Times

Today has been one of those days. I woke up exhausted, and late. I’ve been dealing with an annoying bit of physical pain today as well. And, along with many others, I’ve been struggling with how to respond as a follower of Christ to the news of the death of Bin Laden. While trying to work through these mixed emotions, and after a brief conversation with my pastor, I’ve realized several things, and God has really revealed a few things that I hadn’t thought about before.

First, as evil as Bin Laden was, he was still a human being. He still was made in the image of God, and God still loved him. God did not love the evil he did, and I believe God is grieving the eternal separation. A soul is a soul, and whether a person is the worst person imaginable or the biggest saint ever, if we choose to ignore Christ’s sacrifice, the result is the same-eternal separation.

John 3:16 says “For God so loved the WORLD…” (emphasis mine). It does not say that God so loved every person who is pretty good. The world means everyone. God’s love knows no boundaries; we simply choose whether to accept it or not.

Another thing God showed me is that He was God on that awful day ten years ago (9-11), He is God today, and He will be God forever. He has never left us. He has never stopped working. No matter what happened or what will happen, God is in control.

One final thing God showed me today: I am no less a sinner than Bin Laden. Christ died for me as well as him. I chose to accept that incredible gift, and I am so thankful that I don’t get what I deserve.

Tenth Avenue North has a song that I think describes my mixed emotions well. It’s called “Times”.

I know I need You
I need to love You
I love to see You, but it’s been so long
I long to feel You
I feel this need for You
And I need to hear You, is that so wrong?

Now You pull me near You
When we’re close, I fear You
Still I’m afraid to tell You all that I’ve done
Are You done forgiving?
Oh can You look past my pretending?
Lord, I’m so tired of defending, what I’ve become
What have I become?

I hear You say,
“My love is over. It’s underneath.
It’s inside. It’s in between.
The times you doubt Me, when you can’t feel.
The times that you question, ‘Is this for real?’
The times you’re broken.
The times that you mend.
The times that you hate Me, and the times that you bend.
Well, my love is over, it’s underneath.
It’s inside, it’s in between.
These times you’re healing, and when your heart breaks.
The times that you feel like you’re falling from grace.
The times you’re hurting.
The times that you heal.
The times you go hungry, and are tempted to steal.
The times of confusion, in chaos and pain.
I’m there in your sorrow, under the weight of your shame.
I’m there through your heartache.
I’m there in the storm.
My love I will keep you, by My pow’r alone.
I don’t care where you fall, where you have been.
I’ll never forsake you, My love never ends.
It never ends.

I Want it Now!

I wonder sometimes how I must sound to God. I complain and whine and cry about silly things. I think I’m justified, but I’m sure I sound a little ridiculous instead. I’m sure sometimes I sound like a child!

My youngest son, who is three, is the master of tantrums. He’s been known, on some occasions, to pitch a fit for twenty minutes. During his tantrums, nothing calms him down. He will kick and scream and cry. If you make the mistake of cracking a smile during his tantrum, he screams all the more and yells “don’t laugh for me”, which makes things even funnier. He will cross his little arms and, tears streaming down his face, scream at the top of his lungs.

One time, he threw a torrent because, when he asked for more pancakes, I politely told him they were all gone. You would have thought I had told him no more pancakes, ever. I let him cry and gave him an audience for about three minutes, trying to convince him that there was nothing I could do, and he needed to get over it. He continued to scream, so I got him down from his seat, told him I had to go get dressed, and started up the stairs. Through incoherent screaming, I also heard him begging “come back here”.

Finally, after fifteen minutes of his constant screaming, I went to where he was standing on the stairs, still screaming for me to “come back here now”, scooped him up, and pressed him in tight. I just held him tight until he settled down, which took quite a while. When he finally settled down, we talked about why he was so upset- there weren’t any pancakes left, and then mommy walked away instead of listening. We also talked about how mommy scooped him up and helped him to feel better because mommy loves him and doesn’t like for him to be sad. As often happens after a discipline session or a boo-boo, we said a brief prayer, and aside from a few sniffles, life was back to normal.

This whole ordeal got me to thinking about how God treats us. We want something, He tells us no, and we pitch a fit. We scream and yell. We cross our arms. He never raises His voice, and even though it may seem like He is walking away, we are usually the ones trying to get away. We yell “come back here now” and cry and scream when it seems like He’s not listening. Before long, He comes down, scoops us up, and holds us tight, all the while saying, “Hush, honey. I love you. Shhh, sweetheart, daddy’s here.”. Once we’ve finally settled down, He reminds us of the events that took place, and He reminds us of how much He loves us and doesn’t want to see us angry or upset. Never once does He say “why on earth did you make such a big fuss? I mean, really. Can’t you see I’m too busy for this? Why cant you just grow up and act like less of a child?!”. He holds us tight, whispers calming words of love, and rocks us until all that’s left is a few sniffles.

God loves us so much, and I am so thankful that He doesn’t yell at me for being silly or immature. He simply scoops me up, calms me down, and reminds me of His grace and love.

Come Home

One of my favorite stories, ever, is the story of the prodigal son. There has always been something about how that father allowed his son the freedom to make some lousy decisions, but he never gave up on him. He didn’t leave him in the pig pen, broke, starving, and filthy, both physically and spiritually. The son squanders everything and is completely desperate.

The father’s response gets me every time. The son has it in his mind that he’ll go home, beg for forgiveness, and work to earn his spot in his father’s house again. However, the father wants nothing to do with that plan. Unknown to his son, the father has been waiting for him to come back. I can picture him getting up every day (before dawn), if he even sleeps at all, and heading to the end of his road and waiting. I envision him praying for his son, unwavering. I can picture him staying out all day, and not going home until it is long after dark. He does this every day, the entire time his son is gone. Nothing is more important to the father than being there when his son comes home. He waits. And waits. Patiently. Never gives up.

And this is my favorite part: “And while he (the son) was a long way off, the father ran to him” and welcomed him home. The son couldn’t even get his plan out of his mouth before the father, bursting with emotion, pride, and excitement, hurries him home, all along the way telling his servants to plan a party for his son, who was dead and is alive again. He gave his son a hero’s welcome, when he deserved to be left alone to learn from his mistakes.

God is this Father to His children. I am constantly blown away by how nothing is more important than welcoming a lost child home. He never leaves us in our low spots. He never leaves us broken. And while we’re still a long way off, thinking of what we are going to say, He runs to us and throws His arms around us. He throws a party. He never mentions the fortune we’ve wasted. He never reminds us of the wrong choices we’ve made. He just wraps us up and welcomes us home.

“You can try to fix your broken empire, put bricks on your cracked foundation. But you’d still be building castles on the sand. There’s power in the blood of Jesus. Your Father’s screaming “Just COME HOME” and He’s reaching out His hands.
I know you’ve been running, searching for something, but you’re looking in a place you don’t belong. It’s never too late. You can’t out run grace, no, mercy doesn’t care what you’ve done. Come home.”

Resurrection Day

What is Easter, truly, to you? I find myself wondering that this evening. There are times, honestly, that I’ve known and even stated what it’s all about, but it ends up being about the ham and egg hunts and presents and chocolate. There have been times, especially recently, that my actions have not demonstrated what I believe in my heart. I have lost sight, at times, of what Easter is really all about.

Maybe it is working in retail that has stained me. It seems that all I think about and hear during any given week are sales and profit, and “what can we sell or do to make the most amount of money?”. Big holidays capitalize on those thoughts even more, and I sometimes start to “buy into” the frenzy. I could blame my commercialist actions and attitudes on that, but we all know that hope and peace don’t come from any store, even if I paid all the money in the world.

While sitting in church this morning, our worship team sang a song entitled “You’re not alone” by Meredith Andrews. I have heard the song before, but never really listened or saw the words before today. Hearing this song today helped me to realize that Christ’s death on the cross not only redeemed us, if we are willing, but also gave us a way out of our loneliness. His death and resurrection serve as a reminder that we aren’t alone, that God has wiped away every fear, that He’s seen us in our darkest moments, and He’s never left our side, even when others have.

Not only did Jesus come to save us from our sins and create the bridge to a restored relationship with God, but He also came to show us that we aren’t alone, never have been, and never will be.

“You’re not alone, for I am here. Let me wipe away your every fear. My love, I’ve never left your side, I have seen you through the darkest night, and I’m the one who’s loved you all your life.”

#Wreckage

On the way home today, we were stuck in traffic. At first we thought it was because of the really annoying construction that has been going on for seemingly forever. However, it only took a few minutes of being stuck going 0-4 mph on a highway to realize that something bigger was going on. About seven miles south of where we were, a really bad accident had occurred about ten minutes before we got to the highway.

As we approached the place of the accident, I was struck with tremendous grief and empathy for those involved and their families. The accident was really tragic, and I was deeply saddened to see the wreckage.

I was extremely grateful that we were not involved, and I was glad that my older son was asleep. That was not something he should see. I was instantly reminded of how short life is and how it can be gone in an instant. I am still shaken to think of what the families of those involved must be dealing with and feeling. I pray that God gives them peace and comfort, and that He heals the survivors. God is the great comfort and healer, and I believe He is saddened by all tragic events, whether large scale or small. We may never know or understand why these things happen, but take comfort that He is in control and will bring good out of any situation.

Romans 8:28 says this: And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

Remember When?

Yesterday (4-19) was the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Four years and one day later, twelve years ago today (4-20), one of the most gruesome, catastrophic school shootings happened at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Two years later, on September 11, 2001, terrorists flew planes into US buildings and struck fear into the hearts of American people. All of these, along with other major disastrous events (hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes) have rocked our world for several decades now.

Many people can remember exactly what they were doing when they heard about these things. I remember what I was doing when I found out about both Columbine and 9/11.

My question is this: how many of us can remember when God came in and changed our lives? Some of us grew up in church and accepted Christ at young ages. However, I know I still had a moment in time when God stepped in and changed my life, even after I had been a professing Christian for quite a while.

If you can remember when God changed your life, do you tell people about it like we reminisce about where we were during major events in history? Do you tell others how His presence affected you, or can you honestly not remember?

Unfortunately, I don’t think about it and remember like I should. I definitely don’t say “I remember where I was when God changed my life”. Maybe I should.

A Year Later

One year ago today, my father in law passed away. He had been sick, so we knew it was possible that we would lose him. However, we also thought he was getting better. His tests and his spirits seemed to be getting better, and he seemed to be gaining strength back. There was always the hope that God would heal him while he was still on this earth.

I remember the week leading up to his passing. He went in for a routine visit. He was unable to receive the treatment he needed because he wasn’t healthy enough. He was admitted to the hospital and never left. He went in on Tuesday. Thursday night, my sister in law bought a last-minute ticket from Alaska to come see him. That’s when I knew it was bad. I didn’t want to admit it. He got increasingly worse, and passed away Sunday morning.

The kids and I went over to our friends’ house so I didnt have to be home that Saturday while Tony and the family were at the hospital. It gave us the distraction that we needed just to be around other people. I talked to my kids individually about what was happening with pappap. These conversations were hard. I had never had to have these kind of talks before, let alone with my kids. I didn’t know what to say. The next morning, I got the news that he had passed. I cried for probably ten minutes, then told the kids. I struggled with how to tell them. I remember not even getting any words out when my daughter said “He’s gone, isn’t he?”. I just nodded. All I knew to do was scoop them up, hold my kids, and just cry with them. I had no idea what to say. I had no idea how to deal with it. I wanted to be strong, but I wanted to show my kids it was ok to grieve.

There were definitely times during that week when I felt like God wasn’t listening, that He had ignored our prayers for healing. The song by David Crowder Band “All I can say” really explains how I felt during this time.
“Oh didn’t You hear me cryin? And oh, didn’t You hear me call Your name?Wasn’t it You I gave my heart to? I wish You’d remember where You sat it down”. I had moments when I wondered if God had just dropped my heart. I felt at times like God had forgotten about us.
I may never know why God chose not to heal him on this earth. I may never truly “get over” his passing. But, looking back, I realize that God was holding me while I was holding my kids. God gave me the physical presence of close, dear friends to help take my mind off the situation and provide me with companionship. God held me and helped me through, moment by moment. He gave me exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. I didn’t even know what to ask for, but He gave it to me because He knew what I needed.

A year later, God is still reminding me how He holds me, sends people into my life just when I need them, and gives me what I need, even if I don’t ask for it. Just like we want our children to trust us to meet their physical needs and keep them safe, even though they don’t ask for it, God does the same thing. He gives us what we need when we need it. Even when we don’t ask, or even know what we need.

Broken

Hungry, I come to You for I know You satisfy
I am empty but I know Your love does not run dry
So I wait for You, so I wait for You

I’m falling on my knees, offering all of me
Jesus, You’re all this heart is living for

Broken, I come to You for Your arms are open wide.
I am weary but I know Your touch restores my life.
So I wait for You, so I wait for You

I’m falling on my knees offering all of me
Jesus You’re all this heart is living for

This song, called Hungry (by Kathryn Scott ©2001), has always been a favorite since the first time I heard it. My brother introduced me to it, and there was just something about it that touched me. The thought of being hungry for God, and waiting on God and seeking only Him to fill me up was never lost on me.

We sang this song in church yesterday. It’s the first time in several years that I’ve even heard it, let alone sang it. The part that got me was the part about coming to God broken and weary, and knowing God will restore my life and my heart.

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Cross Road

We are three weeks away from Easter, the biggest event and culmination of everything the Christian faith stands on. Without Easter, and the plan of the cross and resurrection, we would have no reason for Christmas. Some could say that without Christmas, we wouldn’t have Easter, which is true. But without the anticipation and plan of Easter, there would be no reason for
God to have sent Jesus in the first place.

Often, I think we tend to forget the reason for the cross. Some people think it was a means to an end. Jesus had to die so His blood could pardon us. Others, perhaps, think that God decided He loved us when He sent Jesus.

However, the cross was always the plan. It wasn’t an accident. God loved us before the cross. Jesus’s death on the cross was the result of His love. The cross meant the redemption of us because of His incredible love. (to hear Curt Coffield discuss this, go to www.northway.org).

God’s love is not a result of the cross. The cross is a result of God’s love. John 3:16 says that God loved us so much that He sent His only son, so that whoever believes in Him won’t die but will have eternal life. If God didn’t love us before He sent Jesus, He would have had no reason or need to send His only son to die on a cross.

And Christ’s resurrection is both a reminder that God redeems and restores, and also a reminder that death has been defeated and there is no fear in death for those who believe in Him.
Thank You, God, for demonstrating Your love for me through the cross, and thank You for redeeming me through the resurrection. I don’t deserve it. Thank You for doing it anyway.

Practicing patience

Yesterday’s post was about promise. The tricky thing about waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled is that whole waiting and patience thing. Waiting breeds patience. Ugh.

I, like many people, struggle with patience. I’ve never been wired as easy-going or wait-and-see. I tend to worry, which often is a trait of an impatient person.

Because I struggle with being patient, I don’t like seasons or moments when I have to be patient. However, the only way to learn patience is to be forced to practice it in every-day life. As difficult and frustrating as learning patience can be, it is necessary for our faith to be strengthened and our relationship with Christ to grow.

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