Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Just Enough Grace

Frankly, if I’d have known in advance some of the things I’d be walking through in 2009, I might have been tempted to say, “Uh, where do I get off of this ride?!”

As it was however, every difficult event was tempered just enough by God’s grace—a reminder that He walks through everything with me, so I am not alone and can keep walking through.

Each new year can bring excitement for the pristine opportunities that await, or trepidation and fear of the unknown.

In light of this, I am so thankful for that grace that God gives. …That reminder of His presence that helps me to trust Him in the days ahead instead of panicking.

Veteran Christian artist Randy Stonehill said it well in the song Celebrate This Heartbeat, “…I don't understand all the mysteries of the master plan, but I'm sure the Master does…”

How fortunate to have the One who “wrote the map” walking right beside us on the way.

He tells us in 2 Peter 1 that He’s equipped us with all we’ll need for the journey as we come to really know Him:

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue…” (NKJV)

And Psalm 31:14-15 reminds us that we can trust Him with every step:

“But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand…” (NKJV)

In 2010, I may not know what the future holds… but it’s okay, because I know the One who holds my future. So, to return to the lyric by Mr. Stonehill:

I'm gonna celebrate this heartbeat
Cause it just might be my last
Everyday is a gift from the Lord on high
And they all go by so fast

I'm gonna celebrate this heartbeat
And keep movin' on
Look toward tomorrow cause
The past is gone

(-Randy Stonehill: Celebrate This Heartbeat-1984)

Happy 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

First Christmas in Heaven

This Christmas is a first, of sorts, for my close-knit extended family. One particular sunny smile and contagious laugh won't be present at our traditional Christmas Eve lasagna dinner with nieces, parents, and siblings, this year.

Richard when the Mets are winningIt's my brother Richard's first Christmas in Heaven. (Photo: Rich enjoying a Mets win)

I know I'm one of many of course, who is trekking through the holidays missing a loved one—not an easy task. But I can't help wondering what he's experiencing right now.

…A Heavenly birthday party for the King of Kings?

…Beautiful angelic voices lifted in praise?

…The indescribable sights of Heaven, too intense for our finite minds to comprehend this side of the veil?

...Or just the incomparable presence of God Himself—love so pure and perfect we cannot even imagine it here on Earth.

I know Rich must be loving it there; free from pain, IVs and chemo treatments. And, I'm so glad for him, though he is terribly missed down here by those of us waiting to see him again.

My thoughts turn to Jesus' mother, Mary. Now, I realize the first century Christians probably didn't celebrate Christmas—at least not in the way (or the time of year) we do. But, every mother remembers giving birth, and especially a birth as unique and special as Jesus' was—no doubt she was thinking about it in the months after she saw her Son die and then rise again.

I'm sure her heart grieved the absence of her beloved Son, and yet she would remember the unquenchable new hope that His resurrection brought to all mankind.

Jesus' gift to us: being "justified by faith" and having "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom.5:1)

It enables our hearts to grieve WITH HOPE instead of without it, and that makes all the difference in the world.

So, as Rich spends his first Christmas in Heaven, I say to him, "Enjoy all the beauty and magnificence of your new Home as I know you are. We all miss those little things that made you, you—but we know we will see them and you again. In their place, your compassion and your faith remain—an inspiration and tangible legacy to us. Merry Christmas big brother, I'll see you later."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Amazing Attitude-Changer that is Thankfulness

I confess that one of my favorite holiday movies to watch—an annual tradition for me and my husband—is White Christmas. I love the cast, and the songs of course. But the scene I'll put down the present wrapping to watch is when Bing Crosby's character begins singing Count Your Blessings.

At the risk of sounding trite or cliché, I do highly recommend this practice. I think it's one of the reasons God instituted the various feasts with His people—to help them remember what He's done.

I've found when I'm walking through difficult places in this "journey of faith" with the Lord, recalling to mind what he's done in my life, and thanking Him for it, helps to renew my faith and strengthen my trust in Him.

Not only that, but it seems to lift me out of my own perspective, broadening it a bit, till I see things a little more through God's eyes.

Sound presumptuous? Consider this…

In 1 Corinthians 2:13-16 it says, "These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For 'who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?' But we have the mind of Christ." (NKJV)

And in John 14:15-17, Jesus says, "If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you."

It's one of the wonderful benefits of being a Believer in Jesus Christ; His Spirit to guide you.

Granted, it's not easy to "be thankful" when you're discouraged. In times like that, I've just been honest with the Lord—tell Him exactly how you feel—He can take it, and actually, He wants us to be truthful before Him. Somehow, just pouring out your heart to God (knowing He, more than anyone else, understands your heart and your mind) really helps to bring me to that place of calm, where thankfulness comes more naturally.

After all, King David seemed to write quite a few psalms that cried out to God in difficult places with undisguised honesty, but he always seemed to return to praising God for His greatness.

I know this has not been an easy year for many. If that's been your experience too, try "counting your blessings" a little, and see if tracing God's fingerprints in your life doesn't bring a lighter heart and countenance.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Importance of Praying for Your Spouse

…and those “nudgy” reminders from God.

I find it quite fascinating the tools, and circumstances God will sometimes use to get a person’s attention. (Think burning bush, talking donkey, a hand writing on the wall, or—in the Apostle Peter’s case—a sheet loaded with all manner of yucky crustaceans and critters not normally on a good Jew’s menu)

And yet, most of the time—at least for those who happen to be receptive to it—God just gives a gentle nudge.

A reminder.

Today I was reminded of the importance of praying for my husband. …The great magnitude of a couple praying for each other.

Certainly over these more than 24 years of marriage I have found that my best counselor has been God. Even when it’s not the answer I thought I’d hear!

As I’ve brought my husband, myself, and our marriage before the Lord in prayer, the “gentle nudges” of direction and prodding, coupled with the immense encouragement of God’s love, have been pretty incredible. And it’s free—though sometimes costly in the laying down of pride.

A couple nights ago I asked my husband if he ever prayed for me, just because I was curious. He answered honestly that he did; though it should be more often. The same was true for me.

Later the next day I called him at work, and he told me he was just in the middle of praying for me. There’s something so heartening about knowing your spouse is asking God to watch over and protect you, let me tell you!

That brings me to today.

My husband came home at lunchtime to pick up something he’d forgotten that morning. As he left, he told me he was going to pray for me on his way back to work, and I told him I would for him as well.

I sat down in my home office and began to get busy working again, when suddenly I got the “nudge”—the reminder from God to pray.

So, I stopped everything and prayed for my husband. Just as I was finishing, the phone rang—it was him.

He said, somewhat excitedly, “Did you pray?!” He asked that because a moment before he was almost in an accident that would have most likely injured the driver of the car in front of him when he suddenly stopped short. My husband had to swerve off to the side of the car to avoid hitting it, leaving a trail of rubber on the road for at least a yard. As it was, the operator of his “near miss” yelled, “That was some good driving!”

On the phone, my husband sounded shaken up, but very relieved not to have hit the car. Now, that entire close call must have taken place just as I was praying for my husband’s protection, among other things.


I guess each person who reads this will have to make their own judgment call on that.

But, I think you know what I would say.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Put Down that Magnifying Glass before You Burn Someone!

Ahhhh the magnifying glass...

It can be helpful, ie: looking at bugs on leaves at school, or using it to read the print of your favorite author because you don't want to admit the need for glasses.

Helpful yes, but it can also BURN!

C'mon... we've all done it. Collect a handful of dried, fallen leaves and place your magnifying glass "just so" above the small pile, while the sun does its trick creating a laser beam. It starts as a brown dot and suddenly the entire discarded foliage is on fire.

As is often the case, this illustration is applicable in each of our lives. The burning comes when the magnification is focused too long on one thing. Most of the time someone else is holding the magnifying glass--but sometimes, we do it to ourselves.

And, what does this simple-yet-intriguing invention really do anyway? It MAKES BIGGER what is SMALL.

If you've found yourself holding that magnifying glass on someone else--or even yourself--keeping it zeroed-in on whatever flaw might be enhanced; I have three suggestions:

1. Remember, the objects (flaws) in the glass appear LARGER than they actually are! (I think it says that on your side-view mirror)

2. If you are always looking through the magnifying glass, you will miss the BIG PICTURE that surrounds you.

3. If you leave the magnifying glass focused on the subject at hand for too long, you will cause irreparable damage.

So, please... before someone gets hurt (really hurt); put down the magnifying glass and step away!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Reel, the String and the One who Holds the Kite

Thoughts on our children as they become adults.

This week we celebrated my daughter's 25th birthday, and as I contemplated the day, I couldn't help reminiscing back to her birth; reliving all the unique emotions entwined with those first remarkable moments.

…Her extreme vulnerability and the beginning of that soon-to-become-familiar contest between fear for her protection and trusting the Lord, with each phase of her growth and maturity.

Flying a KiteWatching your child develop into their own person and enter adulthood is a constant lesson of letting go, at every step along the way. Any parent will tell you it's not easy. …Like letting out the string on a kite—little by little—so it can really fly.

Not to belabor the kite analogy, but I've flown a fair amount in my own childhood, and I've noticed if your supply of string is large enough, your kite can travel so high that it's barely a bright spec of color against an azure blue sky. The pale string seems to curve into nothingness—but you know it's still connected to your kite because you feel the tug on your reel.

I think as parents, maybe especially as moms, we will always feel that "tug" on our hearts as our children grow, and—like the kite—move further outside of our reach and sight.

That's where the trust comes in.

Knowing that we're not "letting go of the string" to commit them to some wild current; sending them flailing through the atmosphere. But we are handing off the reel to the One who will always see the kite—always know where it is—even when we cannot.

Furthermore, He made the kite and knows exactly what it can do, and how it can soar to its full potential.

I'm extremely grateful to this One—the Lord—who is trustworthy. I'm grateful for that One to whom I can hand off, not just the burdens for my loved ones, but also the tether-to-worry that I sometimes find myself clutching in uncertain times.

The Apostle Paul had to push through many difficult times during his ministry, but in a letter to his "spiritual" son, Timothy, he spoke of that kind of trust and the "burden hand-off"…

"For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day," he said in 2 Timothy 1:12.

So, as I anticipate this next phase of life for my adult-age children, and all they may encounter, I know the One who holds them and will never let them go… and I trust Him.