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."