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Not Always Merry and Bright

I so wish for life to be like a Hallmark movie. Love and contentment always win. The ending is tidy, happy and sealed in a pretty package accentuated with a red bow on top. But it is television, and so far from the reality, we inhabit.

I think that is one of the allures of Hallmark movies. They provide a magical escape from the tender truths that are indigenous to what we have always falsely believed is the happiest time of the year.

Pain wears many faces and holds no prejudices. It does not adhere to our calendars or circumstances. Maybe the agony shows up in the loss of a job, marriage, a parent, a spouse or the incredible heartache that settles in when we hear someone has to bury their child.

Broken people, broken families, broken worlds; they may all present differently, but fractured hearts are inherent to us all. The holidays as merry and bright as they are for many, are equally melancholy and bleak for others.

Life is incongruent to my desire for everyone to be happy, but I have learned this piercing lesson: happiness is a circumstantial frailty, not a gospel actuality. Without the assurance of our eternal inheritance, we stand here today poor, hopeless and lost. But it does not have to be that way.

A 1700s French writer captured something very tragic, yet I think significant in his last words. “And so I leave this world, where the heart must either break or turn to lead.” ~ Nicolas Chamfort

Sometimes our greatest challenge as we go about living in this world that is remarkable one moment and ruthless the next is continuing to engage. It is so easy to check out, but we are called to check in. It is so simple to let our hearts turn to lead, but we are called to be light instead. Is any of this straightforward in our climate of death, destruction, hatred, and hostility of unparalleled proportions? No, it is not effortless, but it is essential.

Dear friends, I know many of you are facing unspeakable burdens. My heart aches for you and throbs with you. Right now pressing in may be asking too much. That is ok.

We, unfortunately, have to drink from the cup of hurt before we can be quenched by the hand of The Healer.

God never forsakes us, though. One way He manifests himself is through our community. I pray wherever you find yourself today, the love of those around you warms, even if just slightly, the weeping heart inside you. Your internal song may never be the same, but this I know, someday your soul will sing again.

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He is Soverign Over Us

 

We all have circumstances in our lives that we wish were different, and this reality is one of the easiest places the enemy entangles us. You may be in an unstable marriage, parenting a prodigal child, facing addiction, disease or significant loss. Whatever the challenge you have been given may be, it may not have come from God’s hands, but it did go through His hands.  It is hard to live amidst our struggles and remain joyful when we traverse difficult paths. The great danger is that as we walk our routes, it is tempting to compare our journey to another’s. Comparison tricks us into thinking others have it easier or have been given favor. Comparison is a liar, and we believe her far too quickly. Observing others casts darkness into our lives, and it is easy to begin fantasizing about a more comfortable life.  We must recognize fantasy for what it is; a fraud who draws you into his web with unrealistic thoughts of “better things.” In the life of a believer, there ought to be nothing better than walking well in obedience the road our Master has assigned us. Perseverance is not possible if we are self-focused. It is impossible if we are contrasting our journey with someone else’s. It is when we fix our eyes on Jesus, insulate our hearts with His Word, and our desire to please our Savior overshadows that of pleasing our self, that we endure and our weeping is joined by worship, purpose enters our pain and joy joins our journey. Consider 1 Corinthians 7:17~And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. Don’t think I’m being harder on you than on the others. I give this same counsel in all the churches. (The Message). I pray today, friend, that you and I believe in the plan of our good and faithful Provider as hard as it may be. He is in the midst of every heartache. Fight to be still and know that He is God, and He is good. When we live as though He is sovereign over us, His strength and peace will equip us as we travel. You are loved!

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God’s Sovereignty Always Stands

cropped-img_1711.jpgWe all have to die to different dreams and realities every day.  Sometimes they are for ourselves, our children or someone else we love.  Those desires are hard to let go, and often we get up each morning and have to surrender them all over again.  It is painful.

There is a great hope, however, right in the midst of the death of our dreams.  We have this glorious gift of choice that affords us the ability to choose a victorious or victimized perspective.  If we frame our thoughts in victory, we can look our dying dreams in the face and say, that may not be an option anymore, but God’s sovereignty always stands.

Whatever dreams you are dying to friend, instead of fretting about their death, focus on their direction.  This is not always easy; I know!  However, believing in The Lord’s promise that He has a plan that will prosper all His children, (Jeremiah 29:11), we can face those dwindling dreams and say, Father I do not like this new picture, but I cannot wait to see your purpose.

Life is a lot lighter under His yoke!  (Matthew 11:30)  You are loved!  #selfiesermon #preachingtoself

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Dancing in the Darkness

 

It was one week ago today that we said see you later pop to my dad.  This is what was on my heart that day.

Today we honor my dad; not his finalization, but his freedom. The last twelve days have been a tornado of emotions. Last Saturday, the day my dad truly became alive, we were gathered at his side. There had been inadequate time for me to open my Bible the five preceding days. That day seemed as if it would be the same, little time.

Then, a lull happened and everything was quiet.  In hindsight, it was a unique calm, as if not of this world. One of those special moments we rarely recognize until they are written, gone from our grasp, but forever etched in our hearts.

Soft music was playing, and my mom was at my dad’s side.  I sat down behind her and opened my Bible. The verse I landed on was Isaiah 45:3 ~ And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness–secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the one who calls you by name.

It was when I was reflecting briefly on this verse that my dad took Jesus’s hand.  I have gone back daily since last Saturday to that same verse. In reflection, I realized it has been the truth of my travels here. These twelve days have been excruciating, and they have been extraordinary.

I know many of you are enduring dark seasons right now, too.  Sometimes they become so oppressive that our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds become clouded by the dust swirling around us.  When I view this world horizontally, it becomes too much to bear.  When my perspective is eternal, I find gratitude even in grievous places.

God has a way of depositing hidden treasures deep in our discouragement.

It is in the dim places that the growth laden, secret riches from God’s hand become undeniably accentuated.  I was not forsaken this week, and neither was anyone in my family.  We have been given some heavy and layered loads, but they were not void of the promise in Isaiah 43:5. Time and time again the Lord has revealed himself.  We do not drift in disillusionment alone.  When Jesus is our choreographer, it is possible for our souls to dance even in darkness.
He pads our paths with priceless pearls of peace that bring grace to our grief.  We must be watchful to see.

One of my biggest challenges is to abide freely in what is, rather than to shackle myself to what should be.  I cannot imagine that we are that different.  I pray this for us today, friends:

Father hold our hearts to a standard of hope within the haze of pervasive pain.  Let us speak the truth when we tremble.  Unite our hands in faith when we fear. Focus our eyes in the realm of the eternal and not the earthly.  Equip us to trust where You have us, not where we think we should be. Believing in You is the inviting part, trusting You with the devastations of our lives is the intentional part.  You know this of us, God.  Give us fountains of gratitude in our grief and grace for our journeys.  I praise you for knowing and loving us intimately enough to call us all by name.  Thank you for your enduring faithfulness.  Amen.

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Standing In the Fog

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My family said see you soon to my dad last week as he took his spot in his eternal home. His departure was brutal, and it was beautiful. There was a cd player gently playing; I’ll Fly Away, sung by George Jones. My mom was at his side rubbing his arm and singing the song. I behind her had just opened my Bible, as my son sat at the foot of Poppy’s bed. Then in the most peaceful posture, his breathing stopped, and he flew away.

I have been trying to wrap my brain around everything that has happened. The processing has been slow. When someone asks, “How are you?” It is difficult to explain. I am in a fog. That may sound like a vague answer, but it is my most accurate explanation. I don’t know how I got there, and I don’t know when I will walk out, but this morning, this occurred to me:

At some point after the storm, you realize that perhaps the fog you are standing in is God’s gentle protection to prevent all the pain from pressing in at once. Gratitude is born even in the fog because we remember His tender mercies weather every season we endure.

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The Wait Marches On

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Just as the birth of new life is a process, so are growing into an adolescent, adult and so on. Everything is a process. A process of success, a process of failure, a process of destruction and a process of restoration. Then you get to the end of years, seasons and cycles, and you sit at deaths door with someone you love as you watch the curtain drawing on the last act of their rehearsal for eternal life. You ache in the finality of what is and you abide in the memory of what was. As you sit and wait, you pray for swift mercy. You don’t want to keep staring at the mask of eminent death settled on the face of a loved one. Questioning sets in, and then you remember, just as you didn’t know how the process would begin, you also cannot know how and when it will end. The moment we took our first breath, and the moment we draw our last were determined in advance. They were written by eternal hands that no human mind could know. Although a delayed ending of the final process feels unjust, you remember we have earthly eyes, ears and minds. We cannot see, hear or know. Trying to figure it out, or ask when is stepping out of our realm and into God’s. Sometimes His timing seems unjust but faith continues to whisper, it is always right! Then, the wait marches on.
Please pray for Nana to be with Jesus soon. Everything indigenous to her is gone, but her heart is still beating strong. Your will not ours Lord.