Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Invitation

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus. Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Christmas is all about inviting Christ into our hearts, our homes, and our lives. At the same time, it is Christ’s invitation to us to accept the good news the angels proclaimed 2000 years ago: “And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.’ ” Luke 2:10-11.

This Christmas Jesus invites us again into a relationship with Him that can change our lives. Today, extend Christ the invitation found in the Christmas carol O Little Town of Bethlehem,

“O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in,
be born in us today.”

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I'm Expecting...

Each Christmas morning when I was a child, I would wake up early feeling giddy with expectation of what Santa had left under the tree for me and my sister. I remember creeping down the hall and tiptoeing into the den which had been transformed overnight into a mini toy store. But the delight I had as a child waiting on Santa cannot compare to the joy only Jesus brings as we celebrate Advent, the season of expectation. It is during Advent that we prepare to celebrate anew Christ’s birth.

For nine months, Mary waited for God’s promise to an entire nation to be fulfilled. She also waited for the special promises He gave to her alone. We wait, too. We wait for the Lord to return for His Second Coming. But waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing. Ask any expectant mother. It means preparing and so we prepare our hearts as a place for Christ to dwell.

I am expecting something wonderful to happen Christmas day. I’m not looking for a package marked:  “To: Christie, From: Santa.” Instead, I am waiting for God to renew my spirit and to fill my heart with the peace, love, and joy only He can give.

“Love came down at Christmas,
 Love all lovely, Love Divine,
 Love was born at Christmas,
 Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,

Love for plea and gift and sign.”

 --Christina Rosetti

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Don’t Miss Jesus This Christmas

When Jesus came to earth over 2000 years ago, many missed it. They had a preconceived notion about the Messiah of Israel and when He did not fit the mold, they dismissed Him. There were some though, who understood. Mary and Joseph understood because of their obedience to God’s plan. The shepherds got it because they humbled themselves and welcomed/accepted God’s angel messengers and their message. The pagan wise men recognized Jesus because they were seeking the truth. Even cruel, devious King Herod realized who Jesus was. That’s why he tried to kill Him. None of them may have truly comprehended all of Jesus’s personhood, but they did not try to limit God’s work by their limited understanding.

Sometimes we miss God’s answers to our prayers because of the packaging in which they arrive. Jesus came as a peasant baby, born in a dirty, smelly animal stable. Though they claimed royal lineage, his parents were poor and lived in an unimportant, backwater town. Despite these facts, His birth was predicted by dozens of prophets, attended by a new star, and heralded by a choir of angels.

Oftentimes, God still shows up in ways and through means we do not expect and so we miss Him. This Christmas when you shake the shiny, colorful packages under the tree, don’t forget to keep your eyes and ears open to the true gifts God wants to give you this season.

“Follow the star to a place unexpected...would you believe after all we projected, a child in a manger...”
--"How Many Kings?" by Downhere

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gratitude is a Choice

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.”—American Presbyterian minister Henry Van Dyke

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and after consciously practicing gratitude for years, I thought I was an old pro at it. But I hit a roadblock the week before Thanksgiving when I made a costly mistake that lightened my wallet. Considerably. After a short rant and a brief meltdown, I told a friend: “I am going to consciously choose to be thankful.” I was not thankful for the mishap or its hefty price, but I was reminded of Paul’s admonition to “give thanks in all circumstances.” He goes on to say: “for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18)

While Paul was not advising us to ignore the real difficulties of life, he was reminding us that we are to turn to God when we face problems. Or as one friend wrote to me: “a thankful person is a powerful person.” I agree. When you choose to thank God for His blessings and to seek His wisdom and counsel for solutions to your problems, you unleash His power. The same power that created the world. The same power that brought Jesus out of the grave on Easter morning. That’s some power!

God’s grace and faithfulness are unending and it is our privilege to thank Him for His provision, His presence and His protection. Psalm 100:4 tells us:  “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” The next verse provides an excellent reason to do this: “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

While it might be difficult, the next time you face adversity, remember to stop and thank God for all He has done for you and ask Him to help you with whatever challenge you face now. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Why Count Your Blessings?

“Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.”

“Count Your Blessings” was one of the many hymns Mom would sing to me when I was feeling down. It’s upbeat melody and encouraging words coaxed me to join her. And in no time, I felt better.

We should always offer thanks to God and remember His goodness, but it seems even more important when life is difficult. Focusing on God takes our minds off our pain, sadness and discouragement and lifts our spirits. Turning our thoughts to God’s blessings gives us hope and it reminds us of His faithfulness. He has provided, healed and comforted before and He will do it again. Years ago, I began praying Psalm 103:2: “Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” God has been so good to me and I want to remember as many of His blessings as I can. More importantly, though, I want to be like the one leper who out of the ten that Jesus healed came back and praised Him.

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.” –Johnson Oatman, Jr.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Matter of Perspective

“The unthankful heart... discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!”—Henry Ward Beecher

Friday morning was beautiful despite a sky blanketed in sooty gray clouds. What made it beautiful, for me, was my perspective.

My morning started with a routine visit to the doctor’s office, and while my doctor is delightful, going to see her twice a year is not at the top of my list of favorite activities. En route to see her, though, I pondered how much God has improved my health since Jan. 2012 and I began to worship Him. I sang hymns and praise songs throughout the half-hour drive and was bubbling over with joy by the time I arrived for my appointment. Thankfully, I received a good report and remarkably, in less than an hour, I was headed home.

As I drove, I glanced up at the gray sky again and behind the clouds I could see glimpses of a clear blue autumn sky and an occasional sunbeam. All the way home I smiled with gratitude for  the many blessings God had given me, not just that day, but time and time again.

Psalm 92:1-3: “It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.”

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Dead Come to Life

“Only with You, the dead come to life.” –Jonathan Thulin

Zombies are taking over! They’re everywhere these days. Commercials, movies, video games. The word zombie, which is often translated as “walking dead,” supposedly comes from voodoo and indicates a corpse that has been brought back to life by an evil supernatural power. It’s the opposite of the Old Testament story in which God calls Ezekiel to prophesy to a valley of dry bones. (Ezekiel 37: 1-14)

After the Spirit leads Ezekiel to the valley, the Lord asks him: “Son of Man, can these bones live?” In great faith, Ezekiel replies in acknowledgement of God’s unparalleled authority and unlimited power: “Sovereign Lord, You alone know.”  Ezekiel obeys God and as he speaks to the skeletons, he watches muscle and skin cover the bones. Then breath fills them and they come to life. These skeletons represent the nation of Israel but Paul tells us we were all once part of the “living dead.”

“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5) By this definition, there are still millions of walking dead among us. But thankfully, there’s a good God just waiting to bring them back to life.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

From East to West

Several weeks ago as I traveled to work, a giant luminous full moon shone ahead of me in the western sky. Behind me I glimpsed the eastern sky which glowed with incandescent rose and heather-colored clouds as a pale sun peeked up from the horizon. I pondered how I was bookended by two points of the compass, the same two points the psalmist uses in Psalm 103:12: “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

In theory, east and west will always be separate; you cannot travel so far west that you are traveling east or vice-versa. So the psalmist is explaining that God in His mercy has taken our sins and their penalties so far away from us that we can never run into them again. In verse 11, the psalmist tells us it is God’s inexhaustible love which motivates this action: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.”

When we revere God, truly worship Him, and accept His atoning sacrifice, He rewards us with a love so full of mercy, grace, and compassion that we can hardly fathom it. The next time you feel the weight of sins you’ve already confessed and repented of, remember these verses from the Psalms as well as the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Time for a Time Out

Lately, I’ve been a little cranky and last Sunday I discovered the reason. I haven’t been “keeping the Sabbath.” While the phrase sounds antiquated and may bring up images of sour-faced, black-clad Puritans, the concept is both timeless and timely. Here’s how I got off track: I simply neglected to set aside Sunday as a day of rest.  I became overwhelmed with too many projects and a seeming lack of time and found myself working on Sundays.

Now I am not a Pharisee who refuses to cook or clean on Sunday though I do try to reserve the other days of the week for the heaviest chores as well as errands. But I try to frame Sunday as a day only for church, family and friends. So including work on my Sabbath roster led to a shift in priorities for the day.

After facing the facts, I have decided I need to rearrange my schedule and reclaim my Sabbath. Like an out-of-sorts toddler, I have placed myself in time-out. While many folks use Sunday as just another day of the week, God set it aside as a special time for us to regenerate and to worship. My new game plan is to try to take time out each Sunday to redeem my day of rest and all the benefits it provides.

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
    and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord…”  (Isaiah 58:13-14)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Who is the I AM?

When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God heard their cries and called Moses to become their deliverer. He told Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand he set God’s people free. Moses responded by asking what name he should give the Israelites when they asked what was the name of the God of their fathers.  “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  (Exodus 3:14)

Thirty chapters later, Moses tells God: “Now show me Your glory.” It is actually a fairly brazen request that sounds more like a demand; yet it is issued in response to God telling Moses He is well pleased with him. God shows him even greater favor when Moses asks to see His glory for what he is really wanting is to know more of God’s heart and His character. God tells Moses he cannot see His face but that He will hide him and pass in front of him. In the next chapter, He passed in front of Moses and proclaimed: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”(Exodus 34: 6-7)

I have experienced all of this truth God proclaimed of Himself to Moses. When I act like a spoiled child, He patiently tolerates it for a while before He chastises me. I have seen His grace in the way He allows events to unfold in my life and the lives of others and in the beautiful friendships with which He blesses me. I have felt His compassion when I think I cannot endure one more broken heart. His all-encompassing love simply overwhelms me like a tidal wave. And His faithfulness? My life is a testimony to the faithfulness of God who will not let one of His good promises fail. My prayer is that those who do not yet know the true I AM will one day soon experience all of His fullness. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Choose Life

Deuteronomy 30:19-20: “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life…”

Last Monday in the English composition class I teach, we discussed assisted suicide and euthanasia. Then I saw a tv program about the same topics where an organization was criminally indicted for helping people end their lives. Sadly, they won the case. I can’t comprehend why people in our nation can define hate speech yet they have trouble determining whether someone helped a person commit suicide. And even worse, people won’t weigh in and say such actions are evil.

They point to palliative care and claim it is the same measure. I assure you, it is not. You see, I helped my mother die too. But let me tell you how. I sat on her bed and sang hymns to her. I held a straw to her mouth so she could sip water and juice. I spoon-fed her rainbow sherbet when she could barely swallow.  I held her hand as I listened to her and laughed with her and cried with her. I did not in any way try to help her “exit” this world according to her schedule. Thanks be to God, she would’ve never wanted that.  We  understood God alone is sovereign and He alone gets to determine the length of our days.  Lest you think what about those who kill themselves? There are hundreds of stories where a person turns from suicide at the last minute. With these evil people who “help” them, they have no choice but to die.

God gives us a choice daily and He tells us which choice to make. The Life-Giver will always tell us to choose life. It is the enemy who has come to steal, kill and destroy. There is only one time in history where God condoned choosing death: when His Son who knew no sin willingly laid His life down so that we might have eternal life with Him. My prayer is that people who are so desperate to die, will turn instead to the only One who can truly give them life.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Swimming Lessons

A couple of summers ago I taught myself to tread water for a fair amount of time. It was a huge feat since I nearly drowned at age three and never took swimming lessons. So this summer, I decided to try to improve my pool-flailing (that’s probably the only way to describe my version of swimming). Having spent hours in the pool, I can navigate from one end to the other without gulping mouthfuls of water. But let’s face it, it’s hard to teach yourself something when you have little knowledge to go on and no proper example.

Like me, Mom didn’t grow up swimming nor did she ever take any lessons. But when I was in high school, she began going to a community college pool with my grandmother. She would play around in the shallow end but she never ventured to the deep. Then one day, a complete stranger, an older gentleman who was probably in his 70s, offered to teach Mom to swim. She was very hesitant and told him she was afraid of drowning. He replied, “Oh darlin’, that water will hold you up.” I guess he had an honest face because mom acceded and in no time he had her swimming laps the length of the Olympic-sized pool.

It is amazing how his simple offer and genuine concern affected Mom’s life. Recalling that story was a good reminder how often the smallest gifts we give can make a huge difference in someone’s life. And that the most important gift we give is ourselves and our time.

Galatians 6:10: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Friday, August 9, 2013

In the Dark

A few weeks ago I dreamed I was in a house surrounded by windows through which I could see a storm swirling all around outside. Oddly enough, I was smiling and felt perfect peace even as I watched the wind toss objects around. Then I left the safe, light-filled haven and went into the storm to seek a friend who was lost and desperate. When I found him, he was in utter darkness. The storm never scared me, but the darkness did because of what it represents for my friend.

After I woke up and pondered the dream, I thought of Psalm 139 in which David says: “even the darkness is light to You.” Several summers before Momma died, God gave me that psalm to cling to. I have returned to it often when I feel confused or  “in the dark” as to God’s will on a matter. The psalm brings me comfort when the storms of life assail me just as they did in the dream.

Despite the darkness of this world, God who is the Light, said that those walking in darkness will behold a great light. (Isaiah 9:2) So my prayer is that all in my life who have not yet embraced that light will do so. In the meantime, I will continue to take comfort in Psalm 139…

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Gifts from the Garden

So far this summer I have received tomatoes, cucumbers and blueberries from friends’ gardens and I am grateful for the delicious produce they have provided. But when I think of gardens, I often picture the kind covered in roses, hydrangeas and azaleas like the Mobile Botanical Gardens.  After Mom died, I went there several times and God used the tranquil setting to provide great comfort. 

So I guess in the wake of losing Dad, I shouldn’t have been surprised when gardens popped up as a theme in novels I was reading recently.While I haven’t had the opportunity to visit a garden yet this summer, I have enjoyed the abundant purple, pink, and fuchsia crepe myrtles and the vibrant blue hydrangeas which brighten the streets I travel daily. Last week, I even took an armchair trip via DVD to several gardens in England.

All of this has brought to mind the gardens in the Bible—Eden where the story of mankind starts and the idyllic New Jerusalem with its orchard and river where the story ends. Right in the middle of the story though is the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus poured out His sorrow-filled heart to the Father.  Somehow it comforts me to know that when the Savior needed solace, He too sought out a garden. It was there in a garden Jesus submitted to God’s plan and willingly chose to die for my sins. While God can provide generous treasures in a variety of gardens, there can be no greater gift to come from a garden than Jesus’ sacrifice.

“I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.”

--C. Austin Miles

Thursday, July 4, 2013

One Fourth = 4 F's

When I was three, my Dad made me a baton so I could stand in front of the tv and conduct the Boston Pops orchestra during their Fourth of July concert. That was how our family always spent the holiday. We didn’t host a backyard BBQ or take a trip to the beach. On occasion, we traveled somewhere in the city to watch live fireworks, but usually we stayed inside with the AC and watched our favorite music and fireworks display from the comfort of the couch. Then when I became a teenager, my best  friend and I cooked for my family—BBQ chicken (in the oven), potatoes and green beans with a “flag cake” as dessert. 

I’ve always love this holiday because like most every American, it represents for me the privilege of living in a free country where I can vote and where I can speak my mind without fear of jailtime. Even more so, though, the Fourth represents the faith which is my inheritance and which, thanks to being born in the USA, I can practice freely. Each Sunday I go to church without fear of government or economic retribution for openly worshipping God. It is a privilege and a freedom many believers do not share.  But despite the chains the world uses to shackle Christians, Christ has given us all true freedom.

He provides freedom from sin, from worry, from fear, and from the eternal consequences of sin. While America is “the land of the free,” the Lord is the Lord of freedom.  So this Fourth I am celebrating the four f’s of my faith, family, friends, and all the freedom the Lord has given me, including the freedom to serve Him. 

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Soul Food to Go

“O, Taste and see the Lord is good.”  Psalm 34:8a

Years ago, I loved the song “Soul Food to Go” by the group Manhattan Transfer and I can even still sing the chorus though the rest of the lyrics escape me.  My idea of edible soul food is what I would deem Southern comfort food like mac and cheese, cornbread and mashed potatoes (sans gravy; everybody says there must be some Yankee in me!) But my idea of real soul food is much broader.

While there’s no substitute for the bread of life found in God’s Word, I often feel God feeds my spirit through the beauty of nature. Thanks to some precious friends I recently received both kinds of soul food when I stayed with them at their home in the mountains of north Georgia. This couple has the true gift of hospitality which afforded me time in a remote, peaceful town where all you heard at night were birds and the only lights you saw were from the fireflies flitting around the yard.

Their perch nearly 3,000 feet in the air afforded spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in all their moods which were affected by the mists, the clouds and the sunlight. The only thing that really drew my attention away from the tree-covered giants were the cardinals, blue jays and hummingbirds flitting to nearby trees and bird feeders.

After more than a year of tremendous challenges and just two months after Daddy’s homegoing, this trip was exactly what I needed to restore my spirit. But then God always knows how to set a table and thankfully, He allows “to-go” boxes so I didn’t have to leave my peace and joy in the mountains. After my trip, He sent me home with a hefty doggy bag filled with His goodness.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Rainbow of Promises

“My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky…” William Wordsworth

Last week I noticed a vibrant rainbow reflected in a dark, turned-off t.v. screen. I couldn’t figure out what source had refracted the light but I didn’t really care as I was transfixed by the radiant spectrum of color. You see, I have always loved rainbows. As a child, whenever I opened a new box of 64 Crayola crayons, I would organize them according to Roy G. Biv (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet). Within each hue, I would create a mini-spectrum of shades so they blended as seamlessly as possible (after all, what do you do with the metallics?)

I can remember seeing a rainbow in my children’s picture Bible where it first makes an appearance in Genesis as an emblem of God’s promise to Noah and mankind that He will never again destroy the earth through a worldwide flood. The only other time I know the Bible refers to a rainbow is in Revelation when John describes the throne of God as being encircled by one. The scene is a beautiful picture that reminds us that all of God’s promises flow from His throne of mercy. 

There have been pivotal times in my life where God has drawn my attention to the sky to focus on one of His rainbows and one of His promises. Like the beautiful spectrum of colors, God’s promises are vibrant, glowing with His light. But unlike the transient rainbow that fades before our eyes, God’s promises are everlasting.

2 Corinthians 1:20: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.

1 Kings 8:56b:  "Not one word has failed of all the good promises He gave through His servant Moses."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Desperate for Grace

The pseudo-Spanish word desperado means “desperate” and the English connotation is of a reckless bandit, particularly in the Old West. While very few folks fall into the category of desperadoes, everyone is desperate for something. Some are desperate to find the love of their lives. Others are desperate to get ahead in their jobs. As Christians we should be different and you might think we should be desperate for nothing.

But those who are truly desperate for God—for His presence, not just His blessings—are rewarded with more of Him. When Moses, the man God chose to lead His people out of bondage, cried out, “Show me Your glory,” God answered by revealing more of Himself to Moses. The experience was one few people ever have.  David cried out again and again to enter into God’s presence and God pronounced him a man after His own heart. And Peter when pressed by Jesus to know if he wanted to stop following Him, responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

God does not need our talents, our intellect, or our good intentions. What He needs are people who are so desperate for Him they go to the cross and empty themselves that they might be filled with Christ’s love and grace and mercy.

“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

Monday, May 6, 2013

He Makes Me Sing

I remember after Momma died wondering how long it would be before I felt like laughing or singing again. I felt the same way two weeks ago when Daddy died. That may seem a strange thought, but both singing and laughing were huge parts of my relationships with my parents.  I remember hearing Momma’s beautiful soprano filling the house with music when I would come in from school in the afternoons.  And I always loved hearing Daddy’s rich bass singing in church every Sunday.

In His infinite goodness, God gave me some things to laugh about fairly quickly after He called Daddy home and much to my surprise, I felt like singing almost immediately.  Of course it is easier to do both knowing my parents are safe and whole with the Lord.  But today as we sang the old hymn “Fairest Lord Jesus,” the line “who makes the woeful heart to sing” leapt off the page at me. I realized what a gift God has given me to be able to sing so soon after Daddy’s death.  Because of His great love and mercy to us, we can sing His praises even when our hearts are broken. And for me, singing brings great healing.

Like the psalmist, I declare:  “I will sing the LORD's praise, for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:6)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Resurrection Power

Friday, April 19, the Lord welcomed Daddy to heaven. One week before I had been to a concert where Matt Maher played his song “Christ Is Risen.” I meditated on it all week and while we knew Daddy was sick we didn’t realize he would be leaving us so soon. But our God did and He used that song to prepare me. The song is based on 1 Corinthians 15:55-57: “Where, o death, is your sting? Where o death, is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Maher’s song says: “Christ is risen from the dead…trampling over death by death.” Only Jesus could use Satan’s greatest weapon to defeat him for all eternity.

That weekend after the concert, I began this blog and I knew deep down it would be for Daddy. We held Daddy’s funeral last Sunday which seems fitting since our Lord died on a Friday and rose again on a Sunday morning. While Daddy hasn’t risen again yet, we know his spirit is with our Lord simply awaiting the day of Resurrection.  Daddy didn’t fear death because like all Christians, Christ’s death and resurrection took away the sting and the fear of Satan’s greatest weapon.  Jesus showed only He has the true power of life and death. After the death of his friend Lazarus, Jesus comforted Lazarus’ sister Martha with these words: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:24-25)

All of us who loved Daddy grieve that we can no longer see his smile, hear his laughter or go to him for advice. But we do not grieve as those without hope. We grieve knowing that thanks to Jesus’ love and sacrifice, we will see Daddy again. And he will be whole and well and ready to receive us with one of his big bear hugs.  I pray now the God of all comfort will be with us in the coming days.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

King of Kings

Each Easter I pull out an old Sandi Patty CD with the song “Who Will Call Him of Kings?” on it. This year as I listened to the song, I thought how Pilate ordered the words “King of the Jews” to be inscribed on a plaque and hung above Jesus’ head on the cross.  It was not only a derisive title but also an indictment as there was only one acknowledged king in the Roman Empire: Caesar. To say otherwise meant certain death.

To call Jesus king means to accept His absolute authority and to completely surrender to Him which often puts Christians at odds with the world. For first-century Christians, calling Jesus king meant the possibility of facing a death penalty. But to do otherwise meant denying and devaluing the truth of Jesus’ identity. Through the centuries, Jesus followers have been and continue to be executed for following Him. That fact makes the declaration, “We will call Him King of Kings” in the Sandi Patty song all the more poignant.

The song not only tells of the early disciples’ faithfulness, but issues a call to action to us today. My favorite line tells of the disciples’ response at the empty tomb: “They ran as fast as feet could fly, ‘The Lord is risen’ was their cry!” That should be our response to Easter Sunday, too. We should run to tell everyone we meet of the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, for it is only His death and resurrection which atones for our sins and assures us of an eternal hope of life with Him.

1 Timothy 6:14-15: “…until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, ...”

Monday, March 25, 2013


“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4 ESV)

We sang a Lenten anthem this season entitled “Surely He Has Borne Our Griefs"  which is based on this Isaiah passage.  The opening word surely brings me a lot of comfort as it emphasizes the veracity and very certainty of Christ’s actions while making them both personal and universal: He did this for me and for us.   We can be confident in the completeness and perfection of Christ’s sacrifice that it is all we need to gain salvation.

Hebrews 10:14 says,“But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool because  by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection are the only atonement we need to be reconciled to God and to share eternal life with Him. Without accepting His sacrifice, though, we are lost forever. “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.” (John 3:18)

As you reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice this week, remember another surely statement from the Bible, the words of the centurion and Roman soldiers who were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ crucifixion:  “Surely He was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Proactive Prayer

“Well all I can do is pray.”
 “There’s nothing I can do but pray.”

I am appalled when I hear myself or one of my friends say those words. As if prayer is a last resort and not a first line of defense. As if we are not praying to the God of the universe who holds together all things by His word.  (Colossians 1:17)

Yet it seems we often wait until there is a crisis to turn to God. We pray diligently during weekly church services and we intend to have a daily prayer time and remember all those requests friends and family give us. But we get tired and distracted. Until some tragedy strikes and stops us in our tracks. Our world is shaken and we expect God to right it for us. He will because He loves us but I wonder how far I am missing the mark when I forget to pray proactively? When I neglect to pray for the ordinary things, for safety and wellness for those who appear safe and well in addition to those I know are not. I seldom overlook the need to pray for those in my life who have yet to accept the saving grace of Christ; but how often do I pray for God to strengthen the spiritual walk and provide growth for those in my life who already claim to be disciples?

I want to remember to pray in the calm before life’s storms, not just during the chaos they cause. In Ephesians 6:18, Paul encourages us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” I am also striving to become more like the Old Testament prophet Samuel who said, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.”(1 Samuel 12:23a)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Oh How He Loves Us

I really like the David Crowder Band song “How He Loves Us” and after hearing it a handful of times recently, I decided to stop and ponder the lyrics. After all, the Valentine hearts and flowers splashed across my computer screen each time I opened my email reminded me it was the season of love.  But how much more should the season of Lent, which began the day before Valentine’s Day, remind me of how much God loves us?

The David Crowder song starts with the line, “He is jealous for me.” I once heard a celebrity say when she heard that God was a jealous God she changed her beliefs because she couldn’t believe that was true.  While she misperceived God’s own description of Himself as jealous, I see it as a great thing because God is not jealous as man is jealous. He is not envious of our possessions, our skills, or our wealth. He is jealous for our attention, our love, and our devotion because they rightly belong to Him. 

Deut.  6:5: says: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Jesus quotes this verse in Matt. 22:37 when the Pharisees asked Him which was the greatest of the commandments. So why should we give God our undying love? Because His love meant He was willing to die for us so we could spend eternity with Him and so we could enjoy His presence in our lives now.  Here’s how big God’s love is…

God’s love is faithful:  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5)

God’s love is unfailing:  “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jer. 31:3

God’s love is generous: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1

God’s love is selfless: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

Sing with me now, “Oh, how He loves you. Oh, how He loves me. Oh, how He loves you and me.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

All Things New

I started a new job this month and when I told my friends, two of them responded, “what a great new adventure!” Instead of being anxious, I am trying to adopt their attitude and decided while I’m at it, that’s a good attitude with which to begin a new year.

God wants us to enjoy the adventure He has in store for us and the start of a new year is a good time to focus on fresh opportunities God may be leading you toward.  Like the pristine pages of the new planner I get every year, each January provides the opportunity for a fresh start in all areas of our lives. It’s a good time to review the last year and take a spiritual inventory. I like to start each January by seeking God and asking Him to set the agenda for the year, to reveal more of His will to me and to help me make the changes I need to make.  The interesting thing is that God has already remade us and will continue to remake us.  

2 Cor. 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  While the verb is in the present tense, the context reveals that God has already done this work, that through the blood of Christ, those who are saved have already been made new.  But since we continue to sin daily, despite our best efforts, Paul reminds us we can continue to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. And in Rev. 21:5: Jesus says, “Behold I am making all things new!”  That verb phrase is in the present progressive tense which means that He is continuing to do it and will do it until He is finished.

So this January, believe that God has made and is making all things new and that includes you!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!

Last year for my birthday I received a herniated disc in my neck but on the one-year anniversary of the beginning of last year’s health crisis, I am reminded of the health problems my Mom endured when she was pregnant with me. Her pregnancy with my older sister was a difficult one and doctors advised her not to have any more children. When she became pregnant with me, the situation was so critical doctors repeatedly encouraged her to abort me. They said if Mom carried me to term, one of us might not survive and if we did, I could be born with extreme mental or physical challenges.

Despite their dire predictions and the trials of ill health, Mom bravely carried me until January 16 when I was born nearly a month early. During her cesarean, a clot formed and lodged in her intestines and when I was six weeks old, she had emergency surgery during which the surgeon discovered gangrene had set up in her intestines. Mom’s heart stopped twice during surgery but God and the doctors revived her and the Lord allowed her to live with us many, many more years. So today, I honor my strong, courageous Momma who fought the odds and trusted God in order to give me life. May I follow her example and always live life with such courage and faith!

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jer. 1:5  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A God of Seconds

2012 was a year of firsts…my first MRI; my first visit to a neurosurgeon; my first acupuncture treatment. (That last one wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined).  Like my year, maybe you had some firsts in 2012 you’d rather not have endured.  But thankfully, God is a God of seconds.

When Jonah ran 100 miles in the opposite direction, he got a second chance to evangelize Nineveh. Okay, so he spent three days in a whale first. But he still got a second chance and because he did, an entire nation of barbarous, godless people were spared from God’s wrath.

When the angel Gabriel told Zechariah his elderly wife Elizabeth would give birth to a son, he unwisely laughed. His punishment was to be mute for nine months, but he still got a second chance—a chance to raise a son who would become known as John the Baptizer.  

And Paul the apostle? His sins to us seem the most grievous of all—he was a murderer who persecuted the fledgling church. Yet on the road to Damascus, God met him and after three years in the wilderness, Paul became arguably the greatest advocate of Christianity the world has ever known.

So no matter what firsts you have faced in 2012, look forward and know that the God of second chances always has a plan.

Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”