days without water. Water matters.
 
Even Jesus suffered physical thirst. When He was on the cross, he said “I am thirsty”, as told to us in John 19:28.
After his thirst was eventually quenched, it was then that he uttered, “It is finished”. Jesus needed His thirst to be sated, that His voice would be strong and clear when He uttered His last words in His earthly form. “It is finished.” Even Jesus needed the relief that water brings.
 
But living water. That’s a whole different kind of water. Despite water being mentioned so many times in the Bible, Jesus Himself only mentions “living water” twice.
 
In John 4:10-14, Jesus encounters the woman at the well.    
 
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
 
Later, John 7:38-39 tells us: “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’”
 
Jesus’ reference to the living water represents the Holy Spirit who dwells in believers and seals them for salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). The partaking of the living water has saving power…eternal saving power that supersedes the physical, emotional, financial, social or other temporary thirst that we endure in this world. All we have to do is drink.
 
Back to the cow…
 
As I continued to ponder the cow during my drive, in the flesh I determined that I could never eat beef again.
 
Let me be clear…I am an omnivore. I enjoy a good steak, cooked rare, with a baked potato on the side. I eat meat. I was born in the north, raised in the south. I am a meat-eater, through and through. But that day, in the throes of my sadness for that one thirsty animal, I couldn’t imagine ever eating a steak again. I was convinced that my days of sitting at Texas Roadhouse, quipping to the waitress to “knock the horns off and bring it to the table” were over. In that moment, I was going full vegan.
 
I continued driving, and my vegan resolve began to settle into my spirit. I called my eldest daughter and told her about my revelation and new dietary lifestyle. My daughter promptly replied, “I mean, you could eat bad cows, right?”
 
That gave me pause. I would eat the bad cows. Wouldn’t it be nice if when we walked through the deli, “mean” beef was labeled as such:
 
Here Lies Hank, Black Angus
2018-2021
Bit the farmer’s kids. Terrorized the neighbors. Relentless escape artist.
 
That cow? I’d eat that cow. I can hear myself: “Just knock the horns off and bring him to the table.”
 
In contrast, what if, when perusing the beef counter, I came upon this label:
 
Here Lies Betsy, Brahman
2019-2021
Loved long walks in the sunshine, snacking on dandelions and cuddling.
 
I wouldn’t dream of eating sweet Betsy. Who could consume such a lovely creature?
 
As my thoughts of the good cow/bad cow dining dilemma continued, I was led yet again down another path of thought:
 
“What if Jesus only saved the “good” humans?”
 
What if God’s love and grace and mercy were only available to those who were good? Inasmuch as we are flawed creatures at best, we would all fail at being “good”. It isn’t our inherent nature to be good, as we are all born into sin. None among us could ever deserve or earn our salvation. But in God’s infinite love and goodness, He sent His son to pay the ransom for our sin. Praise God that eternal life is available to us all, that we aren’t judged based solely on our good deeds.
 
To some, cows are little more than a source of sustenance, or perhaps a luxe armchair. But to me, that one cow, that one day, represented so much more. The thirst of one animal, in one moment, reminded me of the very real plight of the lost. Thirsting, thirsting, thirsting…futilely seeking satisfaction from what their immediate environment has to offer. While it is a fruitless endeavor, at some point in our lives (or many points in our lives), we become distracted by the goings-on of world, and we forget about the Living Water…the only water that can truly, beautifully and eternally save and sustain us.
 
We can either hope that the world can satisfy us, or have faith that Jesus will. Let’s choose faith.
 
** We encourage you to watch, as Aimee tells this story in her “Ask Aimee” vlog,
by clicking the picture on the left below **


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