This Keeps Me Going

One morning I woke up thinking about Grandma. She had written me a note months prior to her passing and it’s something I hold close to my heart. I recently placed it on my desk so it’s something I see all the time now. It reads,

Dearest Nikki:

It was good to be with you yesterday – I enjoyed it! Just want you to know how very dear you are to me. I pray for you. I know God has a wonderful plan for your life. You are precious in His sight. God bless you always.

Love,

Grandma

I began thinking about the times I would drive up from college in San Diego to visit the family and I would head straight to my grandparent’s house. Sometimes I would even surprise them and what a joyous surprise that was each time! I loved sitting with them talking. I would ask them to tell me stories from their childhood and earlier years. I loved it!

Those are times I wish I could get back. After they both passed away, I would drive up from San Diego and become sad because I could no longer drive over to their house to surprise them. They were both very special to me and I enjoyed our precious, numbered time on earth together. I look forward to the day we are joyously reunited in the presence of God. What a spectacular day that will be. I looked forward to hugging both of them.

I was also thinking about what God has asked me to do. He is calling me to write a book. This is something Grandma talked about doing, started, but never finished. I am writing this book for her, with her in mind. I am doing this for both her and God. And when I think about that, it keeps me going in this process. Writing a book is no easy task and it scares me. But knowing I am doing this for Grandma makes it more manageable.

I recently went through boxes with my mom of my grandparent’s things. Most of it are lessons and sermon notes my grandma wrote. I have since made copies of those and are using them to be included in my book. Now I really feel I am writing this WITH Grandma!

Grandma and Grandpa, I love you and miss you everyday. I look forward to the day we are reunited in the presence of God. I cannot wait to hug you again and dance with you and sit and chat with you. Until that day comes, I am living my life for Jesus.

With great love from your granddaughter,

Nikki

There is Hope in Our Mourning, Part 2

Last month I shared about our hope in knowing we will see my brother again when we get to heaven. This month, I find myself being reminded that when unexpected tragedy strikes, that hope is still alive to carry us through. This time, though, the news is still so very fresh.

Just over a week ago, a family gathered for worship in their little country church in Texas. It was a small church very much like where I grew up. As the associate pastor stepped up to bring the message, a gunman entered the sanctuary and hit nearly everyone inside with a bullet. Many were wounded, and 26 were killed that day – 10 victims representing 3 generations of the Holcombe family – including a baby yet to be born but already given nickname by older siblings.

My friend JoCheryl Holcombe’s brother was the one preaching that day. She lost half her family in a matter of seconds. I won’t go into the devastation – this part is within reach for us to imagine.

What I find harder to imagine is the unspeakable peace the remaining family members have been experiencing this week. Even they are astonished. But why should we be surprised? The world was praying for this family. They felt it. In fact, one family member commented to another, “did you feel it?” As they compared notes, they found that ALL of them felt a wave of peace wash over them the day after this horrible loss.

 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

There was no natural explanation for this peace. But there was a supernatural one. God promised to send the Holy Spirit as our comforter and advocate. The prayers of so many surely moved the Spirit to be present in the hearts of those who were mourning.

Memorial Crosses at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church – Photo Getty Images/Scott Olson

The intention was defeat and destruction, but this horrendous act unleashed a torrent of love and goodness. I hope and pray this family will see fruit from this story for decades to come.

Today, the Holcombe family laid to rest their 10 family members. Yes, it was gut-wrenching, but it also was a testimony to the fact that these folks who so tragically lost their lives will live on through their story. A story of hope and love, and the knowledge that they are together in heaven now, and this is not the end.

Here are a few words written by JoCheryl in a public post on Facebook – I don’t think I could be so eloquent nor gracious at such a terrible time….

we made it through this day…i’m sad, but you know…i’m also filled with bliss because of LOVE, and…i’m actually filled with so much love, and friendship and memories and the joy from being around authentic awesome people whose faith is stronger than any tragedy…so proud of my brother, who i will miss so much…but oh WOW!!!! his awesome family…and my parents who exemplify joyful living, who know how to be strong and tender, joyful and heartbroken at the same time. as the days get easier, i want to write a few stories about those who have left and the rest who are left behind…so much inspiration…

yeah, my guts were wrenched today, but there were so many people there with their arms around us holding us, the comfort far outweighed the sorrow!

i am so grateful for the thousands of people who stood in line for hours, some only to get turned away because there was no more room, i am so grateful for all the people who drove HOURS to get here from all over Texas, (some drove 10 hours, and waited in line only to get turned away at the last minute ) i am so grateful for all the people who were there that i didn’t even get to see…i am so grateful for all the professionals who took a chaotic, unprecedented, event of enormous proportions and turned it into the most amazing beautiful celebration with the most poignant creative touches.

i am grateful for friends and neighbors, who hosted the most amazingly delicious meal and country gathering that was filled with love and joy, perfection and beauty.

i am grateful for old friends and new friends, and i am grateful for love that spans a lifetime…i am grateful that we have forever!

i am grateful for all the local and county police and sheriff’s departments and DPS for keeping the press away and coordinating traffic and managing a procession that stretched from one town to the next and still kept coming.. we had no intrusions as we celebrated and mourned.

i am grateful for the streets lined with people who stopped their days, held their hands over their hearts in vigil for that long procession paying tribute to my family, for all the signs along the highway, for all the flowers along the route, for the mountains of cards, for all the hugs, gifts and expressions of love, for the beautiful memorial at the church in Sutherland Springs where my family members graduated to heaven.

this was an awful thing but it was also awesome because love is eternal and we will all be together again. may the love unleashed today be ever present in all our lives

as i reflect on this last week i can say that there is absolutely no way a person could ever imagine what it has been like, i pray nothing like this EVER happens again to anyone…it should not have even happened this time…

so, when you think of those you love and it feels like you have forever, just remember you don’t, but then again, YOU DO! make this life matter, our soul is the only thing we take with us when we are done…it’s worth tending, it’s worth making meaningful deep connections and living each moment in the fullest most meaningful way. BECAUSE everything can change in a holy instant.

i love you all, thank you for making this so much easier for my family..i feel like i have thousands of new family members.

Our hope is not in this life, but those remaining still have to live this life without 10 members of their family, and it will be so very hard. Please continue to pray for the families of those lost in the tragedy in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

More info here: Houston Chronicle Article

Click here for Financial help for the Holcombe family

 

I’m Being Pruned!

In the beginning of 2017, God told me this was going to be a year of growth and preparation. I did not know what kind of “growth and preparation” he was going to put me through. I am in the start up phase of my business so at first I pictured the growth of my business. I had dreams of what this year would look like with many clients, creating courses, and such. However, that is not the kind of growth God had for me.

This growth was more of an internal growth and preparation. Let me give you a picture. Think of plants and how they grow. If you let them grow and grow and grow without ever pruning them, they would get out of control. There is a hibiscus bush outside my front door. I get so excited when I see blooming red flowers! But then when the bush is overgrown the landscaper trims it and the flowers are gone. It’s a sad day when I come home and see the flowers have been pruned. However, when the flowers grow back they are more vibrant than ever before!

I see this as the life God has for us. He is the vine and we are the branches that continually get pruned. It hurts and it’s painful, but it’s for the best. I am in a pruning season. Pains I have avoided in the past are coming to the surface and I have a chose to either deal with them and uproot them, or to avoid them. Avoiding has not done me any good so I am choosing to deal with them. And let me tell you, it is not easy. I have been seeking outside help, which has been hard but so good at the same time.

I encourage you to look at the areas of your life that need pruning. We cannot be all God has called us to be if you do not deal with our pains, and our struggles, and our sins. We are not perfect which is why we go through these seasons of pruning. Let me tell you, even when you feel as though you are in the thick of it, God will never leave you. He has told me over and over that he is never leaving me and let me tell you, I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit even in my darkest moments. Trust the process and let God do the work he needs to in you. He will NEVER leave you.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

 

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.