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You are Invited! {Plus, It’s FREE!!}

I don’t know about you, but spring is a busy time and I have spent a lot of years rushing through school activities, yard work, playing outside, and planning & participating in Easter egg hunts only to arrive at Easter Sunday worn out and ready for the whole “event” to be over. But I need Easter! I need the message of Easter every day – and a special reminder at least once per year so I don’t miss it in my day-to-day experience.

I don’t like missing Easter.

Part of my plan to redeem Easter from the “event” it has become is to deliberately focus on Scripture in the weeks preceding Easter. This thought is not original with me – several denominations already observe a season called Lent. I think they are on to something… so this study corresponds exactly to the days in Lent.

Redeeming Easter: A Resurrection Day Study is an Advent-of-Easter Bible Study I wrote to focus myself (and my kids) on the gospel through the weeks leading up to Resurrection Day.

I’ve tried a lot of different “Advent traditions” over the years – and it all comes down to one thing: is it doable? See, with seven kids ranging from three to fifteen, the busyness of the church calendar, the school calendar, the special events calendar, the sports calendar, and all the other things that crowd into the room during spring, if we don’t have something short and simple, it won’t get done.

I tried to make it manageable, with 2-5 minute scripture readings, song and hymn suggestions, fun memory tools, and activities to consider doing as a family.

This year you can join us in our quest to redeem Easter from being merely an event on the calendar. This year you can join us as we dig into scripture to understand, in a deeper way, the wonder and mystery of the gospel of grace – a sinless savior crucified and resurrected to redeem us!

Redeeming Easter Details


I’ve added a Bible Study and devotion for the moms, derived from the verses we’ll read as a family each day. I made some cute printables with a couple of ideas for how to create your own advent calendar. I’m still working on including sound files for the hymns and carols so you can sing along if the tunes are not familiar. And in 2015, you are invited to enjoy the whole package for FREE!

Enrollment begins February 7.

If you subscribe to Redeeming Easter: A Resurrection Day Study you’ll get:

  • Daily email with a brief devotion and directed Bible study for moms to dig into the scripture for the day.
  • FREE printables and instructions for creating your own Advent of Easter Calendar
  • Daily Reading Plan for the whole family
  • Suggested hymn or carol tied to the reading for the day
  • Ideas for activities for the kids (and adults!)
  • Memory verses and principles to learn from the whole counsel of Scripture regarding the Messiah

You’ll also have access to the Facebook group to share ideas, photos, encouragement, and prayers as we study together.

**Please note, subscribing to the Redeeming Easter Study is different than subscribing to Cultivate Grace. If you subscribe to the study you’ll receive daily emails from February 18-April 6, 2015, and then they’ll stop. It will not interrupt or replace your Cultivate Grace subscription. You’ll continue to get my blog posts as scheduled, year round, if you are subscribed to Cultivate Grace. You will not get the Redeeming Easter Study emails unless you subscribe to the study itself.**

Enrollment opens today, Saturday, February 7, 2015. The printables and instructions for creating your advent calendar will come via email on February 14, so that you have *a little* time to prepare before the study begins on February 18. Please feel free to join any time! It’s never too late to jump in. 🙂

I also encourage you to share this study with others! Share on Facebook, forward the email, pin it on Pinterest! Let’s get busy Redeeming Easter: A Resurrection Day Study



It can be exciting to begin a new year.  Something changes between December 31 and January 1.  Usually we have had lots of time off.  Maybe we’ve really enjoyed the slower pace of the past few days after the holiday rush.  In this context of warm feelings supplemented with a constant supply of coffee, fudge, and comfort foods, we get great ideas about how to change our world.

But soon it will be January 5.

We’ll be back to work or school (barring snow days!).  Monday will be the kind of “normal day” where the rubber meets the road on all those New Year’s Resolutions.  Or maybe the kind of normal day where we’ve skidded off the resolution road and are just trying to hang on to the wheel.  Maybe it’s the kind of normal day where we live defeated.

Reality often hits hard, doesn’t it?

I think this is why God gives us toddlers.  Have you ever noticed how quickly they can get places on those tiny little legs?  They are so stinking determined!  They are hard to defeat.

One of my kids fell  down on a sidewalk crack one time. He did a total face plant.  His nose and forehead were scraped and bleeding.

Crying, he picked himself up, turned a big circle and ran down the sidewalk again.  He tripped in the same spot, but caught himself by bracing with his hands.  The palms of his hands were now dirty and bleeding, too.

Still crying, he turned another circle, refused my hand, and bolted down the sidewalk again.  He tripped, but this time he tucked his shoulder and rolled into the grass.  He rose covered in grass clippings, with a grass stain on his shoulder.

A fourth time he turned a big circle and dashed down the sidewalk.  Without missing a step, he crossed that crack and continued running toward home.

He was bruised, bleeding, covered in grass and dirt, and had little tracks of mud on his cheeks from where he’d rubbed his tears away with grubby hands, but he was triumphant.  My heart swelled with pride as I wiped his tears, cleaned his wounds, and embraced and praised him for his victory.

Maybe we need to learn a little something from toddlers.

resolved to persevere

1.  Know what you want.

Or maybe I should say, know what God wants you to want.  Philippians 1:6 suggests that God will accomplish what he wants to accomplish in our lives.  Sometimes I have difficulty making progress because I am striving for wrong things – or striving for right things for wrong reasons (James 4:3).  God’s purposes tend to direct us toward holiness more than happiness.  Happiness (or its fuller counterpart joy) is generally a byproduct, not the goal.  When I strive for happiness, it eludes me.  When I strive for godliness, I find happiness already there (Psalm 37:3-9).

2.  Don’t Over Think It

Ultimately, I can plan all day long, but it is God’s purposes that will play out (Proverbs 19:21; Proverbs 16:9).  And he is working all things for my good (Romans 8:28, well Romans 8:26-33, really) and his glory.

3.  Start Moving.

My job is obedience, not results.  Think about Joseph.  He obeyed  his father’s instructions to check on his brothers.  He obeyed in Potiphar’s house.  He was faithful to the baker and cup bearer in prison.  And God was with him in the midst of the injustice right up to when he recognized the reason (Genesis 50:20).  God has prepared work for me (Ephesians 2:10), planned a path for me to follow (Jeremiah 29:11-14; Psalm 32:8; Psalm 16:11; Colossians 1:9), and provided what I need (Matthew 6:25-34).  Maybe I don’t need to prepare for every contingency before I begin.  Maybe the rough spells are part of his plan.  Maybe I need to learn to obey first and trust him for the results.

4.  Look Obstacles in the Eye

Have you seen the way a toddler will just look you in the eye as if maintaining eye contact will keep you from noticing they are still at it?  I need to seriously evaluate the obstacles in my path like that.  Are they God-ordained and protecting me from going down a wrong road (Acts 16:6-10) or are they attempts to defeat me (Ephesians 6:11)?  I cannot tell the difference unless I look an obstacle in the eye.

5.  Learn to Bounce

The Bible word for this is perseverance.  And perseverance is a good thing (Galatians 6:9, James 1:12).  I read this great quote the other day, and I’m going to get it all wrong because I cannot remember where I read it or who said it, but it was something like: there are no losses in life, only lessons.  Taken to the extreme, I’d have to disagree.  We live in a fallen world, and there are great losses that should be recognized, grieved, and respected.  But do you see the kernel truth there, too?  It is a matter of perspective.  When you “fail,” you either lose or learn.  You are defeated or discovering.  And God didn’t save us through Christ to be defeated.  So learnDiscover.

6.  Run Home

And at the end of the day, when we arrive home (John 14:1-3), our Father’s heart will swell with pride as he wipes away our tears (Revelation 21:4), cleans our wounds, and embraces and praises us for persevering to victory (Matthew 25:21).

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

As we set our New Year’s Resolutions this year, I hope we’ll think beyond January 1st. I hope we’ll think beyond 2015. Maybe we should think about the perseverance required to attain the prize, rather than just the prize.

This year I am resolved to keep circling back when I stumble, because I will stumble.

This year I am resolved to bounce.

This year I am resolved to run toward the arms of my Father.

What about you?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am praying that you recognize more blessings than you can count, and your heart is full of thanksgiving to the one who has blessed you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a great Thanksgiving!


The One Essential Ingredient for the Perfect Thanksgiving

By this time next week, Thanksgiving will be a thing of the past and we’ll be in the throes of Black Friday, elbowing our way through the masses to find the perfect gift.

But for now, for many Thanksgiving looms ahead, a mixture of thrill and dread as we consider the delectable foods accompanied by the tight waistbands and brutally honest scales. Or maybe, its a mixture of excitement tainted with angst because family relationships are more strained than the lumps in the gravy.

For me it’s just all about excitement. We have the privilege of hosting some of our favorite people, enjoying food and friendship and gravy and grace – lumps and all.

Right about now there are articles flying around about the perfect recipe, how to be the perfect host (or guest), the brilliant idea of offering to bring the gravy, decorations for the table, methods to add meaning, activities for the kids’ table, conversation starters, proper etiquette for tricky situations… lots of things about coming together to enjoy food, friendship, and family.

This flurry of articles is awesome!

Special recipes are a delight since I love food (eating it more than making it)!

I want to be a great hostess (or guest), which is why we regularly remind ourselves manners are a simple way of counting others as more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3) and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).

And Thanksgiving is a great time to remember to eat and drink with God’s glory,not gluttony, in mind (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Thanksgiving Day is also the perfect time to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8) in a material way, even as I consider his many blessings and boast in him (all of Psalm 34), exalting and praising him for the refuge he provides not only from sin, but also from sinning.

On the other hand, all those articles tempt me to embrace perfection. They promise I can learn to serve the perfect food with the perfect apron and perfect smile. I can set it on a perfectly beautiful table with perfectly mannered kids at the perfect time on perfect dishes with perfect conversation… and perfectly miss the perfect blessing of being full of thanksgiving rather than doing Thanksgiving fully. Perfection is a promise laden with bondage. Thankfulness is a promise laden with joy.

So it struck me as I was making a shopping list last night, there is one thing I want to make sure graces my table this year.


If the turkey burns (gasp) and the rolls are like hockey pucks and the gravy is so thick it could stand, I want brokenness served with grace at my table.

If the turkey is perfectly juicy and the rolls are like clouds and the gravy flows like a stream from heaven, I want brokenness served with grace at my table.

I’m not sure I’m cut out to be the perfect hostess. I’m not sure I make a great guest. I don’t know if our table will have any decorations or activities or special meaning, but I do broken pretty well.

I do soapy-tasting scones & snap-at-the-kids & laugh-at-the-jello-on-the-floor pretty well.

I do I-forgot-to-preheat-the-oven & my-heart-is-broken-over-what-you-are-telling-me pretty well, too.

I do “I’m sorry” a little less well, but I am getting better at it.

Whatever hospitality experts, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or Martha Stewart may say, brokenness is an essential ingredient for the perfect Thanksgiving.

Perfect Thanksgiving

So, if you are coming to my house this Thanksgiving, please come share your brokenness.

If you come to my house for pizza some Friday, or take me up on a offer for a night’s lodging as you pass through Tennessee, please bring your brokenness. I want my table, my home, my presence to be a place where brokenness is welcome and perfection is recognized for what it is: a lie and a taskmaster.

If you are having Thanksgiving this year under strained circumstances, maybe it’s time to add brokenness to your Thanksgiving menu.

If you are opening your home to others this Thanksgiving, maybe you could offer brokenness as you open the door.

As you enter the home of someone else next week, maybe you could tie the flowers with a ribbon of brokenness.

Adding brokenness to the menu in my house might mean I admit I struggle with a critical spirit but have seen the Spirit strengthening me in encouragement. As we talk about the things for which we are thankful: the food, the friendships, the years of history we share, the freedoms we have today that we should not take for granted, the health we have and the provision we’ve seen, the people who are not with us… serving brokenness will add thankfulness for progress I’m making in having patience with my kids and a growing contentment with God’s calling on our family.

After all, it’s only in context of my utter brokenness that I can offer the hope of the cross and live in thankfulness for it. What could be more perfect than that?

Life in the Splash Zone {How to Serve Your Pastor}

Several years ago my family and I went to the sea lion show at the St. Louis Zoo.  One of the sea lions had been refusing to perform, so they opened the show up – for free – to try to coax him back into action.  He performed beautifully for us. 🙂

Have you ever been to one of those water-animal shows?  The first few rows are painted a different color to indicate the “splash zone.”  If you sit in those rows, you’ll be face to face with the clear side of the tank and see things no one else can see.  You might also get called up to touch the sea lions or to feed them fish, or to play some other part in the show.  But if you are sitting in the splash zone, watch out! As you see the amazing feats of the creatures God created to fill the seas, you will get wet.  When the animal impacts the water after an amazing jump, the water is displaced to make room for the animal.  Since it has no place to go, that “radial jet” flies upward and outward.  The initial splash leaves the tank at 20-30 times the speed of the animal hitting the water. And if you are in those front rows, it smacks you in the face and leaves you dripping from head to toe.  Some people like that and choose to sit in the splash zone.  Some people put up with it because they enjoy the special view.  Some of the people in the splash zone are sitting there because someone they love wants to be in the splash zone.

Our pastors live life in the splash zone.  And their wives and families are there with them because they love him. It’s a unique calling – life in the splash zone. One one hand, they have front row seats to watch God working. On the other hand, they are close enough to get smacked by the water, and getting smacked by the water isn’t always fun.

But just like a close-up view of an orca whale may make the splashes worthwhile, our pastors can embrace and endure any number of splashes of criticism, anger, messy marriages in the counseling room, censorship of the government, slander, gossip, and the pain of walking hand-in-hand with hurting, broken people when they catch those special moments of seeing that God is working through them.  There’s something incredibly in+couraging about seeing His strength at work in your weakness.  There’s something that inspires perseverance in the heart of a pastor, in knowing it’s all God, but he chose to use you as an instrument of his grace.

But what would it be like if the sides of the tank were solid metal instead of clear?  Would it be worth it to sit in the splash zone if the underwater view was obscured?

So, as we close out Pastor Appreciation Month (or as I like to call it, “Restart Acts of Appreciation for your Pastor Month“), let’s think about ways we can help our pastors to see the underwater action.  We can serve our pastors as they do life in the splash zone by telling them about how God is working in our lives (2 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor) and by protecting them from some of the spray (3 Ways to Protect Your Pastor). We can also serve them by sitting there with them – even if it means we get wet, too. Participating in ministry in your local church is one of the best ways to “appreciate” your pastor.

Maybe October is the time to look for ways to serve in the church, to join a Bible study, or to start a ministry. Do you have any idea how encouraging it is to a pastor to see the people God has entrusted to him growing by using their gifts to edify the church?  Have you thought about how encouraging it is to see that the sacrifices you make as a pastor make a difference?  When poeple are drawn to love Christ and live fully for him in the moments between Sundays… pastors are excited! They are in+couraged. And they see the glory and power of God on display.

A church full of folks living out Ephesians 4:1-16 would bring joy and encouragement to any pastor’s heart.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16

Joining him in the splash zone encourages him as together you sit in those front row seats with a view of God’s grace and power and glory. And though you might also experience the cold blast of the radial jet as folks crash in front of you, you’ll get the great view, too. You’ll get to see them rise above the water and swim with skill.

You might even get to rescue a few folks from drowning.