Parting Words: An Easter Series

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Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. (Ecclesiastes 7:8,ESV)

Good-byes are difficult. The good-byes of life: the dorm room, the parting of child from family at the alter of marriage, the distance of a move, the deathbed…many moments in life involve parting words. As we enter into the Easter Season, I want to focus on the good-byes of Jesus and of Paul. What did the Savior of the world want to leave as parting lessons with his disciples–with us? How did Paul part with Timothy? What were his final instructions to the young man he mentored in the faith?

I believe that our good-byes can be strengthened by looking at the good-byes of Jesus and Paul. In the next five weeks leading up to Easter we will delve into:

  • Paul’s last words to Timothy
  • Jesus’ last words to the Apostles
  • Jesus’ parting words in Revelation

I look forward to learning how to say meaningful and lasting parting words in this life so that the hellos of eternity will be all the sweeter. I certainly need these lessons, and I eagerly anticipate learning them alongside you this Easter Season.

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Shades of Regret

Shades of Regret

When you are a mother of two small children, you spend a lot of time in public restrooms. It was my fourth trip to a public restroom in the last two hours, and I didn’t want to make another trip once our movie started.While waiting on my daughter to come out of the stall, an older woman was washing her hands and offered,

I just watched 50 Shades of Grey. I didn’t’ need that. My curiosity got the better of me.

She shakes her head and wrings her hands with soap. I nod and wonder what on earth I can tell this woman. What hope should I offer in a few seconds in the bathroom? It seemed she simply wanted to confess to me. She continued as I listened and nodded,

You know the man is just messed up.  Save your eight dollars and go get Chinese instead.

She shook her head, flung up her hand, and walked out the door while I meagerly offered a few remarks. This woman was clearly disturbed by the sadomasochistic movie that is sweeping the nation and was first within the grasp of teens, moms, and people of all ages at major chains such as Walmart, Target, and all bookstores and e-readers since 2011. It is reported to have sold 100 million copies in 52 languages worldwide.

An estimated 900 teens in Orlando (see here) stormed a movie theater in attempts to watch the rated R movie earlier this week.

The Christian community has not remained silent on this topic. Consider Dannah Gresh’s book, Pulling Back the Shades. (Read about it here.) Or, this thought provoking article by Dr. Russell Moore, Women Stop Submitting to Men? (click here). However, in the case that you have missed these, I want to warn you: flee the temptation to see what all the hype is about!

Men and women of the Church, do not use this as an opportunity to research pop culture. Consider this a call to be in the world and not of it. Protect your minds and relationships from this obvious working of evil. Many times we can fall into a spiritual pit of despair and sin we were not seeking, but consider this your warning that the pit is within your vision and the choice to descend is up to you.

Sex is so perverted in our fallen state post garden– post forbidden fruit. The good gift that God created from the time He introduced Adam and Eve has been polluted by the sins of this world. We worship the created act of sex above the Creator and pervert the original gift of sex within marriage. 50 Shades of Grey is another proof of this fact.

Don’t let curiosity rob you of your peace of mind and spirit. Heed the lesson from the woman I met, and warn your friends likewise.

Fight the good fight of faith and finish the race having won the battle over curiosities that God’s Word blatantly speaks over as evil and destructive.

Did I miss an opportunity to share Christ with this woman? Perhaps. I pray that she will seek out, or already knows the truth for herself. However, I didn’t miss an opportunity to pray for her. Further, I don’t think that it was any accident that I was in the right place at the right time to hear her confession and tell her story to you.  I can see her distraught look even now. I pray that the shades of regret will not be mirrored on your face.

Choose life.

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The True Love of Valentine’s Day

Valentine's

St. Valentinus of Rome, was a priest born 200 years after Christ and whose martyrdom we remember every February 14th. It seems that Valentinus disobeyed the ruling of Emperor Claudius the Cruel to cease all marriages within the Roman Empire and to worship the Roman gods.

Claudius the Cruel needed more men for battle and believed that unmarried men would make better and more willing soldiers. Valentinus knew this was against the law of God and chose to secretly marry couples under the blanket of night so that men could depart for battle having married their loves.

Valentinus’ worship of God and practices of matrimony was quickly found out and resulted in his imprisonment by Claudius the Cruel. He was beheaded on the 14th of February around 278 A.D. for his crimes of love and loyalty. Above the laws of men, Valentinus obeyed the One True God’s commandment for men and women to join together in holy matrimony.

Celebrating the faithfulness of Valentinus is an occasion that I can recognize with deep respect and gratefulness when we celebrate in truth. Like Valentinus, many people are held prisoner around the world for their faithfulness to the gospel and continue to die in the name of Christ Jesus for obedience to His commands.

The true love of Valentinus was love of God and His people. He brought men and women together under the biblical mandate: that for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife. (Ephesians 5:31)

Valentinus cherished the love and obedience of God above the safety of conforming to the world’s demands. He showed true love in laying down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)  May we, if called upon to obey God above country, do the same.

This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 

(1 John 4:10, NLT)

I tell you the truth, everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, the Son of Man will also acknowledge in the presence of God’s angels.

(Luke 12:8, NLT)

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

(1 John 4:16, ESV)

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What Learning Looks Like From Here

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They stoop low at the ocean’s edge inspecting a Florida horse conch. The sun has just begun to peak out from beneath the clouds and warm the final January day in Florida.

I snap their picture and think, this is what learning looks like from here.

Bent low, searching, seeking the knowledge and adventure that await in a moment of exploration. God’s sea creatures each tell a story, and the seemingly peaceful shore mocks the real truth that life in the sea is fierce and tumultuous even as the soothing, rhythmic sounds of the ocean lull me into a peaceful state.

There is always this tension just beneath the surface of life.

There is no escaping the forces of good and evil when we live on this side of eternity.

There is a constant need to bend low and search out the still, small voice of God that can also boom like approaching thunder.

At the supposed age of Christ during his final year in earthly ministry, I feel what most people feel as they steadily grow older: wisdom comes with age and it is harder not to be blinded by the cares of this world nor the skepticism reality brings with each passing year. I am learning that I can no more hold on to the present than it becomes the past. I must enjoy each moment for what it is, for it only comes once and then a memory.

Is it any wonder that God asks us to approach Him with the faith of a child? The child that is oblivious to the cares and demands of life. The child that sees not distractions, but opportunities to explore and learn. The child that sees now even as she anticipates the future. The older they grow the faster they desire to grow up and shed the contentment of their age at present.

Life, like the tide, is in a constant state of give and take, come and go. Even this week, we celebrate the seventh birthday of our daughter and only three weeks ago the fifth of our son; we join with the throngs who utter, “Where did the time go?”.  But hidden with the jewels of the sea, there are lessons to be learned, discoveries to be made that utter even of the passing of time. Anne Morrow Lindbergh captures a few of these lessons in her book, Gift from the Sea:

One learns to accept the fact that no permanent return is possible to an old form of relationship; and, more deeply still, that there is no holding of a relationship to a single form. This is not tragedy but part of the ever-recurrent miracle of life and growth. All living relationships are in process of change, of expansion, and must perpetually be building themselves new forms.

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

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The jewels of the sea grow larger with age–their age brings constant rebuilding of their present forms. So do we, don’t you agree? We shouldn’t look the same at fifty as we did at five, nor should we come to the same hobbies void of new knowledge and understanding.

I have always loved the shore. The splash of waves and the picking up of shells. However, now I enjoy it with specificity. That is, I see it more like God sees it. Crying forth its message of creation, fall, redemption, life, death, catastrophe, and rebuilding. I can name the shells I once only admired. Isn’t that grand, that learning from here continues, but looks different than nearly three decades ago?

I can only imagine the discoveries I will make and the view-point I will take in one, two, or perhaps three decades time. Then, maybe I will stoop with my grandchildren and ponder, So this is what learning looks like from here.

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7 Things to Pray for Right Now

Prayer

In this life, I most often feel like I am not measuring up. Like I have not given enough to the poor, have not kept first things first, I’ve said something I shouldn’t have,  or misused my time. Do you feel that way too?

This leads me to the topic of prayer.  Have I prayed about everything? The answer is a decisive no. I have prayed about many things, but everything is certainly not many things.

Most of the bad choices that I have made, or tend to make regularly, could be prevented with a right attitude which accompanies time spent in prayer.

Praise, confession, and petition are integral to righting my attitude between myself, God, and man.

Below are seven things that you can pray about right now that will refocus our worries, doubts, misappropriated attentions, and energies to God and His will. 

  1. Pray for wisdom.
  2. One home-front need.
  3. One news related story.
  4. One mission, pastor, or person in your church.
  5. One goal or dream.
  6. One friend.
  7. The lost and poor in your community, state, nation, or world.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them. “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Matthew 21:20-22, ESV

Today, let’s right our attitude when it begins to stray by taking every little thing to God in prayer. Use this list of seven areas to help you structure your prayer time with God. Also, consider reading through  these three other posts on prayer:

  • To Kneel or to Break (here)
  • Enter Here (here)
  • Of Our Crosses and Christ (here)

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Performance Pressure

Have you ever experienced stage fright even in an off stage moment? Your desire to perform well was overwhelming to the point of paralysis. Instead of giving your best, you fell short of even attempting your goal at all. My son recently had an experience like that.

Our children began ice skating lessons a week ago. I’ll tell you, there is nothing more precious-at least to date-than seeing my daughter and son attempting to skate. They look like little penguins starting to waddle on the ice. The faces they, along with their friends, make during their first attempts on the ice are priceless.

It is amazing to see how the children tackle the challenge of gaining their footing and making ground on new turf. Some of the children flail and zoom as fast as they can from point A to point B, with little care whether they fall while making it across. Form and beauty play no role in their thought processes; rather, let’s do this is the self-talk ringing in their minds.

Then you have the apprehensive ones. The ones (as in the case of my children) who aren’t willing to let go of the teacher for a moment for fear they will fall or fail in their advancement across the ice.  Gracefulness or success is close to the last thing on their mind either; survival from one side of the rink to the other reigns supreme.

With the two beginners attitudes towards learning to skate, I think the focus is on two different planes; group one is motivated by success, group two by fear.

The first week my son attempted everything the teacher asked of him; albeit with fear and apprehension written over his face at least 15 or 20 minutes of the 30 minute class. The second week, my husband came to watch the kids, and our son uncharacteristically started crying and wanted to leave his class and sit with his mommy.  We thought he was scared of the ice and may be too tired or experiencing a sugar crash from his birthday pie and ice cream that I had made him for breakfast. Maybe, we pondered, he was a little nervous having his daddy there to watch him for the first time.

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Later on, we would discover that the later thought was correct. Our son was worried that his attempts wouldn’t be good enough and therefore he stopped trying at all. All he could think about was getting to his mommy who would be waiting with hugs and kisses. In this case, both Ron and I weren’t letting our son off the ice until the class ended. We wanted him to give his best; even if his best meant trying with the aid of the instructor the entire time. For us, and I propose for the Father, our efforts are what matter. The heart that says, I am afraid, but I will face my fears and give my best, that is the heart that God delights in. That is the heart that we as parents delight in seeing our children put into visible action.

Our daughter was tempted to follow her brothers lead and stop and stand on the sidelines, but she dug in and decided to keep trying. In the end she stayed after class for free skate and hugged the wall off and on around the rink 10 times! That is effort that deserves praise. Was she up to speed with other skaters her age who had taken lessons longer, or peers who left the security of the wall earlier than she? No. However, she pushed past her own fears and insecurities and in that found confidence and reward that will push her farther the next time on the ice.

Approaching our car, our son told me-after a little prompting-with head down and shoulders slumped, “I was afraid dad wouldn’t like my skating.” Wow. That he could articulate his feelings was remarkable. More surprising, even though it shouldn’t have been, was the fact that fearing he wouldn’t impress the most important man in his life lead him to quit trying. Ron is an encouraging and patient father beyond any other I have ever met, but our son still wanted to impress his daddy and feared not doing so.

Minutes after I sent Ron a text to let him know of our son’s fears, my phone rang. Ron called to reassure our son that he maintained his father’s favor and pride in him. Our son’s face lit up at simply the call from his dad and kept beaming even after the good news filled his five-year-old ears.

What about you? Is there a new task that you are attempting and the fear of falling short is tempting you to halt trying at all? Are you afraid that somehow you are going to let your Father down? Well, its a good thing that God doesn’t look at the outward appearances, but rather, He looks at our heart. When we give his calling on us our all, He sees the heart and the intentions of our heart beyond simply the success or failure of our feet, and He proudly cheers on His sons and daughters from the sidelines. He doesn’t compare us with our brothers and sisters in Christ, but rather looks simply at us individually and prods us to become more of who He created us to be.

 For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7b)

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Same Song, Second Verse

I grew up in a small Baptist church where hymn books were opened every Sunday morning and evening. When we were first dating, my husband often joked with me saying I knew every hymn by heart. Well, I may know the first and fourth stanzas, but the second and third ones are a little more of a reach.

Over the Christmas break, Ron and I attended my sister and brother-in-law’s church. During the singing of one particular hymn, the second verse caught me by most pleasant surprise. The second verse to How Great Thou Art is probably one of the most skipped verses in all my hymn-singing upbringing.

When through the woods and forest glades I wander

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,

And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

~How Great Thou Art, by Carl C. Boberg adapted by Stuart K. Hine

My soul feels most at peace when I am in awe of God’s creation.

I have sat at the base of a waterfall and heard the mighty rushing waters never ceasing. I’ve hiked in some of the most beautiful rock formations in America. I have paddled a kayak in the waters of the gulf and sat in observation of countless sunsets. In each of these settings the thoughts that are provoked are ones of worship of the Lord.

Ron Havasu Falls

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Family Hike

Ukraine Pictures (64)

The last pictured mountain is part of the Carpathian Mountain Range in Ukraine; the same mountains that the writer Carl C. Boberg crossed while penning this famous hymn. Ron and I traveled there in 2006.

Rediscovering this second verse of the beloved hymn, How Great Thou Art, is important to me for two reasons. First, this is a song–in particular a verse–which resonates with the Holy Spirit within me. This reflects the sentiments of many Christ followers; we feel closest to God when we are divulged in creation. Secondly, the memories that this verse provokes remind me of the thoughts I was thinking during each adventure. Some thoughts were pure, peaceful, and filled with worship. Others were full of discontent, complaining, or comparison.

It is clear, even in the most ideal surroundings we have choices to make. On what will we focus? Will we choose contentment? Will we choose to approach the Father with gratitude, or grumbling? Will we look at things as they are and see the good, or will we look at situations as we want them to be and see only what is missing?

By far, the fondest memories for me are those in which my inner worship matched the outer grandeur. I revel in the ones in which my thoughts were pure, prayer was on my spirit’s lips, my worship was vibrant, I was enjoying my companions or my solitude, and my thoughts were set on things above.

Certainly, my more favorable memories were when I was acting in the will of God.

This year, we will sing many of the same verses we have sung in years past. The difference in our singing lies with the heart and mind with which we approach the song. There are lessons to be learned and paths to be traveled. May we worship God in His greatness in the forests, by the brook, and in mountain grandeur.

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What Happens When We Rest?

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“God has to knock me out to make me rest.  That’s how He gets me to slow down.” I’ve had several women say this to me while recovering from sickness.

As women, we often conceive that in order to be our best, we must be constantly about our business, a superwoman. I don’t believe we consciously understand or express this mindset, but, in our subconscious mind, we equate rest–the act of stillness, quietness, a break from usual routines, time away–with guilt and indulgence. After all, we reason, what woman has changed the world because she rested?

Join me at iBelieve today to wrestle with this idea of rest. (click here)

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Inspiration for the New Year

A little inspiration for our new year’s aspirations, paths to be tread, dreams to be dreamed, and travels that await.

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Dear Lord, please give me…

A few friends who understand me and yet remain my friends.

A work to do which has real value, without which the world would feel the poorer…

A mind unafraid to travel, even though the trail be not blazed.

An understanding heart…

A sense of humor.

Time for quiet, silent mediation.

A feeling of the presence of God.

And the patience to wait for the coming of these things, with the wisdom to know them when they come.

~W.R. Hunt

Taken from Treasured Stories of Christmas  by Guideposts

 

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I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,

with thee, O Father, as my harbor,

thee, O Son at my helm,

thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

~The Valley of Vision

Inspirations for a New Year

Roads go ever on and on,

Over rock and under tree, 

By caves where sun has never shone, 

By streams that never find the sea;

Over snow by winter sown, 

And through the merry flowers of June, 

Over grass and over stone, 

And under mountains in the moon.

Roads Go Ever On and On ~J. R.R. Tolkien

 

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. ~Proverbs 19:21

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Homeland: Until We’re There

Homeland Part 3

He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

~O’Holy Night

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:14, ESV)

We find find ourselves waking to a world akin to the setting Christ entered into over 2,000 years ago. He came to bring peace and redeem lost mankind; even now, especially now, the Prince of Peace is needed on this earth.

The hopeful message of Christmas is that God became man and sympathizes with our weaknesses, our daily needs, and the temptations that are common to man. He is no stranger to the sting of death, separation from loved ones, betrayal, want, and the disappointment of broken relationships and broken people. Christ knows that rejoicing in darkness is impossible apart from the Light of the world; so He came to deliver the Light–Himself–for all mankind. (See John 1:9-13)

He is the Light that gives birth to the sons and the daughters of God. He is the Light that pierces the darkness with the full knowledge of how the darkness bears weight on all mankind. Jesus drew near to us so that we could draw near to the Father. How are we to press on in the meantime? How do we live until we reach our Homeland?

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:15, ESV)

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11-12, ESV)

So, until we reach our Homeland, until we cross the threshold of time and space to Heaven and eternity, Christ sets the example for us to follow. He gives us a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12) to imitate their faith and patience so we may inherit the promises of God–eternal life through Christ Jesus.

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:14-16, ESV)

He knows our needs, and to our weaknesses He is no stranger. Behold our King this Christmas season and before Him lowly bend. God is with us and if He is with us and for us, then none shall stand against us.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

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