John 11 is the account of the death and resurrection of Lazarus. I love this story. It truly displays the heart of Jesus. Especially when we know great disappointment in our lives.
Mary and Martha were Jesus friends. They sent word to Jesus telling Him, “…Lord, he whom you love is ill.”” John 11:3 ESV They knew Jesus was the answer to the problem they were up against.
When Jesus received word of Lazarus’ condition He told those He was with, “…This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” John 11:4 ESV Jesus promised that Lazarus would not die, but His life would be used to glorify God. Later we see Lazarus did in fact die, but it was to give Jesus the opportunity to display His miracle of resurrection power! So Lazarus did in deed live!
When Jesus saw the heartache before He performed His miracle at Lazarus’ tomb, He felt compassion for Mary and Martha, who He loved. He wept.
That is where I come in. There have been situations in my own life that I prayed and asked God for a miracle. Only to see the situations seemingly end in “death.” I have felt the heartbreak of disappointment. As I read this chapter I am assured that Jesus did indeed hear me, and He has seen my heartbreak. Jesus has felt as I did and He has wept. But in the end I can believe that His plan always ends in “life and life more abundantly.” John 10:10. He is the God of resurrection. Even though we die, we live when we believe in Him. The seemingly dead and over situations are simply “asleep,” when entrusted to Jesus. His plan will always end in life for me. Jesus asks me the same question He asked Mary as I am asked to trust Him with my greatest disappointment, “Do you believe this?”
Do you believe He will do what is best and work all things out for your good? Even if you have a season of waiting to see His resurrection power in your life?
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”” John 11:25-26 ESV
I am a writer. It’s kind of an outlet for me. Sometimes the things I feel come out better written in a journal with pen or pecked out on a laptop keyboard. I woke up this morning, 4:36 am to be exact, thinking about my mom. My mom has suffered for 22 years with poor health and chronic pain. A couple of weeks ago she took a turn for the worse and has now been released to hospice care at home. I spent the past couple of days at my parent’s house helping out as our family has begun to navigate what hospice has indicated are the last one to two weeks, she is with us here on earth. So, forgive me as I sort through it all in this Blog entry today.
Mom probably doesn’t know this, but some of my best parenting hacks I could attribute to her. When I was little, she made me and my brothers and my Dad the center of her world, with the exception that God truly was first. My earliest memories are hot summer days sitting on the concrete back porch of our home eating homemade popsicles she had in abundant supply. (I got the recipe and made them for my kids.) They were always soooo good especially my favorite, the grape. Summers were spent going to the Current River to play, Sinking Creek to be exact. Mom took us there frequently during the hottest of the summer days. She wanted to make sure I could swim. If we didn’t go to the river, she would set up a sprinkler for us to run through in our back yard. While I played outside, she canned fresh vegetables and made the best homemade jellies ever. I was so spoiled with the taste of them, I struggled when I moved out and went to college to eat store bought jelly. It wasn’t the same as my mom’s.
During the winter, on snow days, Mom let my brothers, my cousin Ted and I build forts out of blankets between our rooms so we could have rubber band gun wars. As a kid they seemed to go on forever. She didn’t seem to mind us sliding down the hallway in our socks on the hard wood floor of our little 1200 sq ft home. We loved to pretend to ice skate. I’m sure we were loud, rambunctious, and a little crazy, but she let us play.
Mom took us to the public library frequently and would read us book after book. She also, sat us down and read us Bible stories from the Egermeier’s Bible Story Book, which is one of my personal favorites. Her mom read it to her, she read it to me, I repeated this with my kids and hope to pass this tradition to my grandkids as they grow up too. Thanks, Mom, for giving me the idea.
Mom was the church pianist, so she made sure piano lessons were available to each of us kids. She loved music. It was always playing in our home. She passed this love on to me, my kids, and now to my grandkids. What a heritage!
My mom was a seamstress. She spent hours sewing me the most complicated of dresses that I would request. They fit perfectly and were beautiful. Although occasionally she would forget a sewing pin in them, and I would find it while trying it on. i teased her a lot about that. She made several quilts for wedding gifts or baby blankets as well. She painted paintings, worked on cabinets and other projects with my grandma in Grandma’s woodshop. She was brave enough to take us kids to that woodshop and let us make Christmas Ornaments with the bandsaw one year. That instilled in me a love for woodworking inspiring me to take shop in High School so I could make a cedar chest as a project. Maybe someday I’ll take up woodworking again it sure sounds fun.
Probably one of my favorite things my mom passed down to me is the love of fishing. My favorite summer memories are of her and my dad taking us fishing at Grandma’s pond. It was such a happy and peaceful place to go. Mom loved to fish. If she got a big one on the line, she would get so excited making my dad and the rest of us laugh as she reeled in her catch.
Mom tried to pass down her skills to me working with me to learn to crochet, embroidery, sew, cook (I was pretty resistant when it came to that), and even tried to get me to learn to bake pies. When I was around five, she would be making dough for her own pies, but give me a little of hers, put it in my little toy pie tin, let me dip a spoonful or two of her pie filling in the crust and help me to seal it up with a small piece of dough on top. She would bake my little pie right next to hers so I could give it to my dad when he got home from his long day of work at the mines. I would “work” right next to her wearing a little apron she had made for me. to wear. This is one of my happiest memories growing up.
When I was nine, Mom and Dad felt like God was leading our family to become a foster family and help children who were in need. The second child my parents fostered was a special needs child that they adopted almost 9 years later. Mom tried very hard to help my sister, and keep our home what it should be, but those years proved to be very hard years for us all. Things were not easy at home as they once were. When I graduated high school, I left home a day or two after graduation. I let a lot of hurt and bitterness fester for several years in my heart. Things were not what Mom and I had wanted between us.
A couple of years ago, I took a trip home to talk to Mom about it all, for years she had been trying to talk to me, but I couldn’t, and I wouldn’t. We laid it all out there and forgiveness came. We talked about how we did not have what we both had wanted all those years, but we had what we had now, and we would try to go forward from there. But her illness, kept us from really getting to do the things we wanted to and to be what we wanted to be.
While I was at home the past couple of days, mom told me how much she had always wanted me. I was a “pleasant surprise” to my parents when I was born. She hadn’t planned another baby, and she never dreamed she would get a little girl. She proceded to tell me how she wished things had been different.
Things may not have been all we wanted here, but we have a hope, His name is Jesus. I know very soon she will leave behind the pain she has walked through and step into the beauty of His glory! Although by earth’s years, (I hope to have at least another 40 years left in me), it may seem to be a long time. In heaven, time is no more. It will only be a short time for her, and we will be back together once again. Everything that kept us apart will be no more. What we missed here will be there. Yes, we have this Hope. I told Mom as I kissed her goodbye, “If Jesus comes to get you, go ahead and go. I will see you again very soon. We will all be together again, and it will be beautiful.”
I love you Mom, don’t worry about me. As we talked about in the hospital a week ago, “God has worked all things out for the good of us (me and her) who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) If I don’t get to see you before Jesus comes to call you on, I will see you again when my race is done.
Every once in a while, a memory of hard, traumatic, unexplainable events of the past will raise its ugly head inside of me. It tends to rock me to the core. Sometimes taking a while to get my mind off of it.
Today I was reading in Luke 24:1-12. It is the account of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary Mother of James going to the tomb of Jesus to put burial spices on His body. They find He isn’t there. Suddenly, Angels appear and one says “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” This phrase resounds in my heart today. The women had seen some of the most traumatic events of a brutal death of a loved one. They surely were processing what had happened trying to make sense. But they were instructed that there wasn’t anything there for them in the dead things of the past. Jesus was living! He wasn’t in the past He has risen!
Whatever we have walked through that was hard, painful, and death to us is not where Jesus is. He has risen!! He is not in the dead things of the past. He is alive now and forever more!
The song “I Will Rise” by Bethel has been on my play list this week. This morning has been a morning that I have it on repeat. It speaks of what I read in Luke.
“Beyond the burial, there's a resurrection Your will be done in me Oh-oh, Let my roots go deep And I will rise, I will rise He holds the time that I will rise”
Jesus calls us out of our graves of the past to stand in the present with Him! “I will Rise! God through my life be lifted high!” We have no time to be looking intently into the graves of our lives! Jesus is not there! The living life of Christ cannot be found in the graves of failure and pain! He is risen and we are seated with Him in the heavenly places of His victorious Kingdom! I will rise! Let Jesus rise in me!
My oldest son Aaron lived in a land of make believe when he was 3-5 years old. He loved to dress up in costumes. So, we made sure to supply him with a bunch of them. He had a cowboy outfit complete with chaps, a vest, guns and a holster, cowboy hat, lasso, sheriff’s badge that said his name, Aaron, and boots. He had a Spider man suit. He had a hard hat and tools to be a “worker”. His favorite was his Superman suit. It was really a pair of pajamas that had Velcro to attach a Superman cape to. He would put that on and then want me to fix his hair to have a curl in the front, just like the curl on the cartoon Superman he would watch on TV. He lived in that suit. The thing about his make believe was he really identified as whoever he was dressed as that day. If I called his name for lunch, “Aaron, time to eat lunch.” He would respond, “MOM, I’m not Aaron. I’m Cowboy.” or “Batman” or “Spiderman”, etc. But “Superman” flew the halls of my house frequently. It was my duty to acknowledge him as such and keep his curl of his bangs in tip top shape.
One afternoon, he was invited to play next door at our neighbor’s house. When I went to get him in the evening, he threw a fit. The object of objection was his desire to wear the neighbor boy’s superman suit, even though he had one at home. He pitched such a fit that I had to drag him out of the house kicking and screaming. He did the biggest of absolute “no no’s” he took a swing at me. From what little I knew of parenting, I figured I better make the punishment fit the crime when it came time to discipline him for hitting his momma. So, I grounded him from playing at the neighbors for a while and his Superman suit. That was where it really hurt. He lived to be Superman… Each day following the grounding, he would tell me how he would be good. He would NEVER hit his Momma again. I believed him, but I had to be strong. He was grounded from his Superman suit, and he was going to stay grounded for a good while. This went on for a couple of weeks. Til, my husband came home one day from work, to see Aaron sitting on a step to our family room. With his little chin in his hands. Rich asked him, “What’s wrong son?” Aaron replied, “I used to be Superman.” There next to him was a picture of him in his Superman suit. Rich told me that Aaron had been grounded long enough. He told Aaron, “You can have your Superman suit back.” He was one happy and very well behaved boy from that point on. He never wanted to lose the privilege of being Superman ever again.
I opened my memories today on Facebook like I always do. I’ve been on there for a while. Much of my youngest son’s childhood has been documented on there, with pictures and cute sayings. Along with my oldest three kids’ teen years. It can be a memory book of sorts. Today’s memory was something that happened 3 years ago when my husband and I were very active in our local church. There was a period of time in our 7 years attending there that we had quite a few friends there, fish fries, barbeques, almost every weekend we were playing cards at one of our houses or going out to eat somewhere hanging out. There were awesome times we had of prayer, encouragement, Bible discussions, etc. We were doing life together. It was so good. Then things went awry. The church we were in went through a lot, kind of a split, and our friend base ended up going different directions. We’re all still friends, but just living out different lives than we were living back then. It hit me as I looked at that memory on Facebook from the church, “I miss those days.”
I hopped in my Jeep to run to the store, and as I was driving the memories of Aaron and his Superman suit came to me. I’m a lot like my little man all those 20 some years ago… I find myself telling God “I’m not Superman any more…” with a tear drop rolling down my cheek. Then there’s the song by Five for Fighting “Superman” that started to go through my head.
“I’m only a man in a silly red sheet Digging for kryptonite on this one-way street Only a man in a funny red sheet Looking for special things inside of me Inside of me, inside of me… And it’s not easy. It’s not easy to be me.”
It occurred to me; my 4-year-old son who was grounded from his Superman suit was pretty wrapped up in an identity he thought he was. I have been too. What looked like “productive” years in my Christian walk where I was being some kind of spiritual Superwoman, was also one of the times I got far away from the most important, just being me, the one who God loves. My little boy never was “Superman”. He was “my little boy”. In his mind he could fly and fight off bad guys, but the truth of the matter was he needed his momma to watch out for him and protect him from the real “bad guys” in our broken world. I didn’t love him because of some “Superman” suit he wore. I loved him because he was MINE.
Even though I dearly miss my friends and lunches at Jalisco’s every Sunday after church. I miss the card games, the fish fries, the laughter and fun and I felt “Super” back then. I know the one thing that never changed was who I was underneath my “Super suit”. I was His. I am His now. Things change, but God does not. Maybe I was “Super”, that really wasn’t what my heavenly Daddy was after anyway. He just wanted me to be what He created me to be … His beloved. He wasn’t all that impressed when I tried to fly. He just wanted me to be close to Him. That’s all that mattered anyway.
“I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.(Jesus)” Philippians 4:11-13 MSG
Life seldom goes the way we have it planned. That is something I should get used to. I can’t count how many times when my kids were growing up that my husband and I would plan the perfect camping trip. Hours of packing, preparing, and then driving, only to find the first night is a night when one of the kids came down with the croup, or threw up all over our pop up camper. There was the first trip to the ocean, only to discover it was jelly fish mating season and several jelly fish stings to be dealt with in the hotel, or we also had the long planned trip to Disney World that was interrupted with a short lived bout of head lice. That was a real treat… I should not be surprised when circumstances are not the glorious picture I had weeks before the actual experience.
I guess I had it in my mind that since our kids are all adults, I would be immune to the disappointment of a planned getaway going south. But here I sit in the most perfect March weather literally yards from one of my favorite trout fishing parks with a sick husband. (The stomach bug had to be going around). Bummer… disappointment.
This disappointment is minor in the scheme of things. Lay around, eat junk food, watch Westerns on the cabin’s tv, and play the occasional game of solitaire. I’ve weathered far worse.
As I’ve sat here this evening on our front porch watching the cars go by our cabin, I thought about Paul saying “I have learned the secret of being content” in Philippians 4. Contentment is not easy to gain. It requires a focus on Jesus and a trust in His plan. Both of which are hard to come by if you’ve lived an anxious life. Self-focus and self preserving protection are what seems right in our world, but it is far from God’s greater plan of our total trust(dependence), total submission, and total obedience as He provides all we need for our life and directs us in His good plan for us.
There’s a lot of things in my world that are disappointing right now. There are the global things, the National things, the local, and the personal. Plus this minor fishing trip thing. There are a lot of things that beg for me to pay attention to them and live in discouragement, apprehension, and fear. Not to mention the temptation to walk in distrust, unforgiveness, etc. The list could go on and on. But God knew there would be times like this- the one we live in. He also knew there would be months like this, weeks like this and days like this one. Whether the situation is a minor disappointment or a large earth shaking one, He tells me how to be content. I am to hang as close to Jesus as I possibly can. Listen to His voice alone, and be faithful to what I know He has told me to be obedient in.
The old Hymn I sang as a girl in the small country church I grew up in says it best,”Trust and Obey. There is no other way to be Happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
His Joy conquers all disappointment. Gigantic ones or small ones like a sick hubby on a get away. My God is good! All the time!
Last week my husband and I got away for our 29th Wedding Anniversary. We had booked a three night get away at Branson at our favorite hotel, The Savannah House Inn. Every night it serves blackberry pie, peach cobbler, ice cream, and cookies, an obvious winner. The week before I started looking for entertainment for us. We have been known to go to shows, my favorite so far “Reza the Illusionist” and “The Cleverly’s” when they are in town. I can do some of the other shows to keep me above boredom, but I’m kind of a child of the 80’s and Rock/ Metal is more up my alley. As I was searching the internet, I stumbled across a youth concert festival with some of my favorite Christian musicians. I had struck gold!! We the Kingdom, Zach Williams, and Skillet were some of the big names. We went to the door to buy tickets and “SCORE!!” we were in. We felt a little out of place since most of the people our age was “youth leaders” or “youth sponsors”, but we were not deterred! We were ready to rock! lol.
The night that Skillet played had arrived and I was super stoked! I knew it would be loud and I knew it would be fun! They did not disappoint! I just had to keep in mind that head banging when you are 50 feels a whole lot different than it does when you were 17. So, I tried to control my enthusiasm. Something impressed me that night that I have been thinking about ever since. The lead singer took some time before introducing the song “Sick of It” to the crowd. He said, “There are some things I am sick of. I am sick of Teen Suicide rates climbing. I am sick of Teen anxiety rates climbing as well. You have been lied to. The media has lied to you. The world has lied to you. It is time to get sick of the lies and take your stand!” Lied to! I may not be a teen, but anxiety has been lying to me. Telling me that I can never be free! Fear has been lying as well. All the self-help techniques haven’t been putting too much of a dent in it. But God!
I’m not sure of exact timing, but I can tell you God has been redirecting me on how to take my stand against the anxiety and depression that has been predominant in my life for several years. It’s been about a year ago that I started to attend a women’s Bible study on Wednesday mornings called WOW “Women on Wednesdays”. At the time, I was trying to fight my anxiety issues, the best I knew how at the time, with my own effort. They had a slide that they displayed in their main session that quite truthfully, offended me. One talked about living in God’s Kingdom with Joy, Peace, Patience, His Goodness, etc. Then the one about the wilderness that listed things like “conformed to the ways of the world”, “Self-imposed captivity”, “Performing but not obeying”, all of which I could reason my way around but “Fearful and Anxious” stuck out to me like a sore thumb. I figured, “They do not know what I experience on the daily. That is not something I can just control.” There was a part of me offended, but a part of me that thought “Could this be true?” “Could I be freed?” Even though those statements bothered me to no end, I kept going. Sometimes with everything I have had within me, making myself walk through the doors of the church each Wednesday morning after sitting in the parking lot trying to figure out why I was making myself do this.
One day One of the leaders said something to me that stuck out. “You need to write down what it is you want to ask God to do for you.” I went home and did just that. I wrote, “I want to walk in freedom from anxiety.” That was number one. Then I wrote, “I want to drop the Buspar (anti-anxiety med) – pop my eyes to Jesus instead of pop a pill. I want for the very things the enemy intends to tear me away from Jesus to be the very things that cause me to run for Jesus and my response to be one who falls at HIs feet. Close to HIm”. This did not happen in an instant, but I can tell you today that I am closer to the “total freedom from anxiety” mark than the “Drowning in it” mark I was at a year ago. But it took something that John Cooper, the lead singer of Skillet, was describing last Wednesday Night at the Concert. I needed to get sick of it! I needed to be desperate enough to realize that I was not fixing me. It would have to be Jesus.
I don’t know if you have ever gotten lost as a kid. I did. I was around 5 years old, and my parents had taken me and my brothers to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. I rode a kiddy ride, and my mom was waiting by the exit for me to get off. Problem was when I got off, I distinctly remember looking at the world of waist down humans walking around me. I couldn’t figure out where on earth she was. I was short, you know, 5 years old kind of height, and they were adults. So, I started to wander around, and because of my height, my mom couldn’t find me either. Then it hit me. “I am lost”. But it also hit me that I could see a hat sales booth just a little bit away. I went to it and told the worker I had lost my mom. I asked for help. Seconds later I looked up and there was my dad and my brothers coming down the hill. Talk about relief. I’ve been thinking about that time this morning quite a bit. Anxiety, fear, and depression can make you feel like you are swimming in a world of legs, like my 5-year-old perception did that day. It feels like there is no way to get above it, but determining that you will not stay there, you will go to Jesus for help is the only way to realize the peace of your Heavenly Father’s arms.
It may be offensive to read this. It would have offended me, and I certainly don’t have the corner market on an anxiety fix. I’m just coming as one beggar who has found a place to get bread and wanting to share the location of the generous giver. Hanging close to Jesus and keeping your mind fixed on Him has been working pretty well for me here lately and believe me there are plenty of times I need to be reminded where I need to get my focus on, thank God for good friends. Because our enemy is relentless, and a bully, He won’t shut up until we get “Sick of It”, and deliberately decide to stop listening to his lies, and to listen to the words of Jesus instead, running to Him.
Last weekend I got to get out with my youngest daughter and some friends for an overnight Ladies Retreat called, INSPIRE Retreat with Candace Payne as the guest speaker. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, she is also known as “The Chewbacca Mom” for her viral video watched more than 145 million times. She was awesome! Such words of encouragement and also words that challenged me. The last session on Saturday has set off a churning of things inside that I haven’t experienced in awhile. Mainly because in her comical communicating she landed a concept of depth that I’ve not been able to grab ahold of for quite some time. All this from her thoughts on an account of a man in the Bible named Lazarus and a miracle that few have witnessed and seems to be impossible, but I guess that’s why it is a miracle, his resurrection from the dead. John 11 in the Bible contains all the details of this miracle, and the truth is I’ve probably read this, heard it read, heard songs about it, etc. off and on for hundreds of times throughout my 50 years on Planet Earth. But this time something finally hit home.
The account of Lazarus begins with him getting sick, and his sisters, Jesus’s friends, asking Jesus, a known healer to come and heal him. But for some reason Jesus gets in no hurry to go the two mile journey to their house. He waits for two days. The thing that has hit me so hard about this concept is just that “two days”. Why wait? Why allow Lazarus to go through the pain and suffering of the dying process? and Why allow Mary and Martha to have to sit and watch their brother go through all that pain? Especially if the journey only takes a two mile walk. That’s about 40 minutes at the pace I usually walk. Not a very long time or distance to go.
The more this churns around in my mind memories of my own experiences watching my Father in law die of cancer 10 years ago and my Mother in law die of cancer 1 1/2 years ago have been replaying in my mind. Mary and Martha must have felt the things I felt as I sat there and slowly watched my loved ones slip away. Helplessness, deep heart pain, the finality of it all, etc… Then there’s all the other things I’ve walked through in life that have been unfair, unjust, painful, just plain sad… I can relate to the feeling they must have had when you know that Jesus is soooo close, but for some reason He seems to be ignoring it all. This is where the profound statement that Jesus makes changes things. “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4 NIV This is the point that God changes what we see as our “break down” as His “break through”, Our “End” as “His beginning” , our “dead end” as His “way through”. I’ve been becoming more and more aware as of late that Jesus does not ever “ignore”. He is always there, always hearing ever cry, always collecting every tear. He sees our hurt but what seems to be His delay really is His perfect time. Because He wants us to be able to participate in glorifying Him and even as He says when trying to explain His delay, it may just be for “our sake” that He waits and that He is “glad … so that we may believe.” John 11:14.
Prayers are not answered, unless there is a need that has to be prayed for, Miracles don’t happen unless there is something that is broken and in need of a supernatural intervention, Resurrections don’t occur unless someone has died. A life adrift and lost cannot be rescued unless it is just that “adrift and lost”. I think you may be getting the picture. All these things cannot happen and bring glory to God unless there is someone who needs Him to show up and show off all the Good He can do!
I know what it’s like to sit thinking “I am DONE”. There is nothing more. I can’t hurt any worse. I cannot fix this. But that is exactly where God steps in and shows me how He IS! Sometimes I need the delay of action on His part so I can see that there was absolutely nothing I could do to get myself out of the mess I’ve been in and then finally take the chance to “Believe”. I think when we finally hit the “it’s either I believe, or I will die” mark, the end of us, that we see.
I don’t know I need a Rescuer until I realize I am in peril. I don’t understand I need to be free until I see just how enslaved I am, and I don’t know how I need a new/ resurrected life until I find myself rotting in a stinky grave of all the bad choices I can make. It’s only when I find myself spiritually dead that I realize how much I need Jesus to be that “resurrection and life” for me.
The cool ending to the account of Lazarus is a resurrected man, given back to his sisters. Great sadness turned into the greatest of joy! And the most important thing was all those around watching as two sisters grieved for 4 days over their loss, those who comforted them, cried with them, and stood by them in their sadness, saw what Jesus did and “Believed in HIM”. John 11:45.
Whatever we face that breaks our hearts, deteriorates our bodies, or just plain hurts are all things that Jesus “The Resurrection and The Life” takes and makes a part of our story that brings glory to HIM and reason for us to Praise Him, the one who makes all things work out for our Good and His Glory! AMEN!
I got to do the Grandma thing yesterday. SO MUCH FUN!! My grandson is about 1 1/2 years old. So he’s trying to talk and full of personality. Watching him reminds me of his dad, my oldest son. If there’s one thing his daddy liked as a 1 1/2 year old and that my grandson likes too, it would be attention. His daddy refused to play in his room. Every toy he had was brought out to the area I was and played with. Sometimes the mess would be overwhelming and I would wish he would play in his room just once, but NO DICE! For the longest time I thought one of his favorite phrases was, “Look MOM!” Then yesterday, I noticed how much my grandson loved it to realize I was paying FULL attention to him. If I sat down for a second, he would grab my hand. Time to play! There is nothing like having all or Grandma’s attention on you to know you’re valued and you’re loved. The more I thought about this the more I remembered that all four of my kids as they grew just wanted Mom to see them, to see their accomplishments, their needs, their likes or dislikes, etc. There is such security in being seen.
This morning as I spent time with God I thought about all this and then my mind went to the value of being “seen” by God. As God’s children, there is nothing like knowing that He has His full attention on you. He’s always there, God with us! He refers to us/God’s children as “the apple of His eye”. Zechariah 2:8. Jesus talked about how God knows when a sparrow falls to the ground, and we are “worth more than many sparrows”. Then of course, our value in God’s eyes is worth so much more than we can ever fully imagine. He was willing to pay the ultimate price for us, Jesus’ death on the cross, so we could be what He desired so greatly, His Own!
But alas, we live on planet Earth and I’ve got to admit there have been times in my life that I have wondered just how much God was seeing me. Sometimes life’s troubles, circumstances, my personal screw ups, or things done against me have left me wondering, “God did you see that?!?!” “God have you forgotten me?!” Doubt creeps in, and instead of going to God I froze under the weight of it. The thing I love about God is He does not freeze! He’s the One who may have 99 in safety yet still goes after the one!
Genesis 16 has the account of Hagar, Sarai’s slave. She was mistreated and abused and finally she ran away into the wilderness. Afraid and alone, God sent an angel to find her in her time of deepest need. Hagar gives this name to the Lord who spoke to her, “You are the God who sees me”. Hagar at her lowest sees that God does see her, both in the good times and the bad.
What a hope! The times of loss, the times of abandonment, the times of sorrow, the times of pain, etc. “God Sees”. Nothing is bigger than His ability to See us and not only see us, but be there. I have to become more and more like my little grandson, always looking God’s way to reassure myself that what He says is true. He’s right there cheering me on during the good times, comforting me during the hard. Always holding me and always being “the God who sees me” because He values me enough to always keep His face towards me, His precious child. He sees me! And know that wherever you are, whatever you have done, He sees YOU! His face is towards you and He wants to give you peace and show you how valued you are!
“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Pope John Paul II
Last Saturday I had the privilege to participate in an event at a park in the town that has been my home for the past 24 years. It was a simple event, but one that I feel reflected the message the family of Christian believers have to share around the world. Believers who wanted nothing more or less than lift a message of Hope for trying times. It wasn’t a large gathering but it represented a small midwestern town’s group of believers from at least seven different churches who came together to spend time in worship, scripture readings, and brief testimonies of what a relationship with Jesus means to those who stood up to share. There wasn’t a drive for recognition of one church over another. There wasn’t a collection of money to be collected for a cause. It was simply some musicians, some songs, some ordinary people, and the proclamation of an extraordinary God.
This 1 hour meeting at the park was birthed out of a group of guys that my husband gets together with on the weekly for a time of Bible study. Once again this group isn’t just one church, different denominations, but a common unity of Love for Jesus and the desire to have more of Him in their lives.
I was asked to share a brief testimony of who God is to me as a part of a group of 5 people, all from different backgrounds. I said yes, but with shaky legs and sometimes voice. Because I know who I am in my own eyes, but I also know who I am In the eyes of Jesus.
One thing that kept rolling around in my head and heart as I prayed about what to say at the Park was the quote from Pope John Paul II. “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Or the modified version I kept thinking, “We are the people of HOPE. We have the cure for the brokenness of our World. His name is Jesus.” With so much going on in so many arenas of our world, it is easy to “abandon ourselves to despair”. When our news outlets focus on hatred, violence, sickness, poverty, etc. , it becomes easy to be consumed by the overwhelming floodgates of sadness and evil, BUT WE HAVE THE CURE! The price Jesus paid to show us His love by His life, death, and resurrection and the Hope we have of Him never leaving or forsaking us is a reality for the one who lives as a Child of God. His promise of the Holy Spirit living in us and the reality of it now fulfilled in our lives also speaks to the truth that “We are the Easter People”/ “We are the people of HOPE”, and we should not be ashamed to proclaim that truth. It is what our nations, states, communities, friends, and families need to hear. God is with us! He is with me. I can walk with Joy in good times and I can continue to walk with peace in times of sadness, because I have Hope. I have Hope here in my daily life of doing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning house, being a mom. I also have Hope in my daily life when tears are my drink and ashes of disappointment are my bread. Psalm 102:9. This life is not the only life I have. I am a part of the “Easter People” I have the assurance of life beyond my final breath in Eternity with Jesus, and the resurrection of things that have been dead in my life due to sin of either myself or others. Jesus makes all things new. That is the glorious HOPE! Hope of a man who testified on Saturday of the power of God that changed his life from a path of destruction to a life built secure in Jesus. Or the testimony of a woman whose life was broken by addiction, pain, and sadness to one transformed to a life of purpose and peace. And the testimony of a man who has known the sorrow of loss of a young child to cancer and the collapse of his marriage, to a life that knows the comfort of God who is close in the good and the bad. Then the testimony of a man who knows the reality of a life unable to rise above guilt and shame to a life of Grace given by the God who knows our weakness. Then of course there’s the testimony of little ol me, a mom, a grandma, a wife, a daughter, a friend. A woman who knows the HOPE of God that overcomes the heartbreak of life on an imperfect planet knowing this isn’t the end. Each day is another day of beginning when Jesus writes the story of our life.
“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:31-39 The Message
We are the People of HOPE!!
Video of my testimony I gave at “Praise in the Park”
“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!…” Revelations 21:5
Fifty years on Planet Earth gives a person a gift of great value, “Perspective”. When I earnestly started my relationship with Jesus back in the summer of 84 at Camp Sharon Church Camp, I felt like a brand new person. I deeply desired to make a 180 degree turn from the direction I was going to the direction Jesus would lead me. I had taken part in the start of My Redemption Story turning from spiritual death to spiritual life. I had no idea that God wanted to not only have me commit my entire life to Him and live in relationship with Him, but He was in the business of restoring or redeeming the things that I had chalked up to being broken forever. And from that point on until present He is still at work in my life redeeming and restoring the things that have been broken or lost along the way.
Forest Gump had it wrong, life isn’t just like a box of cherries. It is like a book, a book with MANY chapters. Or at least that is how I’ve been looking at mine. There’s the childhood chapter, the middle school chapter, the junior high chapter, the high school chapter, college, newlywed, new parent… all the way to where I am now. LOTS of CHAPTERS!!! Some of my chapters have been really enjoyable, others I am glad I survived and got to move on. There have been chapters where I have stood in awe of all the goodness of God in my life. There have been chapters I could not see Him or feel Him near because of the brutality of the storm. Chapter after chapter, and in these chapters there have been things that have happened that I’ve looked at as irreparable and broken.
This is where perspective helps out. When you live long enough to ride high on the good times and crawl through the tough, every once in awhile your remember a past chapter of your life that wasn’t so good. Mistakes were made, friendships lost, hearts broken, etc. but GOD!!! Some of these chapters “I” had the idea of how it should all be played out and my chapter should be written. You know how it is we want the perfect life, no conflict, perfect spouse, perfect kids, and perfect pets… One time scrolling through Facebook or Instagram should clue you in on this because we present our perfect world. But the truth is our chapters in our books are rarely what we thought they should be. Sicknesses happen, death occurs, hearts are broken, conflicts arise, messes are made and our chapter seems to be jumbled and confused. But standing on the hill of perspective looking back on my life I am seeing some things. Things that looked to be destroyed are turned around and as a matter of fact they are better than they were originally. That is how my Redemptive God works. When we allow the Master Author, God to write our stories the way He wants to write them the chapters always end in Redemption, He rescues us from the way it looks to be turning out, He pulls us out of our messes, He makes the broken whole, better than it was before. Our book of our life is an account of all the ways God makes all things new in our redemption story.
The Bible gives the account of an army commander in the times of the prophets of the Old Testament. Through a series of events this man named Naaman went to the prophet Elisha with a request for Elisha to heal Naaman of leprosy, a disfiguring skin disease that leaves irreparable damage and at that time almost always ended in a long slow death isolated from friends and family. Elisha told Naaman to go and wash in the Jordan river seven times for God to heal him of this disease (a great inconvenience). Naaman eventually did what he was told and the Bible records this result, “…his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.” 2 Kings 5:14 NIV. Looking at my wrinkles and dry skin on my 50 year old body points out to me what a miracle this was. God did not just give Naaman skin to match the body of whatever age he was. God gave him “New Skin”, “Skin of a young boy”.
It may take some time for us to see the redemption and restoration of some of the chapters of our story. It may take us walking through some inconvenient steps to walk in obedience to God before we see the results. But our God is the God who “Makes all things new” and in time even the chapters of our life that we would rather have locked away in the corner of the recesses of our faintest memories (or honestly forgotten forever would suit them best) God has every intention of taking that horrific thing and giving it “New skin”, a “new chapter in our book”. A chapter that when we get to see how it turns out leaves us standing with our jaw dropped in awe at the God who has not only done miracles in the past, but is still working them in our TODAY! Because He is not finished writing our Redemption Story until we stand before Him face to face in Heaven someday. We can be assured of that and know that the God who started our story won’t stop until He finishes it and everything He finishes is NEW and GOOD!