“To him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by this blood…” Revelation 1:5
When I think of being set free an image quickly comes to mind of our family together at the beach. There is this relaxed, carefree lifestyle we all begin immediately upon arrival. We keep no schedule, eat great food, ride bikes together and spend as much time as we want in the sun. These memories are some of my very favorite.
The day we leave is always hard and none of us are in a rush to return home, even though we love home. We miss the bike rides, the beach and freedom from schedule. Food seems to taste better there too. It is also nice to have a break in household chores and a more simplified life restores something in each of us. We are better after our trip.
When I think of heaven, I am reminded of these feelings that come along with vacation. The good news is that heaven will be eternal and we will finally be home. There will be no more drive backs and return to normal. Can you even imagine?
The question I am thinking about today is how to bring more of heaven to earth, freedom to our days? How do we live free while we are traveling home? The first step is accepting the freedom we have been given in the shedding of Christ’s blood to pay for all our sin, but then what? Could it be that we take up a more simplified life? What if we did this, love God and love others? Perhaps we would enjoy the food we eat more, ride through our days giving grace and allow Him to direct our schedule. It will not be perfect, but we will not be wasting the days we have been given. And maybe just maybe we can help make someone else’s day be a bit better too. Now that sounds like the making of some really good memories, doesn’t it?
I recently read about a reverse confession booth. Instead of a person coming to confess their sins, the one on the other side confessed. Can you even imagine? That got me thinking what a wonderful idea this would be! Maybe those who have been hurt by the church would find some healing. Perhaps those who have a dislike for Christians and anything related, might take another look if they were met with the opposite.
There are a lot of hurting people these days and the last place they want to turn is to the church, the Bible, to God for that matter. A long list of disappointment and pain backs up their unsafe feelings. What if this pandemic has got them considering?
I know we people can really mess things up, can’t we? Sometimes we have boxed ourself in with rules, programs, buildings and agendas. The things we can control or measure become much more doable, safer. From one that has grown up in the church, there is a lot of good too. I have so many wonderful memories from my early church days, but not everyone can say the same. There have been many times I have felt on the outside while sitting in a pew, so I can understand.
I wonder what college age and older think about the church? God? Do they see love or judgment? I have been found guilty of judging so many times. However, when I look at scripture, I see how wrong I am; how God is the judge and I am not. I confess that here on the other side of the screen and ask for your forgiveness.
Can I add one more thing? Give God an honest look and get a clear picture of what real love looks like; you may be surprised in the best way.
“My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts.” Isaiah 65:14
Our senior finished her last exam online today and now awaits the graduation ceremony. I had to document the moment by taking a picture, noticing her word painted above the desk. Three letters strung together describe her quite well but her name actually means pearl.
She is perfectly named because she is a valuable treasure. The joy that pours out of this child comes from her being filled by Him. It comes from a dependence on God, not on us or herself. She has this humble confidence that has emerged over time and it can be a bit intimidating. She has walked through hard things and He has used them for good. She has known times of being on the outside of a circle and I think that is where she fell more deeply in love with Him.
When you look at the life of Jesus, you see Him noticing the ones others did not. He saw them as valuable and worth the great cost of His life. He has a way of giving joy to those who belong to Him. For to be seen, loved and valuable truly does fill you with joy worth celebrating and sharing. It is even more lasting than the feeling of finishing a test or high school career.
May today be the day you meet Jesus or fall more deeply in love with Him. There is joy to be had and others need to hear joy sung with our lives during this time maybe more than ever. Paint it on your wall if you have to or string a strand of pearls around your neck to remind you of your worth causing joy. For you belong to the King and He must love to hear our songs of joy coming from our hearts.
P.S. Well done little pearl!
“We are giving the world an explanation but they are starving for a demonstration.” Paul Manwaring
Interesting quote isn’t it? I came across this one recently and thought it was powerful. We do not need to be reminded that we are sinful, but we do need to be shown we are loved anyway. We all are starving for grace. Could this be the true hunger of the world today?
We read about grace in scripture, perhaps we can even explain it in a few words, but to actually pass along this gift from Jesus is another matter. I know I have been a great receiver, but a poor giver.
Time after time we see people meeting grace Himself as we flip our Bible pages. One of the things that excites me about heaven is getting to hear peoples stories. I will ask about the day they met Jesus. The backstory will not matter, but the moment of grace sure will. I have an endless list in mind of ones I want to visit. You too?
Now more than ever I see an opportunity to give grace away. So many people have had their lives shaken. What once filled them is now gone and they are searching for something to meet their hunger. Perhaps we could start with the assumption the receiver knows they do not deserve it and give the feast of grace anyway. Another place we find unity, for we are all undeserving but Jesus gave us grace. Might today be a day that we look a bit more like Him and serve grace. What that might look like for you? Maybe you can tell me your story one day.
P.S.When I see my kids I see grace.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20
If you have already answered the door and invited Jesus in to be your Lord and Savior, picture yourself sitting at the table with him. There is a feast before you and life giving conversation. Every time you take a drink of the water he offers you feel revived. Fruit seems to be served in abundance and you know it will not run out. Such a strong desire stirs inside to invite everyone you know to the table.
Then there is a knock at the door. Will you answer or remain at the table? There seems to be a storm swirling outside and the knock comes again. Lighting flashes and thunder rumbles loud, another knock is heard. You look across the table and Jesus greets you with a smile. Do you stay eyes locked on him or answer the door?
It would be rude to leave the table and make Jesus feel like the one at the door is more important so you stay. There is such a temptation to at least go look to see who it is. Another glance across the table, eyes speaking to your soul of trust and pure love. Another knock but it sounds a little less loud this time. You stay and conversation flows again, more food and drink are served. Oh, and you laugh and listen to stories that sing of grace and told that this is your song too.
You feel joy like you have never known and peace settles itself on your lap like a properly placed napkin. Did you hear another knock, not sure and you really do not care; your most important guest is right in front of you. He leans in and tells you “well done” and you do not quite understand. He tells you that was fear, cares of this world knocking at your door, but you did not choose to answer. You stayed seated with your invited guest instead. Your manners remind you and your heart is stirred with love, for you remember you are in the presence of the King and you never want to leave. Stay today. Let the knocks come and go, but stay, eyes locked on your King.
”Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him.” Psalm 34:8
It is remarkable what can happen in the span of nine years; many up and downs along the way. All this time my mom has not been here. I will tell her all the good parts one day, but today I have to tell you a tale of two feasts, nine years apart.
Almost to the day, we gathered in my father’s home after my moms funeral. Family came together to remember and kids played in the woods. They seemed a bit oblivious to the pain and I am thankful. While we were attending the service, some friends had come over and literally covered the dining room table with food. There was so much and I knew it was their way of showing love, but I do not remember tasting anything. Grief seems to steal your appetite, but leaves the taste of salty tears stamped in your memory forever.
Now here we are nine years later and our oldest had her senior prom cancelled. Her dress had been bought and a handsome boy had asked for her company, but the fear of death has shut so many things down. So we came up with a plan to invite a small number of kids over and have a back porch prom. Her and the sisters took charge of decorations and the whole family came together to make it happen. My one concern was what to serve the parents who stopped by for pictures. Normal appetizers would not do and everything would need to be seized with a toothpick.
The night before I was still stumped over this detail when a friend texted. She wanted to know if she could help and I shared with her my concern. She told me she had it covered. Arriving in the pouring rain, her and her husband delivered a feast! There was so much food that we could not serve it all! Our entire kitchen island was covered with incredible delights. There were not proper words to say thank you for this act of love that tasted incredible.
I put away so much food that went untouched and we invited another big family over the next night, which happened to be the nine year mark. We laughed, caught up and the kids played. All the while I thought about what a difference time makes because the choices we make. One feast was served with sorrow and another with joy with an abundance to share. Trusting the Lord in the in between made all the difference. He really is good, even when the feast includes salt.
“LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.” Psalm 84:12
The day started out early and held so many sweet moments. The youngest one curled up in my lap when I was reading and fell back to sleep. I do not remember the last time I was given this gift. Later on we turned the music up and got busy cleaning our screened in porch to host an upcoming prom. There were a few unhappy minutes, but overall it was fun working together as a family.
And then out of nowhere fear came at my heart like an arrow. So many unknowns and I am tired. Joy seemed to fly away and questions filled my mind. Writing helps me process so I sat down to type. What to write, Lord, I prayed. Nothing seemed right until I read this verse, “LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.” (Psalm 84:12). The question I must answer again is whether or not I am going to trust Him or what I can see?
Before I could even form an answer in my mind, that same little girl walks up holding a small box in her hand. She asked me what it was and I had to smile. For it was my grandfather’s victory medal from World War II. I told her about it and read the inscription, “Freedom from Fear and Want”. There is no need to fear and I will be blessed by trusting in the Lord. Peace settles over me and I know the blessing has arrived. He is true to His word and I am so thankful. I am once again free from fear.
“Love…always hopes…” 1 Corinthians 13:7
Have you ever listened to the prayers of a child? They are so innocent and pure. It is one of the highlights of my day, listening. The word I hear often when they bow their heads is hope. They have no reason not to hope. They have this confidence that God hears them and they are free to share with Him their hopes. It is so simple and full of trust.
As adults our hope gets a bit damaged and some may lose it all together. We would have to ask ourselves what or whom we have placed our hope. If it isn’t in God, we are placing it on what can be shaken or lost. Could anything be more dangerous?
When I hear the kids pray it reminds me to be more like them, to live in childlike faith always trusting my Father. We will be disappointed in this world, people, creation, material things and ourselves. Placing our hope on anything but God might just be too high of an expectation. We are setting people, places and things up for failure.
Maybe today we can let ourselves, family, friends, finances, health, churches and treasures off the hook. May we look to the giver of hope Himself and breathe a bit easier all day long. I bet you will be more fun to be around too…at a safe distance of course!
”And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
A sweet boy came down the stairs this morning and told me he had slept good. He told me the secret to him getting a good nights rest was that he covered himself with stuffed animals. One of his animals is a huge lion named Judah. I smiled and told him how I like the weight of heavy quilts on me, makes me feel safe.
It reminded me of part of this verse that keeps running through my mind these days, “love covers”. When I am tempted to speak something unkind, “love covers”. When I disagree, “love covers”. When the kids…”love covers”. It can be applied to so many situations and sure puts a guard over my mouth. I am also reminded that His precious blood was shed to cover my many sins. Should I not live covering others with my love?
I’m thinking that if this takes root in my mind then heart, it will become a habit. We need to be found trustworthy and safe for people to share their lives with us. This is one way we can show fervent love with one another. When you feel covered, you feel safe, you feel loved. This had to be how people felt when they spent time with Jesus. If this had not been the case, why would so many sinners have sought him out? May we be people who do the same. May people leave our socially distanced company, conversation or zoom call feeling covered in His love. For it is needed now like never before.
I recently caught myself feeling a bit of resistance towards our oldest daughter when she wanted to make plans. Her ideas were great and exciting, but I kept hesitating. She is a senior in high school and graduation and prom look different this year, but that does not mean we do not celebrate. And then it hit me. If we plan and celebrate it makes this chapter real and close to ending. The book does not end and I have to keep that in mind.
To turn the page is going to be hard in every way. The physical separation will take getting use to and walking by her empty room is just too big of a thought right now. Emotionally not having her fun leadership will take us all time to get use too. Spiritually it will stretch me to trust Him even more. She belongs to Him and I am so blessed to get to play a role in teaching her this most important truth. None of this is easy for my heart. My mind knows this is right, but there is such a conflict between the two.
Lord willing, come August we will all help the first bird to fly the nest. I am so excited to see her soar and know she is more than ready. Her foundation is secure and her identity is solid. I am confident that she has learned to love well and this was my prayer this year. But the fact remains that I will just miss her being around the table and down the hall. She is one of a kind, a unique part of our family. We function well as a party of nine.
The days ahead will be celebrated and waterproof mascara will be applied daily. I will not waste the time, but jump in and make memories. There is so much ahead for this dear child and I can hardly wait to see what God has up His sleeve for her. I will trust His plans and let go. As much as I want to tie myself to her foot like a note on a pigeon, I will let her fly. She has more to live in her story and I know it is going to be good. My story will just have some pages stained with tears, but that is part of being a mom. Love does come with a cost and I will gladly pay.