It’s only been a little over a month since the tragic Covenant shootings in Nashville, and it seems as if life has moved on for most of us
…but not for all of us.
Let’s keep our friends who are still suffering such great loss in our prayers. Life is forever changed for them.
As I’ve been praying over the parents, spouses, and loved ones in this tragedy, the Lord brought to my mind and resurfaced a poem I wrote in 2009 about another tragic loss of a young child. So, following the Lord’s lead, I went to my “writing cabinet” and dug it up.
It’s entitled “Holding onto Life”. I’m sharing it today as a reminder and a prayer.
For all those who have lost a loved one to a tragedy, hear Jesus whisper to your heart:“I’m holding you both.”
“Holding onto Life”
O, my God
O, my God, no!
A heart of sorrow, tears of pain-
This, my God, is more than a sting.
Where’s the victory? Where’s the hope?
No, no, no, I cannot cope.
Holding onto life, holding onto life,
Holding onto Life, Holding onto Christ…
He gently whispers, “I’m holding you both.”
A heart of sadness, tears remain,
An earthly loss for a heavenly gain-
And this is the story that You wrote?
Reassure my heart, You love “the most.”
Holding onto life, holding onto life,
Holding onto Life, Holding onto Christ…
He sweetly whispers, “I’m holding you both.”
A heart of aching, tears make stains,
Tears of anguish well up again-
I’m trusting, trusting—the Living Hope.
Holding onto life, holding onto life,
Holding onto Life, holding onto Christ…
He softly whispers, “I’m holding you both.”
A heart of longing, tears untamed,
Release, hold on, release again-
Remind me she’s singing with the heavenly hosts.
Let my soul hear her boldly boast,
“Holding onto Life! Holding onto Life!
Holding onto Life! Holding onto Christ!”
While I cling to Your vow, “I’m holding you both.”
O, my God
O my God, help me say… "Yes."
Have you ever wondered why we bring a tree into our house at Christmas time? I did a little reading on its more recent history and there certainly is a time and a place that the modern Christmas tree began...
BUT... I also found something in antiquity (in the book of Leviticus of all places) that mentioned using tree foliage to decorate "houses." Listen to God's explicit instruction to Moses concerning the Israelite's yearly celebration, the Feast of Tabernacles:
You shall celebrate the feast of the Lord for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day you shall take foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord... Leviticus 23:39-40.
The Israelites were to put all of these beautiful branches in and around their tent to signify His goodness to them as they wandered in the desert for forty years. He protected them, He provided for them, He was with them both day and night...
And now, do we not have even more reason to celebrate God with us?
He dwelt among the Israelites in a tent; He dwells among us in our hearts through Jesus Christ.
He has brought light into our darkness, hope into our existence, Life into our soul.
It is now our turn to decorate with meaning and rejoice before the Lord!
So yes, a tree is in my house! And it is adorned with lights and balls and berries and bows. For it represents the abundant Life I have found in my Savior. He became poor (think of the tree He died on, the old rugged cross), that I might become rich (the tree of Life!).
I am rich because my Wonderful Counselor, my Mighty God, my Eternal Father, my Prince of Peace has filled my hollow heart with love and joy and peace. You see, it's not really about the tangible, temporary gifts under the tree, the gift is the Tree, the ever-green-abundant-life-giving Tree.
Rejoice, rejoice, again, I say rejoice.
I challenge you to do two things this Christmas; actually, I think God does:
One, like our ancient brothers and sisters, bring in the foliage of beautiful trees into your home. As you set your Christmas tree up in its prominent place, worship the goodness of your God-- because He is with us!
And then two, go to the world, your world, and tell them why they have a tree in their house; keep this in mind, they are dying to know.
Thanksgiving week is just around the corner. It's time to gather together!
As we start our holiday lists that can get rather long and stress-filled, let's remember that fellowship is our main focus. The people in our homes are more important than the four walls of our homes. The decorative table is the mere backdrop to the conversation around it. We want the food to taste delicious, but we want the laughter and love to be just as rich! It's embedded in us to desire unity in our family, but how do we gain this gift? I want to suggest a key ingredient is prayer. The Lord reminds me often that prayer is the "secret sauce" to any gathering.
So, as we start our lists this week, as we go to the grocery store, as we lay out our meal plans and clean our bedrooms, etc, let's decide to use this time in quiet prayer, thanking God for each individual that will enter our homes during the holiday season. Name them out loud as you lift them to the Lord.
Thank God for the opportunity to gather!
Ask Him to be present in every conversation and every interaction.
Ask Him to be the strongest voice and the greatest love and the sweetest blessing in the midst of your family.
Ask Him to bless your home with both his presence and his peace.
Our homes are our a gift from the Lord. I've never been without one, and I would imagine, the majority of you have been blessed in this way as well. Our hospitality is our gift back to God. He delights to see us gather together!
"How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity." Psalm 133:1
So let's trim down our to-do lists and beef up our prayer lists. In doing so, we will be more eager to open up our doors with warm and thankful hearts.
Thank you for the gift of our homes. We take for granted the pleasures of kitchens and bathrooms, comfortable beds and cozy dens. Again, we praise you for your tangible goodness to us! As a gift back to you, help us to prepare our hearts for this upcoming holiday. As you know, where people gather, so do potential problems. Relationships are hard to navigate at times! We ask for your mercy and your grace even now. Please Lord, bless us richly with your unifying love. Amen.
I grew up in the deep southern woods of Mississippi--lots and lots of pine trees towered over our home. So when I moved "way up here" in Tennessee, the colorful fall season took me by surprise. Year after year, I am mesmerized by the radiant reds, the fiery oranges, and the brilliant golds bursting from every tree and bush--incredible, breath-taking beauty.
I'm sure I am not the first to correlate God's seasons with His love story through Christ:
Fall speaks to us about His dying for us on the cross.
Winter represents His burial, enclosed in a death that we will never have to endure.
Spring shouts about His resurrection... a newness of life for all who believe.
And Summer proclaims the ongoing growth and abundance of this new life.
So, here we are again in the seasonal cycle; the glorious fall surrounds us. It's hard to believe these brilliant leaves on the trees are actually dying. But isn't that exactly what happened at the cross? Listen to Jesus' words to His Father, just before He was taken into custody:
Father, it's time. Display the bright splendor of Your Son so the Son in turn may show Your bright splendor." (msg, John 17:1)
Two thousand years ago, the King of Glory hung on a tree, dying. His fiery passion for the world He loved held Him there, not the nails. His perfect crimson blood was willingly shed for you and me. And as our Savior's life was drained from Him, it was the most tragically beautiful gift to behold. Before the darkness of "winter" encroached, the Light of the World triumphantly cried out, "It is finished." Indeed, it was awe-full.
Today, this day, when I see the radiance all around me and watch these colorful trees of the field clapping their hands, I know why they're applauding. I want to join them in honor of the King that gave His life a ransom for many. So I too, will praise Him, and thank Him... for His glorious Fall.
These 4 words can save a life.
I attended a fund raiser with my husband Mac the other night in which Pursue Ministries had a guest speaker. This godly man, Mario Zandstra, spoke to us about how to share the gospel using 4 words:
Guess what? Sin marks ALL of us, from mass murderer to unkind thinker.
When we realize that our one “small speck” of an unkind thought or stir-the-pot gossip can separate us from holiness, we’re finally understanding our accurate position before God. No human-good-work is good enough to cover our “big or tiny” sin-mark!
BUT GOD…in his rich mercy and with his great love sent his Son, Jesus, to forgive your sin and mine! He chose to be the one and only perfect sacrifice for an imperfect people. Our faith in him is our “ticket” to HIS righteousness.
Not only did Jesus die on the cross but he also rose from the dead, which means he was victorious over both sin and death. If you believe this truth, not only do you have the opportunity to have his Spirit living inside of you today to help you navigate your life in this still-messy-world, but you also have a perfect inheritance waiting for you in heaven. Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving, forever!
These four words: SIN, SEPARATION, SUBSTITUTE, SALVATION are for you, for me, and for anyone that God lays on your heart. The news is too good (and too critical) to keep to ourselves, so think about who it is that you can share it with. Lay fear down, pick courage up.
Just think, God may use you as the messenger to save this person’s life.
ps A challenge for you...find the four words/points in this passage...then celebrate its truth!
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3: 3-7
If I asked you to define "greatness," how would you respond?
Would it have to do with your job? Climbing that ladder?
Would it have to do with your influence? Checking those numbers?
Would it be tied to your bank account? Counting your income?
I think in a same-but-different kind of way, we humans equate greatness with anything that feeds our ego: whatever is "higher, bigger, or more" regarding the thing we crave. This sounds silly, but even in my small world of being a 55 year-old Christian writer, I wrestle with wanting to "be great." I want to "change the world for Christ!" This seems honorable, but then, I have learned that sometimes my underlying motives are sorta stinky. Do I want to be great for me? Or do I want to do great work for God? A question for us all to answer.
To put it bluntly, the definitions above are rather skewed when observing what Jesus has to say about greatness. He actually achieved ALL of the above definitions; after all, he is the King of kings! However, he willingly left his lofty throne, shed his royal robes, and entered into our mixed up world in order to show us a thing or two...
A day in the life of Jesus:
One day, Jesus was with his (messy, mixed up) disciples, and two in particular, James and John, were feeling pretty high and mighty. They boldly asked Jesus for the privilege of sitting on his right and left side when he came to power. (They mistakenly thought he would reign as an earthly king in their lifetime.) In a paraphrased nutshell, Jesus responded, "Sorry, brothers, you have no idea what you're talking about."
But then, in the same conversation, in order to make a dramatic point, Jesus went on to say (again paraphrased), "You want to be great? Then...serve."
The brothers most likely said, or maybe they just thought to themselves at this point, "What?! Serve? Are you crazy, Jesus?! We were wanting to sit down; to lord over; to have power; to be applauded, etc."
In this dialogue, listen to what the oh-so-patient Teacher said to the flustered brothers:
Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:43-44
Jesus served the sick, the poor, and the lost. Are these kinds of people in your way as you are on your road to self-paved greatness? Can you entertain the opposite; that they are in your way for a purpose? You may have been blessed with a significant title, or a powerful influence, or a lot of money. Wonderful! How can you use these gifts and abilities in regards to Jesus' definition of greatness? Choose to answer this question and then make an impact.
It is true that we are made in the image of God, but I don't believe it's for the purpose of sitting on HIS powerful throne which is reserved for him alone. We are to bear his image in the likeness of a servant. The more we understand and live by this fact, the GREATER impact we will make for his kingdom. Notice, our service to others impacts his kingdom.
In order to be about his kingdom, we must lay down "our kingdom."
So Lord, help us.
Change our thoughts about what it means to be great. When we start to climb that ladder, or to check those numbers, or to count our income, cause us to pause...and then help us to put these temporary and selfish ambitions down. Then make us determined to serve. We are YOUR image bearers! Put one person on our heart each day, and may your greatness be poured out from us into that individual. YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done, one person, one day, at a time. Amen.
Labor Day weekend is upon us.
People are either traveling to their long-weekend destinations, or they've made the conscious decision to put their pj's on and their feet up.
Either way, this extra day of reprieve is welcomed.
I just wanted to pause and say "thank you" to all the hard workers out there. You deserve the day off! And for those of you who are working on this holiday, you deserve a "double thank you!"
We're living in a time that a no-work-ethic is accepted, and even rewarded. In turn, this makes the day even harder for those who are choosing to get up and punch a clock.
Be encouraged; you are not going unnoticed. You are doing the right thing.
Even in a perfect world, work was the "right thing":
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Gen. 2:15). Adam and Eve got up in the morning and maintained the garden that God created. Work is in our DNA from the beginning. (Sadly, through Adam and Eve's disobedience, the curse of "thorns and thistles" entered their world, and we're still enduring it to this day, which makes work...HARD.)
True, work is hard! But it's also good.
I believe "getting your hands dirty" is a blessing.
It's character building.
It's mind stretching.
It's skill refining.
It's purpose finding.
It's social interacting.
It's personally gratifying.
And on a bigger and more impactful scale than status climbing, it can be God-glorifying...
So workers...Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. Ecclesiastes 9:10
From medical people to waitresses to teachers to musicians to ditch diggers to builders to firefighters to bankers, from blue collar to white collar, from stay-at-homers to downtown-office-goers...hats off to each of you!
Thank you for making your mark in this world.
Yes, all you laborers out there, enjoy your day off.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:13
Help us to not view praying as a waste of our precious time. On the contrary, may we humbly realize that prayer multiplies our time because when we lift our requests to you, you do things more powerfully and efficiently than we could ever do on our own. The extra blessing is that we gain peace in our hearts and minds. So today Lord, with thanksgiving, we will take time to pray...Amen.