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Conversations

Spaces Surging with Stunning Splendor are Something to See #3

Welcome back to the “Something to See” mini-series. Thank you so much for joining me. I’m excited to share today’s photos with you! They have me singing a song from my childhood.

Consider the lilies and how they grow, blossoming there in the field 
‘Tis not for their labor they flourish so, flowers of beauty to yield. 
Through the grace of God above, tending all in constant love, 
Every want shall be supplied, for God the Lord will provide.

Consider The Lilies, by Natalie Sleeth

I hope the pictures don’t take too long to load. Your time is precious, and I’m so blessed that you’re spending it here with me, admiring these spaces which are surging with such stunning splendor. I sure wish you could see these colors up close! Feel free to click on any pic to enlarge and scroll through them all.

If you’ve been following these posts, you know that I’d love your input on what kinds of plants these are. Please comment the photo number and any knowledge you have to share. So many of these flowers are new to me.

This isn’t a flower, per se, but this photo is also in my thoughts today.

Large bird with a stunning view from atop of a tall tree
Do you see the special tree-topper?

I took this picture, wondering what it would be like to sit atop the tallest trees. What a stunning view this bird must have had! I suspect this photo came to mind because of the second verse of the song in my head.

Consider a moment the birds in flight, everywhere filling the air. 
With never a worry they seek the height, nourished in bountiful share. 
Through the grace of God above, tending all in constant love, 
Every want shall be supplied, for God the Lord will provide.

Consider The Lilies, by Natalie Sleeth

While the spaces surging with stunning splendor are something to see and savor, they should point us to something even more spectacular. They should remind us that God really cares about us. He knows the details of our lives and gets intimately involved. I leave you with the third verse of the poetic song I just can’t seem to shake today.

For more than the lilies that bloom and grow, more than the birds of the air, 
Your Maker forever your need will know and feed you with heavenly care. 
Through the grace of God above, tending all in constant love, 
Every want shall be supplied, for God the Lord will provide.

Consider The Lilies, by Natalie Sleeth

Blessings, my precious friends. You are loved!

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.