Category Archives: God’s love

Two Doors Down

By Kristen Mudrack

Perhaps the hardest thing about moving is making new friends.

And I don’t mean friends you can hang out with and have a good time with.  I mean friends that you can share everything with – the exciting things, but also the hard things – in your marriage, your kids, your eating habits, your exercise (or lack thereof) habits, your fears, and your dreams, your quiet times and your prayers.  Those friends don’t come overnight, and they take time.

When I lived in Michigan, I had that group of friends.  I didn’t have it immediately – it took a couple of years.  But I had a group of women who I could share anything with, and they could too.

Then I moved.  Twice.

I still have those friends, but they aren’t a quick car ride away anymore.  I still can tell them anything.  I still talk to them regularly.  I still count them among the people who know me best. But it’s not the same.

When I moved to TN, God knew that I’d need a friend or two, and he provided.  The day I moved into my new apartment, leaving my fiance back in IN, the other new professor in the department and his family moved in too.  Two doors down from me in the same apartment complex.

In talking to each other that day and in the days to come, we discovered that we had all grown up in the same area, attended similar churches, and so much more.  Their four year old daughter came over to my apartment and “helped” me unpack the day I moved in.  Their two year old now knows me as ‘Tisten’ and runs to hug me every time he sees me.  We started having dinner together once a week.

When Cody would come to visit me, we’d go over and play with the kids and play games with the whole family.  The kids loved Cody because he could do magic tricks with cards.  Now this family is our closest friends here in TN.  We share much together, and they even made the trip out to our wedding.

God provided more than I ever could have imagined in this family – friends who we hope to be near for many years to come.  I love this family, and am privileged to get to live life alongside them.  Two doors down, in fact.

The Greatest Commandment

By Kristen Entwistle

“How would my life change if I actually thought of each person I came into contact with as Christ – the person driving painfully slow in front of me, the checker at the grocery store who seems more interested in chatting than ringing up my items, the member of my own family with whom I can’t seem to have a conversation and not get annoyed?  If we believe that, as Jesus said, the two greatest commands are to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind’ and to ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ then this passage has a lot to teach us.  Basically, Christ is connecting the command to ‘love God’ with the command to ‘love your neighbor.’  By loving ‘the least of these,’ we are loving God himself.”  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love)

Throughout the Gospels, the writers record conversations that Jesus had with teachers of the law.  These teachers thought they had it all figured out.  They had their laws and their ceremonies and their rituals and customs.  They thought that if you followed everything to a T, that you’d be fine.  You’d be delivered from your sin and in right standing with God.

Then Jesus came and turned their world upside down.

Jesus came to fulfill the law, not abolish it.  But He had a different way of doing things than the teachers of the law.  He ate with tax collectors and sinners rather than the kings and priests.  He wasn’t afraid to heal a sick man on the Sabbath.  He walked with sinful people rather than try to prove He was better than them.

I love Jesus’ answer to the teachers of the law in Matthew 22.  The expert in the law is trying to trap Jesus, as they so often did, and asks, “Teacher, what is the greatest Commandment in the law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

The teacher of the law knew that there were hundreds of laws in the Old Testament that Jesus could have chosen.  And to the teachers of the law, all commands were important.  You couldn’t be right with God unless you upheld not just one, but all of the commands.  The teacher of the law was probably a little stunned by this answer from Jesus.  It probably didn’t make a whole lot of sense to him because it wasn’t about sacrifices for sins or not working on the Sabbath.

Unless you just love to study Leviticus and Deuteronomy and all of the hundreds of laws that the Israelites were given by God, you’ve probably not cared about the command to not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk (Exodus 23:19) or to not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material (Leviticus 19:19).  So why do we care about these two commands that Jesus mentions in Matthew 22?

All of the laws that the Israelites had to follow back in the day hang on these two commands.  All of the laws and customs and seemingly insignificant verses in the first few books of the Bible were to turn the people’s attention to God alone.  To give them parameters to live by so that they would love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength.  It wasn’t possible for them to do so on their own.  All of those other commands of not stealing, not lying, not coveting what your neighbor has – those fall under the second greatest command – to love your neighbor as yourself.

The laws that the Israelites were given weren’t to make them annoyed by all the little details.  They were to create a framework in which the Israelites could live together as a people and could worship the One true God with everything they had.  Now, I’d be a horrible teacher if I didn’t point out that they failed miserably on many occasions.  But that doesn’t mean that God didn’t still continue to pursue them, his chosen people, and continue to give them chance after chance after chance to turn back to him.

All of the laws and the things that the Prophets said were to fulfill the two commands that Jesus mentions in Matthew 22.  So it makes sense that Jesus would remind the teachers of the law that this was what they were really after.  Not making sure that no one did any work on the Sabbath.  Or inspecting the clothes their people wore to make sure it wasn’t some polyester blend.  But loving the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving their neighbor as themselves.

But what does that mean for us?  We don’t live in the age when we have to make sacrifices at the temple or worry about what we eat or wear.  Those rules don’t apply to us anymore because Christ came and was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  But that doesn’t mean that we can ignore the greatest commands.

To many people, these two commands seem disconnected and disjointed.  What does one have to do with the other?

“By loving the least of these, we are loving God himself.”  (Francis Chan)

How would your view of these commandments change if you thought of each person you came into contact with as Jesus?  Each annoying student in your class, each person you pass on the street, each child who cries in the middle of the Sunday service.

My challenge to you (and to me) is to keep the two greatest commandments connected, not separate.  To love God, and to love people as if they were God himself.  To keep these commandments in everything we do.

I never said it was easy.  But it is what we have been commanded to do.

I believe. But help my unbelief.

By Kristen Entwistle

It’s never quite the way you plan it, is it?  Life?

One day, you wake up, thinking it’s all going to be all right, and then – bam.  You get thrown a curve ball that you never expected.

A few weeks ago, my family faced one of those curve balls: the unexpected and largely unexplained disappearance and death of my uncle.

What do you say when something like that happens?  How do you make sense of the seemingly unexplainable?  How do you cope with the gaping hole that is left in his place – of a father, a husband, an uncle, a friend, a surgeon, a brother?  Where do you find peace in the midst of such turmoil?

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

Hold on a second, God.  In the midst of all of this, I’m supposed to just not let my heart be troubled?  You’re telling me this is easy?  And just don’t be afraid.  Sure.  That’s just easy peasy.  But your peace, your shalom, can I feel that today?  Can you give me some more of that today?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Great, thanks for that reminder, God.  This life isn’t going to be a piece of cake, and we will have trouble.  Right old ray of sunshine you are.  But, you have overcome the world, even overcome death.  At a time like this, that’s easy to lose sight of.  But thank you for the reminder, and for overcoming the world.  It made all the difference.

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“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Ecclesiastes 2:1,4

Yes, a time for everything.  Even Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus.  But remember what He said just before He went to the tomb, to Martha? 

“I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  John 11: 25-26

Yes, Lord.  I believe.  But help my unbelief. 

I don’t have all the answers.  I can’t explain why my uncle’s life was ended on this earth.  I don’t know how best to fill the hole that is left in his absence.  But I do know where to start finding peace:  At the foot of the cross, in the arms of Jesus.

Challenges, Speedbumps, and Mountains

I started off 2016/ended 2015 with this facebook status:

Honestly, I’m glad that 2015 is going to be in the rearview mirror. Praying that 2016’s challenges and speedbumps and mountains will be weathered with God’s grace and strength, not my own.

And boy, what a 2016 it’s been so far.

Challenges, speedbumps, and mountains?  Check, check, and check.

I can’t give you all the details (because I don’t know all of them myself) but suffice it to say that every area of my life has been … well, for lack of any other words, jumbled up … this year.

I am facing a year of giant changes.  I don’t know yet where these changes will take me – or when.  But I do know that God is unchanging.  Unyielding.  Immovable.

I am facing a year of the unknown.  I don’t know what is going to happen in this year, but I do know that God is all-knowing.  All-loving.  All-powerful.

2016 not my own

I am facing more than a year of challenges – I am facing a lifetime.  A lifetime of things that I don’t expect, don’t understand, and won’t soon forget.  But it’s a lifetime of challenges weathered with the God of the Universe on my side.

I am facing more than a year of speedbumps – I am facing a lifetime.  Some speedbumps may throw me for a loop, while others may slow me down.  But it’s a lifetime of speedbumps faced with my God in the driver’s seat.

I am facing more than a year of mountains – I am facing a lifetime.  I will climb, and I will fall.  And when I get to the top, there will be more mountains to climb. But it’s a lifetime of climbing mountains with the Lord of Creation by my side.

I can’t do this, but God can.  And He will.  Every step of the way, He is with me.  No matter what challenges, speedbumps and mountains come my way, I will not be shaken.  I will not be moved.  Because my God is with me, and He will never leave or forsake me.  Amen and amen.

 

When God Is At Work, And We Just Have To Stand Back And Say Wow

By Kristen Entwistle

Sometimes I just have to stand back and marvel at how God works.  It’s pretty amazing.

In late October, I came across Simple Moments Stick, where they were pairing up bloggers from around the world for the month of November to encourage one another.  I ended up getting paired up with Nichole from My Anchored Life.  I must admit, I definitely went into this whole thing completely on a whim, not really knowing what to expect.

And God blew away my expectations.  Big time.

I started by reading through some of Nichole’s blog.  God has certainly given Nichole the gift of writing, and she is using it for His glory.  Her blog is anchored in Christ, as is her life, and she seemed like an awesome person that I really wanted to get to know.

nicholeWhen I first e-mailed Nichole, I was afraid she was going to take one look at my e-mail and ask for a different partner.  Not because I’m scary or demanding, but because she wanted someone who was more on her level.  You see, Nichole’s a home-school mom of four kids, while I am mom of none.  Nichole is married to her military husband and has moved many places over her life, while I am…not.  Nichole spent the month of October blogging EVERY DAY, while I definitely did not.

And then…she e-mailed me back.

And God did something amazing.  He took two totally different people from two different stages of life and gave them connections – connections that are no coincidence.  Nichole and I both went into this blind.  We both have busy, full lives that allow us to correspond during the week.  We both started writing and blogging as hobbies and have watched it turn into something more.  And Nichole has known two people with CF throughout her life.  And she lives in a state that I am going to visit this month – which means we actually get to meet face to face.

Coincidences?  I think not. 

I’m still a little floored by the fact that God orchestrated this, and that He knew what I needed before I even needed it.  I’m so grateful that God has brought Nichole into my life and that we have the opportunity to meet face to face.  She has been an encouragement and a friend to me in this last month, and I couldn’t have asked for a better ‘sister.’

Thank You

By Kristen Entwistle

As my family gathered around the table last week to celebrate Thanksgiving, I found myself caught up in the to-do list.  Is the table set?  Is the right tablecloth on the table?  Is the pumpkin pie made?  Is the turkey carved?  Why isn’t the gravy thickening?  Are the candles lit?  Why isn’t everyone at the table?  Oh no, we forgot the butter!  Are the sweet potatoes done?

After the dishes were put away, the pie and turkey had been consumed, and the Lions won (what!!), I finally turned my attention to giving thanks.  It wasn’t about the turkey, or the pie, or the game of Dutch Blitz I won, or even football.  It’s about saying, “Thank you” even when you don’t think you have anything to be thankful for. 

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Thank you in the midst of the unknown, in the middle of cancer.  Thank you in the midst of funerals and hospice care.  Thank you even when the world and its violence doesn’t make sense.  Thank you in the middle of the falling apart, the impossible, and the unexplained.

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It’s thank you when all you see around you is the darkness, the violence, the unknown.  It’s thank you for what I have, even if it seems so little – it’s more than I deserve already.  It’s thank you for every day, not just this day, the day that reminds me to be thankful.  It’s thank you for the food on my table, and the people around it, both near and far.  It’s thank you for life, and love, and learning, and growing.  It’s thank you for the cross.

Thank you for Your grace – because it is something freely given that I do not deserve, or have to earn.

Thank you for Your love – because it is perfect, holy, and true.  It is so much more than I ever can imagine.

Thank you for Your mercy – on me, a sinner.

Thank you for Your Son – the Savior of the world, whose advent we await with confident expectation this season.

thanks 3

The Hollywood Version

By Kristen Entwistle

We all face battles in our lives, struggles, suffering.  It’s different for each of us.  For me, the looming giant in my way is a little thing called cystic fibrosis (and all it entails).

I’ve often told people that I can’t do the ‘sick kid’ books and movies – you know, the tear jerkers like My Sister’s Keeper: the girl who dies in a car crash, giving her organs to save her sister with cancer; or The Fault in Our Stars: the two cancer patients who fall in love and then one of them dies; A Walk To Remember: the handsome young man falling in love with the sick girl, giving her the ability to make the most out of her last days; or even the Fox TV show Red Band Society: the teenagers who live in a hospital and become fast friends because they’re all sick.

I’ve read those books, tried to watch those shows.  But they don’t really depict real life for those of us with any disease, at least in my experience.

The reality is that life is often hard physically – the treatments, the demands on our bodies from the therapies – it can take a toll, sometimes ones that you can see, but many times ones that you can’t.

The reality is that life is often hard emotionally – only people who have been through what we are experiencing can really understand.  And though you try to sympathize and understand (which we appreciate greatly) what we are going through, the reality is that we often go through it alone.  We don’t want to burden you with our fears, insecurities, and all of the baggage that comes with a chronic illness.  We’re trying to spare you – but it often means we are left alone.

The reality is that life is often hard Spiritually – reconciling our struggles with a good God, the creator of everything, and why He is allowing these things to happen in our lives.

The reality is that life is often hard mentally – having few people to lean on because they are scared away by your disease, storing it all up inside and only falling apart behind closed doors.

The books and the TV shows almost make it look like it’d be fun to be sick.  They romanticize it.  They say that you’d be unique, different, and everyone would just love you for who you are, no matter what.  That living in a hospital would be cool.  That it’s not scary to have a real idea of how long you’ve got left on earth.  That no one treats you differently.  That your life isn’t different from anyone else’s.  That people will fall in love with you in spite of your sickness, never rejecting you for your disease.

Pardon my French, but I call BS.
Complete and total BS.

Life is not often like it is portrayed in movies and TV shows – sick or not.

Real life is often messier than the media portrays it. 

Real people aren’t stick skinny and eat ten calories per day.  Real people play in the dirt, and that’s okay.  Real people don’t have it all together all the time.  Real people struggle, fail, fall, and scrape their knees.

hollywood 1

Although my life has not been as pretty and prefect as the media may portray it, it’s actually been so much better.  Because I live alongside other real people, who help to pick me up when I fall down, and who take my hand when they fall down.  I live alongside people who are struggling with hard things, and get to watch as they grow in faith and shine His light so brightly even in the midst of all of it.  I get to invite people into my life, and get to pour into theirs.  I get to play with kids, who bring genuine smiles to my face no matter what else has happened that day.  I get to see God work in amazing ways through my friends, and get to let Him work through me.

I’d rather have real life with Christ any day of the week than the romanticized version we see on the screen, no matter how hard it is. 

Wouldn’t you?

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Waiting On The World To Change: Down Bourbon Street

By Kristen Entwistle

A few months ago, I took a trip to New Orleans for a scientific conference.  The famous Bourbon Street was a ten minute walk from our hotel, and we ate dinner in the French Quarter nearly every night.

My first trip down Bourbon Street was crowded and I was mostly just trying to keep track of my group so that I didn’t get lost in the throng of people.

My second trip down Bourbon Street, I got to take a better look around. 

And I didn’t like what I saw. 

Every other brightly lit sign enticed people to come into strip clubs and sleezy bars and questionable establishments.  (To be fair, there are some reputable and higher class bars/restaurants on Bourbon Street).  But it’s not just the signs that these establishments use to try to get people to come through their doors.  At every strip club, there is at least one bouncer telling people to come in and that it’s free and what they’re going to get when they go in.  And in the doorway, there’s always at least one scantily clad (sometimes not at all clad) woman moving her body to get the boys on the street to come in.  And then there are the college students, clearly on spring break, on the balconies above the street, throwing beads down to the people walking through the street, whooping and cat-calling for anyone they (in their drunken state) found attractive.

My third trip down Bourbon Street, I was tired and not really paying attention to what was around me.  It was raining, and I was mostly trying not to get our group lost.

My fourth trip down Bourbon Street, I was overwhelmed.  The line from a song that came to mind: Waitin’, waitin’, I’m waitin’ on the world to change.

I was filled with sadness at the things that I was walking past.  My heart broke for the people for whom this was their only reality, for whom this may be their only option for a job.  I wanted so much to yell up at the college students on the balconies, “There’s so much more to life than this.  Don’t waste your life chasing things that won’t satisfy.  Come to the well, where Jesus will freely give you Living Water, and salvation.”

But when the bright lights and pretty beads and glittering storefronts beckon, it’s a hard sell for anything else.  The Church doesn’t dazzle in the moonlight or have a glowing sign.  In fact, our lights are usually off and our doors locked at the hours that Bourbon Street is open.

bourbon 1

We’ve got to do more than just wait on the world to change – because on its own, it won’t.  But I’m not suggesting we go hand out tracts on Bourbon Street, either.  Let’s start by living life so that people can see whom we serve.  Let’s love like Jesus loved, no matter what people have done or how different they are from us.

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And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be doing more than just waiting on the world to change.

Not My Dreams, But Yours

By Kristen Entwistle

I don’t put much stock in dreaming.  Mostly because I find that the dreams (as in hopes and aspirations) I have end up getting squashed by the world or by other people.  Perhaps that’s why I didn’t particularly like this song the first few times I heard it.  Then I actually started listening.

The song talks about David, his dreams of being a ‘big-time shepherd someday.’  But God had bigger plans for him than shepherding sheep.  David was going to the shepherd king, the one on whom the lineage of Jesus rested.  The song talks about Mary, who dreamed of having a family.

But God had bigger plans for her: raising a king. 

Makes me wonder what kind of dreams God has for me.

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Because if I allow myself to really think about it, I do have dreams: Dreams of white dresses and of kids playing in the backyard.  Dreams of teaching and writing and speaking.  Dreams of contributing in a very small way to CF research.  Dreams of loving the next generation to Jesus.

Sometimes I start to wonder if I’m just deluding myself, hoping that these dreams might someday come true.  Sometimes I wonder if dreaming is worth it – if I’m just going to be disappointed.

Because when you’re in the thick of life, when it feels like you’re sinking in the quicksand, straining against the current or stuck in the mud – I find that it’s harder to stay positive, and easier to be cynical and bitter.

But then I come back to this song, Dream For You.  What would happen if I let God dream for me instead?

What if I was just have willing to say, “God, do with me and my life what you will.  I’m willing to live all of my life for you.  Not my will, but yours be done.  Not my dreams, God, but yours.” 

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It’s not like my dreams are unrealistic – being a princess or having a castle or being a millionaire.  But in the end, God has a better plan for me than I could ever imagine.  And yes, I hope that some of the things that I dream of will come true someday.  But I’m going to let Him dream for me tonight, and wait and see what He’s got in store.

So come on, let me dream, let me dream for you

I am strong, when you’re weak I will carry you

So let go of your plans, be caught in my hand

I’ll show you what I can do

When I dream for you

 

He Is Faithful

By Kristen Entwistle

I don’t really celebrate my birthday anymore.  It’s really just like any other day.

Twenty-five years ago, my parents were told that, because of my disease, I wouldn’t live to see my twenties.  Since my birth, medicine and science have provided some new treatments that have increased the life expectancy to 37.

And here I am, at the age of 25, still living, breathing, and praising God for every day. 

It’s pretty amazing that God could take this broken body and use it for His glory.

It’s almost unbelievable that He can take my story, my brokenness, my disease, my sickness, and use it to draw myself and others closer to Him. 

He’s given me a voice to sing His praises, and a platform to share Him with those around me.

And so today, I’m going to celebrate His faithfulness.

I’m going to celebrate what He has done, and what He has brought me through.  The fires that He has brought me through have refined me.  The trials that He has walked with me through have strengthened me.  Through the valleys and the mountains, He has been faithful, and He will continue to be faithful to the end of time.

That’s something to be thankful for.  That’s something to celebrate.

Phil 1 6

***Also published at brokenbeautifulBOLD.com ***