He is Here.

When you think of Jesus Christ, what image comes into your head?

Every day, every way, on more levels than any of us can possibly understand or imagine, Jesus lives. He is not a baby in a barn, a child in the Temple, preaching in Israel, bleeding on the Cross, currently resurrecting, or even wearing human skin. All of these events are part of His life and message and are worthy of breathless awe and honor, of course! But they are part of His history, not to be confused with what Christ is doing today or where He is right now – which happens to be in Heaven, at the right hand of God, listening to our hearts and being involved in our lives.

So, do these things:

Bow before the Holy Babe in the manger to honor Christ’s great love in coming to us.

Fall on your knees at the Cross and see the sacrifice He made and your own brokenness so you can repent and change your life.

Humble yourself to the ground in gratitude at the empty tomb because He miraculously conquered death to offer you a joyous forever.

Then stand in grace before the living ever-present Christ who is right here for you and is compassionate and powerful and sees exactly who you are from the top of everything lovely about you down to the tippy-toes of everything ugly and still loves you unconditionally, hears you unceasingly, laughs with your joys, weeps with your sorrows, encourages you unerringly, pours grace and mercy all over you, and stays with you wherever you go, whatever you do, no matter the darkness or mistakes – because He is yours and you are His! Reach toward the unfathomable wonder of Jesus Christ in the present and step up with confidence.

He is glorious, He is love, and He. Is. Here.

“I came so they might have life, and have it abundantly.” ~ John 10:10b

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him.” ~ John 3:17

Remember Me

My Mom often said, “It doesn’t hurt to ask. If you don’t ask, you won’t know.” She was right.

People are so often stressed about not being “good enough”, but the most powerful evidence that Heaven is gained by faith alone – not by any human effort – may be the testimony of a dying criminal who just asked.

Jesus on the cross was bloody, gory, weak, suffering, publicly shamed and ridiculed. In the eyes of most, there was nothing to recommend Him as a human or king, and certainly not as any kind of savior. He was accused of being – and, indeed, appeared to be – a lying, blasphemous, cult-leader of a criminal under a common death sentence with two other criminals. In that moment, His appearance gave no one cause for faith. Those suffering and dying with Him were admittedly guilty. They had no good works that were recorded, they certainly were not baptized, did not speak in tongues or prophesy, and had no time left to perform redemptive acts. In that moment, they had nothing to offer anyone – certainly not God. Like many in the crowd, the criminals jeered and taunted the bleeding, dying Jesus.

But one of them changed.

And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” He was on a cross, scared, dying in shame and agony. Couldn’t hurt to ask, right?

Nowhere is it written that Christ said, “Sorry – you need to be baptized. You need good works. You need evidence of the Spirit. Sorry, man.”

Instead, at this evidence of faith alone – a shaky faith born of pain and fear – Jesus told him, “Today you shall be with me in Paradise.”

As Jesus bore the darkness of this world into death to earn redemption for all who believe, he took along the criminal dying right next door. Just because he asked.

No other reason.

So do Christ followers need to do good things? Should we study the Bible, love one another, and act kindly? Yes, of course. But we are called to lives of love and caring and acts of goodness because we have already received grace and are already destined for Heaven, and because we want to share His mercy and our hope with others any way we can. Not because we need to earn our way to Heaven – that way has already been earned for us. We have chosen to believe, we have asked in faith, so Christ has given the gift of eternity. He remembers us – always.

So today, if you just want a some peace in your life, some hope, some assurance, some comfort – even if you are not sure who He is or how He can give it – try a little faith. It doesn’t hurt to ask. If you don’t ask, you won’t know.

“Jesus, remember me.”

Resurrection chalk art by our family. Design chosen by our daughter Maggie.

Oxygen

If you are, like me, a mom of amazing special needs children, then you completely understand when I tell you that hope is the very air I breathe.

Some days I am left gasping amid the debris of shattered dreams. My lungs constrict with fears for my children’s futures, their wellbeing, their happiness, their faith. In these moments, I breathlessly cry out to God with all that is in my heart – and He hears.

He hears. And I rest in knowing that He is always there and He loves my children more than I can ever imagine, and my faith is strengthened. Hope again saturates my soul and fills my lungs for the beloved marathon of blessing my family another day.

God. Is. My. Oxygen.

We Will Remain

I live in one of the top 25 most ethnically diverse cities in Texas. Within that city, I live in a recognized ethnically diverse neighborhood, on a very ethnically diverse street. My husband and I moved here in 1993 as newlyweds, raised our children here, and still remain safely and comfortably . . . here. Our neighborhood is a good, solid, lower-middle income bastion of teachers, police officers, blue collar workers, tradesmen, nurses, sales people, and small business owners. Folks who do important jobs but don’t earn important money. We also have our share of retirees, single income families, and first-time home buyers.

In our 27 years in this town, the population has boomed from 7,000 to 64,000. In all that time, with all that growth, we have not had reason to worry about safety or racial hostility. We love our town and conduct most of our business and have most of our fun here side by side with our neighbors. We shop, play, eat out, visit parks, attend movies, etc. in a community that is ethnically diverse and pretty much contented to be so. Our citizens like our police force (judging by all the support for them I see online) and appreciate first responders and those who serve. People here seem willing to make the effort to be generally thoughtful, informed, and kind in order to live everyday life in a safe, amiable environment.

We are an average American town.

So why am I sharing this? Because we are an average American town. Of course, we are concerned by what happens in the world. Of course.  But most of us, in all our American diversity, are living out our daily lives, loving our families, caring for neighbors, doing our jobs, paying bills, supporting one another, being friendly and kind when we meet in public. Most towns like ours not only do just fine with ethnic diversity, we genuinely appreciate the differences everyone brings to the table.

Most of us are not caught up in rioting and protesting and hysteria. We are the quiet majority who do not believe that rage and violence are real solutions. We believe in America, we believe our people are generally growing and striving to do right, and we are patiently and actively waiting for this moment in history to resolve, hoping that it does not upend the lives we have worked so hard to build. 

And – make no mistake – we are the builders and the heartbeat of this nation. We vote, we volunteer, we work hard, we care. We are the ones who hope, who believe, who persevere. We are patriots. And we are praying every day that our country will not be decimated by those pursuing destruction, violence, and power in a misguided attempt to wrest away the lives we cherish and the freedoms that make possible the lives, hopes, and dreams of millions of Americans.

We are not violent or loud or radical so the news media ignores us. But we are, in fact, most of America. We are still the deep root and solid core of this country. And we will remain.

Don’t Wait

The complicated present world is going to give us all more than enough darkness and sorrow to bear – humanity has messed up from the beginning of time and we will continue to do so. But the God who loves, lives, and never leaves offers love, comfort, hope, and a future.

The world will not always be like this. Those of us who have read the Book know how it ends. There will be an epic battle – but there will also be victory and rejoicing and peace.

The thought of eternity might be thrilling or terrifying to you (maybe both) but I encourage you to embrace the forever hope we have in Christ. Embrace it, and pass it along to all those around you. Everyone needs hope. Everyone needs joy.

Don’t wait until life is perfect or until you think you are brave enough to speak truth. Truth is always a risk and life will never be perfect – all the prophets, apostles, and great men of faith who ever lived can testify to that!

Joy can always be TAKEN.
Hope can always be GIVEN.
Salvation is always OFFERED.
The Lord can always be PRAISED –
Because the Love of God is always present
and will never, ever, ever end.

Dear Grandpa & Grandma –

Today, I was reminded of the importance of keeping love and passion alive within. While sorting documents, I found this letter I wrote in 1989 in memory of my maternal grandparents. The memory of their faith and love lives in my heart.

Dear Grandpa and Grandma,

Keith & Lela’s Wedding Photo, 1924

I am writing this letter to you and sharing it with family and friends because I had to put into words what I learned from your lives. I’m sorry I didn’t understand it well enough to tell you when you were here, but maybe I didn’t know it then.

To live is to age. You taught me not to fear either. 

Lela Mabry, c. 1922

A few years ago, Grandma,  you told me about the time very recently when you were scrubbing the church floor with other women in the church. You felt a little faint from the odor of ammonia and stood for a moment, leaning against the wall. A younger woman came up and said, “Mrs. Roper, are you all right?” And you thought to yourself, “Good heavens, she thinks I’m old!” After you told me this, we looked at each other and laughed! Old? You? What a silly idea!

Keith Roper, Football Captain, 1923

And Grandpa, I remember after Grandma died – I came in and sat on the edge of your bed and held your hand and you told me about her last few days and moments and we both cried. Listening to you talk about Grandma touched me deeply. Your love for her was certainly mature and strong, yet still so fresh and incredibly sweet. I knew then that you were not merely mourning the loss of complacent companionship – you were mourning the loss of a wife beloved with a passion stronger and more vibrant than the day you were married.

I have watched the two of you never grow old, for you waited upon the Lord and He renewed your strength, and you have flown on the wings of eagles to stand before the very throne of God in all your beauty and youth and vigor – just the way you were intended to be.

You were young when I knew you . . . You are younger now.

1974. 50 years of love, commitment, faith.

Oh, I am not afraid to live.  In you, I have seen two who have followed Jesus to the last. I have learned that life is not so long that it is to be feared, and the reunion with the Father will surely be very sweet. I will always remember the maturity of your spirits and the sparkle of youth in your eyes, and I have great hope because your Lord is also my Lord and, like you, I will never grow old.

Thank you for loving me. I do thank God for you. I know that he understands how great a gift you were to me and I hope you understand it now, too.

I love you both and miss you, but plan to see you in the twinkling of an eye.

Love, Karen

Grandpa & Grandma’s 50th Anniversary Celebration with their children and grandchildren.

Just Drive

I hate those days when I feel like I’ve lost my drive. Not just the drive, actually – I seem to have lost the whole dang car.  And there God is, patiently holding the keys and GPS that will get me back there. All I have to do is ask for help and mean it.

I have to mean it.

It sounds so simple, really. I just have to drop my earthbound baggage so my hands will be empty to take what He’s got – but I can’t seem to do it.

Why is that? Maybe because I am so tired in my head. Some days, the world just wears me down until I want to curl up in bed and turn my face to the wall. No drive, no momentum at all. I do know that God will lovingly pick me up every time I fail, so why am I hesitant to take what He is so willing to give? And still He remains – standing right by me, loving me so much, patiently prompting me to ask Him for help, and promising to stay near no matter what happens, no matter what I do, no matter where the road takes me.

But I still have to ask for my drive – my spirit – to be restored. A simple request. I can’t let the fear and fatigue stop me from doing that one little thing.

Everything else is on Him, but the first step is on me.

I can do this. I will do this. Here I go –

Buckle up.

You, too, can be Peter – Just Show Up.

On the night before Jesus died on the cross, He was hauled off for a sham of a trial and hours of abuse. Peter and John – two of His closest friends – managed to follow him secretly and witnessed the unjust trial and subsequent persecution. Peter was clearly afraid and famously betrayed Christ by convincingly denying three times that he knew Him. When Christ later rose from the dead, He reaffirmed His love for Peter and gave him an awesome commission that changed Peter’s life and, in many ways, wrote the future of Christianity. This is an amazing encouragement for those of us who need to know that an incredible legacy is still possible for each of us, even if we have done some pretty bad things.

But that’s not what I’m writing about today.

Today, I’m thinking about the fact that Peter showed up. Just that. John, too. They knew they would be facing a tough crowd, but these guys buckled on their spurs and came to the party. Not much is said about John that night, simply that he knew the high priest and was able to get himself and Peter into the so-called trial. But for Peter – it’s all about his personal Armageddon.

I confess that I seriously admire Peter and John just for showing up; their beloved and controversial leader is hauled off under circumstances that would surely end in some kind of an unjust conviction, probably a whipping, maybe a beating, possibly death, and they follow along knowing there is a reasonable chance they might share in the accusations against Him. We kind of expect John to be cool under pressure, but Peter had a bit of a problem with falling prey to his emotions. That night, showing up was a massively courageous thing for him to do.

It’s a pretty safe bet that most of you have days when the very thought of showing up is an overwhelming concept. I am absolutely with you – some days, I can only function if I sluggishly remind myself of my blessings, barely haul my fanny out of bed, paste a smile on my face, and reluctantly force myself to be present. Nothing fancy, nothing momentous, nothing bold. I’m just showing up. But know this – even just showing up is an act of faith and courage when your heart is burdened and fearful and your greatest desire is to roll over, bury your face in the pillow, and stay put for the rest of the day, or possibly the rest of your life. If you just give what little you’ve got to give to the Lord in those moments, He will do more with it than you can imagine. Really.

It is true that God wants so much more from us than just showing up (I’m not gonna lie about that!), but I know from experience that His wonderful grace shines on days we simply fail to pull it all together. Sometimes just having the courage to show up can lead to blessings and opportunities that would have been otherwise unavailable. God knows your heart. Jesus, above all people, understands what a scary, crazy, painful, messy world this can be. Peter showed up that night lacking the courage to shine in any way and even betrayed his friend and Savior at the worst possible moment, yet a few days later Christ extended Peter the powerful grace and salvation that turned his life into a wellspring of passionate ministry. Scripture tells us that those who are forgiven much, love much. Showing up on the night of the trial gave Peter the chance to fail so that Christ could offer the grace that would change Peter into a rock of faith – an example that still shines for us 2000 years later.

So today and tomorrow and the next day, try this – even if you haven’t got a shiny atom in your body, even if your heart is burdened and every other minute you want to break down in fears and tears, even if you absolutely know you can do absolutely nothing on your own, I still challenge you to show up and give all the moments to God – the worst as well as the best. You may not see the results right away, but just by showing up you are giving Him the opportunity do something through you today. Maybe something that will change a life. It might even be yours.

Small House, Warm Thoughts

“We cleaned the house yesterday. Sorry, you missed it.” Have I said this on a number of occasions? Yes. Yes, I have.

And also this:
“If you want to see us, come by anytime. If you want to see the house, call for an appointment.”

And (with apologies to quite a few of my fascinating friends who – beyond the scope of my comprehension – have discouragingly perfect homes), the patently untrue yet popular saying:
“Boring women have immaculate homes.”

Ever heard comments like this? I’ll bet they came from a family living in a small house. Cramming a busy family of five, two dogs, two cats, and a home business into our 1645 square foot house with one shared common area – a combined living/dining/office/project/kitchen space – definitely creates clutter! But, y’know, as long as it’s creative clutter . . . (cue eye roll).

On the upside, love does grow best in small houses, right? And I must admit that togetherness is probably some kind of blessing for us since we are mostly introverts who might otherwise be inclined to go the isolation route. Hah. No chance. Compromise and cooperation are not options here – they are mandatory life skills. We love each other and – aside from the occasional water, pillow, or tickle fight – we are not particularly fond of conflict, so we do our best to figure it out.

It’s pretty clear in God’s word that we show the love of Christ in us by loving others. We are to pursue maturity not separately, but together. Loving God = loving people. It’s not that we all get along beautifully all the time – not at all! We definitely have our high blood pressure moments. But I think living in a smaller space keeps us working on the issues, fighting for each other, loving each other, forgiving one another, and laughing together. I like to think that we would do all these things even living in a ginormous house, but the smaller home definitely provides motivation.

Now, I’m seriously off to clean. Really. I’m sincerely hoping to have the house reasonably in hand by noon Friday (so, basically, maybe by Saturday evening . . .) and the orderliness should last several whole minutes. If you plan to drop by, better not be late or you’ll miss it.

Let’s Start Here . . .

Sometimes life throws so much at you that there is a need to step back, ponder, recover, and renew. Like the mythological phoenix, you learn to have faith that you can arise anew from the ashes left by the changes and struggles of your past, no matter how far back, or how recent.

The past is behind you, the future is unwritten, and you can only live in just this moment – in the very breath you are taking right now.

So, welcome to my blog! This is me.

Breathing.