26 Angels.

As I watch a news update on the Sandy Hooks Elementary school shooting, I can hardly breathe. My brain spins in circles, thinking I am still dreaming and that this can’t be real.

 

I know there are simply no words to sum up anything that occurred on this horrific day this past Friday. There are no words that can accurately describe the pain that these families are going through right now and the fear that still consumes those children who witnessed this tragedy.

 

I didn’t watch any coverage all weekend because I just couldn’t. It hurt too badly. The pain was just too real as I saw men crying their eyes out as they realized their precious little girl would no longer be coming home. I didn’t want to hear about or be reminded of this evil, terrible story.

 

But as today went on, my heart was pressed to fervently pray for these families by name, and to take the time to honor these children by learning about their legacies.

 

Angel Charlotte Bacon – 2/22/06 


Angel Daniel Barden – 9/25/05


Angel Olivia Engel – 7/18/06


Angel Josephine Gay – 12/11/05


Angel Ana Marquez-Greene – 04/04/06


Angel Dylan Hockley – 03/08/06


Angel Madeleine Hsu 07/10/06


Angel Catherine Hubbard 06/08/06


Angel Chase Kowalski – 10/31/05


Angel Jesse Lewis – 06/30/06


Angel James Mattioli – 03/22/07


Angel Grace McDonnell – 11/04/05


Angel Emilie Parker – 05/12/06


Angel Jack Pinto – 05/06/06


Angel Noah Pozner – 11/20/06


Angel Caroline Previdi – 09/07/06


Angel Jessica Rekos – 05/10/06


Angel Avielle Richman – 10/17/06


Angel Benjamin Wheeler – 09/12/06


Angel Allison Wyatt – 07/03/06

And the heroic teachers that saved the lives of so many little ones:

Angel Lauren Russeau 06/82


Angel Anne Marie Murphy 07/25/60

Angel Mary Sherlach – 0/11/56


Angel Victoria Soto – 11/05/85


Angel Dawn Hocksprung – 06/28/65


Angel Rachel Davino – 7/17/83


These precious children were taken far too soon.  As I typed each one of their birthdays, my heart just bursts with anger and sadness and pain.

SO SOON. Too soon. Unfair. Jesus, why? I do not get it.

I do not think we ever will. No matter what the investigations determine or what new discovery is made in this case, nothing will be enough.

But I do know that this evil, tragic and horrific situation will be used for the good.

I know seeing the “positive” side to this situation seems almost wrong because there was just so much evil present here. But it is the truth that our loving God promises: He will always take what Satan intends for evil and turn it into good.

Something He also promises is that His kingdom is especially reserved for the little children J

Children are His heart. Their innocence and childlike faith make His heart smile.

“And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” –Matthew 18:3

Little children, like so many did in this incident, listen with whole hearts and believe with a blind faith.

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world….the song…it reigns true.

 And these incredible teachers, who risked their own lives to save the lives of their students. Jesus, may we all be more like them. 

Hearing their stories of heroism and sacrifice, my mind races to think, “Would you have done that?”

May we seek to check on the needs of our neighbors before we satisfy our own needs. May we love with a love that does not allow us to react out of fear but a brave spirit that seeks to protect those around us.

Jesus, thank you for these heroes and the gentle young lives that they preserved.

I do not pretend to understand this heart-wrenching pain that these parents are having to endure, as I am not a mother myself.  Nor do I pretend to understand the sadness that consumes the families of these brilliant teachers whose lives were taken. I can’t even imagine it nor do I think I could comprehend it even if I tried.

But I do know that these parents and families need and deserve our prayers, our support, our love, our encouragement and our time. I pray that we give them all of that and more.

But more importantly than the community and the world huddling around them, I pray that the King of Kings wraps them in an everlasting comfort that exceeds the sadness and pain their hearts are feeling.

I pray that these sweet angels are remembered forever, as footprints that while still very small, made such an impact on this Earth.

I pray that these incredible, courageous teachers are examples of how we must love one another- without expectation or hesitation.

I pray that it does not take deathly circumstances for us to love like we should, like little children- blindly and beautifully.

Jesus, evil seems so rampant. So obvious. So apparent. So prevalent these days. It seems far too crazy, the world that we live in.

But I pray, deeply and continually, that our response to such events as the Sandy Hooks shooting, is not fear but love.

Jesus, I know you have 20 new little angels and 6 other teacher angels helping you set up class in Heaven right now.

While those here miss them, I thank you that every single color crayon is offered in Heaven, even the skin tone ones that are hard to find in the box.

To the sweet angels up in Heaven right now, you will always be remembered. Your brave spirits and your sweet faces will not ever be forgotten.

Rest in His Peace.

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He is so big.

This will probably sound like a very elementary blog post but it is something I just have not been able to fathom lately. Or ever, really.

Growing up, we all heard phrases about how big our God is and how He made everything that our eyes get to see.

But as I started to think about all that my eyes do see, my mind went into overload!

The oceans?

Yes, He made those. Not just the oceans, but the crashing waves and the break of the tide.

The mountains?

He formed each one, with relation to where it was and what it might do for the people around it. The peaks gather snow, the devits make homes for the animals around and the view from the top is unexplainable.

The plants and the trees.

There are the sunflowers that shine so brightly in the fields and then the soft baby’s breath that whispers softly in the wind. Oak trees stand so sturdy, not even a hurricane can remove their roots and fresh-cut pines bring the smell of Christmas time.

And the PEOPLE.

This alone should conquer the doubts of an athiest. Not one single person in this entire world is the same. Somehow, someway, The Maker masterfully created over six billion different people with their own talents, gifts and personalities. Whether beautiful porcelain or rich-brown skin, deep blue or emerald green eyes, or long curly brown hair or blonde locks, He made EVERY PERSON UNIQUE.

Some are absolutely hilarious comedians and others are brilliant scientists!

But their impact? They can both choose to enrich the Kingdom!

Does that not blow your mind?

Our God is huge!!!

And on top of that, He did not just create the Heavens and the Earth but He is our daily guide, our encourager, our provider of grace and mercy, the King of Kings and our very best friend.

I know some people find it hard to believe that it is possible for God to be so intimately connected to every one of His creations.

It’s like they think that on Mondays, He listens to the prayer requests of all those in Asia, Tuesdays is America, Wednesdays He takes off (it is hump day after all), Thursdays is Europe, and the weekend is devoted to everyone else.

But you see, WE AREN’T SUPPOSED TO UNDERSTAND His incredible might, power and abilities! How WOULD we?! For when He intervenes on our behalf, thworpes the plans of the enemy or reveals something in our lives, that alone is often too much to grasp.

If we can’t comprehend His goodness in our own lives, we certainly can’t expect to understand Him doing that for six billion people while maintaining the brightness of every star in every galaxy. EVER!

So, conclusion here is this: I will always need advil after about 30 minutes of trying to understand how big, mighty, loving, incredible, powerful and gracious my God is.

But I am utterly grateful that such a BIG God recklessly and passionately pursues my heart. My very small, untimely, unworthy and often messed up life is of the utmost importance to my Savior.

I find that astonishing, refreshing and beautiful.

Thank You, God! Thank You!

You are so big. I am so small. But because You love me, you make my small so very very big in Your eyes.

All about the Inside.

There is something I must confess: I love watching The Voice blind auditions. And I often cry watching them.

If you already know this about me, I am sure I’ll receive a text in about five minutes saying “Typical.”

Anyway, I seriously do love watching these auditions!  As I started thinking about why I was watching one last night, it made me really reflect on something.

Our society is absolutely obsessed with image.

I mean, absolutely infatuated with appearance.  We automatically limit people’s abilities based off the way they look. Makes sense right?!

She is overweight, wears glasses and isn’t dressed in the latest designer threads? Yeah, good luck on that stage honey!

His stature is small, he has a gap in his teeth and he stands awkwardly?  No way in the world his voice could sell albums.

Why? Why is our go-to response for someone automatically to criticize them and undermine their gifts?

Truthfully: What are your first thoughts when you meet someone new?

What do you and your friends say about the people who pass by your lunch table and go sit by themselves?

What do your text messages say about people you hardly even know?

Is it true?

Is it kind?

Is it necessary?

Ya know, I think that’s why I love watching these auditions on The Voice. The judges turn their chairs around if they believe the voice they are hearing is capable of moving forward in the competition, not whether they think the contestant looks like a superstar.

Everyone gets a true chance.

As I read in the Bible about what God says about appearance, He continually hits on two points:

  1. Each and every single person He created is beautiful.
  2. The world judges by the outside but Jesus is all about the inside.

I’m not sure when we all became so cocky to think that we know the standard for what is to be considered “beautiful.”

But how about this- we redefine “beautiful” as anything that Jesus made.

And how about we revert to encouragement rather than criticism when we talk about the way people look.

AND how about we stop investing so much stock in the appearance of something or someone and we invest in what really counts.

Hearts change the world.

And all voices deserve to be heard.

Also, some good news: Jesus always turns his chair for every contestant. Always.

 “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” –Proverbs 31:30

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” -1 Peter 3:3-4

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7

BALLIN’ with Coach J.

“Sin is not hurtful because it is forbidden, but it is forbidden because it is hurtful.” –Benjamin Franklin

Have you ever imagined God as a referee, the one who makes sure you play by the “rules” and stay in bounds of life’s game?

I know I have, it’s easy to do that.

We mess up. He blows the whistle. We get penalized, even if we swear our foot wasn’t crossing the line, His word is final.

Just like a referee. They see an out of bounds pass happen, the whistle blows, it’s the other team’s ball.

As I learn more about Jesus, I would be way more inclined to say He is much more of a coach than a referee.

You see, he is not on the sidelines, waiting for us to mess up so he can blow his whistle and reprimand us. We are SO short-changing God and getting it all wrong when we view it that way.

1. Jesus isn’t on the sidelines. He is in the game. He is whispering in your ear, telling you how to handle any opposing targets that may come your way and offering you encouragement to stay on track.

2. Viewing Jesus as a referee means you do not seek him for strategies or advice, you just expect punishment from him when you mess up a play.
a. AND HELLO You can’t expect to win ballgames if you only give Jesus a sideline role!!!

3. Coaches want the best for you! They know your strengths and your weaknesses, the best way you handle a ball –they know you as a player from the inside out.
a. Coaches inform you of the possible punishments so that they can PREVENT you from receiving them and so that you can play the game to the best of your ability and play it right!

Tracing back to my original quote, Jesus doesn’t tell us not to sin because He wants to keep us from having fun. (Seriously, come on now!)

Jesus is like a coach, but you must remember He is also your father. At the end of the day, his rationale for you not making a play is simply because He is protecting you.

Sin is hurtful. It scars and it damages and it tears us apart. But most importantly, it distances us from our father. The louder the sin in our lives, the less we can hear His voice and the farther from home we roam.

Jesus is your coach. But He is also your father and your biggest cheerleader.
Listen to Him. He is the winningest coach in history!

His strategy is failproof. His stats show no losses. He will not let you down but you must be willing to abandon your own gameplan and trust in His.

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m signing up to play on Coach J’s team. I heard if you win the whole series, you live foreva- ain’t never heard of a trophy package like that have ya?! BALLIN’!

p.s. I heard the Coaches’ kids usually get special perks?! SCORE! We’re all in luck!!!

All About Jesus.

I am sure that after reading the first little bit of this next paragraph, that you will feel exactly as I did: “I have already heard this like a thousand times. I know it’s all about Jesus.”

I think we all feel that way. We know this already. 

But just listen and hear me out, okay?

I went to an INCREDIBLE service at a church called Watermark in Dallas. The service is called “The Porch” and it’s located in Dallas (if you’re in that area and you have never been, call me. Come. you won’t regret it). 

Anywho, as I am writing right now, I am trying my best to form the right sentences to accurately resonate the conviction I felt in my heart and the power I felt standing in that place last night. It’s hard to, though. And I am going to be honest, I probably will not be able to do this very well, because, honestly, Jesus is way too good to be described. 

BUT, here goes. I will make this short.

JP, the speaker, started talking about “doing good”, about the strength of the gospel and how it travels by good deeds and about how our hearts should be yearning to do good because we have already received the GREATEST good.

Wait, go back. Did you catch that?

We are not supposed to “do good” because we feel as though we must earn our salvation. HECK no, that’s called grace. It’s the second covenant. It’s the basis of our faith. It’s the reason we have faith and are saved. You can’t earn ANYTHING.

We are not supposed to “do good” because we want to be glorified on this Earth and known as someone who does good. 

We are supposed to do good because we have ALREADY received the GREATEST good when Jesus died for us. It was the absolute greatest gift that anyone could ever give. And He gave it to someone, to everyone, who was and still is far from deserving. 

You see, the people of this world who do not know Jesus? Well, they know you. What does your life say? What does it show about our Jesus?

Jesus says that the world should KNOW that we are His because of the way that we LOVE.

There should be no doubts!!!

They should see the way we treat others, hear the way we speak and know that the way we live our lives is not like the world. It is crazy. And radical. And selfless.

WHY?

Because it’s all about Jesus. 

We do because He already did.

We start offer grace to others because we receive it freely from Him.

We love because He first loved us.

We are bold because He always stood out.

Jesus. His name alone is the greatest good.

My first question is this:

1. Have you accepted His love?

2. If so, what are you doing?…no, really. What are you doing?

There is a war waging.

YOU are a soldier.

Your greatest weapon is love.

That’s not hippie theology, that’s called the Gospel.

 

 

All You Need.

Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a need as a lack of the means of subsistence or a physiological or psychological requirement for the well-being of an organism.

As I was talking to different friends about what they wanted for Christmas, these were some of the statements made.

“I need an iphone 5- way bigger.”

“I need a new pair of boots, I’m just over the ones I have right now.”

“I need liposuction, ate way too much over thanksgiving”.

That last one was said sarcastically, but do you get what I mean?!

We throw around the word “need” like it’s a basketball, pairing it with anything that seems fit for our current life situation.

But more so than the fact that we misuse this term, it is the realization that we actually think we need these things. That, somehow, someway, our lives would be incomplete without them.

I completely understand that some will disagree but you can’t say I am wrong about this: An iphone 5, a pair of boots nor liposuction is something we need.

We might want it. Desire it. Lust for it. Be more “stylish” or “trendy” with it.

But we don’t NEED it.

As I start to make my Christmas list in a text message to my mom, I am overwhelmed with the realization of my own selfishness.

Since when should the majority of my brain cells during this time of year be devoted to figuring out which brand of purse I want?

I just wanted to cry. I am SO sorry, Jesus. I know that my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, and out my own back door, NEED shelter. Not a better-looking home, but a home in general.

They NEED water, because it is essential to our survival. And because of their living conditions, they walk 4 miles every single day to the nearest well and draw from a mud puddle, hoping to find something that can quench their thirst.

They NEED essential things, like a clean pair of underwear so they can fight off the bacteria and dirt that surrounds their village or neighborhood.

Oh man, Jesus, why have I allowed myself to truly believe I need things I don’t and forget those who truly do?

Because it’s convenient.

Because it’s easy.

Because I am not forced to see the tragedy that is out there on a daily basis.

Because my life is busy, okay!!!??

No, Cleere. No.

You have been living for you. What fits YOUR schedule. What is available to do with your resources, after you’ve crossed off your “needs/wants” list, THAT is what you will give away. And your time? You simply don’t have any by the time you go to work, workout, read a little, eat dinner and go to bed!

Guess what? Reality check. Heart check.

You make time.

You give up things so you can help others.

You workout 30 minutes less so you can serve at the homeless shelter two nights a week.

You quit reading about Jesus’ love and you start showing people it, telling them about it, and DOING what He desires for you to do.

To serve Him by serving His people, by loving His people. And really, in turn, that is loving yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not think condemnation and guilt are meant to lead us to serve. Beating yourself up will do NO good, that’s the opposite of what God wants you/me to do!

But He does want us to utilize the here and now.

He does want us to stop talking about how good He is and to show people His goodness.

He does want us to stop just thanking Him for loving us and to demonstrate that love to others.

I’m sorry for writing a novel, but 1. It’s been a while cause I slacked off and 2. It is the truth so I am sharing.

As December continues on, I am praying I approach Christmas, and everyday after that, with a new perspective on what I “need” and a greater attention to what others need.

Jesus, I pray for my heart and my friends’ hearts. It is not that we are evil or trying to ignore our brothers and sisters, but rather it is the standard in this world to only think of ourselves.

However, you tell us over and over that we are not of this world.

We are made by, for and in You.

And You crave and yearn for your children to be Your hands and feet, to be Your heart to those who may not know You or those who already do but they need Your love!

Lord, I pray we stop reading Your commandments and we begin doing them.

Your goodness and Your love is too much for us to grasp but may we desire it first and foremost, for it really is the only thing that we need.

Jesus, thank you for choosing to use a flawed and messed up person, like me, to show Your incredible love to other people.

In Jesus name, Amen!

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” -John 13:17