Monday, June 25, 2012

The Gift of Today

A year ago today, I downloaded a devotional called Jesus Calling to my Kindle. Today’s entry is interesting since this date has the power to reach deep into my soul and jerk the tears right out of my eyes. Here’s what it says…

“Open your hands and your heart to receive this day as a precious gift from Me. I begin each day with a sunrise, announcing My radiant Presence. By the time you rise from your bed, I have already prepared the way before you.”

Really God? Was this day eight years ago a precious gift from you? Did you prepare it for us before we even got out of bed that morning? Because by 6:00 that night, my entire existence was changed. My little girl’s life on earth came to a screeching halt as you gently lifted her off this earth and into your presence. Great news for her, life changing, faith altering, excruciating grief for me!

Eight years ago? Really? Can it have been that long? Or has it been 800 years? Sometimes it feels like it was that long ago. And yet, as I type this, the tears flow as freely as if it were yesterday. Yes, this is a Gift of Grief kind of day.

My devotional continues… “Bring Me the gift of thanksgiving, which opens your heart to rich communion with Me. Because I am God, from whom all blessings flow, thankfulness is the best way to draw near Me. Sing praise songs to Me; tell of My wondrous works. Remember that I take great delight in you; I rejoice over you with singing.

Oh, I remember those days following this date eight years ago. Praise and thanksgiving did not come easily. It was truly a “sacrifice of praise” as I stood in church and attempted to sing. It’s hard to sing when you’re choking on grief. But I did it anyway. Sometimes alone in the balcony with my sweater pulled up over my head and tears streaming down my face. But deep in my heart, I knew You were weeping right along with me. Those times were indeed excruciating, but Your presence was so near. There is a special sweetness about those times. Thanksgiving in the midst of such pain really does open our hearts to rich communion with You.

So, again today, for the eighth time, I will offer up the sacrifice of praise, trusting that Your Word is true… that You are who you say You are… That You’ll do what You say You’ll do. You are my only Hope—My Unswerving Hope.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Still Trying to Let Go of That Bus!

My devotional (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young) this morning says, "Stop trying to monitor My responsibilities--things that are beyond your control... Do not miss the Joy of My Presence by carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders." In other words, You Can't Hold Up a Bus!

This morning I am feeling a little lighter, breathing a little easier. I don't want to try and pick up that bus again. It's so freeing to let God handle it. It may appear on the outside that I am the one holding it up in the air, but inside, I know it's God. No matter how super-powered I think I am (or at least like to appear), no amount of straining, working, thinking or planning will ever allow me to hold up that bus.

My devotional goes on to say that if I concentrate on keeping in step with Jesus (that is the key--maybe the topic of another day's post), instead of trying to anticipate His plans for me... if I trust that His plans are to prosper me and not to harm me, I can relax and enjoy the present moment...
  • I can enjoy that cup of coffee shared with my husband early in the morning
  • I can enjoy curling my little girl's hair for picture day
  • I can enjoy this quiet moment I have at the coffee shop before work
  • I can enjoy the fulfillment of my job today
  • I can enjoy the time I get to spend with my son this afternoon
  • I can enjoy my interaction with friends, coworkers, and even acquaintances and strangers today
There is so much to be enjoyed today! But I will miss it all if I am straining, concentrating, planning and scheming about how I'm going to keep this bus up in the air! What a shame to miss all this that's right in front of me while trying to figure out how to do something that is not mine to do!

Monday, June 11, 2012

How Important is The Book

We just watched “The Book of Eli” last weekend. Wow.

I need to add a disclaimer here that there is lots of violence and not for the faint of heart, but wow.

Denzel Washington plays the part of Eli, and he is traveling by foot through the desolate wasteland of what’s left of the United States in the year 2044. His only instruction, given by a voice from deep inside him, is to go West. In his backpack, Eli carries a book—a large, black King James Version of the Bible. He defends this book with his life. He fights for it, suffers for it.

The villain in the movie wants the book desperately. He too fights for it and suffers for it, and causes others to suffer for it. He will stop at nothing to get the book. He tells his cohorts that it’s a weapon. He finally catches up with Eli, shoots him, and gets the book. He takes it back to his lair, unable to open it because of the lock that holds it closed. He watches as his locksmith works to open the book. He is feverish (from an infected injury) and nearly hysterical as he waits to open the book.

I don’t want to give away the coolest parts of the movie in case you want to check it out. But, wow, if only we desired the word, realized its power, and were willing to give anything to get it in our hearts and minds as the characters in the movie are! We have become so complacent. I couldn’t even tell you how many Bibles I have in my home. Many of you are the same, I’m sure. We have Bibles everywhere—on our Kindles, on our smart phones, iPods and computers, on the Internet, and even some hard copies in multiple versions, paraphrases and languages. Eli carries with him the only remaining copy.

After watching The Book of Eli, my desire to read and memorize The Word has been renewed. Am I willing to walk for 30 years? Am I willing to suffer and fight for it? Am I willing to give my life for it? Am I even willing to experience some discomfort for it? Am I willing to spend time reading and memorizing it? I better be because it is life, it is power, it is truth.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dangerous Hope

My husband and I went and saw Hunger Games last weekend. I didn't think I would want to see it--I haven't read the books, and it sounded way too dark and depressing for this girl and my rose colored glasses. But I'm so glad I did.

When I listened to President Snow's words to Seneca about HOPE, I almost came out of my chair! "Hope: It is the only thing stronger than fear." He goes on to say that, in order to control the people, "a little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous."

I want to have that kind of hope. The kind that is dangerous! The kind that can pull me through anything life hands me. The kind that can encourage others to do the same. The kind of hope that overcomes any amount of darkness, sin, brokenness, and yes, even fear!

There is only one source for that kind of dangerous hope--the victory that is ours through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To know Him, to trust Him for my every need... to look to Him instead of any other comfort... to allow Him to fill me to the point that I need nothing else... If I really, really believe what I say I believe, there is nothing that can overcome that hope--not even fear. And that is my unswerving hope.

Monday, June 4, 2012

a + b ≠ c

I used to think that a + b = c. I do what pleases God: pray, read my Bible, go to church, give, serve, watch Christian TV, and basically live a good, moral life. (That’s a + b.) As I did all that, I would get c: God’s blessing and prosperity, a perfect, clean-cut family that was the picture of a godly family (the picture in my mind anyway.) C to me was basically a life with no difficulties… smooth sailing. Nobody would die prematurely; nobody would experience pain and hopelessness. We would live and raise our children, become grandparents, retire with a giant RV and become snow birds. Life would go according to my plan because I would make good choices, right?

Not right. God had other plans for me—and for most of us, I think. God wants so much more for us than an easy, carefree life. He is so much bigger than a mathematical equation. We try to put God in a box… into a little equation, and He breaks all our rules!

I heard a phrase a few weeks ago that blew me away, “Jesus did not come to make bad men good. He came to make dead men alive.” Does that blow you away like it did me? I’ve read it several times since in a book by Tullian Tchividjian (grandson of Billy Graham) called Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Now that is a mathematical equation God can use!


We have a problem, and our problem is sin. I work very hard to “fix” my problem of sin by trying harder and beating myself up when I fail. Oh, and I do the same to those around me! I demand good behavior from them and when they fail, oh boy, do I let them have it—at least in my thoughts.


But our sin is not the root of the problem. It is a symptom of our deadness. And there is absolutely nothing I can do to “fix” my problem of deadness! Only Jesus can make me alive. And he reveals himself to me in the toughest, most difficult times. At the times when I am empty and have absolutely nothing to give God--no goodness, no performance, nothing--I still have everything because I have Jesus.


So I have a new equation. Since a + b ≠ c, every day I will remind myself that Jesus + nothing = everything! The solution to my problem has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with Jesus! And that is my Unswerving Hope!