Category Archives: Faith

All things faith related.

A Taste of the Afterlife

Hello, friend! How are you holding up these days? I know this is a time of difficulty for many, so I wanted to start by telling you I’m saying a prayer for you as I type, and I appreciate you taking the time to open and read this post today, when you have so many other things fighting for your attention. Alright, let’s jump in. 🙂

What if everything we experience on earth is really a taste of what’s to come in the afterlife? And if it is…so what? Hear me out and I’ll keep it brief.

On earth, we are perpetually stuck in the in-between. We live in a world where good and evil co-exist, and so our lives are filled with both at any given moment.

Maybe we go on vacation to the mountains, but when we arrive, the hotel lost our reservations. On vacation in the mountains? Good! … Lost reservations? Bad.

Life is a balancing act of the good and the bad, right?

Occasionally we experience times of extreme good or extreme bad—like a long, fun, health-filled summer break, or these days of learning to live with the reality of COVID-19. Life can be hard. And confusing.

Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but simply put, good comes from God, and evil is the result of separation from God.

Heaven is a place full of goodness, love, peace, joy, light, wellness, and God’s perfect love.

Hell is a place separated from ALL of the above (because all good things stem from God). With that separation comes anger, hatred, pain, and loneliness.

The question I opened with is an idea that recently blew my mind: What if everything we experience on earth is really a taste of what’s to come in the afterlife? Good and bad alike.

We think we’re intelligent now…but we’ll know and learn so much more in heaven!

We think we know beauty now…but we’ll experience views, colors, and beauty so much more exquisitely in heaven!

We think we know what loves means now…but we’ll experience love so much more completely in heaven!

The converse is also true.

We feel pain now…how much greater the pain will be if we choose eternal separation from God (hell).

We feel lonely now…how much more intense the loneliness will be in hell.

We get angry and perform violent acts…how much worse the violent acts will be in hell.

It’s like God is giving us a glimpse of both sides, and giving us a lifetime to make our final choice. A lifetime may feel like forever, but really it’s just a tiny dot on the map of eternity.

And so we must choose. Some may be thinking, “but nobody chooses hell, Jessie.” But just as choosing to eat Oreos for every meal is equal to choosing poor health, ignoring God is the same as choosing to reject him. Jesus is pretty clear in Luke:

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” –Luke 11:23

Do we want to embrace our loving God now, choose his all-consuming love while we’re on earth, and live forever in heaven experiencing pure goodness and perfect peace? Goodness and peace that is incomprehensibly greater than that which we experience now?

Or do we want to spend our lives claiming we don’t need God, mustering feeble attempts to be a “good person” in our own strength while denying the existence of God altogether, and then spend eternity separated from all that is good and right? Experiencing pain and sorrow in measures far beyond what we know of it now?

I don’t know about you, but I choose God. Here and now. Sure, you’re free to say yes to God in your dying breath, but why wait? Why not experience the fullness of life he has planned for you starting today?

If the wonderful things on earth are only the smallest glimpse of what awaits us in heaven, I’d say it’s beyond worth powering through the tough times until we get there. And I don’t even want to think about the alternative, do you?

God, thank you that you love us so deeply. Thank you that your goodness is better than our human minds can fathom and that you desire each of us to be saved and in relationship with you, the Source of all goodness and love. I pray for those who haven’t experienced you yet, and ask you to open their hearts and minds to you. Thank you for being good and trustworthy. Amen.

I’d love to hear what thoughts or questions you have on the matter—just drop a comment below!

By the way, this conversation isn’t just for adults! Kids wrestle with these same big concepts too, and need people and resources in their lives to support them. That’s exactly why I wrote POWER UP. This novel is for anyone 8+ who needs an entertaining reminder of God’s goodness and power, and his desire to speak to each of us personally. Trust me, this Selah Award Finalist book is not just for kids. And the kindle version just so happens to be on sale for $0.99 through this Sunday (4/19/20)!

Pressing the Reset Button

I promise not to weigh you down with Coronavirus chatter; that info is already being slammed in our faces from every direction. Let’s take our thoughts in a different direction for a minute. Let’s think about the new face of families in the midst of this pandemic.

Home, At Home, Decoration, Wood, Canvas

 Families are “stuck” at home, schools and lessons cancelled or adapted, many parents either out of work temporarily or working from home. For many, family members are under the same roof for longer than just the gap between dinner and bedtime.

There are currently plenty of excellent posts out there focusing on how to fill the extra time. These posts are helpful and relevant, and will hopefully prevent many parental headaches. But that’s not the intent of this post.

Would you agree with me that social activities are somewhat of an addiction to some families? You know the type—if there’s a gap in their schedule, they aim to fill it. These kids are used to going to school, running from one activity to the next, then waking to do it all over again. That’s a pretty standard family rhythm these days, I’d venture to say.

We used to run our lives similarly. Not because we chose to, necessarily. We just didn’t pause long enough to choose not to. In this day and age, we have to be deliberate to choose not to overfill our schedules; saying “yes” to all. the. things. is a given. During seasons of high busyness, I’ve always known we were missing out on something greater by coloring in all our white space. We’ve since made some good changes, and I haven’t regretted it for a second. Yes, our kids are still in outside activities, and no, as we’ve changed our lifestyle they haven’t missed running around like mad. And no, we’re certainly not perfect at maintaining balance (I wish).

Many families operate in task mode 24/7. I don’t believe relationships have what they need to thrive in task-mode circumstances. There’s peace to be found in life’s white space when it’s no longer filled with rushing.

My prayer for families during this time of “self-distancing” is for families to remember how to function as families again… For free time when kids can remember what it feels like to use their imaginations. For parents to remember how it feels to sit on the couch with a cup of tea and play a game with their kids. No time limits. No, “we have to leave in ten minutes” rushing here and there. No short tempers due to high demand schedules. My prayer is for relationships to rekindle as the breakneck pace of life slows.

Read, Socks, Coffee, Morning, Woman

As easy as it is to complain about restaurants closing, stores being sold out, and isolation being encouraged, let’s be proactive to reverse our thinking. Let’s do all within our power to embrace our situations. Of course there are hard times included with this social isolation, financial difficulties not the least of these. I’m not denying the difficulties here. But look around. Breathe it in. Your home. Your loved ones. The freedoms you still have, which are still abundant.

“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:7

I don’t believe God is the source of evil and sickness, but I do believe he uses all these things for good. Could it be that God is taking the opportunity to press the “reset” button? Could it be he’s reminding us how central our families truly are to a healthy, functioning society? Let’s not resist what God wants to do in us and with us during this history-making time. Come, Holy Spirit. Bring your Kingdom. Change our hearts. Amen.

I’d love to hear your insights and questions in the comments below! And now, since so many people suddenly have lots of time on their hands, let me recommend a few great books you can find on Amazon…

For tween boys (or girls!), I recommend Joey Flynn’s Extraordinary Tale by Meghan E White. My 9-yr-old son loved it!

For parents of tweens (raising my hand), I highly recommend Hal and Melanie Young’s No Longer Little: Parenting Tweens with Grace and Hope. And I have to be honest–I’m only halfway through this one right now, but I’m hanging on its every word. If you have a tween, please check it out!

For women of all ages, I love Morning Meditations at Marina’s Kitchen Table by Marina Bromley. It’s all you could want and more in a morning devotional.

For cozying up with your little girl, this picture book by Chip Mattis is the sweetest… Under the Dancing Tree.

And if you’re needing something to keep your kids (8 & up) growing in their faith, even if church is unable to meet, I recommend Power Up by Jessie Mattis…yep, that’s me. Shameless plug I know, but still. It’s relevant. 🙂

Thanks for reading and have a blessed, peace-filled week!

Kids: Kingdom Hungry

When did we start expecting so little of our children? Sure, schools cram kids full of information before sending them home to juggle homework, extracurricular activities, and family, but that doesn’t always mean we expect much from them, aside from excessive busyness. As a society in general, we’ve loaded kids down with a lot of “stuff,” while also lowering our expectations in many ways.

We think they can’t handle losing, so we give everybody a prize. We think they can’t handle assigned chores (and we don’t want to listen to them complain), so we’ve stopped requiring that they pitch in around the house. They ask, we give.

What kind of kids are we producing? Hard-working, well-adjusted, and faith-filled? Or anxiety-ridden, self-conscious doubters?

*Disclaimer: My oldest is eleven and I don’t have it all figured out. If you feel like I’m pointing fingers, please be assured I realize I have three pointing back at myself, and we’re all on a journey. There are many contributing factors to who a child becomes.*

Here’s what I really want to focus on—what we expect of our kids in regard to our Christian faith.

First, a little about my family. My husband and I have frequent discussions with our three kids. Always have. We listen to their thoughts and share our own. We talk about implications to certain ideas and ask questions. We talk about Jesus and the Bible and its rich history and meaning.

We aren’t content to read with our kids about Noah’s Ark for the umpteenth time and call it good.

Faith is a complex, constantly evolving thing. We don’t want to overwhelm them with details and conversations they’re not intellectually ready for, but we do want to acknowledge their capabilities in understanding this three-in-one God who loves them more than they’ll ever understand (this side of heaven).

My son, always climbing to new heights!

Our family moved to a new area a couple years ago and we spent plenty of time church-hunting. Do you know one of the hardest parts for a family about finding a new church to call home? The children’s programs. It took us awhile to find a new home church, and although there are many great churches in town, we’re so happy we searched until we found one that shares our vision for kids.

Yes, we want our kids to have fun and love church. But that’s not the end-all. Unfortunately, for too many these days, it is.

Some churches are so seeker friendly that the more established Christian children get the short end of the stick. They get a bare-bones lesson about “love” or “kindness” or some other general value, play games, get a prize, and go home.

After being part of a church plant that had a rich children’s program before our move, our kids caught on to this seeker-sensitive dynamic quickly in our church hunting. One time we got in the car (okay, van) after church, asked how it went, and got this response: “It was fine. Played some games and watched a funny video.” To which we asked, “What was the lesson about?” The answer: “We didn’t really have a lesson. There was a funny video about being kind, but it didn’t mention God.”

I recognize that was our one-week glimpse into their program, but unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for children’s church programs to simply tout good values these days.

Why?

Well, one reason seems to be our lowered expectations. We want to be sure kids have a good time and come back next week; we don’t want to burden them with in-depth lessons.

Have we forgotten that children are often quick learners, capable of understanding far more than we give them credit for? Have we considered that they’re often craving deeper information about their faith in a time when life has a lot of changes and questions? Do we not realize how Kingdom-hungry children really are?

Do we really want to teach down to them only to have them meet our lowered expectations?

If we aren’t bold enough to teach our children that God loves them, sent Jesus to bring them into a lifelong relationship of love, forgiveness, and the assurance of Heaven, and then sent his Holy Spirit to empower them each day, what are we really trying to accomplish?

Let’s dare to be bold when talking to our children about God. Let’s talk to them at their level, and recognize that “their level” is probably much higher than we assume.

Children aren’t the church of the future. They’re the church of today. They’re only the church of the future when grown-ups tell them so.

What are your thoughts? What have been your observations of the kids in your life regarding faith? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!

My Christian fiction novel, Power Up, was written for the exact purpose of giving kids (8 & up) a boost in their faith. It’s perfect for kids who crave a bit more knowledge about God’s role in our lives than what they receive at church or home.

I’m excited to tell you that a companion study guide is now available as a free download on my website! It’s great for individual study or small group gatherings of kids who want to dive in. Check it out here – and encourage the kids in your life to power up! 🙂

Quick update on me…I’ve recently completed the women’s fiction manuscript I’ve been working on for over a year, and I’m so excited!! (Still plenty of editing to do.) I have to withhold details for now, but the story is near and dear to my heart, inspired by true events in my incredible grandparents’ lives. Pray with me, if you would, that the right publishing professionals would see its value, and give it a chance to become a real book one day! Thanks for your support! You guys are the best!

One last thing–Power Up has been named as a finalist in the 2020 Selah Awards! The winner will be announced in May, but it’s honestly an honor just to be recognized as a finalist.

Present in the Chaos

You guys. I can’t believe how much gift wrapping I have left to do before Christmas. Every year I tell myself I’ll have it all done by mid-month so I can just relax and enjoy the downtime before Christmas with my family. Maybe even read a book (gasp). But every year, I just don’t seem to pull it off.

I’m guessing I’m not alone. (Maybe I should be breathing a sigh of relief that I’m at least done with my shopping?) And here we are again, wanting to relish in the season but finding ourselves too busy. Maybe you aren’t physically busy; maybe you’re mentally busy. It amounts to the same thing, doesn’t it? Separation from the people or things we’d rather be able to focus on.

I’m not here to give you Three Magic Ways to Stop Being Busy, although I wish I could. Instead, I’m here to encourage us (yes, myself included) to embrace life right here, right now, no matter how messy, busy, or complicated life might be.

Be present in the chaos.

When just the very top of your to-do list looks like this…

  1. Make cookies for event
  2. Fill out Christmas cards
  3. Finish Christmas shopping
  4.  Spend time with Jesus
  5. Wrap gifts
  6. Play with my kids and/or spend time with friends

…please don’t be planning your Christmas shopping list in your mind while you’re playing with your kids. Be present.

Please don’t be worrying about the Christmas meal plan while you’re spending time with Jesus. Be present.

Please don’t be worrying about (fill in the blank) while you’re filling out cards. Be present.

People have been taking pride in multi-tasking for far too long. I admit, sometimes it’s a necessary evil, but I also realize how soul-sucking it can become. When we multi-task, nothing ever feels done. Our minds are always working on the next task, which means our souls never get a chance to rest and breathe before we move on to the next task or thought.

Be present in the moment, whether you’re spending time with loved ones, cooking, cleaning, or praying. Let yourself fully experience the moment, tell yourself it’s okay to just do one thing at a time, and see if just a little bit of that holiday stress doesn’t melt away.

There’s a quote by Dallas Willard that I just love (which is answering the question of how to be spiritually healthy).

“Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

That’s it. Short. Sweet. Magical.

Whether our hurry is physical or mental, it’s exhausting and is distracting us from God’s full purpose for our lives. Honestly, I ebb and flow in this area of life, but when I’m truly intentional to eliminate hurry and be present in each moment, the peace that it brings is indescribable, and so, so worth it.

 Eliminate the hurry and see what God has in store for you. Be present in each moment, and I’m positive you won’t regret it. You just may end up with enough space in your life, mind, and heart to fully celebrate God coming to earth as a baby in order to begin carrying out his rescue plan for humankind.

Thank you, God, for loving us enough to come to earth in the form of Jesus in order to show us your love in person, reach, and rescue us. Thank you that we can trust your plans for our lives. May we honor and glorify you this season by offering you our hearts, minds, and time. Let us slow down, be present, and embrace each moment as the gift that it is. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Leave me a comment to share your thoughts and your best tips for slowing down when life is busy! And, if you haven’t already, pop on over to the sidebar (or the bottom of your phone) and sign up to receive blog posts and writer updates straight to your email! When you do, you’ll receive a thank-you gift of a printable list of my top ten favorite inspirational quotes and verses! Merry Christmas and thanks for stopping by! Oh, and – shameless plug – if you’re struggling to come up with gift ideas for the kids in your life, check out these books: Under the Dancing Tree by Chip Mattis or Power Up by Jessie Mattis! 🙂 With the magic of Amazon Prime, you still have time!

(One last thing – I just reread my Thanksgiving post and truly had no idea this post was about basically the same thing. Guess we all know time management is my big struggle these days, don’t we?? Haha!)

How Much is Enough?

God helps those who help themselves, they say. Just believe and God will provide, they say.

I serve God by being a classroom parent for my eight-year-old, a children’s church worker, on the worship team, the PTA, and running my own business while chasing after my toddler, they say. I serve God by going to church, working, and living a quiet life, they say.

If we’re really honest with ourselves, I think the question we answer with how we live our lives is: How much is enough for God? Maybe we didn’t even know there was a question, let alone that we were answering it by the way we live our lives. But we are.

Is it okay, I ask, as I currently feel like my ministry is writing, though I could be serving more actively in my local church. Is it okay, asks the person who loves serving in multiple ways, and filling their evenings with meetings and events. Is it okay, asks the person who prefers quiet evenings at home, but is secretly a prayer warrior in the night.

Is it enough?

Am I enough?

As Christ-followers, we strive to please our King. We want to know we’re living our lives to please and serve him.

There’s no doubt that every single person we ask would have their own opinions on how we should best live our lives. We get overwhelmed by what others expect, think, or want from us. We insert artificial expectations (from ourselves, others, or God) into our lives and claim them as fact.

How in the world are we supposed to live up the expectations of ourselves, others, and God? How are we supposed to figure out the best things to pour our energies into without leaving ourselves worn and dry?

This is how:

1. Listen to God, above all else. There will always be other voices making suggestions or even demands for our time. Ask God to speak, and he will. Ask him to help you prioritize your life and he will. Yes, he speaks through the Bible, but it doesn’t end there. Quiet yourself and listen for words, impressions, or pictures that God might want to share with you.

2. Guard your joy and peace. Joy is deeper than happiness. It’s something that comes only from God and it can remain even in seasons of sadness. If our lives are so busy or our priorities are out of whack, our joy and peace suffers, plain and simple. If you’re having trouble reclaiming the joy and peace you know should be yours in Christ, I encourage you to step back. Make the space to reconnect with God and his goodness, even if that means saying “no” to things or even disappointing people. Once your relationship with God is rekindled, keep going wherever he directs.

3. Close your ears to people’s expectations. Sure, there are many trustworthy, well-meaning people who only want to help, but if their words begin leading you into a place of stress and uncertainty, hold your horses and take it straight to God. There are times when the people you’re closest to won’t understand what God is doing. They might think you’ve lost your mind. It’s then when it’s most important to cling to God and the truth he speaks. His opinion is all that matters.

We are each blessed to have different personalities, as well as different thresholds for service, people, activities, and ministries. Serving God wholeheartedly is going to look entirely different for one person than it does for another. That’s okay.

Our differences are by God’s design. As long as we seek him, aim to please him, and follow where he guides, we are enough. No matter what that looks like as it plays out in your life.

You are enough. Because God is enough.

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.  – 1 John 3:1 (NLT)

Happy November and have a blessed weekend! Thanks for dropping by!

(Quick reminder – Power Up, the ebook, is on sale for $0.99 through 11/2/19! It’s a great tool for demonstrating to kids what it looks like to have BIG FAITH in everyday life. Get it or gift it at this price before it jumps back to full price!)