Victory in Hand

Tags

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ I Corinthians 15:57

I received a text message from a friend the other day, telling me she was off to see her students play basketball against the team from the school I work at.  I texted her back, asking her to cheer on our team a little, too – they were rolling to a ten-game winning streak.  She wrote back that meant it would be a long night for her team – they hadn’t won a game all season.

Ooof.

It WAS a long night for her team.  She sent me a text at half time – our team was winning, 40-5.  Needless to say, I didn’t bother asking who won.  For an undefeated team, blitzing over a winless team doesn’t take much.  In fact, I think everyone on our bench scored points in that game.

Our team was basically guaranteed a victory in that situation – all they had to do was show up and play.

As followers of Christ, we have the same sort of guaranteed win – we just need to show up and live it out.  Thanks to the sacrifice Jesus made for us, God has given us victory over sin and death.  But too often we forget to live it, or else we think we need to somehow earn it on our own.

If we are part of a winning team, why on earth wouldn’t we act like it?  God has promised us victory.  Our job is to claim that promise.  If we don’t, it’s like ignoring a victory that’s already in hand, and choosing defeat instead.  And why would we live a life of defeat, when we’ve been promised the win?

‘Peshal One

Tags

“They will be mine,” says the Lord Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.” ~ Malachi 3:17

Lately, my son has asked me to read, over and over again, the Max Lucado book, “You Are Special.”  He will pull me into his room, demanding I read the, “’Peshal One! ‘Peshal One!”  And we sit and read the story of the Wemmicks and Punchinello.

If you haven’t read this particular children’s book, you really should.  It never fails to get to me – even after reading it many times in a row!  In brief, Punchinello is a little wooden man, who lives in a land full of wooden Wemmicks, all carved by a wood carver named Eli.  The Wemmicks go around putting star stickers and black dot stickers on one another, as an outward symbol of judgement.  Punchinello is clumsy and silly, and has only dot stickers, no stars.  But through another Wemmick (with no stickers at all!) named Lucia, he discovers the secret to not caring what other people think is to spend time with Eli, the one who made him.

I think sometimes we forget that God loves us.  He created us and He loves us.  Yes, we’ve sinned.  Yes, we’ve fallen far short of the mark set for us.  But God loves us so much that He bridged that gap by allowing His own Son to be put to death.  To me, that says He thinks we’re very special, regardless of what other people think of us.  And I think we could all stand to hear that more often.

Next Time

Tags

,

“And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” ~ Luke 16:26

Every now and again, my brain runs a “next time” scenario on me.

Maybe you’ve experienced this, too.  Something didn’t go quite according to plan, and you find yourself thinking and rethinking all the things you would do differently…next time.

Except that I have discovered we don’t always get a “next time.”

The thought has crossed my mind more than once in the last two years of what a better wife I would be to my husband now.  More thoughtful, considerate, thankful – you name it, I would be it.  I feel bad about the fact that his death is what caused me to grow up in so many ways – ways he would have benefitted from a great deal, had I done the growing up long before he got sick.

In our society, our lives are packed with chances to change.  You hair, your job, your location, your name, even your nose – with a little willpower or enough money, you can change just about anything.  Nothing seems permanent.

But death sure is.

In spite of all my wishing, I can’t go back and re-do things with my husband to make them even better than they were.  I don’t get a second chance.  In a world where it seems like the fat lady is never going to sing (thus, nothing is really over), death steps in to remind us that, in fact, some things cannot be redone.

Death also marks where we will spend eternity.  At the time of your death, you fate will be decided by whether or not you have chosen to accept what Jesus did for you on the cross.  As today’s verse from Luke indicates, there will be no second chances.  Your fate is sealed the moment you draw your last breath.

It’s difficult to imagine no second chances, from our vantage point.  Even more so, is the fact we do not know when our time here is finished.  I’m sure my husband thought he had many more years ahead of him, never imagining that his time on earth would be finished after twenty-eight years.  In light of that, be sure you have taken the time to put your soul right with God – it is the one thing there won’t be a next time.

Year in Review

“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” ~ James 1:23-24

One of the projects I’ve worked on this week is a photo book of my little boy’s year.  I made one last year, too, and I thought it was a project worth repeating.  I end up ordering five, for the grandparents and great-grandparents.  My son’s great-grandparents live far away, so they don’t get to see him very much.  The photo books provide a way for them to see what has happened during his year.

This year, I was particularly organized and put together photos for every month.  Initially, I picked out over 100 photos for the year, but I managed to whittle it down to 50 so I could afford to buy the books.  Thankfully, Snapfish always does a half-price sale after Christmas!

Beyond creating something fun for family members, I discovered this year that the photo books serve an even bigger purpose for me.  I’ve mentioned before that I often feel the crunch of single parent guilt.  I feel bad that there is only one person that my son has the option of going to – that if I’m tired or grumpy, he doesn’t have his daddy to go hang out with to escape.  He’s stuck with me.  I also worry endlessly that I’m not doing enough with him; not providing him with all the opportunities he should have.  Creating these books is a wonderful way to correct that thinking in my head.

When I look through the finished books, I see a whole year of fun that my son has had.  Times with friends and family, lots of time outside and visiting the farm (he loves all the animals).  But most of all, I see dozens of photos of a smiling little boy, happy with his life.  It’s tangible evidence that things are not nearly as bad as they seem in my mind.

To me, this illustrates today’s verses very well.  You have to do things to make them a reality.  And you also need to pay attention to the things you are doing, or it’s easy to forget.  You don’t forget what you look like when you look in the mirror, but how often do we forget all the things that God has done for us?  When I look back at all the photos of our year, I see what an amazing job God has done taking care of both my son and me.  I need that reminder.  We all need to be reminded sometimes.

Don’t forget all God has done for you.  If you keep His blessings in mind, you’ll find it much easier to get out and do things for Him – like the Word says.

Intention

Tags

,

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” ~ Colossians 3:17

It seems nearly impossible that 2012 is coming to a close.  When I sat down two years ago to begin blogging, I had no idea what sort of journey was ahead of me.  It has certainly been an unexpected sort of adventure.

And while I haven’t blogged as much in the past two months as I would like, I am thankful to have the opportunity to share my thoughts.

Over the past several days, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I approach the days and weeks I have been given.  Often with work, I spend time creating detailed to-do lists, with specific goals that I want to accomplish.  But for regular life, other than chores and housework, I don’t really seem to do anything like this.  I just kind of let my days slide by, getting the “important” things done, but not really putting any concerted effort into other things I value.

And as a result, I spend countless hours frittering my time away on meaningless things (yes, Pinterest, I’m looking at you).

My goal for 2013 is to dedicate time to some of the pursuits I’ve allowed to slip by the wayside.  Not a lot of time – for some things, maybe just 10-15 minutes per day during the week.  While that may not sound like much, as the end of the year it will be hours and hours, much more than what I accomplished this past year.

I hope your year is coming to a peaceful close and that you are enjoying time with family and friends.  As you look to setting resolutions for 2013, I encourage you to make some small ones.  Often they can make the biggest difference.

And the Angels Were Crying

Tags

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus wept. ~ John 11:33-35

On days like today, there are no answers.

There will never be a good reason for the death of children, in a senseless massacre at the hands of what can only be a deranged person.

Last night I couldn’t sleep.  I stayed awake late into the night, tossing and turning.  All I could think about was the sorrow I would face in my own life when I awoke.  Little did I know, that many, many more families would be faced with crushing heartbreak, after sending their precious children off to school.

And I realized, not for the first time, that I would hate to be God.  I would hate having foreknowledge of an event like that of today.  I just couldn’t handle it.

I do not believe that God causes tragedy, however.  He may step back and allow something terrible to happen, but nothing evil could ever come from His hand.  And I firmly believe that God and His angels mourn over the deaths of these innocent children, just as we are on earth.  Just as Jesus was moved to tears over the death of Lazarus, I believe the heart of God also breaks at our suffering.

The only answer we have is to fall to our knees.  To pray for God’s peace and healing.  To cling to the One who has promised to right all wrongs.

And be thankful that God has mercy upon us.

Stricken

Tags

,

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” ~ Matthew 25:41-45

I just finished reading a horrifying article about the Florida State Reform School, which was closed last year due to budget cuts, after being in use since 1900.

Normally it’s sad when such a long-running state institution is shuttered.  The only response I could muster from the article and subsequent reading I did was, “Why on earth didn’t the state close it sooner?!?”

The Florida State Reform School was a place where children were sent for criminal offenses (like theft or murder), and later minor offenses like truancy…or incorrigibility.  Orphans, or wards of the state, were also sent there.  Children as young as five were housed within the walls of the reform “school.”

The report I was reading discussed how scientists have recently uncovered an estimated 50 gravesites, along with reports of 96 student deaths (up until 1960, when privacy laws took effect).  The article referenced a lengthy, but extensively redacted, report from the University of South Florida.  And I didn’t have the stomach to read all that it included: beatings and abuse, that ultimately lead to the death of children.

The article also referenced a book, authored by Roger Dean Kiser, an orphan and a survivor of the horrors at this particular institution.  I looked up the book online and managed to read the introduction, which broke my heart.  Kiser describes how he became a ward of the state – when he was four, his mother ran off and left him, his half-sister, and a two-week old baby.  The police found them four days later; the infant did not survive.  Kiser’s writing is impassioned, due, I’m sure, to the loss of a childhood in a manner so terrible we can’t even begin to imagine.  He describes the Florida State Reform School as a “concentration camp for children.”

But what hit me square in the face, through all of this reading, was a line on Kiser’s website.  He said he often has people tell them that it’s impossible to try to save all the children in these kinds of situations.  His response is simple, but heartbreaking, “All I know is that no one came to save me, and the other children, in that terrible Jacksonville, Florida orphanage. I may not be able to save all the children but I will continue to try.”

No one came.  I can’t imagine being a child, desperately hoping for someone, anyone, to rescue you from a situation like that.  And in his case, no one did.

We have to keep trying.  We cannot turn a blind eye to the atrocities occurring all around us.  Just because we may not be able to save all doesn’t mean we can’t try to save one.  Imagine all the good we could do if we each did a little.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it has to be all or nothing.  Offer your time, give five dollars.  Whatever it is you have, share it.  There are hungry, hurting, hopeless people that are crying out for someone to save them – offer whatever you have as you would to Christ.

Losing You

Tags

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.” ~ I Thessalonians 4:13

Every now and again, grief rears its ugly head up and comes roaring back into my life, fresh as that first awful morning in 2010.  When it does, I once again face the brokenness, the baffling loss, the questions that have gone unanswered.

But what scares me most are the fading memories.

The sound of a laugh.  The touch of a hand.  The whispered voice in the silence of night.  Sounds, moments, words – things I wish I could bottle up forever and clutch close to my heart, never letting go.

When someone is gone, it gets harder every day to keep the memory sharp.  You want to recall all of the little details of a life shared, but discover one day that living life is crowding those memories out.  What do you do then?

I know the answer is keep going, looking up at the One who made all of us, but some days it’s harder than others.

We know from this verse that we do not grieve as the world grieves – and for that I am thankful a million times over.  Losing a loved one is terrible enough, and I know that my loss is only a separation for a time, not forever.

If you know someone who is grappling with loss, please know that it never truly goes away.  The loss in their life may not be recent, but is always present.  They need your love and prayers far beyond any set amount of time.  Because when a loved one goes Home, it is those of us left living here on earth that have the much harder task.

An Attitude of Gratitude

Tags

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” ~ I Thessalonians 5:18

Is it just me, or did Christmas seem to start in July this year?

At least that’s the way it seems when I head into a store.  Christmas decorations seem to go up earlier and earlier – and this year they not only stampeded over Thanksgiving, they took out Halloween, too (not that I mind that terribly, Halloween decorations creep me out).

But as I stopped by Target today to buy an egg (yes, I miscounted and was one miserable egg short for my baking), I was surprising to see the Thanksgiving displays had already been pulled down, replaced with Christmas ones that blared, “Christmas is Tuesday, December 25th!”  I suppose they have to get ready for the madness that follows Thanksgiving known as Black Friday, when we Americans celebrate being thankful for all we have by trampling our fellow man for a dirt-cheap flat screen TV.

I realize that there is probably no way we could ever hope to recapture our culture, and turn the focus back entirely to family and thankfulness.  But I am grateful that individually we are all given a holiday that, if we choose, we can do just that.  Take extra time for our loved ones, giving thanks for all God has given us.  Now that is something to be thankful for!

No News Is…

Tags

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” ~ Mark 16:15

Have you ever found yourself waiting to hear back from someone?  Maybe it was for a job application, or maybe you’re waiting for the response of a friend to a text or email.  Maybe you have a family member in a place where a natural disaster has recently occurred.  And I’m sure that, at least once, during all this waiting, someone has told you, “No news is good news.”

And sometimes it’s true; sometimes it’s not.

In my current job as a communications manager, no news usually is good news.  If things are going well, then I don’t hear about it – we live in a society where people expect the flow of information to be nonstop.  If I’m keeping up with everything, they’re happy and they don’t say anything.  However, the moment something goes wrong or I miss something – look out!  I’ll hear about it almost immediately.  And while the feedback is helpful, because it means people are paying attention; it can be discouraging, because it tends to all be negative.

I think we sometimes take the same approach with God.  We assume that as long as we’re cruising along and don’t hear anything major from Him, we’re good.  But I think many of us fear that when we do hear from him, it will be correction.  Something tough or painful.  We seem to miss the fact that Jesus IS good news!  And He doesn’t want us to sit around and wait for bad news to hit – He wants us to share the message with everyone we hear.  And with that, don’t stop sharing.  We aren’t supposed to tell people the good news and leave them there – we’re supposed to make disciples of them.  Which tells me that God’s priority is maintaining a close relationship with each and everyone one of His followers.  He wants to be in constant communication with us, sharing all of our lives with us.

So don’t wait when it comes to hearing from God.  Sit down and talk with Him today.