Dear friends & partners,
Merry, merry Christmas to you! As I write you this beautiful morning, I am asking the Lord to slow down time for you this holiday season. I pray the Father would allow you another hour by the fire, another smile from a grandbaby, one more cup of coffee with a friend, and an extra kiss from Him. This time of year seems to race by at breakneck speed. May this year be different.
As I thought about our final letter to you for the year, I simply had to let you hear from our board member, Josh Wood. Recently, he shared this perspective with us at a retreat and you must hear it…
“At 14 or 15 years old, I found myself playing in a championship game out at the old North Randall County baseball fields. Here’s the setting: 1 out. Bottom of the 9th (we didn’t actually play nine innings, I think it was 7 or something; but, you get the point.) Runners on 1st and 3rd base. My team is batting. We’re down by one run. Young Josh is in the on-deck circle taking a few practice swings, but mostly praying to God that the game doesn’t come down to his ability to hit the ball under pressure. His prayer request was not granted. The batter before me was called out. Two outs. Bottom of the 9th. Championship game. Down by 1. 2 runners on base. Young Josh walks up to the plate. I was the smallest guy on the team, scrawny with big glasses and my overly large shirt tucked in just a bit too far. I looked more like I belonged at some sort of Space Camp rather than on a baseball field. The fact that my team was in the championship game was no thanks to me. I spent about half the time on the bench watching better players play. But, I digress. Long story short, if you were rooting for my team, I was the last guy that you wanted at the plate at this moment. In came the first pitch: strike one. To this day, I can still hear the sighs of the crowd behind the backstop. They weren’t sighs of hopeful anticipation. They were sighs of foregone conclusion. Scrawny kid was going to strike out, and everyone knew it. In came the second pitch. Strike two. The crowd, which was pretty large (by North Randall County baseball complex standards) sighed again a sigh of resignation. Then came pitch three. I hit the ball further than I’d ever hit a ball in my life (which was barely over the shortstop’s head). Both runs score. Yelling, jumping, screaming, and high-fiving ensued. I could see my Dad in the stands doing a fair amount of “That’s my boy!” yelling. I was the hero. It was the highlight of my little life. When I got in the car for the ride home, my dad looked at me and said, “I knew you could do it. I knew you were going to do it. I knew you could do it!”
Keep that story in the back of your head for a minute. Let’s talk about David and Goliath. From the day of that championship game forward, I saw the story of David and Goliath from a different perspective. Disclaimer: what follows obviously isn’t in the Bible. It’s a story meant to illustrate a point.
Young David is starting to walk down the road to the battlefield to deliver some supplies to his brothers. Meanwhile, up in Heaven, God is starting to rally a crowd behind a Heavenly backstop. “Everyone get over here and take a seat. You’re all going to want to watch this. This is one of those stories that I’m putting in the Bible for all generations to hear about.” As the angels are gathering around and peering down from above, David is down on earth trying on Saul’s awkwardly large armor. It is becoming apparent to Heaven and Earth that this scrawny kid is about to fight the giant, Goliath. The angels are talking amongst themselves, wondering if this is going to be one of the stories in the Bible about a martyr…or if perhaps God is going to strike Goliath blind…or cause an earthquake or something. Everyone is thinking the same thing. Really? This kid? He’s been riding the bench all season and we’re putting him up against Goliath? God silences the room, looks around at all the angels, looks down at earth, and says to everyone. “Sit back and watch and prepare to be amazed. You have no idea what he is capable of.” As we all know, David slays the giant. There is rejoicing in Heaven and on earth. Yelling, jumping, screaming, and high-fiving ensued. God sits back and says, “That’s my boy! I knew he could do it. I knew he was going to do it. I knew he could do it!”
Every day at CareNet, young ladies are stepping up the plate. They have two strikes against them. The world is sighing a sigh of resignation. “She’s up? She knows nothing but failure.” “It’s him?! Anyone, but that guy!” Meanwhile, I imagine a loving God who is gathering a crowd. “Gather around, everyone. You’re going to want to watch this. She may not look like much, but you have no idea what she is capable of. Rather, you have no idea what I’m capable of doing through her.””
As the years go by don’t we all, like Josh, realize how blessed we were? Many of us had great dads and at least one voice behind the backstop saying, “I know you can do it.” But if you think long enough can’t you remember a time that you were terrified to be the one “holding the bat”? Often, it is at that exact moment in a person’s life, where we come in. Two outs. Bottom of the 9th. Championship game. Down by 1. 2 runners on base. Scrawny kid walks up to the plate… They have a crowd of dissent and no hope. To me this sets the stage for one of the most powerful gifts that CareNet gives. To thousands of girls, boys, men, and women, CareNet is relaying the voice of God, “I’m here. I am for you. I know you can do it, and I can accomplish great things through you.” When these girls and boys and men and women feel as though the world is against them, they hear the good news that one voice is for them; and, better news yet: it’s the only one that matters.
Will you help us as we continue to say “We know you can do it. We knew you would do it!”?
*Click here for CareNet’s donation page. Please consider sending a special tax-deductible year-end gift. There is so much more to do and we can’t do it without you. We appreciate your support so much.
Keep swinging the bat,
Yep. I have it. Makes me laugh to say it that way. I didn’t actually say it quite like that, Ana did, after I confessed to her that I am feeling slightly embarrassed by my Christmas tree this year. My coworkers and I were visiting about getting our decorating and shopping done and I shared with them that I had seen a few trees in the homes of friends and family lately and they were beautiful. The decorations are new and lovely. They match the home and the personality of each precious family–put together and elegant.
Not the Gibbs’s tree. Our tree is made up of mix-matched ornaments collected over the last 20 years. Many made years ago in Mother’s Day Out and then all through elementary school, and they are some of my most treasured. All of the baby’s first Christmases proudly adorn the tree. Now we have them for three grandbabies! Brian and I enjoy buying an ornament from the places we have the privilege to visit. They all hang there as well. Some have been handed down from relatives we have lost like Brian’s grandmother and my momma. Some are slightly faded and worn. Some have chips in them. There is no theme or color scheme. One thing they do all share, they each have a story. Everyone represents a memory.
As is our tradition, we decorate the tree and share the meaning or memory behind each ornament we hang. So much laughter, a few tears, but joy to the full as we recount people and moments that have meant so much to us. We take our time and take it in as our blank tree becomes a canvass of Christmases past…full of love, memories, and joy. Our tree would never be displayed in a store or grace the cover of a magazine nor would it be described as beautiful, Not by anyone…except us. A Christmas mess might be more fitting.
Come to think of it…maybe I don’t have tree envy after all. Sure, I love all the beautiful trees I see. They represent something quite special to their families. But, I believe I will keep our tree…mess and all. It is a beautiful reflection of my family and His grace, the broken ornaments, and all. Because as I take a moment this quiet evening to look at the Gibbs family tree, the lights seem to shine most brilliantly through the imperfections.
I am happy to share a couple pictures of our tree. I would love for you to share a picture of yours and maybe share a little Christmas tradition or story to go along with it.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
I recently read ANOTHER article about Hollywood, sexual assault, and pornography. But, it’s not just Hollywood or the news offices at Rockefeller Center in New York–it’s here where you and I live. I speak with parents every week who are dealing with this in their homes. The author of the article, “Want sexual misconduct by men to stop — Start by cracking down on boys’ easy access to internet porn” is right on–problems don’t start with assault, it starts with easy access to pornography.
It is not okay for boys (0r girls) to look at pornography on their phones, iPads, or computers. I have no words to adequately communicate my heart on this subject. Some say, “Boys will be boys…all teenage boys look at it.” Well, I’m not buying it. This is so out of control in our society that I have recently visited with two 8 year old girls who stumbled on to porn sites and now say they can’t stop searching for similar images. It is not normal, healthy, or Christ-like. Stop allowing it in your home. Stop turning a blind eye by not using filters, not taking time to check- in, and start holding your kids accountable.
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7 (KJV)
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong firm and steadfast.” 2 Peter 5:8-9a,10
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
Pornography has been a trap of the enemy for generations. In the American culture, just a few short years ago, there was certainly porn addiction, but it required a lot more effort on the part of the person to fall into it. One would have to visit a porn store on the edge of town, walk up to the counter, and purchase the porn in clear view of others. Today, pornography is readily available to even children, free of charge, and in complete privacy. There are no safe guards…that is, unless parents take the problem seriously, take their parenting seriously, and take a stand.
Step one as parents is to realize the trap of pornography is easy for us to fall into. I believe that pornography is one of the most prevalent and powerful temptations facing Christian men today. Women are succumbing to the temptation as well with the outrageous infatuation with books and movies like “50 Shades of Grey”. It is porn, you simply can’t excuse it, and it isn’t up for debate. The stand starts with us and we are certainly the one raising (or lowering) the standards in our own homes.
It is not okay.
We must draw a line in the sand for our children….not in our home, not at our school, not in our church, not in our community, not in our country.
Praying for you and your family,
I don’t know about you, but life can get pretty crazy on our small piece of planet earth. We run hard and fast from sun up to sun down…almost always doing worthwhile things…but running nonetheless. A few years ago my family took an unexpected trip to San Antonio to watch my son and his high school band compete in the state competition. We had a ball and shared some much needed family time. We were starting our long drive home when we realized it was passed time to refuel and immediately began looking for an exit. Brian laughed as I went into a usual tizzy.
As I have looked at the picture I snapped of our control panel in the car, the Lord has reminded me yet again about the importance of refueling.
“Fuel level low. 0 Miles until empty.” Have you ever been there in a spiritual sense?
I have heard Dave Ramsey and others teach on the four quadrants of life: the urgent and important, the non-urgent but important, the urgent but unimportant, and the unimportant and non-urgent. I don’t know about you, but I can tell pretty quickly that I spend too much of my time doing things that seem urgent but may not be truly important. Let me see if I can explain: Some mornings I wake up and remember that I need to put a load of clothes in the dryer because the shirt my daughter needs that morning is still wet. Then I realize that we have 3 separate events that evening and won’t all be home until after 8:00 pm, so I need to put something in the crockpot for dinner. I still need to shower and get ready, fix breakfast, check homework, and get Madi off to school. My quiet time will have to wait. When my day starts in chaos it only multiplies by at least 10 by 6:00 pm.
I may get everything checked of the to-do list, but when my head hits the pillow at night I am “zero miles till empty.”
Our low fuel episode on that San Antonio trip has reminded me that time with the Father is both urgent and important. We aren’t able to give out what we do not have. I need to listen as the Father whispers affirmation and encouragement over me in the morning. I need to pay attention as He gives direction and answers to the many questions and situations taking place in my life. I need to give Him time to remind me of my calling and cover me in His armor so that I can walk the thing out. Tomorrow morning, if there are wet clothes in the washer and we have peanut butter and jelly for dinner…I will walk out my front door with the gauge reading FULL.
I have been listening to this beautiful song, “Marry Me” by Train. I was listening to it on my drive to the office this morning as the sun rose in the east. It dawned on me in much the same way the rays of light dawned over the great plains of Texas.
“Forever could never be long enough for me to feel like I’ve had long enough with you.”
“Forget the world now…but there’s one thing left to do, now that the weight has lifted, love has surely shifted my way. Marry Me.”
“The wait is finally over. Love has finally shown her my way. Marry me, today and every day.”
“You wear white and I’ll wear out the words, I love you and you’re beautiful.”
Everyone who has planned a wedding either for yourself or for someone you love knows the excitement and anticipation that leads up to that day. It seems like a life time and there are so many plans to be made.
In the Jewish culture, it is customary, after the engagement (which just happens to take place not by offering a ring, but a cup of wine), for the bridegroom to go and prepare a place for his bride. It is the father of the bridegroom, who upon inspection of the new home gives his son the go-ahead to marry.
This morning I imaged the Bridegroom preparing a place for His bride. Having already offered us the cup, busy at work, with a smile on His beautiful face and anticipation in His heart. He is preparing a home for His pure, spotless bride. I imaged the Bridegroom who has been waiting on His Father to utter the words of celebration for all of this time. Can you see the delight in His amazing eyes…when His Dad calls across a golden field swaying in the breeze, “My Son…go and take your Bride.” And He’d be speaking of His church. He’d be speaking about us, about you.
I don’t know if you can envision it…I can see Him start to run for joy to embraces His Father. I can see you…beautiful, pure, lovely, and full of joy. He is coming for you and what a celebration it will be, the wedding ceremony of all eternity.
I would love for you to get alone by yourself, turn this song on and close your sweet eyes. Listen for a Savior who is called the Bridegroom to sing over you.
I love you and you are a beautiful bride!
I would like to have a peaceful, respectful conversation with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I would welcome any comments and insights, because I am listening for His voice and I would love to know what He is whispering to you.
I, as many of you, have seen fellow believers in Christ post things (particularly on social media) that sound hateful and do not reflect the heart of Christ effectively regarding people of other religions or regarding the recent ruling on homosexual marriage. Though I would agree some of the posts have been out of line and angry, it is clear to see that they are motivated out of fear for our country and the road that we seem to have chosen.
I have also heard (purportedly peaceful) comments from other faithful believers. Things like, “I am afraid of the Christians.” Or things like, “Would you welcome them to your table—the gays, the poor, another race…?” Basically, ”have you walked a mile in their shoes?” There is a call to empathy. Though these comments are judgmental in their attempt to convict fellow believers of the same sin of judgmentalism, they are motivated out of love for others.
I agree that we should be thoughtful, empathetic, loving, and kind. We should be willing to assess and deal with our own sin, the log in our own eye. There is no place for discrimination based on race or any other divisive issue, when it comes to loving. Likewise, I also agree that we must stand for Biblical truth in the way we live our lives, raise our families, and communicate the gospel of Christ.
On both sides of this coin, our brothers and sisters in Christ are posting statements that are either hateful or celebrating blatant sin—but the numbers are few. It isn’t most of us. Most Christians are still trying to gain our bearings, as well as, discern how best to navigate an extremely immoral culture.
I have spent the better part of 20 years working with young people and teens. The main issue facing the people I have had the privilege of serving is sex outside of marriage. Sex outside of marriage is a sin based on the Word of God as the standard. It is harmful to families, it is harmful to the young people acting on it and it is harmful to the children who are a product of it. Not only physically harmful, but is heartbreaking—to parents and teens. I can empathize completely with the way they feel, because I have quite literally walked in their shoes. The parents who are often times seeking our help are motivated out of complete love for their teen, not hate or judgment.
Not only would I theoretically invite them to sit at my table for dinner—I have done it, literally, hundreds of times over the past 20 years. I live life with them and have watched many, many of them marry and have beautiful families of their own. They absolutely knew all along the way that I loved them and was committed to them, but never for a moment did they think I was either standing on the fence regarding a sinful lifestyle of sex outside of marriage or that I somehow celebrated their blatant rebellion and disregard for the Word of the Lord. Though I do not address these young people with a hateful degrading barrage of scripture, I also don’t throw rose petals on their bed in celebration of their sin. Sin that will harm them, physically, emotionally, and spiritually—not based on my Christian judgment, but based on the Word of the Lord.
For our few fellow Christ followers who are bombarding social media using hate and anger to display your disgust for a nation that is moving further and further away from Biblical truth and lives surrendered to Christ, you are not more disgusted and concerned about it than those of us who aren’t using that manner of communication. For those few fellow believers who are celebrating blatant sinful lifestyles and claiming to do so out of love and beauty, you don’t love people more than those of us who aren’t marching in the street with you or posting celebratory comments on Facebook.
My prayer is that as believers we would stop turning on one another and start turning our focus back to Christ who should be the center of all of this any way. The Word is clear on the way to deal with issues that are contrary to Christ and are sinful. Stop apologizing for that and simply stand on His Word. He is comfortable with what He said and how He said it. We should be too. The Word is also clear that we are to love people and that their interaction with us as believers should move them closer to Christ and not push them further away from Him.
“Hate the sin, love the sinner” doesn’t cut it. “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind and with all of your strength.” (Mark 12:3) If we as believers will do that—love HIM first, then we will gain a love for His truth and His Word and stand on it, at the same time, loving all people as we love ourselves.
Spewing accusations at non-believers, and believers alike, does not make us righteous, it makes us mean.
Celebrating sinful lifestyles does not make us loving, it makes us irrelevant.
Loving the Lord with all that we are and loving our neighbors as ourselves makes us the Body of Christ and capable of changing the world for His Glory.
I recently heard a sermon from Chris Hodges from Church of the Highlands in Alabama and from it gained tremendous revelation.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16
I have heard that verse many times over the years and never fully considered its meaning. There are some things that seem to be universal. Feelings that all of us share. There are universal joys, sorrows, victories, and defeats. Regrets about our pasts are something else that many of us share. I certainly have regrets about choices and decisions I made particularly in my youth. I, as many of us have, have asked for forgiveness from the Father over and over again. After each confession the shame subsides for a period of time. Even though, once we have confessed our sins, He is faithful to forgive us…often times thoughts creep in and shame and regret are not far behind, which begins the cycle of confessing to the Lord all over again.
The key to breaking the cycle is in this verse: “Therefore confess your sins to each other…SO that you may be healed.” As long as we keep our sin or struggles a secret, then the enemy is able to use it to accuse us.
- What will your children say when they know this about their mother?
- How can you minister to others knowing all the things you have done?
- What kind of a person are you?
Yet, a powerful and amazing thing happens when we open our mouth and we confess with our lips the wrongs we have done and the redemptive love of Christ…we are free. The power of the sin and the power of his accusations are destroyed. He can blackmail us no longer.
Forgiveness is given only by God and we confess to Him to receive it. But as this verse states, confess our sins to one another so that we may be healed. When we confess our sins to someone we trust, we break the cycle and nullify his power to accuse us.
Freedom and healing are directly related to taking Him at His word and trusting the process. He is faithful.
“They overcome him by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.” Revelations 12:11
As I think back over my 40 + years of living…I realize that I have missed so much of it. I remember being a very little girl and being so excited that I would soon start school. I remember anxiously awaiting the 4th grade so that we could change classes. No sooner did 4th grade arrive and I was dreaming of playing volleyball for the school team in 7th grade. Then the focus was driving, I mean seriously, at 16 I would have certainly “arrived,” right? After that it was graduation, turning 21, getting married, and having children. All of those monumental moments have come and gone for me and I only seemed to glance at them in the rear view mirror as my eyes were focused on the next mile marker up ahead.
The funny thing is that now I would like to pull over and let time rest for a while. I enjoy my family so much right now. My youngest is driving, my middle is in college. My husband is getting gray in his beard. My three grandchildren squabble over who gets to sit on my lap. My work is a delight to me and I love the time I get to spend with teens and children. I like my home and my friends are wonderful. All of the sudden, I realize that while I caught glimpses of my life to this point anticipating the next adventure, that now I would just like to push pause.
“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure…in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in You.” Psalm 39:5-7
So I have decided to focus on TIME…
Let’s agree to experience our life and take notice of it. I don’t want my days to be summed up with the words, “It was good” or “Same ole same ole.” Let‘s stop looking for the next turn in the road and start enjoying the company along for the ride. What do you say?
Love to you,
I am praying that you are excited about a wonderful holiday season. I love Thanksgiving so much. I think anytime I have the opportunity to be with family and friends I am blessed. I love it more than anything. I have the privilege of traveling some as a part of the ministry and the older my kids get, the more I long for time just with them. Time at home. This morning as I type, if you asked me what I am most thankful for, my top three would be: time with the Father, time with my family, and time at home.
This year our holidays will be different. Our oldest son, Tanner and his family (including my daughter-in-law and three grands) will not be here. They are doing exactly what the Lord has called them to do, but this year that means I won’t hold those sweet babies while they have their dessert. We still have the privilege of having our holidays at my Nana’s home, but my precious Papa and beloved friend are spending this holiday in heaven. In fact, many of our loved ones will be feasting with Jesus or with others this year. I have found myself feeling so sad about that and I have spent some time talking to the Father about it. After some long talks, I believe He has made it clear to me that I will not ever be able to make our holidays perfect, and that I am simply called to love on those I am able to love on. I am committed to that this year. I am thankful for a beautiful family and for the precious moments with each of them. I love that I can look at my life and the lives of my family and friends and see that He is Mighty in every way…and precious all at the same time. There are no words to describe Him. Thankful.
How do we transfer that to our children? Certainly, our children are blessed. Now, I also know that their lives are not perfect, no matter how badly we wish they were. The truth of the matter is that their lives will never be perfect. There will always be difficult people, difficult situations, and sadness. If we are waiting on a moment of perfection to be thankful, it will never arrive. I am not perfect and will never be. Neither are those around me, but isn’t that the beauty? We must be a thankful people in all situations, and we must lead our children into gratitude as well.
- Recognize blessings in our lives. Even little things like a beautiful sunrise, a good parking place at the mall, the smell of a pie cooking, and a good grade on a test are all things we can be thankful for.
- Teach them to verbalize their gratitude. Saying thank you isn’t just good southern manners, it is life-giving to our hearts.
- Allow them the opportunity to “want” for something. If we never give them the opportunity to be in need, they will never appreciate a need being met.
- Pray for blessings for others. Ask the Lord to bless someone else, even those who won’t be saying a prayer of blessing for us. The world does not revolve around us.
“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:4-5
Our deepest desire is to enter into His courts. My prayer for us over this Thanksgiving holiday is that we would enter into His presence with Thanksgiving and praise and that our children would follow us there.
Submission and obedience. Wow, these are topics which parents think about and often struggle with. We want our children to obey us, but more than that we want them to make a conscious decision to submit their will to the authority of the Father first and then to us as their parents.
Sometimes it is difficult to perceive the difference between submission and obedience. There is a difference, however, and it lies in subtleties which are very apparent to the one who is either obeying or submitting.
Let me give you the definitions for the words “submit” and “obey”…
Obey simply means “to follow a command; to conform; or to comply with an order.”
Submit, though, means “to yield, or defer out of respect, superior authority, affection, persuasion, or compulsion.”
Now, we can see that submit has a much broader application, and its uses are more definite, specific, and focused than obedience. Obedience can take place anywhere under any kind of circumstance, but in submission, a person’s will is involved, which is very important in regard to the development of character. As parents, we want our children to be obedient. But most importantly, to communicate their thoughts and opinions with us and to allow us to have open communication; yet, at the end of the day to choose to submit and bow their will to their godly authority. In this process, as we seek the Father on their behalf, their wills and character will begin to take shape and to be in tune with His voice. Our God is a God of order and authority. Submission is paramount. He is King of all Kings. How privileged we are to serve Him.
Here are some specific ways that we should be praying for our teens:
- Please pray that our daughters would have quiet and gentle spirits. 1 Peter 3:4
- Pray that our young people would find peace and security in authority – that they would understand that their parents want to protect and guide them. 1 Peter 2:13, Hebrews 13:17, Ephesians 5:21
- Pray against a rebellious spirit for each of them – that they would each love the Lord with all their heart, soul and strength. Luke 10:27
Your prayers fill in the gaps and make all the difference in the world. Thank you for standing!