Kris Mares

Just a woman trying to love Jesus and others a little bit more…

A Collection of 12 Stones May 18, 2016

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 8:09 am
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I have  a small stone collection. Nothing fancy. They aren’t gemstones or even pretty polished stones, but each one means something to me. Each one has a story. Stones from streets in foreign countries. Stones from youth retreats. Stones from a class. Each stone reminds me of an important time and lesson in my life.

Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ Joshua 4:20-22

Joshua had a rock collection too. Well really, it was the Hebrew people. But it was so much more than just a rock collection.

The back story: The first generation of Hebrew people brought out of slavery had died. Their rebellion had a consequence. Moses didn’t get to see the fulfillment of the promise he was given by God. So the next generation, who had been born in the wilderness and knew nothing of slavery, was getting the chance to cross the River Jordan and see the land promised to their ancestors. That generation would receive blessing of God’s faithfulness to their parents and grandparents. Not because they were great – they were rebellious people too – but because it was God’s faithfulness that brought them to that point.

Yes, they would have to fight for the land. Yes they would have to continue to seek God’s direction in the midst of hardship and battle and chaos. They had their own faith to live out now. But I wonder if that is why God instructed Joshua (the leader that followed Moses), to have the leaders of the tribes to get a stone and build an altar. If you read the story closely (Joshua 4), it looks like Joshua also built an altar, right in the middle of the River Jordan, one that would be covered by water, but ever-present. God knew that when times got tough again, the people would falter, would doubt their God, would find it easier to place their trust in the ways of the culture than the ways of God. And yes, when times were so bad, that even the rushing waters of the river seemed dried up, there would be a deeply revealed reminder of God’s deep love.

You see, the 12 bank stones and the 12 stones at the bottom of the river are a reminder that God’s faithfulness began long before us and is a part of our story, our faith. God knew that when we are in the midst of the battles of today, we need a reminder that God has provided for us, protected us, guided us and remained ever faithful to us.

We need reminders of God’s work in our own life and in the lives of our family. As new generations of family grow in faithfulness to God we must tell the stories of how God worked in our life and in the midst of our family.

FullSizeRender (11)You see, one day, my kids will ask me what my stones are all about and I will tell them the stories. Joshua explained the same thing. He told the Hebrew people who one day their children would ask what the pile of stones meant and we are to tell the stories.

We need to tell the stories of our doubts, our struggles, our rebellion and God’s faithfulness. We are to tell the stories to others, not because we’ll get some kind of accolade, but because those stories give others hope that if God could be that for us, maybe God would do that for them. We need to leave visual reminders for ourselves and for others so that in the midst of the hard battles of life, we are reminded that God is faithful and God loves us, even in the midst of our rebellion, our doubts and our life chaos.

So today, leave a stone in your life. Think about the times God has been faithful and leave a stone reminder. Tell those stories to you children, to your friends, and yes, maybe even on social media.

And take the time to ask your parents and your parents’ parents about their stories.

May God’s faithfulness and goodness abound.

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After a Bad Day May 16, 2016

Filed under: Marriage — Kris @ 9:48 am
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They happen don’t they? Bad days happen. Whether it is work, home or just the weather, bad days happen.

Yesterday was one of those days. Racer had a bad day at the office and I couldn’t do anything to fix it. I was sad for him too. I was frustrated for him too. He couldn’t fix it and I couldn’t fix it. And to top it off at home, the garbage disposal stopped working and our toilet is leaking. The kids didn’t nap and I was tired and short fused.

So what happens next?

Too often, I think we married folks take out our bad days on our spouse. We yell at him, ignore her, demand this, whine about that and overall just act unpleasant and un-graced-filled.

I can think of lots of times I’ve done that. The toilet and garbage disposal had nothing to do with Racer. The kids not napping wasn’t his fault. I wasn’t even at the track, so couldn’t have caused the wreck. Neither of us caused or influenced the frustrating events of the day.

So we both had a choice.

We could take it out on eachother. We’ve done it before.

But this time… This time we didn’t.

Instead, as we were texting back and forth before Racer’s plane brought him home, he says “Nah that’s ok. I can leave it all in Dover.”

I appreciate that Racer can do that.

So I asked “Tell me one good thing about your day so far.”

Instead of taking our frustrations of the day out on each other, last night, we paused, and turned it around. We looked for the bright spot in the day and made home a place of peace.

When Racer got home, I didn’t ask him to fix anything and he didn’t talk about work.

Instead, we talked about the good.

See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.          1Thessalonians 5:15-24

It was no good for either of us to belabor the frustrations of the day. Instead, we can give thanks for work that provides, homes that shelter, running water and each other. We can hold fast to that which is good in our day and in the larger picture of life. Bad races will go away. Toilets and garbage disposals can be fixed. Kids will eventually go to sleep.

So today, the frustrations can be considered anew. Things still need fixed, but our relationship which is WAY more important than the other stuff, our relationship is okay. It wasn’t damaged in the aftermath of a bad day.

So today, we again give thanks.

Perhaps you can too. Perhaps, one day at a time, you can leave the bad day at the office. You can pause the barrage of vocalizing the frustrations. Perhaps you can flip the day and find the things for which you and your spouse can give thanks. Perhaps you can hold fast to that which is good.

Perhaps when you do, when we do,we can tackle the frustrations of the day before with a new perspective and fresh approach. It ain’t easy some days, but rest assured that when we try, the God of Peace will help us and slowly, thankfulness and grace will be our default setting. Even after a bad day.

 

How I Messed Up Mother’s Day May 10, 2016

FullSizeRender (8)I got breakfast in bed (and it was good). My coffee was made for me. The church pews were full (my heart feels really happy about that). Lunch was prepared. They gave me space for a nap. I was given a gift certificate for time at a local spa.

So why in the world was I such a crab about it all?

Seriously, I messed up Mother’s Day. I ranted. I railed. I cried. I was sad. I was mad.

And I didn’t want it to be like that.

Saturday night, I had even prayed about Mother’s Day. I had asked God to help me be grateful. To help me be kind. To help me not mess it up.

And then I went and did the thing I did not want to do.

As Paul puts it in his letter to the Romans (and maybe also to me?):

For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. (Romans 7:19-21, NASB)

Or as Eugene Peterson translates it:

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’treally do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. (Romans 7:17-23, The Message)

I wanted to be a grateful mother. I wanted to be an appreciative wife. I wanted to be good and do good. I even asked God for help. And then, I went and screwed it all up.

Or did I?

Perhaps it was the sin that is within me that screwed it up. Perhaps the force of evil at work in the world tried to win.

Perhaps you’ve been there. Maybe it wasn’t Mother’s Day you messed up. Maybe it was Christmas or your birthday or a kid’s birthday or just a special family day. You wanted to make it special. You wanted to feel loved. You wanted to receive the gestures of love and appreciation those around you shared.

But somehow, even though your desire was there, sin crept in. Sin took over. Sin seemed to win.

But shhh… I want to let you in on a little something.

Sin doesn’t win.

Jesus already did.

Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross and Jesus still reigns on the throne, sitting at the right hand of God the Father, redeeming those moments, those days, those times when you know what you ought to do. Redeeming those moments, those days, those times when you want to do good. Redeeming those moments, those days those times when sin seems to win.

Jesus wins.

So as I curled under the covers in my bed, crying and pleading and confessing to God (and let’s be real, texting my best friend about it all), I knew what I had to do. I had to apologize.

I hate it when that happens.

So just before Racer put the younger boys to bed, I called them all in and I apologized. I said I was sorry for being unappreciative, for being grouchy and for not being loving.

You know what happened.

Jesus’ victory came.

I got hugs and kisses. One child said “You know, we should have a Mother’s Day do over.”

Yes, baby, we should.

Today, one child said it was his Mother’s Day do over and he was going to be nice to me.

Yes, baby, I’ll be nice too.

Grace.

Jesus wins.

Love wins.

 

A Digging Place May 4, 2016

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 7:19 am
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There is this little spot on the church grounds that I love. It is right next to the entrance to the Fellowship Hall. It’s a little space, where at the end of winter, signs of new life begin to emerge. Daffodils begin to poke through the ground, reminding me that New Life always comes. A couple of years ago, a kind person took the time to make that area lovely for the summer. Weed tarp went down, mulch went down, stepping-stones and new plants went in. The daffodils were covered and while I was grateful for the kind-hearted generosity, I was sad about the daffodils.

Next spring though, the daffodils came back up! I was so happy and it was a small grace of God, a reminder that sometimes people try to cover over signs of New Life, but New Life always wins!

After a couple of years though, the work of the kind person and the tenacious daffodils have continued to battle and we had to change the area. It just didn’t look good and so it was time to dig.

The space is now a real mess and the work was sweaty. I used a good shovel, dug deep and salvaged the bulbs. The weed tarp was pulled up and the space will be ready for something new. We’ll be transforming that little space into the entrance of a small prayer garden.

You see, sometimes, in order to make room for the new thing God is doing, we have to dig deep. We have to dig deep into what we thought we knew about God. We have to dig deep into what we think we see in scripture. We have to dig deep into the traditions we hold so dearly close. We have to dig up what seems good in order to make room for God.

But that doesn’t mean the good has to go. Sometimes, it just needs worked over and replanted in a new place at the right time. Those daffodils will still be a sign of new life each spring. In the fall (at the right time) they will be replanted in the prayer garden as a reminder of the deep traditions of the congregation. Each year, as they break forth from the cold winter soil, the daffodils will remind those that come to pray that New Life does indeed break forth from the long, cold, dark nights of the soul.

“I am the Lord, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to graven images.
“Behold, the former things have come to pass,
Now I declare new things;
Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.”

Sing to the Lord a new song,
Sing His praise from the end of the earth!
You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it.
You islands, and those who dwell on them. -Isaiah 42:8-10 (NASB)

Sometimes, the work of ministry is allowing the Holy Spirit to do some digging up. Digging up unhealthy notions of self. Digging up judgemental attitudes about others. Digging up ungraceful images of God. Digging up the “former things” to make room for the “new things” that are to come.
Maybe you are in a digging place right now. If so, I know the digging part is really hard. It hurts. It seems lonely. It leaves you all a mess, not sure if anything good will actually come and frustrated that nothing looks like it’s supposed to.
Take comfort friend. Even though you are in a digging place, New Life will spring forth.
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” -Revelation 21:5 (NASB)
It may be sometime before it happens. That New Thing has to be planted in the right place at the right time. And even then, there may be a wait before the promise comes. But it will come. Until then, perhaps a small comfort can be found in the strength you are gaining through the digging.
If you are in a digging place and would like prayer, please comment below. It would be my honor to pray for you.
 

The Best Yes April 29, 2016

This year, I am on a journey of wellness. I’ve been reading and working on “inside stuff” in order to bring some healing and health to “outside stuff.” Inner work for outer health. I am learning to be healthy and whole, inside and out.

Part of that journey is learning how to make my yes mean yes and my no mean no. For a people pleasing, think I can do it all, caretaker, extrovert like me, that is harder than it may seem. Like my plate at the end of a buffet line, I often find my schedule and “to do” list overflowing with lots of good things, not enough room to really enjoy any of them and I am left feeling overstuffed, tired and not really satisfied.

So The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst got put in my “to read” pile. From her website:

Lysa TerKeurst is learning that there is a big difference between saying yes to everyone and saying yes to God. In The Best Yes she will help you:

  • Cure the disease to please with a biblical understanding of the command to love.
  • Escape the guilt of disappointing others by learning the secret of the small no.
  • Overcome the agony of hard choices by embracing a wisdom based decision-making process.
  • Rise above the rush of endless demands and discover your Best Yes today.

511tofxnmol-_sx326_bo1204203200_Some of what she said was not new to me, but it reminded me to constantly put God’s priorities for me first. I needed those reminders. The stories she told from her life reminded me that I am never alone in my struggle to say yes, no, not right now.

Best of all, I know that I don’t need to feel guilty when I say no. I don’t. No is a complete sentence. And while there are many things in life that are good things, that I may want to say yes to, I must consider if it is a “best yes” for me at this time, with the resources I currently have and the call that God has before me. Sometimes, a no now may be a yes later. If I want to live a life worthy of my callings, I have to give yeses that fit with those callings.

Hard but necessary. Difficult but true.

Again you have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago:Don’t make a false solemn pledge, but you should follow through on what you have pledged to the Lord. But I say to you that you must not pledge at all. You must not pledge by heaven, because it’s God’s throne. You must not pledge by the earth, because it’s God’s footstool. You must not pledge by Jerusalem, because it’s the city of the great king. And you must not pledge by your head, because you can’t turn one hair white or black. Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one.                                                                                            -Jesus as recorded in Matthew 5:33-37, CEB

So, here’s to me following through on what I have pledged to God, letting my yes be a best yes and my no be understood by those who receive it.

Have you read The Best Yes? Comment below and tell me what you thought or share your struggle with letting your yes be yes and your no be no.

 

P.S. If you’d like to order The Best Yes, I highly recommend the read. Just click on any of the links above (they are affiliate links).

P.P.S. Remember, I’m starting a Make Over Your Mornings journey on Sunday! Please join me in the study and we can share what we’ve learned together!

 

Beyond the food April 20, 2016

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 2:57 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

This week, our local food bank put out a message that they are in “urgent need” of food for the food pantry. I’m sure you’ve seen it before in your community. Certain times of the year are great for people giving food and volunteering, but then the warmer weather comes, people are still hungry and we forget about them. Many times, when a request for food donations is made, this passage comes with it:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40, The Message)

Maybe you’ve read it before. It’s what we often use to tell people that they need to give to the ministries that do these things. Give food. Help build the shelter. Donate school uniforms. Send prison missionaries.

But it goes beyond that. It goes beyond the food. Jesus is the one talking in the passage above. How did people feed Jesus? They invited him to sit around their table. Table fellowship is exemplified over and over and over in the Gospels. Jesus and the disciples gathered around the table and shared a meal with all kinds of people. Their friends, tax collectors, children, sinners.

Feeding the hungry goes beyond the food. Yes, donating food/money to the local food pantry is important. Please do, but also consider how you can go beyond the food. Consider how we might share around the table with those who are food insecure. Instead of just handing the drive-thru bag to the person on the corner with the cardboard sign, how about parking, walking over, and inviting him/her to join you inside for a meal as your guest? Instead of just dropping off a bag of groceries to that neighbor anonymously, what about inviting that family over for dinner once a week and sending the plentiful leftovers home with them? Instead of just giving a box of food to the pantry, what about giving time to help distribute the food, serve a meal, or sit and have conversation while eating with the guests at the shelter?

That whole “you did it to me” thing goes beyond the food. It goes to relationship. If giving food to the hungry means that we gave food to Jesus, then perhaps being in fellowship around the table means that we’ve actually been in fellowship with Jesus.

Think about that one.

Hanging out with the overlooked and ignored might just mean we’ve hung out with Jesus.

It’s time to go beyond the food.

 

Does the bank hold treasure? April 14, 2016

Filed under: Money,Uncategorized — Kris @ 2:14 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Money is a funny thing. It’s really hard to live without it (yet there are people who do it!), we always seem to need/want more of it, yet we don’t always use it the best that we can.

There is this interesting little Bible verse though, that talks about our heart and our treasure:

Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them.Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:20-21, Common English Bible)

Jesus said that.

Did you know that Jesus taught more about money that he did about any other topic except love? Love, then money. Hmmmm…

Just this last Monday, I was reminded of a Zig Ziglar quote:

Show me your calendar and your checkbook, and I will tell you what is most important in your life.

That’s a challenge isn’t it? Do our bank accounts show what is important?

So I went to look. Racer and I use EveryDollar to create and maintain our monthly budget (it’s free). It’s an easy way to tell our money where to go and to stay focused on our financial goals. EveryDollar also does all the budget math for us!

So what did it say was important? Basically family and giving. The highest expenditures had to do with maintaining our home, giving to others and childcare.

Although we are still working on Baby Step 3, we hope that one day our giving will far exceed our home expenses. But until then (and even after), we can make sure our home is a place where we give of our time and hearts to others. A place where people can come and be loved.

You see, our treasure is not the stuff in our homes. Our treasure is not found in the number the bank says we have in our emergency fund. Our treasure is not what the 401(k) statement does or does not say.

Our treasure in the love and grace and truth we leave in the hearts of our family, our friends, our co-workers and the strangers we meet. Our treasure is found in the ways we invest in the lives of others.

And no matter what your income is, how tight the budget stretches, how much debt you are paying off, or how overwhelming your financial situation may be, your home can be a place of love, because that is all about attitude. Trust me. We’ve had a low income, had a budget stretched so tight it broke, paid off a lot of debt, and been so overwhelmed that I laid on the bathroom floor 8-months pregnant and cried my eyes out. But if you ask my kids now, they don’t remember that. They remember parks (free), Saturday morning pancakes (super cheap to make), library activities (also free) and family movie nights (also free because we watched what we had on hand).

No matter where you are on your financial journey, you can make a difference in how you think about money. It’s not about getting more, but about using what you have to bless others.

So, take a look. Look at your calendar. Look at your checkbook. Where is your treasure?

 

 
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