The Banquet Invitation

Way back in the 90’s my oldest brother was an officer in the US Navy. I was a young college student. One of my spring breaks I was able to manage a trip to Jacksonville, Florida where he was stationed. The goal was to get to fulfill a lifelong dream of going to Disney World. I also got a once in a lifetime experience. I toured the ship he was assigned to and got to eat dinner in the officers quarters. I felt like I had arrived. The atmosphere of the officers dining room was quite the experience: Formal wait staff, golden utensils, fancy dining room furniture, etc. It definitely impressed this small town, middle class, midwestern girl. It felt pretty good to have connections with a Naval Officer.

I have been thinking about that trip this afternoon as I have contemplated Luke 14. The setting of this passage is a dinner that Jesus attended at an prominent Pharisee’s(Jewish religious leader) house. I imagine there were several in attendance that felt pretty lucky to have scored a seat at the table with a “miracle man prophet” and a man of high position in the Prominent Religious Party of the day. It was enough to stir thoughts in one of the guests who had to comment to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the Kingdom of God”. He probably got the picture of how neat it was to be there at that meal, and how in comparison sitting in the very presence of God at His Kingly table would be.

Jesus took that opportunity to teach a little lesson. In typical Jesus’s style, He told them a parable.

In His parable a man was preparing a great banquet. He was arranging the venue, planning the menu, and getting a list of his guest. He had put a lot into it and when he expected his guests to reply with the anticipated RSVP’s, he got turned down. Replies like, “I’m too busy. Just got married…”. “Just bought a set of five yoke of oxen for me to try out.” (Today’s equivalent of a new John Deere Tractor with all the accessories.). Or “I’ve just bought a field. Gotta settle down and enjoy it.” It was enough to shock the generous host with such snubs.

What happens next surpasses the out of place dining of a small town, midwestern, college girl’s dining in the Officers Quarters of a US Naval ship. The host told his servants to go out and compel the poor, the blind, the crippled, and the lame to come to the meal. When the banquet hall wasn’t full he told them to go to the country roads and lanes to find more guests for his banquet. The honored guests for the distinguished host would be the very people who during the time of Jesus were the lowest of the social echelon.

So why all the fuss over banquets, dining and rsvp’s in Jesus’s parable? This is a reflection of who it is that Jesus calls to be a part of His Kingdom feast now, the very ones He invites to become His disciples. There are those He invites that let their relationships, their possessions, their season in life to keep them from valuing the opportunity of a life time, sitting at a table as a guest of Jesus’s meal. There are those who never would expect to be invited because of who they are and what they have become. He compels the poor with nothing to offer, those crippled by their anxieties, pain, and past. He compels the blind who strain to see past the darkness that envelopes them, and the lame who are unable to stand on their own. Those far away in the places that would never expect an invite. Those are the ones He invites to come. Simply because He wants His house to be full.

I’ve heard many people talk about how they are not worthy of following God and sitting down with Him at the feast of the Kingdom. No One Is! This is the beauty of the invitation. Just as I sat in the US Navy’s Officer’s Dining hall having never worn a uniform or fulfilled any qualifications of an officer. Simply because my Big Brother was qualified to be there, we are invited to sit at the most important event of eternity God the Father’s banquet because our Big Brother, Jesus is qualified to be there and He has compelled us to come and dine. Ours is simply to respond to the RSVP.

Sitting on the Bench or Abide

A little known fun fact about me: I played basketball one season in the 7th grade. Not because I am some stellar athlete… The team was short on girls, they needed someone/ anyone, and I was reminded by a friend just how good looking Coach Johnson was. That alone made my adventure into the realm of athleticism a reality. But alas, his handsomeness was not enough to captivate me for a second season. For one thing, I was AWFUL at basketball, and I HATED running, especially the sprints/ suicides… And an entire season on the bench with the occasional chance and failure to play and make a shot was enough to limit my tenure as a Lady Tiger. Bench sitting is no fun. You practice and practice, running drill after drill. Sitting on the bench is like an insult to all that hard work. I’m not sure which was worse, sitting or actually being put in to play. Being the disappointment of your teammates over and over from missed shots isn’t all that and a bag of chips either…

Me and the Ever So Handsome Coach Johnson. Lol (Not sure what I was thinking…)

I’m not sure if it’s the COVID outbreak with two quarantines, a change in churches, kids growing up and branching out, a death in the family, or just life itself, but I’ve felt like I’ve been benched by God here lately. What’s funny, yet really not so funny, is I’ve invested myself in this Beth Moore Bible study “Chasing Vines”, and as God would have it that is exactly what my Bible study is about. Feeling like you’ve been benched or maybe even pruned. Kind of lying dormant for a season. Transplanted to a different place where God intends for me to produce fruit in the future. Yep, there’s a lot to that.

Tonight’s the first night in I’m not sure how long I’ve had the house alone. I kind of dig it. No TV. No lights except my lamp by my chair. No noise. Just me, this computer, and my Bible app to contemplate life. Better yet meditate on the main verse for this weeks lesson in the study I’m in. John 15: 1-3,5-8 MSG

“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken… I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.”

Better known to me as the “Abide in me” verses. Thankfully my relationship with God is nothing like my 7th grade Basketball experience. However, the American Christian’s mindset may very well be exactly like it. I don’t know how many times I’ve caught myself running sprints and trying to keep up so I can look impressive to coach… God. Only to find myself so wrapped up in my performance and how it lacks impressiveness. But God simply wants me to “abide”. To rest in Him, be connected to Him, let His life flow into me so I can do what He created for me to do all along… bear fruit, His fruit. The beauty of it all is He aims for an “abundant” harvest in me. It’s all about what He does in and through me. God isn’t a coach who benches, but a farmer who tends and I can expect that His tending to me will bring about Good things in me and around me. Not because of how exceptional I am, but because He is just that Good. And He loves me!

I Belong

I’ve been contemplating “Belonging” this morning. I guess it all goes back to my recent start up of the Beth Moore Bible study “Chasing Vines”. There’s much said in the first couple of chapters about being pulled up from where you were planted and transplanted in an unfamiliar land. Boy do I get that. I think any woman my age starts to feel the whole “transplanted” feeling. All the familiar is shaken: Relationship with kids as they grow up, relationship with husband as you have more time together, relationship with friends as we weather the ins and outs of our new schedules, new responsibilities, new season… that’s just a few. When one of the questions in the study asked “Do you feel like you’ve been transplanted?” My reply was, “Absolutely…” Transplanted May be an understatement. “Completely rearranged” May be more accurate.

But there is a constant in an ever changing world, Jesus. And my “Belonging” to Him. My Belonging is not conditioned by my perfection, my position, my situation, or my feelings. It’s just a fact. Belonging brings security and it brings a certainty that no matter the situations we face we are secure and loved.

All this contemplating of “Belonging” brought to mind a poem I wrote several years ago. It makes me think of something I heard years ago in a meeting. “No matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done, come home.” When I am “at home” in Jesus, it doesn’t matter what my current circumstances may be. I am accepted by Him. “I Belong”.

Originally written in 2009:
(I read the account of a woman who had a double masectomy for breast cancer. She was concerned about how her husband would react to her disfigurement. When he saw her for the first time after the operation he came close to her, stroked her hair, and told her with tears in his eyes, “Oh sweetheart, you are so beautiful.” Like her, I look at my imperfections sometimes with a lot of discouragement, but God holds me as beautiful in His eyes.)




I Belong

You see the disfigurement of my soul.
You see the ugliness of my sin.
You touch the brokenness inside.
Your blood washes,
cleansing the dirtiness within.

I am moved by Your compassion for me.
I am set free by Your love.
I am made whole in the light of Your Glory.
I am not left alone.
I belong.

You have watched me cry in sadness.
You were catching all my tears.
You were there when loneliness engulfed me.
Though I was unaware, You were there.

I am moved by Your compassion for me.
I am set free by Your love.
I am made whole in the light of Your Glory.
I am not alone.
I belong.

I belong to You.
Held by Love divine.
You have called me precious.
You are truly mine.
I am Yours.
I Belong.

King David, Covid, Bob Marley, and of course…ME

“The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.” Psalms 37:23-24 NLT

God always has a plan. Even when we think we’re the ones calling the shots, we’re actually not all that. He’s the one at work on the details of our lives. The more I realize this and accept it the more at peace I am.

The past few weeks my husband and I have been reading about King David and also reading his Psalms. Once again I find what was supposed to be a daily Bible reading plan we picked out “by chance”, exactly what I need for the things I’m dealing with. Funny how God just works that out…

David was a worshipper of God. He was a writer. He played musical instruments and his abilities were of the talent level to land him a gig playing for the king, King Saul, in his palace. David was warrior. He was a fighter. If the cause was right and good he would bravely stand in opposition to what appeared to be really bad odds against him and come out the victor on the other end. Just ask Goliath. David was a man with loyal friends, who would hang out in caves and be brave along with him. Men who were willing to go behind enemy lines to fetch a drink from water that David mentioned, just because he mentioned it. David lived in palaces enjoying the finest. He also hid in caves running for his life because his father in law and at one time his own son wanted him dead. David danced in excited jubilation before God and he also tore his clothes and laid out before God in mourning. I think you get the picture after awhile. David experienced the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly in his life. The one consistent is that he went through all of this and concludes that God directed his steps and even in the bad stuff he would never fall. He knew God loved him, and God spoke of David in all the ups and downs of his life as a “man after God’s own heart.”

I find myself identifying with David a lot recently. Not because I’m hiding in caves, having spears thrown at me, or acting like a madman before an enemy king to save my skin. Mainly because things go good for me and I feel like dancing before God. Things go not so good and I feel like putting on my mourning clothes and laying in a pile of ashes before God too. I’ve experienced that love of loyal friends, and the betrayal of others. I’ve had awesome victories, and experienced the pain of defeat. I could go on and on.

Somewhere in my mind I had pictured the Christian life as a cake walk- one blessing to the next and yet I find it is exactly as Jesus told us it would be. A life with “troubles” but also “courage” because He has over come the world.

This past month has been a lot. Our family has dealt with the sickness, death, funeral, and other ins and outs of losing someone we dearly love. But at the same time we’ve found joy in the milestones our grandbaby has reached, birthdays of my kids- as three of them are now in their 20’s, new college school year started for my daughter living at home – that she is enjoying, and the excitement of a 16 year old boy’s social life as he enjoys his high school years. I’ve found myself crying at times, and laughing out loud at other times, sitting in dismay as I try to figure out my next step and then confidently walking things out at other times. I think me and Kind David have a lot more in common than I realized, a lot more than our mutual love for music and writing and dancing an occasional jig.

So today’s curveball that life has thrown at me is a positive Covid case in my home. Yesterday was spent getting the rest of us tested and trying to figure out just how exposed we have been to my asymptomatic teenage son, which I would say the answer would be “pretty exposed”. So far none of us four under the same roof are sick, for which I am so very grateful. But I am also hearing the reports of our friends who also have Covid that theirs is not that same case, they are very sick. Sitting here this morning I’ve contemplated “what exactly can I do?” This situation has made me long for the good ole days when my preteen daughters got headlice. Sure I was busy treating heads and picking nits every night and cleaning the house until my back hurt so bad I could barely walk. But at least the possibility of one of us getting really sick from the little critters wasn’t a big threat. Yesterday, as my 20 year old daughter and I sat in a drive up testing sight for an hour in a line of cars, we tried to make the best of a bad situation. We joked about the car full of college boys in front of us waiting to be tested, and what if they were really cute under their masks. The potential love story that could come from finding your true love while waiting to be tested for Covid on a hot summer day. It’s either laugh or cry at this point, so laugh is what we did. Then today I wrestle with should I use a clorex wipe to clean off the laptop my son has touched to type this blog. The wipes won out, and a squirt of hand sanitizer.

All this being said, my mind turned back to David. He understood, as I am coming to understand, that God has these things. God has directed my steps, and this new obstacle of Covid is not a surprise to Him. Life is going to be like this. There will be good, bad, beautiful, and ugly… And though the unknown, if I admit it, is scary. God is always holding onto me and the ones I love.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?“ And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ” Matthew 6:26-34 NIV

Or in this case the words of Bob Marley actually can be a comfort as well:

“Rise up this mornin’,
Smiled with the risin’ sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, (“This is my message to you-ou-ou:”)

Singin’: “Don’t worry ’bout a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
Singin’: “Don’t worry (don’t worry) ’bout a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!””

We’ll Meet You There!

When you closed your eyes

And drew your last breath,

What looked to us as the end of your life

Was really not death.

You stepped from this world

Into glories unknown

You ran into the arms of Jesus 

Forever at home.

There in that Place of eternal delight

You were surrounded by others

Who have went on before us

What a glorious sight!

There they all stood:

Our Grandmas and Grandpas,

Countless others,

There smiling, was Dad!

You wait patiently for us.

Watching us from above

Cheering us on in that great cloud of witnesses

With the ones gone before us, the ones that we love.

We’ll soon be together

Eternally grateful Jesus’ words are true

One by one we will gather

We’ll be there together again with you!

(We love you Mom Nelson!  We’ll run our race faithfully for Jesus, and We’ll see you again soon!

We’ll meet you there!)

Thoughts on Life and Death

The plight of a middle aged woman… a new season is upon me. I’ve blogged quite a bit on it recently. My life is transitioning. I’ve went from minivans, toddlers, chauffeuring the kids to summer swimming lessons… to a sports car, kids in their 20’s (one teenager left), and spending the morning at the bedside of my mother in love in long term care as she lies here going through her own transitions as well battling the final stages of cancer.

Watching her as she steps one by one into the final stages of death has brought me to a place of great contemplation. (There’s plenty of time to think as you sit in the quiet watching someone breathe). When I was younger I was fairly certain I was the master of my destiny, or at least I had a pretty good say over it. Do everything just right, speak the right words, confess the right scriptures, and do the right stuff. Things will go my way and I will change my world. It’s easy when you’re in the middle of building your life: cars, houses, careers, kids, etc. Making decisions and taking action to forget how much you actually control. It’s funny, (not ha ha funny) that we can so quickly forget what we actually control until pain comes, tragedy strikes, or we sit watching a loved one slip away into eternity. The list of all the things we think we are in control of dwindles down to little or nothing. Thankfully God truly does control it all.

I’ve often objected to such a view of God because I felt it reduced me to nothing more than a pawn in God’s chess game of life. The older I get, I see the comfort of knowing that God truly has every aspect of my life in His hands.

It’s easy, as the self made woman, when things are going my way, to feel good about my smart decisions, my fortunate circumstances, and how I deserve to pat my own back. When it all falls apart, I look around wondering where God was and why He didn’t bail me out. Questions and mistrust come in the wake of such circumstances. Knowing that God is in control in both the good and the bad, the big things and the little, brings peace. Because I am sure that the same God who values my life enough to send His son to die and pay the price for it, is the same God who values me and my broken heart more than I could ever know when I walk through pain and sorrow. He doesn’t leave me or forsake me. He has all this and eventually it will turn around for my good. Even if “my good” is leaving behind my temporary home, my body, by dying. It is then I receive my eternal body, my eternal home, The ultimate good in store for those who are in Christ.

Sitting here today has brought to mind that it would do me good to not be so attached to all the things here. I am passing through. The focus that brings peace is a life centered on the Holy One, Jesus, who assures me that this earth is not the end all. He has went away to prepare a place for me so where He is I can be there also.

Even though there is much here I love about my life and many more joys I plan to experience here, this cannot compare to Heaven. This life I live right now is just the prelude to the “Masterpiece of Heaven” God has written for my life to play a part in. For my mother in love, lying in front of me, the full orchestra of her life has only heard the tap of the conductor’s baton. The beauty of the Eternal Concert in Heaven has barely begun.

(Much comfort was found looking at this book that was placed in my Mother in Love’s hospice room.”Hope in the Dark” by Bart Larson. Years ago I knew Bart’s wife. I knew he was a hospice chaplain. That piqued my interest. It is where I found these quotes. Once again God weaves the details of our lives together. It is a good read.)

We are Never Forgotten

This morning my coffee and Jesus time was interrupted by a call from my mother in love from the nursing home. She had a hankering for a breakfast burrito from McDonald’s with mild picante sauce. Since eating has been hard for her and she has lacked desire, I combed my hair, brushed my teeth, put on some day clothes, hopped in my Charger and drove into town to purchase the desired meal and drop it by her room. I left my time with Jesus contemplating a verse that stuck out to me in my daily Bible reading that my husband and I are doing together from the Bible app. Psalm 105:42 “For he remembered his holy promise given to his servant Abraham.” The word “remembered” jumped off the page at me, which usually means I need to run it through the Bible Hub App and check out the meaning in the Hebrew with the Strong’s Concordance, and if that isn’t enough to settle the question marks flashing in my mind, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary can shed some light too. There are several references to God “remembering” someone or some promise. Genesis 8:1 “God remembered Noah…in the ark.” In Exodus 2:24 God “remembered his covenant” after hearing the groaning from the oppression of the Hebrew slaves. It hit me. If God “remembers” does that mean He “forgets”. I know that an all knowing, all powerful God cannot “forget”. I know this in my heart, but at times the 18 inch jump of this reality from my heart to my head does not quite make it. I can get caught up looking at circumstances, feeling my feelings. Then the question, “Has God forgotten?” starts to rumble around inside of me.

Webster’s 1828 defines “remember” as “to bear in mind, to attend to”. When God remembered Noah in the ark, He “attended to” or He “thought about” Noah . It wasn’t a case of God looking at other details in the flood and Noah just “slipped His mind.” So He needed to remember Noah. Or when God “remembered” His people who were enslaved in Egypt, He hadn’t been too busy thinking about what was going on across the globe in another land, and happened to let His very own people be abandoned and “forgotten” by His inattentiveness. He was there all along, working out the details of their deliverance. He was bearing in mind their situation, their cries, and their desire for freedom. He was working out His plan of deliverance.

It is easy in a difficult season to feel like God has forgotten us. Our earthly limitations don’t allow us to see everything as God does, and it is hard to understand “the why?”. “Why hasn’t God done something about this?” “Why have I had to struggle with this for years and years and years?” “Why is there pain?” “If God were actually looking at me, He wouldn’t let me go through this. Maybe He’s forgotten me…” But we are assured, God “remembers”. He bears in mind our circumstances and He attends to the details of our lives. He never forgets.

Nine years ago today my nephew was lost at sea while serving in the Navy. It is presumed by the Navy that He fell overboard in the Gulf of Aden near Yemen. I used to close my eyes and picture him buried deep in the under currents created by the large carrier he was serving on. No one saw him. No one knew. His disappearance became known when the daily roll call occurred and he was not present. The ship was searched, and then the waters. Matt was gone. This was not because God had forgotten to keep an eye on Matt and had no idea where Matt was. God was there attending to Matt’s needs as Matt stepped across the great divide from earth to heaven underneath the waters of the Gulf of Aden.

The Memorial Service for Matt aboard the Boxer.

Nine years ago on July 9th my father in love drew his last breath after suffering greatly with cancer for over a year. God had not forgotten him. I’ve often thought of what Gene must have seen as he uttered “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” before drawing his last breath. God had not forgotten him as he laid on his bed unable to speak or move. He was there attentive to his care and bearing him in mind as he took Gene’s hand and led him into the pure presence of Jesus.

God has not forgotten my mother in love as she continues her fight against the disease that has ravaged her body. He has not forgotten me as I struggle to understand. I am assured that the questions in my heart, the anxieties I fight are under His attentive care and He knows exactly where I am and bears my situation in His mind. He is in control. I may not understand or see. but God never Forgets!

“Farther Along”

I grew up the daughter of the church pianist (my mom) and grand daughter (my grandma) of the church song leader, what they used to call worship leader in some churches back in the day. As the regular part of church worship service, someone would come prepared with a “special”. Usually a hymn or song that they sang solo or duet with someone. With all the music running through my family line, I would be asked on the regular to sing or play something on the piano. It wasn’t my favorite experience since my fingers would shake so hard on the keys of the piano from nerves. I usually had a few screw ups in each song. The small church of 30 or less would talk about how wonderful I did when I sat down. (Very generous of them)

My mom and grandma usually sang a special every week. Their voices blended smoothly as they sang songs outside of the usual congregational music, hymns, that were sang.

Frequently, they sang this song , “Farther Along” (a little differently) as a “special” when I was growing up. Since I was an “80’s Rocker” in my teen years, I didn’t really think too much about it. It wasn’t my style. Funny how things change… I often think of them singing this song now. I finally get why Grandma loved the words of this song.
I came across the verse above this morning in my Bible reading. I’ve had a hard week. My mother in love has spent this week in the hospital after a fall that broke her femur. Cancer has complicated things and we have been left with a great need for a miracle.

There has been a wide range of emotions within our family as we’ve tried to help her and be there for her the past few days. Probable one of the hardest things is not understanding why.

Suffering is hard to wrap your mind around when stacked up against the fact that God is good and He loves us. There’s been many books written, sermons spoken, and ideas expressed on the “Why?”.

I’ve had to conclude during my 49 times riding around the sun that it’s ok to not understand everything that happens on earth. I’m not God. I am finite. I don’t see the full picture. The comfort is that that when I see Jesus, I will understand. Because I will finally see Him as He is and all the secret things will be revealed. Quite honestly, when I do see Him all the things that I didn’t understand won’t matter so much any more. Because it is then that I step into the place where there will be no more pain, no more crying, no more dying, etc and I experience fully without anything holding me back, God’s love: the heights, the depths, the length, the width of its infinite bounds.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.””
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:3-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Keep the Main Thing The Main Thing: Response for Uncertain Times

Several years ago my husband and I attended a smaller church that sat on top of a large hill in the middle of a small city. The Church was two story and rectangular(kind of looked like an ark in my mind) and situated right in the middle of a questionable neighborhood. It was the kind of neighborhood that I would get uncomfortable the nights we would be there if I didn’t know the door was locked. One Sunday we drove up the hill and noticed the SWAT team for the city surrounding the house next door to our church. We opted to drive around for awhile until the arrest was made. There were many Sundays that I would sit during service near a window and watch the neighborhood people walking up and down the hill on the way to the stores on the main strip. I would often think about how comfortable I was sitting in my padded chair, dressed nicely, surrounded by my family and friends. Then look out the window to see someone who looked desperate and alone walking down the hill. The image of Noah and his family sitting in the ark would play through my head. “Is this what they might have felt listening to the world fall apart while they were safe in the ark?” Lately, I’ve felt that feeling again. As I’ve watched the evening news drone on and on about riots, unrest, virus totals, statues being demolished, etc. Then I look around me in my nice country house, acreage, and miles from the closest conflicts. “Am I sitting on the ark again?” Even Noah in his time was a preacher of righteousness up until he got on the ark and it started to rain, why would I just sit here… The discussion with friends I’ve met up with lately has centered around “What on earth is going on in our country?” There’s anger and sadness over the changes that we’ve seen, and the biggest question of all is “What are we going to do?” I’ve thought of that a lot too. “What is my response?”

I’ve been contemplating Philippians quite a bit the past couple of months, and this week is no exception. The verse I’ve been chewing on is Philippians 3:20 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” NIV Actually the Passion Translation version has been resounding in my heart, “But we are a colony of heaven on earth as we cling tightly to our life-giver, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “colony” stood out. I figured it was quite a jump from “citizenship” to “colony” so I checked it out in the Greek. (It’s that deep thinker side of me coming out.) And sure enough the word “politeuma” was used which could be a state or a commonwealth, “colony” would work. Why all the fuss? Simple, it is easy to get caught up in thinking there’s nothing we can do. Our citizenship is in heaven. The earth will go to pot, and we will get out of here. We will sit on our ark and watch the world drown. But when I look at my life as a colonist of heaven. My viewpoint of today’s events changes. Colonists of Rome during Paul’s time “were expected to promote the interests of Rome and maintain the dignity of the city.” As a colonist of heaven I am to “Promote Heaven’s interest on earth and lead a life worthy of heavenly citizenship.” (notes from Life Application Study Bible on Philippians 3:20). My home, my brothers and sisters in Jesus are all Colonist of Heaven. We are here to plant heavenly citizenships all around us (make disciples) and influence the world we live in. Not hide our allegiance and wait for the great escape. We must not get our eyes off of the main thing. What is the main thing you may ask? Jesus gave us the main thing, the mission, after His death and resurrection right before He ascended into Heaven. The Main Thing is this: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” Matthew 28:18-20 NIV.

The American Christian, really the American anything, waits for a program. We want our kids to play in organized sports as opposed to organic sports that occurs in our neighborhoods. We want our relationships to start in organized groups and clubs as opposed to organic relationships that occur when we talk across the fence to our neighbors, smile at the cashier at Walmart, leave a significant tip for our waitress, etc. We don’t have to have a program to do what we are commanded to do! Look at who is around you and get started. “Make disciples!” Look at the tools you have around you, your home, your food, your social media, etc. and do what looks obvious to do. As colonist of heaven and ambassadors for Christ, all we have to do is represent. Represent by listening, praying, giving, and teaching others about how they too can become part of the Everlasting Kingdom that will not fail.

The other thing the American Christian is prone to get hung up on is numbers. “Great I’ll make disciples, how do I make the most?” Start with the one. The one who is in front of you. The one you run into on the regular. The one who listens when you share and when you point the best you know how to the King of your Kingdom, Jesus- who started the Colony of heaven in your heart. Simplify it even more, the one can be the ones who live in your own home, your kids/ grandkids (they are great disciples).

It is easy for me to get caught up in the drama on Social Media and the nightly news. But our current situation has not changed the mission that as a Heavenly Colonist I have embraced. I am not called to get caught up in the name calling, blame games. I am to proclaim the answer, Jesus is King over all and His Kingdom is the only one that will stand in the end.

“There Was Jesus”

July 2nd 1984, 36 years ago at a small church camp, Camp Sharon, was where I had my awakening. It was where I suddenly became aware of God’s desire, not just for me to give my life to Him, but my awakening to His desire for me to be close to Him. It all started when He began calling to me to let Him have everything, my plans, my life, my hurts, etc.

For an 8th grade girl, I’m sure I had become quite a surprise to those around me. I wanted to do this relationship right, and I wasn’t sure how to get there. I went to the local Christian Bookstore and bought a book that talked about how to have a relationship with God. It covered praying and reading the Bible. It said I should read 10 chapters of the Bible a day. So that is what I did. I wanted to experience God. Not just know about Him. I would spend hours in my room reading the Bible and praying. It was such a surprising response that my mom, a faithful Christian, was worried about just how much I was reading and pursuing. She was afraid that I would burn out on it. I was just HUNGRY. Hungry to know more of that feeling of peace and love I felt kneeling and uncontrollably sobbing in the sawdust near the altars of an outdoor church camp tabernacle. I remember telling God, “If you really want me you can have me.” It’s funny how much I didn’t understand. “really want me”?!?! He wanted me so much He walked the lonely road of Calvary and died on a cross to make a relationship with me possible. He tugged at my heart so heavily that night at camp that no matter how hard I tried to walk away, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I’m so glad I didn’t! I left that time of prayer new and free and filled with joy!

Through the years I’ve had my “hot on fire, so close to you” relationship with God, and others I’ve had my “It’s getting cold, where are you at God?” relationship. I’ve had my times of feeling like I had it all together and understood it. I’ve had times when I understood that I will never have it together and I won’t ever understand life. 36 years that Jesus was right there. His Holy Spirit living inside of me gently speaking to me which way I should go even when on my own I couldn’t figure out the way.

Lately I’ve been listening to Zac William’s album “Rescue Story”. I kind of have a tendency to get stuck on a song that speaks to me. Surprisingly to me, the song that sticks out to me the most off that album is a duet with Dolly Parton. “There Was Jesus”.

It hits where I find myself as of late. I’ve been looking at where I am in my life, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. The thing about the lyrics of that song that sticks out to me is that no matter where we’ve been, no matter where we are, no matter where we go, “There Was Jesus”. So the days of blessing that I laugh and smile through, He’s there enjoying the times of joy with me. The days that I struggle to understand and see, He’s there holding me up showing me the next step to take. He’s there with me when I feel nothing. He’s there with me when I feel it all.

I’ve been pretty open on this blog about my struggles and questions. It’s kind of the outlet I’ve chosen to let what I’m think about on the inside come out. You all get a little picture of what I’ve been contemplating as you take the time to read my thoughts. Most of the time I am able to lay out “the good, the bad, and the ugly”, but somehow take the turn back to the only answer I’ve found that resonates inside of me, Jesus. Struggles that we all face, whether they be depression, anxiety, addictions, PTSD, abuse, disappointment, etc. only find meaning and healing when looked at in the light of the presence of the only one who has been there for it all, Jesus, the love of our souls. The only One who is able to speak peace into storms of life, bring the dead things that we’ve given up on back to life, take a broken, wrecked life and make it a masterpiece is Jesus.

I can analyze my hurts, categorize my issues- give them names, and get understanding. These aren’t altogether bad things to do, but I shouldn’t stop there. I need to take the tools I learn to deal with the things I struggle with, and go to Jesus asking Him to heal what only He can heal. Do my part and let Him do the rest.

He has proven Himself faithful. I can trust Him where I’m going, even when I cannot see.

“There was Jesus”.

Jesus is there. Jesus was there, Jesus will be there.