Isaiah 55:10:9-11 …9″For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10″For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.…

You are as unique as each delicate snowflake that adorns our morning. The Lord will accomplish all that he has in mind for us!

I am struck by the amazing creative provision in all we experience each day. Our minds, our hearts, the wonder of snow laced trees. God has a storehouse that we can never come to the end of.

He also creates for our pleasure! From six to ten my family lived just outside of Chicago. Snow was our world! We bundled into snow suits and spent the day sledding, building forts, and amazing snowball fights.

Rather than starting your day, as I have, groaning at the wet frozen stuff that makes commutes a bit longer, and ensures a wet house, why not remember that God provides. What creative ways has God provided for you today or as a stone of remembrance from your past?

Anger is a Natural Emotion, Wrath is Not

Romans 12:18-19 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.

My last session of Biblical Counseling Training started last night. I was trucking along just fine listening to the speakers until the topic of anger began to be discussed. Anger and I go way back and God has done so much healing in this area.

Make room for the wrath of God, “don’t play God”. I was caught off guard by how much the statement about God’s wrath got into the crevices and pulled out anger that I didn’t consciously acknowledge. I sat there with tears pouring down my cheeks. Many of you are well aware that there are those who are responsible for Jonathan’s death. You struggle along side me to forgive, to not wish them ill, and to pray for them.

At moments I have felt the deep freedom of forgiveness and been moved with compassion for my enemy’s brokenness. But to be honest, I stew, I dwell, and plot, trying to do God’s job for him. I want revenge! That is what came to the surface last night. I’ve shared before that I came to the point 10 years ago that I admitted that I did not believe that God was just. This is one more step in the process of accepting that he is God, and I am not. My job is to love the Lord God with all my heart and to love my neighbor as myself. This means providing for, extending grace, and praying for those that God puts in my path. This is the best way to display his glory and accept his goodness to me. Thank you Lord for not treating me like my sins deserve.

Grandma’s Perseverance Lessons

Psalm 105:8 He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations . . .

My grandmother on my father’s side laughed like a teenage girl. I loved to hear her giggle. One summer I got to spend several weeks with her and heard stories that she never shared with me before. Behind that giggle was a whole lot of suffering. It was impressed upon me that she had a resilience, that at sixteen I did not have, but longed for.

Grandma’s father died when she was a little girl and when her mother remarried her step-father wasn’t so interested in the baggage of a daughter. So my grandmother was passed from relative to relative until her siblings started arriving and then she was brought back home to be a babysitter. She did not hold a grudge! When she was older three of her sisters died because they got caught in a whirlpool and drowned. My grandmother, who could not swim, stood on the shore and watched the whole devastating moment. She lived through the great depression, wars, and a husband who was a very harsh and unforgiving man. As a grandfather he had softened and I only caught glimpses of his stubbornness. She loved him with every fiber of her being and I got to witness that love. She lost a grandson, whom lived with her for a while when his own parents discarded him, and then suffered, like me, the loss of him through suicide.

Yet, despite all of these experiences, she laughed and celebrated life to the fullest. She shared her faith with me at a little white church in the country. She played cards with me and taught me how to make butter milk toast when she was sick. I loved her tea, her stories and everything about this five foot nothing, curly red haired, now turned grey with wisdom grandmother.

I was always struck by her quiet perseverance. As I persevere through my own loss and tragedies, I too learn to laugh, celebrate and live life to the fullest, what ever circumstances may come. Thank you grandma!

The Shortest Route through Grief

Turn the Page:

Proverbs 3:5-7Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.

Simple is a loaded word. It carries the weight of my desires, failures, and pleasures. I have complained a lot, through the years, when things break down, or seem to take too long. “Why can’t things be more simple?” Obviously, grief is no exception to the rule. We must go through it if we want to live life to the fullest. If there were a short cut through suffering and loss, I’d take it.

But scripture states clearly that there is! The shortest route between two points is obedience to God. For all of my complaining I am my own worst enemy when it comes to simplifying life. What makes my life more complicated is sin. I don’t want to go through suffering, so I have tried to avoid it, medicate it with alcohol, bad relationships, and running away or fighting my way through. None of which have ever worked. God has offered all of us a shortcut through Christ.

Since the moment the officer arrived on my doorstep with the nightmare of Jonathan’s death I have had a choice. Do I go through grief my way, or God’s way? He told us we would suffer and grieve in this life, but he also promised us that we would be comforted. The short cut is to love the Lord my God with all of my soul, heart, and mind. To lean not on my own understanding, but to acknowledge him in all my ways. God will make my paths straight!

By no means have I fully accomplished this, but it is my goal. When I accomplish the above command, I will go through this grief the shortest route possible and be comforted along the way to boot. Grief will be but a speck! It is when I disobey God and go my own way that things get more complex. Just ask the Israelites who spent forty years wandering through the wilderness when they had had God himself leading the way! If I want a shortcut through grief then I’ll keep my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith.

New Mercies: A room of possibilities

Turn the Page:

Lamentations 3:21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

Jeremiah the prophet knew how to mourn. He wrote a whole book on grief. Josiah, the one good king who tried to restore Israel to its faith, is dead. Not a single king after him follows God and Israel is plunged into political and religious decay. Jerusalem has Babylon knocking at its door and the surrounding verses reflect Jeremiah’s own personal grief. In verse 1 he states: I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath. . .Like many of us he puts the bad in his life back on his creator. And certainly God allows bad things to happen in our lives. Babylon got in because Israel had long since turned their back on God.

Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet, shy and timid, and yet God used him to do mighty things. He certainly is living in difficult circumstances, but he reminds himself that God is not limited by our circumstances. He will give us a new day!

I mourned as I removed the pictures and things that made this originally Jonathan’s room (before we needed a pink room). I acknowledge the reality of my circumstances. This morning we start with a blank slate and the joy of blessing Daniel reminded me of all the spectacular new days that God gives before me. His mercies never come to an end!

So, as I grieve, as I paint, as I celebrate Daniel today, I remember that God is my portion and therefore I hope in Him!

Grief and Hope
Grief and Hope

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Grieving with Hope: Painting my son’s room

Turn the Page:

Today is a hard day to turn. I don’t feel particularly sad, just unsure. Lord reveal your purpose for today. Amen

This is one more large day without Jonathan. We are painting Daniel’s room today and maybe that is harder than I originally thought it would be. We will be honoring Jonathan’s place in Daniel’s life in some spectacular ways. . . Ah, there are the tears. Jonathan’s presence will still be there. I kept their growth chart in their room. I’m going to take a picture of it before we paint over it.

Oh my there is the depth of my ache. I miss you so much my sweet man! “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always . As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be! ” I used to sing that to Jonathan from the book I’ll Love You Forever. He loved it, and sang it to me not long before he died.

Many of you may be familiar with the story. I remember my first read through I was a bit disturbed by the mother climbing through her adult son’s room and rocking him in her arms as she sang her song, but I understood the heart of the image. As Jonathan pulled away from me towards the end I held him in my heart, and prayed for him, and longed for security for him.

What I was not familiar with was the fact that the author wrote the book as a memorial to two still born babies he and his wife had. Even as we grieve, love, hope, life and celebration can occur. Even if we have but a moment, or no moment at all to say goodbye.

Isaiah 66:12 For thus says the Lord:
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,
and bounced upon her knees.
13As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
14You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
your bones shall flourish like the grass;
and the hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants,
and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.

Knowing God: What Job learned about God’s character.

Job 42: 1-3, 5 Then Job replied to the Lord: I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. . . My ears have heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.

At the end of the book of Job, Job’s reply sums up all he has learned about the God of the universe.

1. God’s plans will not be thwarted!
2. There are simply some things God does that I will not understand.
3. God is not distant, he is personal!

I am convinced that the God of the universe wants us to know him. Don’t be afraid to ask God the tough questions. Here are some of mine.

1. If your plan for me is good, then why do bad things keep happening?
2. Do I have free will if you are up there calling the shots?
3. If you are a just God, then why is there so much injustice in my life?
4. What is your purpose for my life?
5. Where are you in the midst of a world that hurting and in need of you?

My heavenly father has take the time to answer each of my questions! He has not been intimidated by, nor upset that I asked. Sometimes he has answered directly and quickly. At other times he has taken years in answering me. He spent a lot of time working through my very off notions of what His justice is. If he had not taken the depth of time to reveal his identity, then I would have thrown in the towel when Jonathan died! What has happen instead is that the enemy has made me dependent upon Christ!

Don’t be afraid to ask God questions. He wants you to know him, and accept him for who he is, not who we want him to be. Blessings upon you today!

Suffer Like It Means Something: Allowing God’s purpose to be revealed in my seizures

Turn the Page: Sunday Edition

2nd Corinthians 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

What an amazing passage! We do not suffer alone. What an precious gift your friendship is to my family and I. Learning to comfort in our affliction means that we look beyond our circumstances to God’s purpose in our sufferings. I share in Christ’s sufferings, but I also share in his comfort. As an added bonus I get to share that comfort with you.

When the seizures started yesterday morning I begged God to take them away. I thought that they had stopped completely several years ago and their return was more then I could bear. “Even in this, I have a purpose.” Was God’s answer to me. I have to decide if I trust him with that purpose. Do we look at our weaknesses as afflictions or God’s opportunity to work in and through us?

One of my favorite women is Joni Eareckson Tada. At tie age of 17 she broke her neck in a diving accident and became a quadriplegic. Does she suffer? Definitely! But oh what she is allowing God to do with that suffering. Painting with her teeth, ensuring that others get the wheelchairs they need, speaking, singing, writing, and serving God in whatever way he calls her to.

So God has a purpose in my seizures! May Jesus comfort you in my affliction that you may not grow weary in your own sufferings. Hugs and encouragement to all of you. I’d much rather give those hugs in person, but will be staying home to rest. I love you dearly!

Keeping Secrets: Living for the pleasure of God not Man

Matthew 6:5 And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

What is just between God and I? Developing the sacred, in a world where it modeled day in and day out that everything is lived out in the open, can be difficult. I’m not sure that the Kardashians have much that isn’t public. Because of Jonathan’s death, I am getting the opportunity to share my faith a bit more publically. But, to truly value God and our relationship with him, there must be things that are shared only with him.

So why should I develop the sacred, even as I am being transparent with you as I walk through grief?

1. Am I looking to please God or man? (vs.1)
2. Where do I want my reward to come from? (vs. 6)
3. The enemy is unable to penetrate this bond! (Lord’s Prayer)

When the enemy comes to attack us, and he will, we stand firm because there is nothing that separates us from God’s love! When Satan offers earthly rewards they will seem like nothing, when he offers me food I can say the food I eat is to do the will of my father. When the enemy tries to stir up unforgiveness, I can state that I forgive because I am forgiven! I declare to you that is possible to know the will of the Father, just as Jesus did. Jesus was spelling it out in chapter 6 to us.

Pray like God’s voice and his will are the only that matters. Serve others like they are Christ before you. And know that heavenly treasures are far better than anything we could be given on earth. We develop a relationship with God in secret so that our focus is on him, and that he is a source, not man.

Just The Right Words: Learning to Tame the Tongue

Turn the Page: James 3:7All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.

Have you ever had guests come to the door and greeted them with the most pleasant of words when moments earlier you were screaming at your kids? Or gossiping with a neighbor about someone that you don’t like and when the person shows up you are suddenly so happy to see them?

I confess to you that I have had these moments. I don’t like this sinful part of me! Scripture calls the tongue a rudder, directing the rest of our body. And Paul declares that I can’t tame it! “It is a restless evil filled with deadly poison.” (vs. 8) So what hope is there for us if we cannot tame our tongues?

Paul states: 17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Just like the disciples went from using their tongue unwisely to using them for good, we can become wise with our tongues. The disciples spent three years hanging out with the God of the universe who chose to limit himself to be with us! What flowed out of the heart of Jesus was what Paul is describing in verse 17 and 18. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45) Controlling the tongue does not mean that you have to stop talking; it simply means that your tongue is directed by your Christ developing character. Wisdom is gained by focusing on what is pure, loving peace, being considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. So at this moment I take inventory of what is in my heart and I spend time with Jesus allowing him to fill me up with his love, grace, and mercy. Only Christ can tame our tongues by filling our hearts with his love for humanity.

Heaven: Keeping my eyes fixed on the finish line

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens

Today I have to attend the funeral of my great aunt. Knowing that her death was coming soon, I declared that I could not stand to lose one more person in my life right now. But loss comes no matter what we declare. We cannot hold so tightly to anyone that we forget that our days are numbered. We have to love deeply, care deeply, but hold onto relationships with our hands open.

My cousin is celebrating that his mother is with Jesus! He reminded me to long for heaven more than I long for earth. How do we grow to the place where we engage our earthly life to the fullest and yet yearn for heaven at the same time? I have been close to friends who have accomplished this. I can see clearly that they walk this earth with one foot already in heaven.

As my friend faced cancer, yet again, she shared her struggle with seeing God for a moment and feeling his presence with her. She could not face the cancer again without knowing that her best friend Jesus was by her side. As we studied scripture she found comfort and his close presence was restored.

Do you and I love God so much, live in obedience to him, and are so familiar with heaven that we find ourselves longing to be released from the confines of sin? To go home. Scriptures say that we are foreigners here when we become princes and princesses of his kingdom. He adopts us! Just saying those words stirs my longing.

I want to live this life to the fullest! Every person that I have observed, through scripture and in my life who have accomplished living as Christ have had their eyes fixed on heaven. It is the finish line! They have served, given to others, forgiven deep transgressions, built up others with the goal of heaven in mind. My eyes have not yet been fully trained, disciplined to keep my eyes on Jesus. Jesus endured the cross because he had his eyes fixed on heaven!

Lord, grow me to this point that my longing to be with you, trumps and motivates everything that I do in my earthly body. Amen!

Escaping Depression: Finding peace in nature

Matthew 14:13 Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself. . .

I have had two experiences in the woods since my son’s death and they both have lifted my spirits. How many times do I stay cooped up in the midst of depression expecting the walls to suddenly stop closing in on me?

Nature is never walled in. It is wild and open and filled to the brim with stories of our maker. Jesus regularly retreated to refresh and spend time talking to God; he invited his disciples to do the same. The crowds were pressing in. Many times it is in exiting the confines of our daily rush hour and noise that we remember to listen and find contentment in God’s provision. I have lived in city areas most of my life, but the country hillsides of my birth have always drawn me into quietness. I love the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains! They are old and wise. They remind me of the paths I have already traveled, and question where I am going. They celebrate who I am and whose I am. These hills teach me that valleys are where most of my growth occurs. They teach me discipline, to listen better, and to breath deeply.

Do you have a place in nature that you are able to draw away to and find peace in the stillness?