Categories
Emotions

The Amazing News I’m Really Excited to Share – Part 5

Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh! With fierce appreciation in my watering eyes and quivering lips, barely able to speak, I press one hand to my heart and extend the other towards you. God is immeasurably gracious, and you – you guys are the BEST!

Thank you, my brothers and sisters, for flooding God’s throne room with petitions on my daughter’s behalf. You asked our Heavenly Father for a miracle, and He delivered! If you aren’t sure what this is about, catch up on the story here.

The amazing news I’m really excited to share is that my daughter got the apartment!

Today, we will be moving her into the same complex where we moved her sister a couple weeks ago. The girls can help each other, and my grandkids can play and grow together. And they’ll all be only a mile away from my youngest daughter and her husband.

Next week, when we leave for Arizona, we will have peace in our hearts. We will rest assured that everyone staying behind is settled with roofs over their heads. That has been my foremost request.

I can only attempt to describe how I feel… incredibly humbled, extremely relieved, and so overjoyed! I want to both bow my knees and jump for joy. What a strange and unusual dichotomy it is!

Answered prayer

Make no mistake, this was supernatural! My daughter has issues with her housing and income history which could have – should have – been hard to overcome, especially given the intense competition in the rental market. But God. He saw fit to intervene and answer specific prayer.

“‘Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

Jeremiah 32:17

I’m so grateful! Thank you, Jesus for the amazing news I get to share! And thank you, my friends, from the bottom of my bursting heart!

If ever I can return the favor, please don’t hesitate to ask. It would be my privilege to pray for you. Is there anything for which I can pray right now?

Categories
Reflections

The Wall in Front of Me

“If these walls could talk, I wonder what secrets they’d tell.”

Gayle Forman

Do you ever find yourself starring at the wall? I’ve been staring at the one in front of me for several minutes. I’m sure it could say many things if it could speak, but right now, I’m relying on its quiet strength.

The wall in front of me has witnessed many conversations marked by an array of emotions. The myriad of words do not echo in the wall like they do in my head. The sound has been absorbed and silenced

The wall in front of me stands straight and tall, unaffected by the frenetic energy on either side. It divides the chaos and is still. It steadies me.

A textured beige wall with nail holes and a screw.
This is my view

The wall in front of me is pierced. I’ve removed the art that has adorned it for the last few years and all that remains are a few protruding screws and some nail holes. Somehow, it is still stately.

As constructs of the mind, walls get a bad rap. They are said to represent confinement and stand in the way of progress. Yet, I find solace in mine.

“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”

Isaac Newton

“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.”

Ronald Reagan

And today, when my brain has passed the point of overload, this wall in front of me is reassuring. It lets me stare and gather myself. It shares its quiet dignity.

I find Jesus at the wall in front of me

As I have only the wherewithal to sit and stare at the wall, I find Jesus here. His Holy Spirit shows me how the wall in front of me is like my Savior. He does for me daily what the wall is doing for me now.

He hears the emotion in my words, erases my confusion, and gives me solace.

“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace”

1 Corinthians 14:33a

He stands unmovable amidst the chaos.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe”

Hebrews 12:28

He has been tortured and wounded but has never lost His glory.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:5

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

C.S. Lewis

His reputation has been marred and yet my soul loves Him.

“For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Messiah,” and will deceive many. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Matthew 24:5, 2 Timothy 3:14, 15

When actions end and words fail, when I have nothing left but an empty stare, Jesus invites me to lift my eyes and see Him. He stands sure and strong and beckons me to rest.

I’ve been staring at the wall in front of me for several minutes now. In the stillness, I’ve felt my Savior with me. I’ve recognized His peaceful presence and been inspired. He has equipped my soul. He’s reminded me of my purpose and realigned my focus.

How about you? Do you need to spend some time staring at the wall with Jesus? What do you notice about the wall in front of you that reminds you of His greatness?

“In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

Ephesians 2:21-22

Categories
Reflections

I Lost Baby Jesus: An Authentic Account Of Christmas

Oh my goodness, guys – I lost baby Jesus! I am sharing the story because I made it a goal to be authentic about how Christmas really goes in my house. This is a paragraph I wrote earlier this season:

“I want to refrain from chasing idyllic moments this year. I resolve to enjoy real ones – moments of joyful imperfection, and to encourage you to feel better about yours.”

Mama Lava in An Illusion of Joy or an Infusion of Joy? Part 1

If you read last week’s post containing the 9 Traditions Which have Characterized Our Christian Christmas, you know how important it is, in my house, that Jesus not show up in the Nativity set until Christmas morning.

It was my oldest daughter who exclaimed to my grandkids, “Oh, I bet baby Jesus was born last night! Should we go look by Joseph and Mary?” I half-heard the commotion, but I was busy in the kitchen. I didn’t fully comprehend what was happening until they all came in and my daughter asked, “Mima (pronounced Mee-Maw), do you know when baby Jesus might be appearing in the nativity set?” Her eyes said “uh-oh” as her lips silently formed the words “I’m sorry” from behind the kids.

Nativity sans baby Jesus: 9 Traditions Which have Characterized Our Christian Christmas
Baby Jesus and His manger should have shown up in our Nativity set on Christmas morning!

I said something hastily about how we’d have to check back in there later, and I scanned my brain for the memory of where I’d put baby Jesus. I began to panic because I had no idea. I began to hunt in the most likely places. Then I frantically looked in the unlikely places. All the while I played nonchalant for the kids, but I couldn’t find Him!

On top of our bookshelf, we have a plaque of the letters in the word “PRAY”. I looked for baby Jesus behind the sign and knocked it over. The Y is loose and came off. When I tried to catch it, an exposed screw pierced deeply under one of my fingernails. It hurt so much, and I was already very frustrated with myself.

A plaque made of the letters PRAY: I Lost Baby Jesus: An Authentic Account Of Christmas
The PRAY sign on top of our bookshelf.

Not only had I lost baby Jesus, but I was about to ‘lose my Jesus’. This is an expression we use in my house when we lose our cool. If you haven’t read the post entitled How to be More Certain I Won’t Egotistically ‘Lose my Jesus’, it fits perfectly right here. I needed to re-read it in this moment.

Instead, I ran upstairs under the guise of ‘getting a bandage’ to have a good cry. How could I lose baby Jesus when He was supposed to be the star of the show? I found myself apologizing profusely to the grown, sacrificed, and risen Jesus.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 4:15, 16

And you know what? He answered me. He reassured me that He knew I’d lose his baby likeness and He had worked it into His plan. He wanted me to be authentic about it. He didn’t want the kids to think He showed up in some mystical way when they weren’t looking. He wanted me to tell them the story of His birth and explain the reason why I had kept Him out of the nativity set in the first place.

“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”

1 John 3:19, 20

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”

Deuteronomy 4:9

So, with bandage in place, emotions calmed, and resolve reset, I returned downstairs. I was authentic with my grandkids. They all followed as I returned to my search. I opened an upper cabinet and there it was, the ceramic manger with baby Jesus inside. “I found Him!”, I exclaimed!

Baby Jesus was found by the emergency candles: I Lost Baby Jesus: An Authentic Account Of Christmas
There was baby Jesus, the Light of the World, with the emergency candles. All seemed to be waiting together for their chance to shine!

And then, out of the mouth of my 5-year-old granddaughter, came the words that were dubbed the quote-of-the-day. “Hey, who put Jesus in the cabinet?” I did. That was me.

What an unfortunate quote to remember from Christmas 2021. Or is it? It certainly makes me think. Have I, do I, put Jesus in the cabinet? Are there times when I ‘put Him away until later’ in my day-to-day routine? And then, do I ever forget Him there, out of sight, out of mind?

If / when I do, I want to be as appalled as I felt when I lost Him on Christmas morning. I hope I never allow so many distractions that I forget where I left Him. But I know that if I ever do, all it takes is for me to change the posture of my heart. If I turn towards Him, He will come toward me too.

“Come near to God and he will come near to you…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

James 4:8a, 10
Baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph in the Nativity: I Lost Baby Jesus: An Authentic Account Of Christmas
Baby Jesus, found and reunited with Mary and Joseph

As if to punctuate the point of His preciousness to me, my punctured finger throbbed painfully all day and reminded me that Jesus was born to die a torturous death, of which a punctured hand was just a part. He did that for me.

Our Christmas was truly wonderful, but the authentic account includes flaws. I lost baby Jesus, among other things. But thankfully, Jesus does not require perfection. He often is most poignant in our failures. How did your celebration go? Do you have any lesson-learned moments you’d like to share? I’d sure love to hear them!

Categories
Reflections

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 5

When my daughter was two, she brought an important lesson to life for me. We were walking in our neighborhood in October, and she was noticing the creepy decorations on people’s porches. She would turn to me, wild eyed, and stiffly say “I’m not scared”. Her expression and her body language said otherwise. Day after day, until those decorations came down, she illustrated the fact that people sometimes present a front that is different than what they are feeling, or who they are on the inside.

Since then I’ve had many interactions with people where I realized that what they were presenting to my eyes and ears was not what I was perceiving with my heart and spirit. And I will admit there have been times when I was reticent to reveal my true self. Haven’t we all been on both sides of this equation? And this brings me to the fifth, and final truth in this series.

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 5

The Halloween season reminds us to look beyond the disguises that people wear.

Today is the day for disguises

Today is the day that highlights this truth like no other. We will see people in obvious costumes all around us. We will look at them and know that they have altered their appearance and are playing a character which is not who they really are. We will perceive children beneath their disguises and people we love behind their masks. We will treat them for who we know they are, not for who they present themselves to be today. And oh, what a picture of discernment that we can hold onto for the rest of the year!

It is obvious on Halloween, but next week it won’t be so easy. When our loved ones look like themselves, and hide behind everyday facades, it takes more effort to notice. But it is more crucial than ever that we look through the disguises and into the hearts that lie beneath. What types of costumes might we see on Halloween which mirror those we see in daily life? (Shameless plug for tomorrow’s post on this very topic – I sure hope you’ll join in!)

Halloween disguises: How to have a healthy hope and a happy heart as Halloween hastens: truth 5
Photo by Yan Krukov
Disguises are obvious on Halloween

There is no time like Halloween to reflect on costumes and disguises. When I see the costumes today, and easily look through them to see a cherished person underneath, I am going to fill my tank of resolve to see through the facades I see all year. Any time I get an opportunity to improve my interactions with other people for God’s glory, I want to lean in.

This Halloween, may you have a healthy hope and a happy heart in light of Who God is and who He has created you to be. On a personal note, this has been my first Halloween season as a blogger, and I realize this series may have been counterintuitive to many of my readers. I cannot thank you enough for reading and engaging and for being so gracious with my point of view. You all are amazing! God is continually blessing me through you.

Click here to read the Introduction to this series.

Categories
Reflections

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 4

This is my favorite of the 5 truths I have to share about how to have a healthy hope and a happy heart as Halloween hastens. I know the phrase “life-changing” is over-used and under-appreciated these days, but this experience I am about to share really did effectively change my life, and definitely for the better. I hope it does the same for you!

Front yard graveyard: : How to have a healthy hope and  happy heart as Halloween hastens, truth 4.
Front yard graveyard

It happened like this. I was jogging around my neighborhood in October, a few years ago. There were several houses in a row which were decorated to the hilt for Halloween. It was one front yard graveyard after another. I was trying to keep my focus on the sidewalk in front of me and thinking that I couldn’t wait until November 1, when all of this décor would be put away. In my head, I hummed, “What a day of rejoicing that will be that will be!”

If you don’t recognize those lyrics, they are from a song called “When We All Get to Heaven” by Brad Paisley. The refrain became my pace, as I rounded the corner by these decked out homes.

When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We'll sing and shout the victory

Suddenly, I had a realization so powerful, it almost knocked me to my knees. I stopped mid-stride and stumbled to a halt. My rhythmic breathing caught in a half a startled inhale and half a sob in my throat, as the revelation settled over me. These front yard graveyards were powerful and victorious visuals of the future!

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 4

The Halloween season gives us a victorious visual!

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 (emphasis mine)

I stopped and I looked around me with fresh, astounded eyes that must have taken up half my face, I was so incredulous. They were also brimming with uncontrollable tears. God met me right there and gave me something to anticipate about Halloween. Even now, as I retell the story, I can feel the awe in which I stood at that moment.

Since then, instead of turning away from the yards full of tombstones and half buried corpses, I stop and photograph them. They are victorious visuals of how the grave has no power over me! One amazing day, in a glorious instant, these scenes will play out, for real, in graveyards all around the world.

Halloween decor, skeletal remains in the grass: : How to have a healthy hope and  happy heart as Halloween hastens, truth 4.
The dead will be raised, imperishable. Oh death, where is your victory?
1 Chronicles 15:52, 55

“For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’

‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’”

1 Corinthians 15:52b-55

I no longer live in that neighborhood, but I jogged to it yesterday to re-live the occasion with God and take a photo to share with you. I was disappointed to find that there were no front yard graveyards there anymore. I smiled at the thought that maybe God showing up on the sidewalk that day had taken the enemy’s fun from that corner. It is more likely that the families have moved from there, like I have.

Either way, I was genuinely bummed to NOT find the elaborate graveyards. I had been looking forward to reveling in the best styrofoam and plastic visuals I’d ever seen. If you had told me, years ago, that one day I’d seek out a Halloween scene like this for its hope, I would’ve thought you’d lost your ever-lovin’ mind. But here I was, sorry to behold a blank lawn.

My dejection is why I can to say with certainty that this event, a few years ago, was “life-changing” for me. An encounter with God should always be that. I believe this is the correct use of the, otherwise over-used, term.

I will never be able to ‘unsee’ the glory in what was meant to be gory. Every grave WILL be opened. Every corpse WILL rise. And that is an event to which I look forward with great anticipation.

“But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise – let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy – your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.”

Isaiah 26:19
Happy skeleton rising from the earth : How to have a healthy hope and  happy heart as Halloween hastens, truth 4.
“Let those who dwell in the earth wake up and shout for joy” Isaiah 26:19

I want to be somber for a moment right here, though, and say that the victory in this visual is not guaranteed. The terror that is attempted in most front yard graveyard depictions cannot hold a candle to the horrifying possibilities which accompany the real event. Jesus DID die and rise again (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). In so doing, He DID conquer the grave (Romans 8:11). He DID make a way for ALL of us to partake in His victory (1 Thessalonians 4:13-15). But we MUST accept it while we live here on earth (John 3:16).

The day will come, when everyone, previously dead or never so, will find themselves in front of Jesus. Those who are His, because they chose to accept Him when they were given the opportunity on earth, will be ushered into eternal glory. Those who are not, because they refused Him when they were presented the choice on earth, will be cast away into eternal damnation.

You are being given the opportunity to decide, right here, right now. If the Lord comes back tomorrow, are you ready? Have you chosen Him? If not, will you choose Him today?

Please ask if you have any questions, or if you are unsure whether you have settled this matter with God. It is the most important, life-changing, eternity-defining decision of your existence. Please my precious friend, don’t let another day pass you by without knowing that you know that you know.

I can be reached via the comments below or the contact link at the top of this page. I have posted more information here. My hope and prayer for you is that you have a healthy hope and a happy heart as Halloween hastens. May you revel in the victorious visual of a front yard graveyard. May you look forward to the actual event and say with certainty, “What a day of rejoicing that will be!”

Click here to read the Introduction to this series.

Categories
Reflections

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 3

There was a period of time when I was plagued by a recurring thought. It wasn’t based on truth, and it wasn’t honorable. I struggled with it for several days, trying to take it captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and replace it with pure, admirable and praiseworthy thoughts (Philippians 4:8). Finally, I reached out to a mentor for support.

She suggested I sing worship songs out loud whenever the thought came to mind. I asked her why, and I will never forget her answer. “Because Satan hates being reminded that he is not the object of your worship, and he will get tired of pestering you when praise to Jesus is that is all he gets in return.” Boom!

Joyful woman with headphones: How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 3
Photo by Gustavo Fring
Remember the Greatness of God!

How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 3

The Halloween season gives us a reason to sing!

There are many opportunities to misplace our adoration and adulation at this time of year. I suppose that is true year-round, but for some reason, it is expected in October. Even many Christians temporarily ‘step out’ on their position as the bride of Christ to flirt and dance with the dark side at Halloween.

It can be more difficult than ever to keep our minds focused on things which honor our King, when so much that comes at us does not. Our senses are inundated with representations of things which vie for our hearts and attention. This is why I believe Halloween, more than any other season, gives us a chance to sing faithfully and loudly to our God.

Photo by Polina Zelenina
Sing, dance and worship Jesus!

When we feel oppressed

Christians, especially those who don’t participate in Halloween, can feel oppressed in spirit this time of year. One reason for our oppression might be disappointment with the homage paid to evil. Another could be the very real clash between the Holy Spirit in us and the spirits who oppose Him. Whatever the reason, singing songs of worship to our Savior will remind us of His greatness. It may also convince any darkness present that it would prefer to leave.

“Your Great Name” is one of my favorites in moments like these. It is a battle cry of most soothing sorts.

Lost are saved, find their way, at the sound of Your great name
All condemned, feel no shame, at the sound of Your great name
Every fear, has no place, at the sound of Your great name
The enemy, he has to leave, at the sound of Your great name

Jesus, worthy is the lamb that was slain for us, son of god and man
You are high and lifted up, that all the world will praise Your great name
Oh, Your great name

Redeemer, my healer, almighty
My savior, defender, You are my king
Your Great Name, song sung by Natalie Grant

When we feel tempted

Let’s be honest – it is hard to be left out. People have parties which we don’t feel we should attend. There are costume contests with tempting prizes, for which we cannot compete. And what about our kids? How do we explain to them that much of what their friends are watching, doing, and celebrating isn’t honoring to God? It sure is tempting to compromise.

Foggy window, fall outside: How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 3
Photo by Andrew Neel
It is tempting to compromise when we feel left out.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

1 Corinthians 10:13

This verse reminds us that God is with us, and He cares. He knows we are tempted, and He isn’t mad. In fact, He’s helping and providing a way of escape. We can sing to that!

God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The Light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die

And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You, so will I
So Will I (100 Billion X), song sung by Hillsong United

When we feel ashamed

Shame is hard to carry. Our enemy would have us believe it is our cross to bear. Precious friend, please hear me. He is a liar and you do not have to bear the burden of shame. At Halloween, we may come face to face with demons we’ve courted in the past. We may even feel comfort in the shadows, like we belong there. But if you are a child of God, this is false.

Solitude among leaves: How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 3
Photo by Yulia Polyakova
Shame vs. Conviction

The Holy Spirit will convict you. This conviction comes with the desire and the means to change. Conviction is a path to freedom vs. the confinement of shame. Praise and worship provide the perfect realignment for when we feel ashamed.

Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance
I just want to praise you
I just want to praise you
You broke the chains now I can lift my hands
And I'm gonna praise you
I'm gonna praise you
Shackles (Praise You), song sung by Mary Mary

Woman with leaf and headphones: How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart as Halloween Hastens: Truth 3
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
Lord, You are worthy to receive glory, honor and praise!

There is nothing like songs of praise and worship to God to renew our healthy hope and happy heart as Halloween hastens. What is your favorite worship song? Please put it in the comments. Let’s create a playlist for the season!

Click here to read the Introduction to this series.