There is Hope in Our Mourning

This past weekend would have been a milestone birthday for my brother, Ron. He was supposed to turn 65 on Saturday. But he’s not here.

Ron passed away suddenly in his sleep 6 years ago. He was not yet 59 years old. The same age as I am this year. Let me tell you, there’s something about passing up your older brother in age that messes with your mind. It feels unnatural, like a moment in time has frozen for him, but for you it marches on.

Ron was my older brother, and my sister Karen‘s little brother. He was the beloved uncle to Nikki and Kristin (all 4 of us are contributors to this Lifewords Today blog.) We miss him terribly, but there’s this overwhelming sense that his death was not the end. We do not mourn as the rest of the world mourns, this I know for certain.

After our parents both passed away, Ron used to amuse me by talking about how long it felt mom & dad had been in heaven. He would talk about the scripture found in 2 Peter 3:8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” and then ponder out loud that if mom and dad have been in heaven for a year, it just felt like a couple of seconds to them. We would laugh, and I would especially laugh because he actually did the math on this, but math is just not my thing, so I would have to take him at his word.

As the days went on, he talked about heaven more and more. And sometimes I wonder, was God preparing his heart to go home? As I thought back on those conversations, the news of his death was softened just a bit. The Comforter had come, and revealed that there is so much more to look forward to.

In the aftermath of his death, my nephew Kary expressed his lament in a beautiful work of art that he later gave to me, and I cherish it deeply. I move it from place to place in our home so I always have a new perspective and a reminder of my brother’s impact while on this earth. As Ron’s birthday weekend was approaching, I noticed I had placed the sculpture next to a beautiful seashell and a photo of Half Dome in Yosemite. Two of Ron’s great loves on this earth were the sea and Yosemite, and I share that love with him.

If I do the math right, Ron has been riding the perfect wave in heaven for just a couple of seconds now. When we get there he will greet us with a smile, and show us the most perfect pristine beach. And it will be glorious. We miss you, Ron, but we know we will see you again.

 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

EQUALLY Made In God’s Image

The enemy LOVES to distract God’s people. He can accomplish so much this way.

In C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, senior devil Screwtape advises his junior apprentice devil to corrupt people by creating mass distractions that divert attention from the real issues at hand: “The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood.”

How many witch hunts is the “church” currently involved in? Of course I am generalizing here, and picking on those that continue to come to the forefront of the news. But, if you consider the amount of time, money and effort put in to “battle” against what people DO that Christians “don’t like” versus the same sum of efforts put into building others up and showing the UNCONDITIONAL love of Christ, then you’d be hard-pressed not to find a gross imbalance.

Why don’t we focus on WHO people are rather than just WHAT they do? God is the only one who can change a heart or a behavior. It is not our job to try to do those things. Our job is to welcome ALL with open arms and to show the love that Christ has shown us.

If people are validated, unashamed, and feel heard and respected (even if they are not always understood), they are more likely to be good people. We don’t have to agree with another person’s race, politics, beliefs or sexual identity or orientation to show them the love of the One who created them. No race or nationality is superior to another. The fear that seems to steer so many “church people” to be hateful of those who are different is baffling to me. God commanded us not to live in fear. He commanded us to live in love.

We must allow people to be who they are and celebrate their uniqueness. The personal choices someone makes should not keep them from being allowed in the church or to be treated as an equal. (Obvious exclusions would be disruptive or disrespectful behavior, and that should go for everyone equally as well).

People who see the true love of Christ will want it. And, once they accept it, he will work on their behavior from the inside out.

Instead, I see the church creating division rather than welcoming diversity.

Old “Christianese” phrases like, “love the sinner, hate the sin” are overplayed. Anyone who says that to someone struggling in life… BACK AT YA! We are ALL sinners and fall short of the glory of God. Not one of us is better than another! Jesus came that we ALL might be saved. The end. Each journey with Him is unique and in its own time.

Let’s truly follow Scripture and tame our tongues, shall we?

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:9-12 NIV

So, let us beware of our own thoughts and speech. Let us also not remain silent when we hear hateful or degrading speech about others. Let us see one another through God’s eyes – as beautiful, unique and loved.

With all that’s happening in the world with famine, wars, and disasters, let’s stop focusing on what bathrooms people use….let’s focus on lifting up those in need. Let’s focus on the real issues at hand and stop allowing Screwtape to send us scurrying around with fire extinguishers in a flood.

Entertaining Angels

My grandma would say, “Treat everyone with love and respect because you never know when you are entertaining angels.” And it wasn’t until years later (ok I’ll admit this year!) did I realize this exact phrase is in the Bible! My grandma knew the Bible like the back of her hand and I did not appreciate her knowledge until I grew older.

“Do not forget to entertain strangers for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

When I was younger I did not understand this statement. I had heard about angels but didn’t fully believe they were actually real and around us. This was a concept my head could not wrap around. I was too much in my head. I was trying to think logically. I couldn’t see them, how could they be real? This is where faith comes in.

I have heard stories of people being visited by what they thought were angels. The more I learn about God and the Holy Spirit, the more I become curious and want to know for myself.

Grandma would tell us a story she claimed taught her faith and the provision of the Lord. One day, during the Great Depression, there was no bread for lunches when she and her siblings left for school. Their mother instructed them to come home for lunch, which she recalls was not a short walk. When they arrived at home, their mother still did not have anything for them to eat. At that moment there was a knock on the door and a man stood before them with a loaf of bread to advertise a new bakery in the area. Their mother came in the the house with her eyes full of hope, lifted up the loaf of bread and exclaimed, “The Lord will provide.”

Grandma would tell me this story when I was a little girl, but when she told it she would say the man at the door was an angel. She would say the Lord sent him to provide food for her family. You never know when you are entertaining angels! 

Ray of Life

I’ve had difficulty writing my post this week. Monday was the great North American eclipse, and the following day, August 22, would have been my friend Amy’s 41st birthday. 7 months after her passing, the physical and emotional anguish I was feeling as her birthday approached was debilitating. I just felt frozen. Add to that all the hatred presently spewing about in our country. I wasn’t feeling “Life Words.”

I decided not to drive south to a place where I could witness the total eclipse. I figured that 98% of the eclipse at my house in Charlotte would still darken the sky enough to see a star or two. I was shocked at how light it actually stayed with just 2% of the sun shining down! I was a bit disappointed, but amazed at the same time. I’m sure the anticipation of Amy’s birthday pushed me toward the disappointed side.

Then, yesterday, I noticed a Facebook friend’s post. Sally had just celebrated a birthday during the eclipse. Her post lifted me in a way that nothing else had for days as I had been locked in a bit of depression.

Please take a look at her Life Words:

“It only takes a little light!!!….it only takes a little love, kindness and gratitude to light up even the darkest situations.”

And here is how God lifted me from my dark place. A person I have never even met face to face posted these words of life.

Immediately I began to thank God for the time I had with Amy. I began to remember her love, kindness and gratitude, which she displayed even in her darkest of times. That little bit of light shined bright enough to illuminate my heart and my mind and pull me back up.

Thank you Sally Goodwin for your words. I hope to shake your hand one day!

Remember, a positive and encouraging word can reach into the darkest of places. You never know when what you say or do will touch someone who needs it. Let this remind us all of the power of our words. Be mindful of what you say AND what you post on social media! Let darkness and death words be eclipsed by light and life words!

“The power of the tongue is life and death— those who love to talk will eat what it produces.” Proverbs 18:21 (ISV)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

It’s Time to Love Like Jesus Loves

Here we are again.

The ugliness of impending evil has reared its head and spewed hatred across the country that I love. The events over the weekend in Charlottesville are horrific, and quite frankly,  I don’t have the eloquence nor the bandwidth to break down the reasons for it and the solutions to it. There are countless others who do, and I’ve heard a lot about it over the weekend.

Churches around the country on Sunday opened their doors to grieve and lament. I have the privilege of attending an intergenerational, multi-ethnic & racially integrated church in California called Fellowship Monrovia. We are grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ and in the pillar of reconciliation. Our Center for Racial Reconciliation regularly hosts workshops led by people of every race so we can learn what life is like for those who are different from us. We are one body, and one thing I noticed today is that black, white, hispanic, asian, middle-eastern – we all gathered together like always and were steadfast in our love for one another.

The heartfelt lament of our worship leader today spoke for so many as she read Psalm 13:

1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? 
3Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.
And then we sang praise to the Lord. Because even though evil runs rampant through the world, he is still good, and he has the victory.

When events like this unfold, we are shaken but not destroyed. We grieve but we are not moved to despair. If anything, it makes us more resolute in our commitment to spreading love to the world.

It’s so easy to feel helpless and hopeless in the wake of such obvious evil, especially when the evildoers look like me. The important thing for me to remember is the solution starts with me. It starts with you. It starts with each of us. If we are to show the world a glimpse of Jesus, we must carry his attributes in our daily living.

 But there is still much work to be done by the church. The fact that people still have the slightest notion that those who spew hatred at another human being are a representation of christians is the biggest travesty. Why would they think that? The Bible says to love, not hate. Let’s not get into the ridiculousness of anyone thinking they are acting on behalf of God when they spew such horrible hatred. Why does the world believe them and in turn scoff at christians and lump us all together with the evil doers? It’s been such a mystery to me, but now I think perhaps it’s because we have been silent against injustice for far too long.
No, we have not joined our voices with theirs, but we have remained far too silent. We have watched in horror and done nothing. Our sin is one of omission.
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8
In his message today the preacher said a visitor to his church once asked him, “if I come to your church, will I actually meet people who are like Jesus?”
I ask you, “if I came to your church, would I meet people who are like Jesus?”
My prayer today is that God will embolden Christians to reach beyond ourselves and love people like they’ve never been loved before. To show others what Jesus looks like.
It’s time.

A Heavenly Language

Speaking in tongues was something that once terrified me, I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I experienced people speaking in tongues in a disordered way, and I know this happens a lot in the church. People will speak out loud in different tongues when it should be a precious moment between you and God speaking to him in a heavenly language. Only and only if there is someone to interpret should you speak louder. This is clearly stated in the Bible and we need to obey and not scare people away. I know I am not the only one who was turned away from the ways of the Spirit because of people making a scene. It’s not about you. It’s about God. Don’t put yourself on this platform because you can make strange sounds with your mouth. These gifts should not be used to edify yourself, but used to glorify God. Too many people abuse the gifts and do not use them properly to build up the church. Here is what Paul says about speaking in tongues:

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God…He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophecies edifies the church…Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me…For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.” 1 Cor 14:2,4

I experienced an orderly way of someone speaking in tongues. I was sitting on a bed in between two of my friends. The friend on my left was praying in tongues and the friend on my right was praying in English. In that moment I felt as though one was interpreting what the other was praying. And I felt the presence of Holy Spirit in that moment. I was not afraid of the unfamiliar language I was hearing because one, it was coming from a trusted source, and two I was also hearing someone in a similar breathe praying in my native language.

A friend of mine and her mom both speak in tongues and at one point they were telling me to just start saying random words, and make up sounds and it would happen. Deep in my spirit I knew it wouldn’t. I felt God telling me it would happen but not in that moment. We can ask God for things and he will give it to us, but our hearts need to be in the right place and ready to receive and in that moment I was not ready. 

6 months later I was lying on the floor in Thailand in the presence of the Holy Spirit, God had used me to pour out his spirit and baptize others in the Holy Spirit and then he flattened me on my back. As I was laying there I was praying and it happened. Unfamiliar words were coming out of my mouth and I started laughing and crying! It was happening. This occurred after I had obeyed him by praying over his children and showing them a God they had never met, introducing them to Holy Spirit and then God gave me a gift, the gift of tongues. And I wasn’t speaking loudly, no one else could hear me. I was having a conversation with God in a different tongue. It was a precious moment between me and my heavenly Father.

(This is an excerpt from my book “A God You’ve Never Met” which is still in the process of being written.)

(In Thailand worshiping with the Thai and Burmese Refugees.)

LIFE is in the BLOOD

I’m sure most of you have had a blood test from time to time in your life.  Not fun…but necessary to check the many aspects of your health.  It’s always amazing to me that a test from my blood sample will tell if I’m low on a certain vitamin, like B12 or D.  I just had my yearly test last Friday, mainly to check cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but this time they are also checking my B12 to see if I would benefit from the shots to give me more energy!  Ha!  I know my cholesterol is high…that’s a hereditary problem, and I know I should exercise more aggressively every day!  ( I guess just looking at my stationary bike doesn’t get the job done!!!)

So much about health can be gleaned from blood tests…..it is a reminder to me that “life is in the blood”.

That’s why we receive the gift of life everlasting from the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for the removal of sins.  This is another one of the mysteries of God’s ways.  I don’t understand how that works, but I accept the covering of Christ’s blood over me.  In fact I ask Him for that covering every day.  If that seems gross to you, let me explain.

God doesn’t have blood, because He is Spirit, but His Son, Jesus, was born in the form of man so He could become Emanuel, meaning “God is with us”.  Jesus was born from a virgin, impregnated by the Holy Spirit, (the third person in the God-head).  Because of His human form, His life was in His blood.

Before Jesus Christ died for our sins, sins were cleansed by the spilling of blood from bulls, lambs, and doves.  (In fact, cults around the world still kill animals, sometimes even people, to cover their sins with the shed blood.  How sad they do not know that God’s Son, Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross and spilled His blood once and for all time for their sins. Hebrews 7:27)

When Jesus died on the cross, it was because His blood spilled out of Him.  He was dead, was buried, and in Resurrection power came to life again.  Now, if we believe in Him, we can have life everlasting.

This fact is accepted by simple child-like faith.  If you are struggling with faith to believe that God’s Son, Jesus, did this for you, and you need prayer or guidance, please contact us on our Facebook page by private message.

The entire book of Hebrews is Paul’s appeal to the Jews to accept the superiority of the blood of Christ over the Judaic system of animal sacrifice. Read Hebrews 7:24-27.

Romans 3:23-25 ~ For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood.

Ephesians 1:7-8 ~ In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

Make Room for Abundance

When you’ve lived in the same house as long as I have, it’s so easy to be overrun with STUFF. Add to that my penchant for being super sentimental, and we have a recipe for getting bogged down with STUFF MAINTENANCE.

Do you do this? When I see something that truly no longer serves a purpose, I rationalize keeping it by saying

This thing meant something to me at one time.

I might be able to fit into this skirt/top/pants again someday.

I can wear these shoes (that are SO CUTE but kill my feet) to a wedding someday.

I’ll save and give this thing to _______________ because she loves the color ________________.

I’m quite sure I’m not the only one.

Lately, God has been sending me the message to simplify from the craziest places!

Purge.

LET IT GO.

In fact, as I’m typing this, my mailman left this magazine in my mailbox today:

Yep. God even enlisted the help of Oprah herself to get His point across. I always chuckle at His timing and creativity. Daily I get a message from somewhere or someone that confirms this area where I need to focus.

I’m telling you, if you ask God for confirmation on something you are struggling with or mulling over, HE WILL GIVE IT TO YOU.

He’ll even use Oprah to do it.

I’m not saying I’ve mastered the purging process, Lord knows it will be a lifelong endeavor… but I am recently invested in seeing things with new eyes. I’m still sentimental and there are many things that once belonged to my mom that will stay with me – but do I really need that set of vintage dishes I bought on eBay ten years ago?

No.

No. I don’t – and hanging on to it makes me unable to take on fun, new items I might get more joy from using.

But it’s not just physical stuff that needs purging – our minds are overrun by input that holds us back from our purpose of living in God’s abundance.

What are you filling your mind with?

What are you reading, watching, talking about?

Who are you spending time with?

The Bible is LOADED with verses that tell us to renew our minds.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.      Romans 12:2

 

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:13

A quick Google search came up with pages and pages on this topic – you can see one list by clicking here.

What am I doing to renew my mind to make room for God’s abundance and blessings? More importantly, what am I doing to prepare my mind for action and what He has planned for my future?

I’m learning to focus on the joy. I’m reading about the physics of the brain and how God created in us an amazing capacity for change. I’m learning to meditate on His word and His promises and I’m taking a good look at how to take action to change those thought patterns that only serve to agitate me. I’m going deep, and bumping into God all along the way.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8

Philippians 4:8 is my new motto, because I know that what we think about and focus on grows. Do you want resentment, negativity, hurt feelings and pain to grow, or do you  want truth, honor, justice, purity, loveliness, excellence and worth to be magnified?

I’m finding that simplifying life physically and spiritually comes slowly – but it’s something that holds great rewards if you consistently keep at it.

Here’s my pondering on Facebook from the other night – let me know in the comments if you can relate…

3 Considerations to Conquering FEAR

Tomorrow is the fourth of July. It is the day we celebrate the independence of the United States of America. When I think of the freedom I think of the men and women fighting for this country. I think of Jesus dying on the cross for our freedom in him.

I feel like freedom is something we say we have and yet a lot of us are held captive in our fears…

Last week at church we discussed fear, and this is something we all deal with. We are responsible for making the choice between using fear to our advantage or letting it over take us.

Here are some things we should consider.

1.Fear is Satan’s way of taking over your life.

He will do whatever it takes to get you to disobey God. He doesn’t want you to be successful. He doesn’t want you to have a joyful and happy life. Just think, if Satan is coming at you hard that must mean God has something HUGE in store for you.

“The thief (Satan) comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life and live it to the fullest.” John 10:10

2. The greater the fear/risk, the greater reward.

Think for a moment of a time when you were so fearful, or had to take a big risk for something. How was the outcome? Was it better than you would have expected? I can think of many times I was fearful and even a bit frustrated and wanted to give up, but when I decided to press in and conquer without a doubt I was so glad I did and felt a huge sense of accomplishment.

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

3. God is on your side. You have nothing to fear.

God is bigger than any of our problems, fears, or concerns. If there is a fear you have give it over to him and he will take care of it for you. I am releasing a fear of rejection. I am in the coaching field and I “sell” my services to others. I have a fear that people will not want what I have to offer. There are times I hear no, but the times I hear a yes I am over the moon and so glad I asked one more person, because the reward was much bigger than the risk!

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

These are the words God gave me during worship of lifegroup last week:

I have a plan. I know the next steps. I know what is out in front of you but you have to trust me. Let go of your fear of rejection and step into the risk of the unknown. There will be greater reward when you do the things that are hard and that take risk. What is ahead will not be easy but you are always up for adventure. Look at the next days of your life as adventure. The time you spend with me will radiate out and be a part of your daily life and be in every aspect.

Do the thing that scares you the most!

OUR Hope

Mary is a former pastor’s wife who served the Lord and people for decades. She is in her 80’s now and is a resident in the Good Samaritan Center nursing home in the memory care unit. Because this nursing home is part of the retirement village where I now live, I have the opportunity to visit the dear ones who have been placed there.

When I enter the memory care unit behind locked doors, I notice Mary among others whom I greet. She has a beautiful, soft countenance (unless she is in pain~then a frown shows). Our greeting of one another usually begins with a song! Mary has a strong alto voice and an extensive repertoire of hymns. When I begin to sing the following hymn she joins in with perfect harmony:

“Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life.
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words
of life! Words so freely given, wooing us to heaven,
beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.”
(Philip Bliss 1874)

Although Mary’s brain is being ravaged by a terrible, debilitating disease, she still knows her God, her Savior, and the Holy Spirit’s comfort.  I don’t mean to single Mary out because most of the dear ones who are spending their evening years in this nursing home have a relationship with Christ.  As we sing together she is ministering to me, to the other residents, to the nurses, CNA’s and housekeeping workers; that there is HOPE for our future if we are secure in Christ our Savior.

One evening as I was leaving, most of the residents were already in bed for the night; I heard a strong voice coming from a darkened room down the hall.  I peeked in and saw Mary on her bed with both arms raised high and singing, Blessed Assurance………”This is my story, this is my song…..Praising my savior all the day long.   This is my story, this is my song….Praising my Savior……all the day long!” (Fanny Crosby 1873)

Oh God, help me to never forget the HOPE I have in You.  No matter what comes my way, I know, that I know….that You are  real, You are alive; You care.  You sent your Only Son to die and shed His blood for me for the covering of my sins.  One day You will come again to this earth and take me home to be with you forever.

hope

This is the HOPE that changes everything that I think, feel, say and do. I pray you have this HOPE as well, because it surely makes life fulfilling.

Titus 3:4-7  “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His Mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the HOPE of eternal life.”

Re-post from July 2014