Romans 1:20-23The Message (MSG)
Ignoring God Leads to a Downward Spiral
"But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand."
There I stood at the Turkey Creek Overlook on the Cherohala Skyway, awestruck by God's magnificent message painted across the sky in shades of orange, red, and yellow. The setting sun was tucking in the hills and valley below for the night with a variegated blanket of velvet. How could anyone doubt the existence of God? I began to ponder words my husband, Mike, read at church Sunday from Romans 1. When I got back to our home I decided to look the passage up in multiple translations and The Message said it so well in modern language:
Lord, may I seek only You, the One True and Living God.
Upon being selected as the U.S. Senate Chaplain, Peter Marshall stated:
"The choice before us is plain: Christ or chaos, conviction or compromise, discipline or disintegration. I am rather tired of hearing about our rights and privileges as American citizens. The time is come - it now is - when we ought to hear about the duties and responsibilities of our citizenship. America's future depends upon her accepting and demonstrating God's government."
As we enter this Memorial Day holiday weekend, let us be mindful of the cost of freedom. It comes at a high price - much blood, sweat, and tears have been shed so we can enjoy our freedom.
To you who choose to "showcase" your freedom by rioting, protesting, harming policemen and maiming and killing police horses, spewing hate and death wishes upon others, burning our flag, and spitting upon our military - your freedom does not give you the right to do what is not right morally.
Peter Marshall also spoke the following words in a prayer before the Senate in 1947:
“May freedom be seen not as the right to do as we please but as the opportunity to do what is right. May it be ever understood that our liberty is under God and can be found nowhere else. May our faith be something that is not merely stamped upon our coins, but expressed in our lives. Let us, as a nation, be not afraid of standing alone for the rights of men, since we were born that way, as the only nation on earth that came into being ‘for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith. …"
Thank you to our Veterans and active duty military for your service. You set aside your rights and privileges to protect ours; the epitome of American citizenship - true freedom fighters that accept and demonstrate God's government.
Visions of Memorial Days past are running through my mind. Marching in or standing on the curb watching patriotic parades in honor of our fallen soldiers, flags waving, Veterans saluting as Old Glory passes by. Homes decorated in patriotic buntings of red, white and blue and the smell of charcoal grills filling the air with the aroma of well-done burgers and hot dogs.
It’s a day off, giving the benefit of a long three day weekend. Some travel to the beach or the mountains as a way of kicking off the premature celebration of Summer. Local swimming pools fill with children that don’t seem to mind the chilly water temperature as their parents soak up the sun’s warming rays. It’s a time of gathering with family and friends and enjoying being able to get back outside together for a leisurely picnic.
But all of this came at great expense. Men and women sacrificed their lives on battlefields and in the trenches of war, fighting for the privilege of freedom that we so nonchalantly enjoy. Their bodies lay lifeless and cold in cemeteries across America and around the world, the price they paid so we could continue to enjoy life freely.
May we all pause and remember to remember the valiant deeds of soldiers past and present, and pay homage and honor by acknowledging their sacrifice. Let’s remember to remember to pray for the families that are still reeling from the loss of a husband, a wife, a father, a mother, a son, a brother, a daughter, a sister. Their long weekend is yet another series of long days marking the passing of their loved one, their hearts screaming out, “Don’t forget my loved one not only died, but he had a life. I want you to know my loved one. Ask me about his life, talk about him. Remember to remember him. Please don’t forget him!”
How easy it is to forget sacrifices made for the sake of freedom. Perhaps that is why we were given the instructions as a body of believers to observe communion regularly. We are to be stirred up to remember to remember the sacrifice Christ made, the shedding of His blood so we could be free from the penalty of sin and enjoy a life lived in honor of Him. We’re to remember to remember to proclaim His death until He comes again.
“And when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also, after supper saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
1 Corinthians 11:24-26
This Memorial Day, examine your life. Are you remembering to remember our fallen soldiers? Are you remembering to remember the sacrifice of our Savior? What are you doing to honor those who have paid the price for your freedom?
Father, it’s easier to forget than it is to remember the sacrifice You and others have made for me. Help me to remember to remember, and to live a humble life that exemplifies a heart of gratitude towards all that have paid freedom’s price. I love You.
Every moment is a unique place we’ve never been. The familiar becomes the unfamiliar. Trusting our unchanging God when we’re traveling uncharted territory is vital to finding hope. Sorrow, suffering, brokenness, are all an inevitable part of our journey. We could not know love without loss and sorrow, joy without suffering, and peace (wholeness) without brokenness.
When you're trying to find your way through the messy road of hurt, cling to what you know is true—-we have an unchanging God. That doesn’t mean the road of hurt to healing and hope is going to be easy; it will more than likely be a messy journey full of detours. And your journey is not going to be like someone else’s—-it’s a personal journey with a personal, loving God traveling the road with you. I wish there were five easy steps to no longer feel your pain, but there’s no such thing. What you do have are cross-shaped blazes marking the way to finding hope, reminding you of the truths found in God’s Word. Christ is your hope of glory, your hope for healing and peace. Based upon the truths found in God’s GPS system (His Word), I can promise you, you will get through this. He is with you because He doesn't leave you to walk this journey alone.
Grief tempts us to walk alone because it’s raw and messy and we don’t want to be seen as weak. Fight against that temptation to walk the trail alone. Walk knowing He is with you and ask Him to bring godly friends to walk beside you on this path to healing. They will be “Jesus with skin on’ as you journey through the messy paths of life.
“For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; f
or why does one also hope for what he sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance, we wait eagerly for it.”
Today I am pausing to remember my step dad of 30 years, Christian Andersen, who went to be with the Lord seven years ago today.
Actually, he’s in my thoughts every day. I see his winsome smile and hear his voice ringing with tales of his life and miscellaneous whimsical stories - some true, some just for fun.
He taught me so much over the years about life and loving. He showed a tremendous about of love to me and my family--as if we were his own. But the best part is the way he showed love to my Mom. He was more of Father to me than my own Dad. And all 3 of my children grew up calling him, Grandpa. There was a lot of love that flowed between them, a whole lot of love.
Today, I’m thankful I know that he’s no longer suffering and in the presence of the Lord. Even though we all miss him terribly, I can rejoice knowing that one day we will all be reunited.
My Mom and I were with him during those last days and hours before he went home.
To watch his breathing change from painless shallow gasps to his final exhale was a sacred moment. His furrowed brow relaxed and a look of gentleness and peace fell upon his face as he was ushered into the presence of His Lord and Savior.
The last words he spoke just hours before he left or heaven were, “I’m a blessed man." I’ll always treasure those words because so many of his words for 2 weeks had been controlled by dementia.
I assured him I would be there with him, comforting and encouraging him on until he reached his last breath, then I couldn’t go any farther. He would be in much better hands than mine at that point, the hands of God’s messengers sent to deliver him to his Savior. Transferred from the kingdom of darkness into His marvelous light. He “squeezed” my hand and smiled.
Just 7 hours later, I could see from the expression on his face, he saw the light of his new Home and was anxious to breathe that celestial air, realizing he’s finally Home. My job was done.
It’s how a life is lived between the first breath and the last that leaves an indelible imprint on those that are left behind. I can truly say I’m a blessed woman whose life has the imprint of many who have pressed their hearts and lives into mine.
From life’s first breath to it’s very last, life is sacred.
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13,14
You are loved and missed, Chris.
A few years ago astronomers decided to study one of their favorite objects in space, The Whirlpool Galaxy. They kept zooming in to get a closer look at what they called the "Darling of the Universe." What they saw in the very center of the galaxy is pictured below. I promise you, this is an unaltered photo I took directly from the NASA website called Astronomy Picture of the Day. Scientists call it the X Structure in the core of the Whirlpool Galaxy.
I’m not trying to make a scientific case, but the X Structure is huge! The beams reach 1100 light years across and the diameter of the beams is 100 light years. (A light year is equal to 5.88 TRILLION miles!) You can call it the X Structure in the core of the Whirlpool Galaxy, or you can call it a cross. But, could it be God's vast, eternal love, the Lover of our Soul, “Jesus, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8)
What are you facing? Depression, divorce, abandonment, shame, guilt, loneliness, wrongly accused, cancer, bankruptcy, or the darkness of death itself. There is NOTHING that can shake you out of the hand of God. He is not only holding the whole universe in the palm of His hand, He is holding you. His lovingkindness and grace is enough to hold onto you and to bring you through it all.
Lucie would be 5 years old today had she lived. It's hard to believe that much time has passed, and yet in some ways, it feels like yesterday.
Her then 16-year-old Mom was one of my clients. We knew early on Lucie would die shortly after being born, so we had time to prepare. . . if you can ever prepare for holding life and death in your hands within minutes of each other. Together we clung to God’s rope of hope and experienced the presence of God in the midst of great sorrow and suffering. It was a presence that empowered the young Mom, “T”, to survive the scars and planted seeds of hope that eventually blossomed. Today she is a thriving young woman in her junior year of college with dreams of going into the medical field.
"T" called me this morning, as she has every February 9th. We spent a few minutes catching up with each other, but mostly, we shared tears yet again. Five years ago our tears intermingled on the most heartbreaking day of her life; the day baby Lucie breathed her first and last breaths. The following day she walked away from the hospital with empty arms and a broken heart. Today, her aching arms are still empty, but her broken heart is mending, knowing God is using this in her life; and knowing one day she will see Lucie again in heaven--strong, healed, and whole.
Tears are a strange sort of gift God uses as a conduit to fill the broken hearted with His other gifts.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
I’ve witnessed first hand an umbilical cord cut, ushering in new life; only to watch that life silently pass. Like a butterfly’s dance in the wind, so has life been this week; a thing of beauty and grace, fluttering about and then suddenly it is no more.
The grace of God has trained us for this moment. Forced to feel the burn of pain in order to benefit from the fruit of His grace both now and later. We knew life and death would come partnered together.
But it’s hard.
It’s hard to listen to a mother’s sweet voice singing tender lullabies to her child and minutes later hear the guttural tones of a mother’s heart being ripped from her chest.
I sat helpless by her side holding them both in my arms. Were the bitter tears I tasted my own or hers? I could not tell for they were mingled together.
“God, shower your grace upon us! Help us see You through this pelting storm!” My heart cried silently – I think. Maybe I whispered it aloud. Maybe that’s why I tasted the salty, bitter tears.
I may have been the teacher, the mentor, the life coach through all of this, but He has taught me life lessons as well. Lessons I need to write down as reminders of these gifts He’s given me this week, gifts cloaked in sadness and pain as well as some with great joy."
Processing Life's Gifts
(More from my journal entry from February 9, 2011)
His gift to me is the full vocabulary of life’s poetry and sometimes there are words and stanzas of sorrow and grief.
As I listened to this young mother’s songs of lullabies and laments, I’ve realized His gift is all the music, even the discordant phrases and movements that are sometimes difficult and tragic. There is beauty to behold in His singing over me.
I can be as enthralled by life and it’s stony and sometimes thorny paths as I can be with its sunshine and flowers.
The full measure of life’s gifts include brokenness and trials, the kinds that transform me for His glory.
Those hard things that surround me can not destroy or harm me. Sometimes that hard place is actually God Himself standing up against that which seeks to destroy my faith. He’s my rock, my refuge, my fortress, a sheltering strong tower.
More than having life my way, He is what I want.
He is Life’s Gift."
The daily pressures of life. The loss of a spouse, child, parent. Grief. Financial crisis. Worry. Anxiety. Guilt. Unforgiveness. Fear. Shame. Harsh words. Bitterness.
Blasting. Pounding. Noise. Chipping. Drilling. Blasting away, trying to destroy you and turn your faith into a pile of ruin and rubble.
The shaking soul cries out. “God, are You there? Do You hear me?”
But even more relentless than the jackhammer pressing down on you is the relentless love of God.
Do you know that you, yes YOU, are loved by the Beloved of all creation, the Lord of love Himself, with an everlasting, relentless love?
He is the Author of all things, including love.
He’s the Giver of life and all good and perfect gifts. Sometimes His love is encapsulated in pain, but it’s there none the less. He’s with you even as life is pressing in. The good to be found is His nearness, His promise to be with you no matter what. Psalm 73:28
Hold on to that truth. Hold it close to your heart, but also, fly it high as a banner of love over your head. Let that banner draw hurting, searching souls to that love they see over you by your attitude of mercy. Extend a hand of forgiveness, just as His arms were stretched and His hands nailed to a cross for your forgiveness.
Our Lord and Savior never gossips, never lies, never points a finger in harsh judgement against His own. You can trust Him with Your deepest thoughts.
Don’t listen to the voices of the culture. They desire to lead you away from Perfect Love and down the path of shallow love. His is the voice we are to listen to.
Listen to what He says,
I draw you to myself continually in lovingkindness and faithfulness. Jeremiah 31:3
Abide in Me and evil words will not, cannot,
destroy you and rejection cannot tear you down.
You have My love.
What else do you need?
Come to Me.”
Becoming the woman of grace God's designed me to be. it's all simply grace.
Bride Of Christ
Goodness Of God
Hearing God's Voice
Help For The Hurting
Love Of God
Mary Did You Know
More Than A Baby
Name Of God
Sanctity Of Life
The Broken Way
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