The Bible is better than Target.
A grandma approached me at the Target dollar bins, asking if I knew where to find school supplies. As I was telling her to go past the greeting cards to the office aisle, another woman asked me to point her toward the AA batteries.
Although I wasn’t wearing a red shirt, I apparently gave off an “I know my way around Target” vibe. I shop there often because I can usually get everything I need in once place.
Cheese? Light bulbs? Diapers? Bedding? Luggage? Pajamas? Target has it all.
So how does the Bible factor into Target? Stick with me...
This week, I’m meditating on 2 Timothy 3:16-17 where it says I can be complete and equipped for every good work through the Word of God.
Teaching? Reproof? Correction? Training in righteousness? Comfort? Peace? The Bible has it all.
Sadly, there are days I spend more time perusing the aisles of Target than I spend looking for real deals in the Word of God. I want to be way more familiar with where to find everything that pertains to life and godliness than I am with where to find toothpaste and batteries. You probably do too.
So to help to keep things in perspective this week, here are 7 reasons the Bible is better than Target:
1. Everything found in the Bible is absolutely FREE.
2. I can never make a visit to the Word of God and leave with an empty cart. On every visit through the pages of scripture, I will ALWAYS find something I can’t live without.
3. The aisles of the Bible are never rearranged. The comfort I found in Psalm 147 last year will be in the same place today.
4. The Bible is never out of staple items – truth, peace, hope, and wisdom are always in stock.
5. The Bible never closes. It is available for visits 24/7 and long visits are encouraged on holidays.
6. Nothing in the Word of God will ever go out of style, shrink, or need to be returned. All treasures are eternal.
7. Target might have a Starbucks inside, but I can find JESUS inside the pages of my Bible.
I want to hear what treasures you find in the Word of God! Share your “scripture deals of the week” in the comments!
There are 65 days left of the year none of us expected.
When we rang in the the new decade, we celebrated 2020 with enthusiastic claims that this was going to be a year of vivid vision and perfected purpose.
Covid quickly changed our catchy inspirational words for the new year from “vision” and “purpose” to “pivot” and “unprecedented.”
But what if our initial expectations weren’t so far off?
In this year of unprecedented pivoting, perhaps we really HAVE been gifted with vivid vision and perfected purpose.
Perhaps in the stripping away of comforts and routines, we have actually seen the beauty of unmasked smiles, the opportunity to love our neighbors, the preciousness of gathering with community, the purity of stripped-down worship, and the sufficiency of Jesus in all things.
With more uncertainty in the weeks ahead, let’s not waste the vivid vision and perfected purpose we have been given.
We have 65 more days to love our neighbors, cherish unmasked smiles, pursue gathering with community, and relish worshipping with simplicity. There are 65 more opportunities for us to embrace the all-sufficiency of Christ.
Let’s be people who intentionally end 2020 with vivid vision and perfected purpose.
“You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance.” Ps. 65:11
My son asked Lauren Clark to be his wife. She said “yes.”
“Yes” to being the youngest Mrs. Kaser and all that comes with that name.
“Yes” to being his best friend and lover for life.
“Yes” to being the mother of his children.
“Yes” to aligning her goals and dreams and plans with his.
“Yes” to helping him to be the man God has called him to be.
“Yes”to being by his side through all the good days and bad days and all the days in between.
With her accepting his proposal, I’m saying “yes” to some things myself.
“Yes” to embracing this lovely young woman as my own daughter.
“Yes” to supporting Seth and Lauren Kaser as a separate family - connected to us, but their own.
“Yes” to giving her all the help and advice, but only when she asks for it.
“Yes” to giving her space and time to learn how to be his wife.
“Yes” to the truth that she knows a different version of my son than I do, and it’s supposed to be that way.
“Yes” to surrendering some of our family traditions and routines in favor of letting them make their own.
“Yes” to embracing her family and working to establish new beautiful relationships.
“Yes” to this new season of change and beauty and love and family.
“Yes” to it all, because I have prayed for this girl my son’s entire life. To all of my prayers, God has answered with Lauren and said, “yes.”
He makes all things new...but sometimes it is though a life-stopping, gut-melting, death-to-self kind of way.
My granddaughter discovered a monarch caterpillar at the nursery. We brought her home, put her in a potted milkweed, and expected to see her chew leaves for awhile. However, the next morning, she was hanging upside down on a leaf and had transformed into a bright green chrysalis by sunset. In one day, her former life was gone, and she started her confined season of transformation.
Ever have your life flip upside down and change overnight?
Did you know when a butterfly-to-be is in the chrysalis stage, her guts completely liquify? She actually digests herself. Every cell in her body changes while she’s squeezed into her transformation tube. That has to be really weird. And uncomfortable. And dark. And scary.
Sometimes life as we have known it suddenly ends, and we end up hanging by a thread, our insides going to jelly, and the weird, uncomfortable squeeze is dark and scary. I felt a strange kinship to the green little worm in a sleeping bag.
Perhaps you’re also in a season of transition - some kind of forced dying to your former life. It’s hard to have hope, isn’t it?
It’s not enough to KNOW that the butterfly will eventually come forth. When we are stuck in the dark in-between places, we crave concrete evidence that there is beauty coming forth, even while we wait.
After a bit of dangling, our little green chrysalis suddenly displayed a beautiful gold thread at her top - evidence that a transformation was taking place.
Friend, in this season of squeezing, there is surely an emerging gold ring on your chrysalis - evidence of change taking place on the inside. A crown.
The caterpillar couldn’t see the gold decoration on the outside - her ornament was only visible to those looking on. Entomologists have found no concrete purpose for the chrysalis’s golden crown. It exists to simply display the glory of God.
As you wait, holding on through this season of self-death, others are seeing your crown and glorifying God.
There is nothing more for you to do but to rest here, letting your transformation be a display for His glory.
Time and mess and struggle are prerequisites for glorious victories. It was true for our butterfly, it was true for Jesus, and it’s probably true for you and me right now too.
In the early morning light, the chrysalis that had been quite green the night before was now translucent - bright orange wings visible beneath the confining membrane.
After snapping a few photos, I proceeded to open my Bible and read the prescribed verses in my reading plan. Isaiah 40 concludes: “They who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings...”
Looking up to ingest that promise, without any announcement or fanfare, the wait was suddenly over. There was our butterfly, hanging on the clear shell of her confinement, startled and unsteady.
Sometimes, the thing that kept us from spreading our wings unexpectedly releases us, and the overnight change leaves us just holding on, insecure and surprised.
Her wings, wrinkled and tight, dripped remnants of her liquified former self. The weight of former things sometimes has to evaporate before we can fly.
Dangling on the shell of her chrysalis, she wriggled her changed body for hours, pumping life into her limp wings, laboriously inflating them to their full magnificence.
When we see a butterfly in flight or a Christ-follower walking in a season of victorious blessing, it was certainly preceded by a time of hanging on upside down, gut-wrenching change, forced resting, breaking free, putting off the old self, and pumping life into the new things.
It’s all necessary before the flight. But flight is what we were designed to do - it is what all our effort and struggle is moving toward.
Waiting on the Lord in every phase of the cycle WILL renew our strength. Mounting up with wings again is always His plan.
Oh, the squeals of delight when my granddaughter saw our soft striped worm was transformed into a winged display of glory! The little miracle perched in her tiny hand, testing new wings before fluttering off into the sky.
Friend, our wait and mess and struggle ends in pure worship and grace.
Can we make “GMP Certified” a thing? (GMP = Gospel Message Proficient) I just made that up, but it should be a thing.
Each time I take the CPR Certification course, I realize I’ve actually forgotten a few key things about keeping someone alive till professionals arrive.
Thankfully, the life-saving skills I’ve practiced on a rubber torso have never been needed, but I’m grateful to have the training I need - just in case.
The thing is- knowing the gospel isn’t a “just in case” kind of thing. There is no doubt that I am going to encounter people who are dying spiritually. So my question is this:
Do I know the gospel well enough to offer it’s life-saving truth to dying souls at a moment’s notice?
I have often asked people to tell me what the gospel is and been met with either glazed looks or generic, “Jesus loves me and died on the cross.” While that is certainly PART of the gospel, sharing a fraction of the gospel will not breathe life into a dying soul.
The full gospel is something that we need to KNOW and REHEARSE. Believers should be able to confidently and proficiently give a one minute gospel message at any time - people’s eternal lives depend on us having this information and being equipped to use it!
So let me challenge you today to pursue your GMP Certification. Review the truth, rehearse the sharing of that truth, and intentionally look for opportunities to breathe life to those you will encounter this week!
Click the GOSPEL button at the top of my website to read through a Gospel refresher!
Today, I have officially been married for half of my life. I got sappy sentimental and wistfully nostalgic this week thinking about the lifetime of memories I have with Brent Kaser. In honor of our 23rd anniversary, here are 23 of those memories:
1. I knew I was going to marry him 20 minutes into our first date. The only way I can describe what happened in that curved booth in Mimi’s Café is that I felt like I was “home” with him.
2. Brent broke his jaw four weeks after we started dating. He proposed to me with his mouth wired shut.
3. We were engaged eight weeks after our first date, and married four months later. We knew each other for six months when we committed to spend a lifetime together. The crazy part about that fact is that neither of us remember anyone suggesting we wait and get to know one another better. It’s not a timeframe I’d generally recommend, but I’m not sorry it was the one we followed.
4. Our honeymoon was spent in Yosemite. The dogwood trees were in full bloom and we decided dogwoods are our thing. We spent years vacationing with our kids in the Yosemite area and every time we saw a dogwood tree in bloom, we “had” to kiss. It’s still my favorite tree, and I wish they would grow in our area!
5. We started a homeless ministry a month after we got married. The first night we served sub sandwiches to 17 people in the park and Brent led a guy named Larry to the Lord. We don’t run it anymore, but Shining Light Homeless Ministry is still serving meals at the same park.
6. The first year we were married, we got in an argument and I got super angry. So angry that I cocked back my hand and slapped him as hard as I possibly could on his bare back. I then ran out of the house and down the street because I realized I was way out of line. I came back a half hour later and he was still sitting at the kitchen table where I left him. The one thing that had changed was the giant red hand-shaped welt on his back. The only thing he said to me was, “Hey, Nance…don’t ever do that again, okay?” I was so humbled by his grace.
7. When I was nine months pregnant with Ellie, Brent walked in on me getting dressed and caught a full view of me in broad daylight. At seeing how absolutely enormous I was, he started giggling, then laughing, then fell to the ground in uncontrollable crying hysterics. It’s a good thing that whole “till death do us part” thing was part of our wedding vows.
8. We used to own a landscaping company and we did competitive landscape shows at South Coast Plaza together. We made a great design team and won the competition a few times. Working with plants is still something we both love.
9. I once had to drive Brent’s beast of a work truck to an appointment. Leaving the parking lot, I thought I was stuck on a curb, so I pushed the gas trying to get the whole truck off the curb…except it wasn’t a curb. It was a 3 foot high pole on the side of the truck…the dent was super deep and six feet long. I parked the truck across the street so he didn’t see the damage when he got home. After I fed him his favorite dinner, I told him what I did. He went out and saw his mortally wounded vehicle, sucked in a long breath and said, “It’s a really hard truck to back up.” He soon traded the truck to buy me a minivan.
10. One day he came home from work, sat on our living room floor and said, “What if we started a child sponsorship ministry?” The next day, he pulled over and called me from a pay phone. “What do you think of the name Promise Child? It kind of goes with Acts 2:39…” The rest is ministry history!
11. The biggest, messiest, nastiest fight we ever had was over…wait for it…a Christmas tree. I’ll spare you the ugly and just say that apparently my insisting on an economical, reusable, synthetic tree was an annual show of blatant disrespect. We had an epic word battle in the garage about the stupid thing. It’s the one fight our kids really remember us having, and they make sure to bring it up every December. (BTW - He won, and I have wholly converted to the real tree team!)
12. When my sweet mom went on hospice, Brent released me from all responsibility at home and encouraged me to spend every moment I could with her. He ran our entire home, cared for our kids, and worked two jobs so that I could do nothing but enjoy and care for my mom and usher her into heaven. It was one of the most precious gifts I have ever received.
13. When I asked him if I could fly across the country to go to an over-priced writer’s conference and pursue my dream of writing a book, I didn’t expect him to say yes. Money was super tight that summer. He not only agreed to send me, but made me immediately register, buy plane tickets, and book a hotel. His support in that moment gave me the encouragement I needed and convinced me writing a book was something I could really do.
14. When Seth was 12, he was hit by a car while Brent was on a mission trip. For two days, I was in ICU with our son by myself while Brent flew home as fast as he could. I will never forget the way I crumbled into his arms with relief when he came through the hospital room door.
15. When I got the opportunity to start teaching again, his only condition was that I use part of the money I earned to hire a housekeeper so I didn’t get overwhelmed. That wasn’t a hard deal to agree to!
16. Brent sings at home. Constantly. Except he changes every song to sound like some cheesy lounge rendition of the original. Even hymns. Think about “How Great Thou Art” but Vegas style…sometimes I forget how the songs are really supposed to go.
17. I’ve listened to countless sermons that Brent has taught over the years. The one that stands out as my favorite was an evangelical message he gave at a concert in Asia. He had ministered in that closed country for ten years, and suddenly he had an opportunity to share about Jesus with a thousand people in a public place. It was the most powerful gospel presentation I have ever heard.
18. The most difficult season in our marriage was when we had to ask our oldest to leave our home because of his foolish choices. It was agonizingly painful for us. But God did an incredible miracle in Josh’s life and saved him during that time. Seeing our son grow into one of the godliest men we know – one we both go to for Biblical counsel and encouragement – was absolutely worth that awful time.
19. For my 40th birthday Brent (and some wonderful friends) threw me a surprise party. He got a hot dog cart (my favorite food!) and danced with me in front of everyone. Prior to the party, in lieu of presents, he asked the guests to do something for someone else in my honor. Our friends and family came up to the mic that night and shared their “gifts” of surprising strangers, caring for the poor or lonely, and loving others. It was the best party I have ever been to!
20. A few years ago, I got very sick and was unable to function normally for about two months. I then had major surgery and was out of commission for another two months. I had never felt so vulnerable and helpless, and my emotions were all over the place. Brent was an incredibly kind and patient caretaker and lived out his vow to care for me in sickness. He loved me on a whole new level in that season.
21. Our dog got sprayed by a skunk and then rubbed herself on absolutely everything we owned. It was the worst mess of my whole life. We both had moments where the only logical solution to the awful stench seemed to be burning the house down. It was three months till we didn’t get random whiffs of skunk in our home. Brent bought me a stuffed skunk for Valentine’s Day and hand-delivered it to my classroom. My students named him Sherlock and he is one of my class mascots now.
22. We rode bikes all over Paris last summer on the greatest vacation ever. There was this moment we came out of the river trail, up through a canopy of trees, and suddenly we were in front of the Eiffel Tower. It was absolutely magical and one of the sweetest days of my whole life.
23. Our 23rd anniversary was on the 42nd day of the Covid-19 quarantine. Being isolated at home for the six weeks leading up to our anniversary was actually super great. There’s no one else I’d rather be stuck at home with, and I hope I get to make memories with him for at least another 23 years.
If you’d like to read a more detailed list of all the marriage lessons I’ve learned, CROWN – 30 Wife-Changing Lessons is on sale this week at nancykaser.com!
Right there in between interceding for essential workers and small businesses, she requested something totally outrageous.
“Lord, I ask that you wouldn’t release us from our homes until you have changed us and accomplished the work that needs to be done in our own hearts.”
I opened my eyes and looked hard at the earnest face of the woman leading our online prayer meeting. Her prayer broke me from my thread of agreements. A “yes, Lord” wasn’t something I wanted to readily offer. Agreeing with a prayer like that is an invitation for certain discomfort.
It’s been a week now, and I still haven’t quite said, “Amen.”
The truth is, there are some deep things this season of forced isolation is uncovering. For starters, I’m an addict. Productivity is my drug of choice. I get high off of working more, achieving more, doing more. Like a junkie taking another hit, I cross things off my hefty to-do list and sigh with self-satisfaction.
The first weeks of quarantine offered me a fresh supply of intoxicating goals. I mastered the technology of online classes, learned to cut my dog’s hair, baked bread, re-landscaped the front yard, and organized my closet according to color (yeah…I’m that lady.)
But my supply of inebriating distractions is starting to dry up. And that’s kind of freaking me out. Productivity is how I typically define myself, and I’m beginning to experience withdrawal symptoms. I’m getting closer to having to be sober.
My friend Shannon Quintana didn’t know how hard she hit me this morning with her text: It’s a crazy thing when everything you DO is stripped away, and you’re faced with who you ARE.
Yeah, right now I’m not sure I like who I actually am. I’m certain you won’t like who I actually am. And I’m leaning toward believing I won’t like who you actually are either.
After weeks of confinement, many of us are discovering our beings have been hiding behind our doings. As the buzz of productivity wears off, we are encountering heavy-laden hearts full of fear, unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy, pride, and lust. It’s painful to look at the naked truth about who we are behind all the doing.
But God? He’s not discovering something new about us right now, He’s exposing us to ourselves. And as repelled as we might be by what we see, He isn’t pushing us away. Rather, He is inviting us to change.
We are running out of excuses for not dealing with ourselves. Now that laundry is caught up and the inbox is empty, there are long-ignored wounds to tend, deep disappointments to process, relationships to reconcile, and attitude adjustments that are long-overdue. The effects of busyness are wearing off, and the real state of our souls is beginning to show.
Maybe your distractions are different than mine, but I’d bet that God is wanting to do some work on your soul too. Perhaps this confinement is being allowed so that we can have the space we desperately need to do the hard things we have postponed for years.
So, what if God answers my friend’s prayer?
What if we aren’t set free from this season until His desired change is accomplished in our hearts? How long will we let it go on? Will we stay confined by our own aversion to discomfort, or are we willing to do what is hard in order to be set free?
I’m dreading the pain of self-confrontation, and I’m reluctant to endure the discomfort of being exposed as a fraud who hides behind my to-do list. I suppose you might feel the same way. Will you agree to the intervention God has set up for us both? Will you go to soul rehab with me?
As much as we may want to avoid the pain of the process, we really do want sobriety, don’t we? We really do want to be set free from the clutter, chaos, confusion, compromise, complacency, and cumbersome sin. We just don’t want to do the scary part of working through it all.
But it would be scarier for us to NOT accept His invitation.
Let’s remember a God-sent invitation to change is also a promise made by the One who cannot fail. If He is calling us to change, then He is also promising to do whatever it takes for us to be set free.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
I’m honestly having a hard time with this whole online church thing.
This last Sunday, I watched our church’s Palm Sunday service. Seeing members of our worship band on the screen (six feet apart) was a blessing, but it definitely wasn’t the same as gathering in our building for corporate worship. My pastor gave a wonderful, powerful message, but watching him on a screen lacked the connection I am used to. It’s the best we can do in this season, but I still feel like I haven’t been in church for a month – because I actually haven’t.
Since I got saved in high school, my Christianity has included church services, small group Bible studies, prayer meetings, mission trips, conferences, and retreats. Gathering with God’s people makes up the bulk of my socializing, and I’d even call it my culture. But all of that has come to a halt, and it has been quite disorienting. And I know I’m not alone. When we are used to connecting with God in a certain way, the disruption in routine can be shocking to our whole relationship with Christ. While we know it’s not the case, many of us have felt as if the absence of corporate church, worship, and fellowship is the absence of God Himself.
So what will Easter Sunday be like without the lilies on the stage? Without little girls in new dresses and boys in starched shirts arriving to church with Peeps dust in the corners of their smiles? Without grandmas in hats, without ushers in ties, without the well-rehearsed full worship band, and without the polished pastor in his Sunday-best suit? It will just not be the same.
But perhaps the church actually needs a different Easter. Perhaps what the church needs more than anything this Easter is this stripping away of everything except the plain striking beauty of the empty grave and the risen Savior.
Could this time of forced separation from our faith communities actually be a disguised gift of reconnection to the direct access we have to God? Is the removal of religious routine a recipe for revival?
Perhaps we have become so dependent on our modern forms of worship that we have diminished the simplicity of connecting with Jesus through His word and through prayer.
We are used to being spoon-fed solid messages, led into worship by gifted musicians, and cheered on by other faith-filled Jesus followers. But what kind of Jesus followers are we when we have none of that? What does our Christianity look like when there is no one else around but the people we live with, or when we are totally alone? Most of us have never had to find out, but now we will.
Paul spent a total of five and a half years in either a prison cell or under house arrest, away from the congregations he loved so much. We can be sure that he did not spend his time binge-watching TV or mindlessly scrolling through social media like many of us have done these last weeks. With nothing but the scriptures and the Holy Spirit, Paul drew near to God and advanced His kingdom while in confinement. He labored in prayer, received visions and revelations directly from God, and wrote letters of encouragement that nourish our souls thousands of years later. Isolation made Paul a deeper follower of Jesus. Oh, to have even half of that fortitude and grit to pursue Christ and the furtherance of His kingdom in our present circumstances!
The truth is, I have the same scriptures and the same Holy Spirit available, but I often lack the self-discipline and motivation to pursue Christ on my own. I prefer to be a spoon-fed consumer who can conveniently grab what I need of God and go on with my easy life. I am a lazy Christian, and I don’t think I’m alone.
Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matt 7:7) Asking, seeking, and knocking are all active verbs that require me to intentionally pursue Christ. It is surely how Paul spent his time in prison, and it’s what I am being challenged to do in my own season of confinement.
So I’m wanting to repent. I truly want to get to the end of this season having spent my time exercising the spiritual disciplines I’ve allowed to get out of shape. Because of the cross and the empty tomb, I have all I need to run this race of asking, seeking, and knocking with endurance. So do you.
So let’s allow the void of our normal forms of worship to bring us to a renewed understanding of the simplicity of the gospel and an increased pursuit of intimacy with Christ. In our time of isolation, may our appetites be increased for the foundational things of our own private faith – Bible reading, scripture memorization, prayer and worship. May His word become more precious to us as we read it for ourselves, and may we expect a more intimate understanding of the heart and mind of the Savior as we redeem the time we have been given in isolation.
This Sunday, I want the world around us to watch as God’s people proclaim that Jesus is worthy of our worship - because like our churches, the tomb is empty.
Top Photo: First day of first grade
Bottom Photo: Last day of senior year
Today it really hit me. I’m done homeschooling. Although the younger kids will still live at home next year, the season of formally educating my children at home has ended after 20 years. It’s a reality I had little control over, and today I feel proud and sad at the same time.
I’m proud that by God’s grace, we finished, and they all still like me a little. They each got to learn according to their own gifts and strengths. Even though I really should have made them do more math, and I never opened the Latin curriculum I spent a fortune on, each of them is actually quite brilliant in unique ways. They are talented, articulate, kind, creative, and passionate, and for those things, I’m proud.
Most importantly, in spite of my failings, each of them recognized their own need for a Savior, and they chose to follow Jesus. That has delighted my life and made me prouder than any other thing. Homeschooling certainly wasn’t a guarantee for their salvation, but I got to see it happen while they were home.
I’ve had 20 years of projects and discovery, field trips and curriculum fairs, co—ops, math-induced tears, countless hours of reading aloud, and seemingly endless messes- except it all HAS ended, and now I’m a little sad.
I’m sad it’s over. No more researching curriculums, planning enrichment activities, and attending co-op meetings. The lapbooks, projects, unit studies, and nature walks are sadly over. I am sad they don’t want to snuggle on the couch on a rainy day and listen to me read some fantastic story till my voice hurts- and then beg for just one more chapter. They won’t dress up and play pioneers in the back yard anymore, and playing games in the driveway with math facts and Spanish vocabulary is no longer written in my schedule.
But we did it and it was good. It was wonderful and exhausting, beautiful and messy, crazy and fun. God was faithful through it all. My children have grown into people I genuinely like. I’d want to be friends with them even if they weren’t my kids. It’s supposed to end so we can enjoy what He has for us next.
22 years ago I started a life-long adventure with Brent Kaser that I was quite ill-prepared for. In honor of our wedding anniversary, here are 22 things I’d tell myself as a new bride: