Jesus is For You – A Book Review

jesus is for you cover

Jesus Is For You by Judah Smith is a small little gift book filled with beautiful pictures, stories and verses that all communicate the truth that Jesus is entirely and completely on your side and in your corner.  I love Judah Smith.  I love his passion to help all people realize how deeply God loves them.  This book does just that.  This would be a great book to give to a new Christian – perhaps a Baptism gift or something that could be given out in a new Christian’s class.  It is both beautiful and encouraging.  It’s also a very easy and quick read.  The majority of the book is filled with quotes, verses and beautiful pictures.  It could very easily be used as a daily devotional book or to provide verses that one could memorize.  This little book is broken up into three sections (Jesus is…, Jesus Gives…, & Jesus is there when…).  Each section has stories from various individuals about grace, transformation, Christ encounters and salvation.

Regardless of your story, you can find encouragement in this little book by Judah Smith.  You might even gain a better understanding of who Jesus really is and what that means for you.  This book is light in words, but rich in love and inspiration.  Click the picture below to order your copy.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review – all opinions are my own.


Short Answers to BIG Questions about God, the Bible & Christianity – A Book Review

short answers

I was really excited about this book as a resource for helping to answer questions that I get asked on a regular basis.  The authors, Clinton and Jeff Arnold, attempt to answer 50 of the most asked questions about God, Christianity and the Bible.  The book is divided into 9 sections, each with 3-8 questions relating to the topics of the Bible, life after death, the supernatural, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and several other topics.  Each of the questions is answered in only a few pages and includes key scripture passages and discussion questions.

I believe this book was intended to help new Christians or those curious about Christianity to find brief answers and scripture resources for general questions about Christianity.  For this purpose, it’s not a bad resource.  I do believe that the authors probably bit off more than they could chew in that many of these questions couldn’t possibly be answered properly in only a few paragraphs.  For example, the second question in the book is “Are there errors in the Bible?”.  The authors attempt to answer this by giving only a few examples of seeming contradictions and refuting them by saying that they are simply not contradictions.  There is very little explanation.  There is actually more intro and opinion than actual answers in most of the chapters.  While I do agree with the authors, I wish they had chosen to answer fewer questions with more in-depth answers.

I do, however, love the discussion questions and key passages attached to each question and believe this to be the most valuable part of this resource.  I also love that they addressed questions that the church doesn’t often talk about, such as “Why are there hypocrites in the church?” or “Does God hate sex?” or even “Why does God feel distant?”  There are several very good discussions that could be started by the questions in this book.

While I’m not sure this book actually answers all of the questions it poses, it might be a great resource to at least begin the discussion.

Teaching Kindness to Kids


One of the most important qualities we can teach our children is kindness.  It’s the quality that I appreciate in others more than almost any other quality.  Kindness speaks to our hearts and soothes our souls.  A word of kindness at the right time can heal a wounded heart or encourage a broken spirit.  Kindness is not usually the natural way of people.  It’s certainly not always the easiest way to go.

Chuck Swindoll once said, “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.”  This is probably the most significant quote I have ever read and I teach it to others often.  I have found (in my enormously long life) that life is hard and that people are mean.  The only way to make it through it is to choose how to react to it.  Take back the control.  Treat other people differently than they treat us.  Choose to see other people through the eyes of compassion.

I want my kids to be kind kids who grow up to be kind adults.  But how do we accomplish this?  We have to be intentional about teaching our kids to be kind.  Here are some ways we can do that…

MODEL IT IN YOUR HOME.  In our home, we try to be very careful how we speak to each other.  We don’t use rude words.  We don’t yell.  We try to model kindness in our speech.  We use the words ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ – even when asking our kids to do something – even if they’re making us crazy.  This may seem simple, but I promise it will rub off more than you can imagine.

We also fight fair.  We don’t yell or scream at each other (it’s kind of a rule in our house).  Sometimes we mess up, of course – but when we do, we apologize and forgive.  We want our kids to know how to talk to each other in a kind way.  Even when they disagree.  Even when they’re hurt.  We always say “you can be mad, but you can’t be mean.”  I think it’s such an important thing for all of us to remember in relationships – you can be mad, but you can’t be mean.

MODEL IT IN COMMUNITY.  We want our kids to see people as people.  Not as cars.  Not as objects that are in their way.  We want to see people as people – people with a family and a story.  We talk kindly to people we meet and encourage our kids to be kind too.  We open doors for people.  We drive kindly (this is a big one for me – you are not a kind person if you drive like a jerk!).  We also want them to think about other people’s feelings, so we talk about it a lot.

When my oldest was in elementary and middle school (back when they were in public school), she always made friends with the ones that were ignored by everyone else or the ones that were picked on for whatever reason.  Her heart is a kind heart.  She sees people as people.  She is never rude.  I learn so very much from her desire that all people are loved and accepted.  Truly.

ENCOURAGE IT BETWEEN SIBLINGS.  When my girls argue, it is almost always because someone is being selfish or thoughtless.  When they bring the dispute to me (which they almost always do – and in the most dramatic fashion) I always ask 2 questions: 1) Are you being kind?  2) Are you thinking of yourself or others?  They always answer honestly and they almost always immediately apologize to each other.  I’m sure this won’t always work out this way, but for now I am treasuring it.

A former pastor of mine taught us a phrase once that I have often used on my own kids.  Whenever his kids would say “I didn’t MEAN to!”  He would reply, “You didn’t mean NOT to.”  Relationships require intentionality.  Communication requires intentionality.  We have to be purposeful and careful with our words to each other.  Kindness is not always our natural, go-to reaction to other people – we must be intentional about kindness – especially in families!

CELEBRATE IT IN OTHERS.  Whenever we see someone being kind, we acknowledge it.  We want our kids to see how much we value kindness by celebrating it in other people.  I am privileged to work with some incredibly kind people.  Often I will come into my office and find a vase of flowers, a card, a gift, or a note of encouragement from either a co-worker or a ministry volunteer.  I cannot tell you how much these acts of kindness mean to me.  Every time it happens, I can’t wait to show my kids!  I want them to see how the kindness of others has blessed their mom.  I want them to see kindness as a gift so that they will want to give that gift away to others too!

REMEMBER THAT KINDNESS IS FOR EVERYONE.  I’m still learning this.  I think I will always be learning this.  There are always moments when I want to fight for my own rights rather than extend grace, compassion or kindness to others.  I want to be kind, until fear or prejudice or selfishness gets in the way.  I think everyone is able to be kind to people who are just like them – that’s easy.  But what about those who are different?  Or those we disagree with?  Or those who have hurt us?  That’s when the real work of kindness begins.  I think sometimes that our kids understand the “no-matter-whatness” of kindness better than we ever could.  Perhaps we could learn from them what it looks like to be the same kind of person to everyone we come across – regardless of our differences.  We need to pursue the kind of kindness that will help us to see people – all people – through the eyes of a loving Father.

If we want to teach kindness to our kiddos – we have to start by teaching kindness to ourselves.  Let’s model it in our homes.  Let’s model it in community.  Let’s encourage it among siblings.  Let’s celebrate it whenever we see it in others.  And most importantly, let’s remember that kindness is for EVERYONE!

“God is compassionate, loving kindness.  All we’re asked to do is to be in the world who God is.”

“Compassion is always, at its most authentic, about a shift from the cramped world of self-preoccupation into a more expansive place of fellowship, of true kinship.”

– Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart

The Fullness of His Love


“An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children.  He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others…   His love has not changed.  It hasn’t cooled off, and it needs no increase because He has already loved us with infinite love and there is no way that infinitude can be increased…

He is the same yesterday, today and forever!”

– A. W. Tozer

As a mom of five, I find this quote to be so very beautiful.  I very much desire to give each of my children all of myself every single day of their lives so that they will never want for motherly affection, understanding or attention.  I also know how incredibly difficult it is to feel that there is enough of me to go around sometimes.  As a parent, I have to prioritize the needs of my children in order to make sure everyone gets taken care of.  I have to actually spend time figuring out how to “fit it all in” every single day.  I don’t want any of my children to ever feel neglected, ignored or less important than anyone else – although I’m sure that from time to time they do.  Although I LOVE being a mother and having a large family, I have to admit that I often feel ill-equipped for the task.

Thankfully, the same is not true of God.  He does not have to split His attention between His children. He never has to sacrifice time with one child in order to spend time with another one.  He does not ever feel stretched, spent, tired, weary or unable to “fit it all in”.  Tozer said, “…to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.”

Ephesians 3:14-19 says:

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

That we may be filled with ALL the fullness of God!  What a beautiful thought!

There is a song by John Legend that I cannot seem to stop singing lately.  I love the lyrics of this song.  It, of course, was written for his wife but the words of the chorus are such a beautiful picture of love with a whole heart – love to the fullest.  I wonder if this is at least a small glimpse of the way that God loves each one of us – deeply, unconditionally, fully as if there were no others.

“Cause all of me loves all of you

Love your curves and all your edges – all your perfect imperfections

Give your all to me, I’ll give my all to you

You’re my end and my beginning – even when I lose I’m winning

Cause I give you all of me – and you give me all of you.”

I hope you’ll take a moment today to reflect on the way that God loves you – the fullness and sufficiency of His love.

Rest in His infinite love today – He is more than enough for you!

for love…for truth…for mercy


There seems to be a lot of judgment going around church circles lately. Or maybe I’m just more keenly aware of it than ever before. I know that Christians are often believed to be judgmental by those who are not Christians. However, I have never felt that way…until recently. I have always believed that Christians were more loving than judging and more accepting than condemning. Again, perhaps I have missed it or ignored it somehow. Or perhaps, with society’s enormous push towards “tolerance”, some Christians have felt the need to be even more vocal about what they believe to be so very wrong.

I may get myself in trouble here. You may not agree with me – and that’s completely okay with me. However, I just don’t understand the need to be so very vocal about what everyone around you (especially those who are not Christ followers) might be doing wrong according to your viewpoint. I hate the word “tolerance”. I don’t understand the need for the word. I wish that people were kind enough and loving enough that the word “tolerance” wouldn’t have to be such a huge thing right now.

I don’t want to just “tolerate” people! I want to learn to love them! In every situation, every family, every group – there will be people we don’t get along with and we have to learn to “get along” or “tolerate” each other for the sake of the bigger picture. Yes. True. However, a Christian is not meant to “tolerate” their neighbor – we are meant to love them! (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:30-31).

But SO often we are known for our intolerance rather than our love – intolerance to love – what a HUGE gap that is! What are we teaching our kids? To love only those who agree with us? To love them, but to make sure they know they are wrong? Is that really love at all? I don’t think it is. It breaks my heart to see so many groups of people treated so very poorly by the Christian community. Disclaimer: I know SO many Christians who are so very loving and accepting of all of those groups – so I know it’s probably more the exception than the rule. But isn’t it true that one bad apple spoils the whole bunch?! I don’t ever want to be that bad apple! No wonder people don’t feel welcome in the church when well-known pastors are tweeting about God’s judgment of people via the tornadoes, when there are churches like Westboro Baptist who judge and hate all men equally (unless they are exactly like them).

I understand that God’s truth is important. I understand that the Bible is full of truth and conviction, and that it is “alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12). But there are so many Christians these days who believe it is their responsibility to “divide soul and spirit, joints and marrow and to judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Yes – it is our responsibility to speak truth….in love…at the appropriate time…and by the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit. I am a truth teller. I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when I believe something “wrong” is happening. I understand the desire to set people right. I really do. I also understand that the purpose of truth telling HAS to be setting people right, helping people grow, loving them with our words and our purposes – NOT judging them or hurting them. Some things are not your business, pastor. Some things should NOT be said in public forums – or at all for that matter. What is the purpose of your words? To judge or to love? Conviction or compassion? To tear down or to build up? Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth but only what is useful for building others up.” I have that one memorized. Not because I am awesome at it – but because I’m not. I have to pay very close attention to my words – every – single – day. Or I’ll slip. I’ll judge. I’ll show hate instead of love. I don’t ever want to be known for what I stand against – but rather what I stand for.
Jesus stood for love. for peace. for acceptance. for grace. for truth. for mercy and kindness.

Want to be more like Jesus? I do. I don’t want those around me to be reluctant to let me in for fear that I might judge them. Heck – I don’t want to be reluctant to let people in for fear that they may judge me!
I want to be a true Christ “follower”. I want to stand for love….for truth…and for mercy!

A Swift Blow to the Head

For about a week I’ve been feeling like I recently got the wind knocked out of me.  Then yesterday I literally had a bucket of cleaning supplies fall on my head.  I just stood there trying not to lose my lunch and trying hard not to cry – although I could not keep the tears from filling my eyes.  I wasn’t sure what to do – should I lay down? Should I sit?  Should I call someone in case I pass out so the girls won’t be left alone with their mom laying limp on the floor – I know, I know – I’m terribly dramatic.  I had no idea what to do.  I knew what I wanted to do – I wanted to be held by my big, strong husband and told that it was going to be okay and then I wanted to eat a bunch of cheesecake.  Exactly how I have been feeling all week.  In fact, today I made a pan of cheesecake only to accidentaly spill a cup of lemonade all over it ruining it.  Sad.
I wish I could tell you that I have some profound new understanding of my situation and what I’m supposed to learn through all of it – but I don’t.  I am still sitting here feeling exactly the same way I did at the beginning of this week – windless. 

I have been reading the book of Ruth for the last few weeks – little by little.  I believe that Naomi, and Ruth too for that matter, must have felt something similar although probably on a much larger scale.  I’m sure they felt, when they lost their loved ones, that they just had the wind knocked out of them.  They had left Judah because of a famine and went to Moab. While there, Naomi’s husband died and eventually also her two sons died.  They had left their home, the only place they had ever known and had ended up somewhere entirely new.  After some time there, the new place became a place of sorrow – a place of great loss.  Naomi had a moment, I am sure, where she didn’t know what to do next.  She must have been scared, confused, angry, sad – and a hundred other emotions to be sure. 

I feel that way right now.  I recently left a place that felt like home to me and ended up in another place where I knew no one.  Although I am still certain that I was following God’s leading in leaving my comfortable place and going to the place He called me, I am now fighting with the feeling that it might’ve been easier if I hadn’t gone there at all.  It would’ve hurt less if I had stayed where I was comfortable.  It would have saved myself and my family a lot of hurt if I had just ignored God’s call.  I wonder if Abraham ever felt like that?  Or if David ever thought it would’ve been easier if he had remained a shepherd boy instead of becoming the King that God desired.  Or if Peter, while sinking in the Sea of Galilee, thought maybe he should’ve stayed in the boat?  I know it’s not necessarily the right thing for me to be wondering right now – but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. 

I know that God’s purpose for me remains, and I know that He is as loving as He has always been.  I also know that I am a different person than I was three months ago and that God will work it all out for His glory.
He is, after all, still God.  He is just.  He is good.  Although I don’t understand the why of it all, or what I’m supposed to learn from it all – and maybe I never will – I DO know that I would follow Him there all over again.  A hundred times again – I would.  I love the Lord, Jesus Christ, with all my heart and soul and am committed to living wholeheartedly for him and to following wherever He leads.

There’s a song that I have recently fallen in love with that seems appropriate right now for me.  It’s called What Grace is Mine, written by Keith & Kristyn Getty and is on their album, “Awaken the Dawn“.  Here are some of the lyrics:

So I will go wherever He is calling me. 
I’ll lose my life to find my life in Him.
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies. 
I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him.

Learn to do Good. Seek Justice. Help the Opressed…

I read this passage today in my quiet time.  I can’t get it out of my mind.  I know that it’s just sitting there waiting to mess me up entirely.  I hope so.  I can’t wait for God to mess me up.  Here’s what it said…

“Wash yourselves and be clean!  Let me no longer see your evil deeds.  Give up your wicked ways. 

Learn to do good.

Seek Justice.

Help the opressed.

Defend the orphan.

Fight for the rights of widows.

Come now, let us argue this out, says the LORD.  No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it.  I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow.  Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool.  If you will only obey me and let me help you, then you will have plenty to eat.  But if you keep turning away and refusing to listen, you will be destroyed by your enemies.  I, the LORD, have spoken!”

Isaiah 1:16-20

My little lost sheep

Last night as we were getting ready to go to church for rehearsal, at some point Maya went missing.  I thought she was in the play room with the other two girls and I slipped away to go brush my teeth and hair while Ricky loaded the carseats in the car.  I came back a few minutes later to get them cleaned up and dressed.  I called for Maya but she didn’t come.  So I started searching (not worried, just in a bit of a hurry).  Couldn’t find her anywhere.  I called to Ricky to help me find her – still thinking that she must be hiding behind a chair or table somewhere.  My house isn’t that big so when I didn’t find her in about five minutes I started to panic.  I called to Syd and Elisa to help us look.  We looked in bathtubs, closets, cabimets, in laundry baskets, in the back yard and the front yard all while calling out her name.  After about ten or fifteen minutes of searching high and low I called 911. 
He started asking me questions about how much she weighed or how tall she was, her date of birth, what she was wearing – most of which I couldn’t remember because of the state of mind that I was in.
About a hundred scenarios rushed through my mind as I was running up and down my street calling her little name terrified that she wouldn’t be found.
As the police were less than a minute away (I heard sirens), Elisa came out the front door yelling that they found her!  At first I didn’t believe it – I said “What do you mean you found her?” confused at how she could just suddenly show back up.  Apparently she was hiding in the very back of my closet behind the low hanging clothes.  What’s crazy is that I looked in that closet twice – and even looked behind that rack of clothes!  I called to her when I was looking in there and she didn’t answer.  I still am very curious about what was going through her little mind as she hid for 30 minutes without a peep while we were frantically calling for her to come out.
I can’t even put to words how I felt when I thought she was lost – and how I felt after she had been found.

I wonder if that’s how God feels about us.  I wonder if He feels that same kind of pain when we’re trying to hide from Him and refusing to be found.  I know that He knows where we are and so doesn’t experience fear.  I wonder, though, if the pain He feels for His lost sheep is anything like the pain I felt last night about my little lost sheep.  I wonder if, when His lost sheep return if He feels anything like I did last night when mine showed back up.

I think the part of all of it that still amazes me is that when we found Maya she had no idea anything was happening.  I couldn’t control my sobbing when I was finally holding her again – and she just kept looking at me trying to figure out what in the heck was wrong with her crazy mommy.  She had no idea that she was the one that caused the pain.

I have a feeling that there’s a lesson there for us.  I’m still a little too weary and shaken up to explore it fully.  But I know this.  If God loves me more than I love Maya (and I know He does b/c He’s the source of the love in the first place), then I know He must feel so much more deeply than I ever could for His lost sheep.  It makes me want to pray so much harder for those lost sheep who mean everything to Him.  It makes me want to look at people differently when I know how deeply the Father cares for them.

Last night was the hardest night of my life so far (and I’ve had really hard ones!).  I pray that God will use what I’ve learned for His glory.

Wait, Wait, Wait your turn…

I had a bit of a revelation today during Bible study class.  We were talking about waiting on God and how hard it is to trust in His timing. 

Ever since my oldest daughter was little, I wanted her to be good at waiting.  I think it’s hugely important for us to teach our kids that waiting is important and that they can’t always have what they want immediately when they want it.  It’s so annoying to see a child chanting over and over again what they want and how they want it NOW!  I really, really didn’t want my child to be like that.  So, when Elisa was about 2 or so, I taught her a ‘waiting’ song to make it more fun while she had to wait for something – her turn when playing with friends, for her food to be ready to eat – you get the idea.  The song went like this (to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat)…

Wait, wait, wait your turn – waiting can be fun.
Patience, Patience, Patience everyone.

We sang it over and over and over again.  We would sing it on long car rides when she wanted to be home already, or when she wanted so badly to go play at the park but I had some chores to do first.  It was actually really effective with her.  She had fun with the song.  I think it helped me to teach her that waiting can be fun and how to deal with things that aren’t happening as quickly as she would like.  Even now when she has trouble with waiting, I remind her of the song and she’ll sing it by herself (sidenote: I have the best kid ever 🙂

I wonder if I need my own grown up version of the ‘waiting’ song. 

I have such a hard time waiting on God’s timing in just about every area of my life.  I wonder if sometimes He is using my circumstances to teach me about the importance of learning to wait on Him.  I wonder if I will ever learn the lesson.  You would think that each time would get a little easier, or that I would at least be a little less impatient than the last time.  Sadly, I’m not sure that’s the case.  I hope that today I’ve made progress – and that tomorrow I’ll be more patient.

I can almost hear Him inviting me to sing along with Him –
“Wait, wait, wait your turn…waiting can be fun. 
Patience, patience, patience everyone.”

View from the Fishbowl

I was driving home from my parents house yesterday.  I came to where a small road intersects with a much bigger one.  I was sitting at the light (first one in line) waiting to turn left on the bigger road.  There was a man behind me in a big pickup truck.  He obviously wanted to turn right and was quite annoyed that I was in his way (he could have turned right on red).  He kept turning on and off his blinker and edging a tiny bit closer to my bumper every few seconds to make sure I knew that I was in his way.  I honestly thought it was a little funny, but was also a bit annoyed at his lack of patience and kindness.

Tonight as I was laying in bed trying desperately to sleep, God brought back to mind that encounter.  I began to wonder how often I behave that way.  How often do I wish that those around me would either go my way or just get out of my way altogether?  I’m not talking about driving.  I’m talking about life.  About ministry.  About relationships.  I often get annoyed or impatient with people not doing things the way that makes the most sense to me.  Sometimes even at God.  I often wish that God would do things in a way that makes sense to me.  I often find myself wondering, “Now why’d you do it that way, God?” 

The man in that truck knew nothing about me, my route, my life…but he was annoyed that I was making things harder for him.  It was all about him.  So often we get stuck in the ‘but what about me’ mindset and forget that “God is painting on a canvas bigger than we can see or comprehend”.  Our little piece of the puzzle is just that – a little piece.  When I begin to think I deserve, desire, wish, want or need anything apart from what God says I need – I miss the bigger picture.  I’m seeing things from inside the fishbowl. 

Often God won’t let me go to sleep until He’s told me what He needed to tell me – until my will is surrendered to His – until my heart is about obedience and the things of God.  Tonight is a night like that. 

My prayer for tonight is that God will help me to step outside of myself, my problems, my hurt, my confusion and try to see things from an eternal perspective instead of from my tiny little fishbowl.