Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Eyes

Shortly after putting out the emotional firestorm brewing in the heart of my wounded eight year old, I sent all three of my children off to school. Now running late, I threw on some clothes, quickly brushed my hair and put on my best fake smile before I rushed off in my car. Though I had started my day optimistic, the drama of the morning had me feeling wilted. Quite honestly, I was more in the mood to hide in my study with a cup of coffee and cyber-spy on my Facebook peeps than "go and be" the church.

Still, I had previously committed to help with the "Step Into Africa" exhibit at my church for "Go and Be" week. It was too late to back out now. So I half-heartedly drove to the exhibit, with a scowl in my heart. Hoping to lift my spirits, I turned on the radio and heard a favorite song called Give Me Your Eyes. seeing my need for an attitude adjustment, God now had my undivided attention.

As I drove, I silently prayed for new eyes...

"Dear God,
It has been a long morning and though the day is only beginning, I am already tired. I need an attitude adjustment. Help me to have your heart. Let me love what you love. Let me hate what you hate. Allow me to see this world with your eyes and let me be the hands and feet of Jesus. Let your people be a help not a hindrance. Show us how to step in compassion and walk in love, respecting the culture of Africa while embracing the needs of its people. Let me step into Africa today, Father, and give me your eyes."

Once I arrived at "Step Into Africa", I no longer had to actively seek for a new perspective. Truly, one would have to be completely void of compassion to have missed the misfortune suffered by the children featured in the exhibit. Being a mother, a teacher, and a woman, my eyes were quickly drawn to the children in the photos hanging on the walls. At first glance, the faces in the pictures seemed much like my own children. But as I studied the eyes looking back at me, I saw a noticeable difference. For these children had faced adversity that would cause most adults to shudder.

Many of the children were orphaned and homeless, desperate for shelter and life's bare essentials. Several were infected by HIV. All of them had seen life altered in some manner due to the AIDS pandemic in Africa. Captivated, I was drawn to the eyes staring back at me in the photos. While dwelling in the harsh realities of severe poverty, childhood had been eliminated for these kids.

For the next few hours, I assisted other visitors, as we conversed and reflected on all we had witnessed in the lives of these sons and daughters of Africa. As the morning quickly faded into afternoon, mine were not the only eyes opened to the plight of these forgotten children. As I reflected on the events of the day, I asked God to "turn my eyes away from worthless things,preserve my life according to your word." (Psalm 119:37 NIV)

"Give me your eyes for just one second. Give me your eyes so I can see. Everything that I keep missing. Give me your love for humanity. Give me your arms for the brokenhearted. The ones that are far beyond my reach. Give me your heart for the ones forgotten. Give me your eyes so I can see. Lord give me your eyes."-Brandon Heath

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Change In Plans

"I have small dreams," I told my parents as I prepared to graduate from high school. Being a planner, self-suffient and responsible, my way was carefully mapped before me. College. Marriage. A family. Security. In that order. If I did not deviate from my well laid plans, all would go as predicted.

So, that is precisely what I set out to do. Determined and focused, I calculated my steps carefully, my goals fixed firmly in my rational mind. Selecting Iowa State University, I committed myself to my studies and earned my degree. I fell in love with a wonderful young man and joyfully took his hand in marriage. Things were going just as I had planned. Yet, two careers, a move out of state, three kids, and eighteen years later, my dreams have changed. For I have learned that things don't always go the way I plan.

To penetrate my stubborn will, God has to shake my plans. Sometimes life throws a curve and forces me to evaluate my position with God's eyes. At times, when my plans have failed and all hope seems lost, I have found myself feeling a bit like Job. In disappointing setbacks I painfully groaned, "my days have passed, my plans are shattered, and so are the desires of my heart." (Job 17:11 NIV) In trial and error, I have discovered that the only path that truly matters is God's. However, if I am to travel His path, I must abandon mine and trust Him alone. And that sounds easier than it truly is most of the time. Especially for a Type A control freak like me!

Some days I wonder in anticipation. Others I wait more impatiently, as I linger out of my comfort zone. But at all times, I watch expectantly for my Heavenly Father has big dreams for me. After all, God assures me that "I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) It is a promise I keep near to my heart and it sustains me as I let go of my empty dreams and embrace a life rooted in Christ.

In the past year, God has changed my plans in countless ways, planting a new dream in my heart. I have stepped out of teaching and taken my place in writing ministry. I have abandoned the security of my comfort zone at home and embarked on an international mission trip to Austria. And I have stopped making plans, choosing instead to look to God as He reveals His dream for my life.

So as midlife slowly closes in, my path in life has turned. No longer are my dreams determined by what is small, secure, and safe. Instead, I have made a decision and I am willfully sticking to it. Indeed, I choose to "live by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV)

In this fallen world, we often fail to remember that God continuously sits on his throne. Despite the roadblocks of life, God never ceases to direct our steps as we look to Him and entrust Him with our lives. Though we see only what is right in front of us, God sees our lives with a bird's eye view.

He is never shaken or surprised and He never makes mistakes. Even more amazing, God takes our missteps and weaves them into something beautiful for His glory. And we are assured that "many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21 NIV)

We need not fret when life changes course. It just means that God has changed our plans.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Father's Daughter

My life is a tale of two fathers. One man gave me life. The other showed me how to live. One man was there at my birth. The other present at the birth of my children. Both men are my Father. Yet one has chosen to be absent from my life since I was 12 years old. The other stepped in to fill empty shoes.

My mother married the man I call my Father when I was in sixth grade. For years, it had been the three of us, my mother, my brother, and me. So, when my mom announced she was getting married, I was happy for her, and nervous for me. After being abandoned by one father, I wasn't sure I really needed a new one. With one foot firmly rooted in childhood and the other stepping into the uncertainties of junior high, God was wise to bring me my Dad.

They say that the relationship between a father and his children plows the way for how they will one day see God. In my life I definitely find that holds true. Cruel and abusive, my birth father caused me to look at all other men with fear. Even though I longed to be "daddy's girl", his very presence filled me with anxiety. To further complicate matters, my dad left me and my brother when we were quite young. One dark night, during a fit of rage, my dad spewed dreadful words that damaged my fragile spirit for years. It was the last time I saw him. Consequently, I was suspicious of God's love from the start. Rather than viewing God as a caring father, I believed Him to be an angry tyrant, ready to punish me at any moment for any small offense, real or perceived. Insecure and broken, I hid within myself for years.

My "stepfather" on the other hand is gentle and quiet. A private man, Dad is not overly demonstrative and he keeps his feelings to himself much of the time. While the rest of my family is animated and passionate, my Dad is quiet and reserved. My rejected and oversensitive heart often misread his intentions as I was growing to know him. Having been mistreated by my biological father for many years, I suppose I was overly suspicious of this new man with whom my mother now shared her life. Our transition wasn't easy for either of us at first. Still, over the years I have come to respect and appreciate the man who chose to be my Dad when my natural father walked away. The world refers to him as my "stepfather". To me, he is the father placed in my life by the loving hands of God.

He is my mother's faithful husband, my children's grandpa and my Dad in every way that matters. Ironically, my brother and I even look like we are His natural children. I have no doubt that God looked to and fro and then assigned him to be our father.

Patient and calm, my Dad is a good teacher. Over the years, he taught me how to drive. How to change a tire. And how to close the back door. After all, we didn't live in a barn! But the greatest lesson he has taught me in life is how to trust again. While he didn't have to be my dad, he chose to be a father, and claimed me as his own. As I grew, I was proudly recognized as his daughter.

It is a beautiful parrallel of my standing with my Heavenly Father. Grafted into God's family through the blood of Christ, I am precious in His sight. He could have left me in my sin, but instead He came for me. Despite my failures and shortcomings, God claims me as His own. Nothing can snatch me from His loving grasp. God looks upon me with favor and intercedes in my life. His loving eyes are always upon me, nothing happens to me without first being filterd through his sacrifical love. And, unlike some, God will never leave me nor forsake me.(Deuteronomy 31;8 NIV)

I am his beloved child, "an adopted heir in Christ." (Galatians 3:29 NIV) And he works daily to teach me how to be me more like Him. God longs to help me become more loving. More patient. More kind. He wants me to look and act like Him. In this life, I am called to be my Father's daughter.

Monday, April 12, 2010


A teenager discovers she is expecting a baby and chooses life over convenience. A young single mother leaves an abusive marriage and forges ahead to raise her two children in a peaceful home without threats and violence. A loving grandmother takes her grandaughter under her wing and shelters her from the loneliness of being a tween. What do all of these scenarious have in common you ask? Courage!

Some of us have it. Some of us don't. In a world that rejects the moral bounderies of absolute truth, courage is a rare commodity. Fearing the empty label of intolerance, all of humanity seems to shrink away from right and wrong. Hiding in our cowardice, we foolishly accept moral decline and decay. And, while some claim we have lost our moral compass, I strongly feel that it is more likely an issue of courage. It is a story as old as Cain and Abel. Both brothers knew what was right, but one chose obedience, the other murder. We are told that God reminded Abel, "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:7 NIV)

The same is true of us today. Obedience takes courage and many of choose the worldly road instead. It is not that we don't know what is right and what is wrong. Our Heavenly Father clearly leads us in righteousness. Rather, we prefer to stay hidden in sin, for we lack courage to stand out.

It shouldn't be so. For scripture pointedly says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9 NIV) God doesn't suggest we be courageous...He COMMANDS it! The world hasn't changed. It is still gripped by sin and will continue to be so until Christ returns. Yet, because of His sacrifice on the Cross, we are changed. With courage we can do the "God" things that truly revolutionize the world and bring glory to the Father.

Long ago, in the midst of exile, there was a woman, not so different from you or me, who initially lacked courage in a desperate and seemingly hopeless situation. Her name was Esther. Gripped by fear, she remained silent for a time while her people confronted threats of certain death. Her choices were grim. On the one hand Esther faced execution for being a Jew, on the other, execution for approaching the King without first being summoned. In all fairness, it seemed like a lose/lose proposition. But, we learn a lot from this bold girl who was also the unlikely Queen of the Persian empire. When in doubt, we must pray for courage. We are told that Esther told her cousin Mordecai...

"Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:15-16 NIV)

Mustering her strength, Esther faced the uncertainties, victoriously saving both her people and herself. In short, she looked to God and courageously conquored fear. Each day, we encounter opportunities to display courage as well. We are courageous when we choose to reject humanistic ideals and instead embrace eternal truths in our homes and families. We show courage as we speak truth and love into the life of a friend who has stumbled blindly into sin and certain destruction. And we display courage as we boldly claim the gospel of Jesus Christ in a world bitterly consumed with hatred for our Savior.

Life is not for the faint of heart. Daily, we face an unseen enemy who seeks destruction in our lives. But we can be certain that darkness flees when we have courage and boldly follow God.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Marty, Jack, and I living the dream...building our first home in McKinney 10 years ago. <3

"They have no idea how lucky they are to live here," I said to my husband Marty as we drove past carefee children running freely on the manicured sidewalks of Stonebridge Ranch. A master-planned community in charming McKinney, Texas it was a place I yearned to be established. With tall flowering trees, luscious green landscapes, serene parks, and families everywhere, it seemed like the perfect place to settle down. It was mid-April 2000, and we were a young couple with our first child, looking for a place to grow as family. I remember thinking, "If only..." as the dream of raising our children in such an ideal location faded out of sight. While the community was truly lovely, it was also completely out of reach on our meager combined salaries. Dreaming the impossible, I imagined a sign on our nonexistant front door that read, "The Arbuckle Family. Established 1992".

Today we drove down that same tree-lined street as we returned from the grocery store. It has been ten years, and now we live just blocks away. Our children play in those same parks and our family walks down the very streets that once seemed so unattainable. And as we drive through our surroundings in our daily activities, God often reminds me that "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26 NIV)

Life if full of highs and lows. Ups and downs. Trials and triumphs. Most certainly, change happens and things don't always go the way you plan or expect. Still, we should never underestimate the plans of God. His plans are always bigger and more complex than we can ever imagine. I see that clearly in my own life. Much has happened in the ten years since I first gazed upon the place I now call home.

Five houses,
Four neighborhoods,
Three churches,
Two daughters,
Three companies,
Five promotions
Five professions of faith,
Four baptisms,
Five elementary schools,
One middle school,
One Life Group,
one mission trip,
numerous sifted friendships,
some trials,
a few setbacks,
many disappointments,
Countless victories,
One BIG God.

Clearly, the past ten years have been anything but predictable, except for one consistent truth. Our walk with the LORD has been an unshakeable constant. As we have drawn nearer to Him, our Heavenly Father has graciously refined our life together, making our family strong with Him. I haven't always liked the road we have traveled. Some of the paths were difficult and even unpleasant, but all roads led to our heart's desire which was to be rooted. We aren't planted in the false security of a safe neighborhood. Our security is not confined to the walls of a house. We have something even more steadfast. For we are securely "rooted and established in love." (Ephesians 3:17 NIV) Not a perishable worldly love, but the lasting eternal love of Jesus Christ.

Of course, this type of shelter can be tough for many to grasp. Just yesterday, I was greeted by a loose acquaintance who could simply not believe we had moved yet again. "Is this the last move?" she asked pointedly, her tone dripping with judgement and indignation. Though at first, her words stung my sensitive heart, I remained quiet and only smiled. After all, she has a point. As rude as she was in stating the obvious, we have had many changes during our time in McKinney. I have no argument for our defense. None except we do our best to follow where God leads, and His plans take time and trust. Just ask the Israelites. Ask Joseph. Or better yet, ask Christ himself. The best laid plans do not come fully assembled. Rather, they are revealed one faithful step in God's time.

In the years to come, I am certain we will stumble. Occassionally, we might even fall. And,we have not seen the end of our disappointment and failures. Unfortunately, life can be like that. Still, today I am grateful for I am a witness to a dream realized because of God's power. It fills me with awe and motivates me to follow God's lead, for with Him life is never boring.

Tomorrow, He may call us to pull up our stakes and move our tent elsewhere. Walking in faith is an adventure. Trusting God for His provision can be messy, complicated, and downright inconvenient, but it is also exhilerating. Truly, I have no idea what the next year holds, let alone the next ten. And while I would love to be firmly planted in one place, free to grow roots, God has yet to reveal that place to our family. In fact, I can only be certain that God has only shown me what He holds for me today. So, here we dwell, uncertain in our resources, but firmly established in His love. The road ahead is unclear, but I shall continue to "run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free." (Psalm 119:32 NIV) The road ahead of me is His and I am learning to "let go and let God" be God. He knows my way better than me anyway, for he set the destination before us.

So, to answer that dear woman's question, I can only say this in reply...the future is unknown but my God is certain. If I ever begin to doubt that truth, I need only step out my front door. Here we are. Our family is living a dream that God planted in our hearts a decade ago. It is a dream only God could bring to fruition. Walking before us, the LORD knew the twists and turns along the way. Each move. Every roadblock. All of life's changes are part of His plan to bring us to this exact place at this very time in our lives for His perfect purpose.

By the standards of this world, Marty and I are still far from established. Faithfully, we shall continue to look up and put our trust in the One who "has established his throne in heaven, and whose kingdom rules over all." (Psalm 103:19 NIV) Our future is firmly established in Him who is worthy of praise. Maybe one day, He will give me a sign for my door.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Enough

"I think I am a good person." Blind with a sinful nature, my friend refused to acknowledge her need for a Savior. The words, cloaked in ignorant pride, pierced my heart and troubled my soul.

Foolishly, I too once believed I was "good enough" for God. After all, I almost always told the truth. And I would never consider stealing or murder, you know the BIG sins. Surely, God was more concerned about the truly evil people in the world than He was about my mistakes. I was "good" enough. Unfortunately, my eyes were veiled to the consequences of my sin.

It is a scenario played out daily to all who are born with a sinful nature, bent towards rebellion against God. No matter how "good" we think we are, our sinful nature remains. Because of this, "all share a common destiny, the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. as it is with the good man, so with the sinner. This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun. The same destiny overtakes all." (Ecclesiastes 9:2-3) Put simply, sin is sin. There is no sliding scale for "big" or "small" sins. All sin separates us from God.

Which leads us to Good Friday. Scripture tells us "If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible." (Leviticus 5:17 NIV) Our Heavenly Father, righteous and Holy, knew we were helpless to recognize our terminal condition. Regardless of how we see ourselves, God painfully witnessed that, "all have turned way, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one" (Romans 3:12) All except Christ. In Him, we find redemption for "the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:7 NIV)

Our Savior came to conquor sin. We are told,"as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. ...On the third day he will be raised to life!"--Matthew 20:17-19. Jesus knew what was lay ahead when he placed his Holy feet on the path to Jeruselum.

Christ was aware of all that awaited him. The betrayal. The flogging. The scourging. The crcifixtion. The triumph over sin. Our Savior saw it all. In his goodness, Jesus took the broken road that led to the Cross. It was the only way to restore us to God. For Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. Though we arrogantly deny our sinful position, we are told:

All have turned aside,
they have together become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one." (Psalm 14:3 NIV)

Deceived by our enemy and blind to our sinful nature, we are able to justify our human tendency toward rebellion. Born divine but fully man, Jesus Christ led a perfect sinless life. He who knew no sin, triumphed over sin, taking our punishment on the Cross. He never stumbled, nor did He fall. Instead, Jesus took the consequences from the fall of man on his scourged shoulders and saved us all from certain death. Through His blood alone, we are made righteous, reconciled to our Holy God. For "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." (2 Peter 1:3)

The painful truth is we cannot be good enough. Still, in His great love for us ALL, God sent us the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23 NIV)Instead of turning his eyes away from sinful man, Christ took our sins to the cross and redeemed us with His blood. He, alone, is good enough.