Last week I spent several days with my Mom going through my Dad’s belongings after he died. After a few days of sorting items and helping Mom with paperwork that follows a death, I realized I really wanted to go home. I love my Mom and I love hanging out with her. But I wanted to be home. Home to my husband, my child, & my pup. It’s taken seven years, but at some point over those years Alabama became home.
I’ve been thinking about home in relationship to our walk with God. I’ve heard sermons that reference the statement “this is our earthly home, but heaven is our eternal home.” I’d venture to guess most of us think of heaven as our true home. It got me thinking about if there are other aspects of being a Christian where we feel that we are at home.
There are times that I feel great peace with the Lord when I’m praying, singing worship music, or journaling. Other times, I feel that connection to the Lord while admiring nature or fellowshipping with other believers. I even feel the love of the Lord while I study His Word.
In Hebrews 3:4 (NASB) we read, “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.”
God, the builder of all things, has made us a home. In John 14, Jesus told us that he will go before us and prepare a room in the mansion of his Father’s house. I can’t wait to see that mansion. I can’t wait to see the room for me that was prepared by Jesus himself. I can’t wait to be home.
Here’s the reality. I can feel peace, connection, or love during aspects of my Christian walk but I’m not truly home until I reach heaven. Heaven. Our true home.
My Dad died on Saturday morning and I felt like it was a chaotic series of ups and downs. Joy that he was finally pain free. Sadness for the loss. Relief that my Mom doesn’t have to be the primary caretaker anymore. Anxiety over all the paperwork. Annoyance that the screen door was broken by the Funeral Home employees. Amusement that the 1st visitor from my parents’ church brought lemon muffins and toilet paper.
I’m not worried about my Dad. He’s home with Jesus. Not a darn thing for me to worry about there.
But I am concerned about my Mom. She’s got plans to create a craft room and start going to water aerobics. She wants to shampoo the carpets and purchase a new couch. From a grieving perspective, she’s got a healthy thought process about staying in the house for at least a year before she makes big life-changing plans. She’s going to keep herself busy…and she’s going to get some rest.
I’m most concerned about when the sun sets. When she has to go to bed alone after having slept in the same bed with her husband for 52 years. I’m concerned about her finances as she waits for Social Security to transfer over. I’m concerned about when she has to go to the funeral home alone to pick up paperwork. I’m concerned about her safety, her sanity, her well-being.
How can I be so assured about where my Dad is, but be so concerned about my Mom’s well-being? It’s a sliding graph of hypocrisy to trust God with my Dad’s eternity, but question my Mom’s earthly care as a widow.
Scripture has helped these last few days with answering those questions.
“A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely…” ~Psalm 68:5-6
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” ~James 1:27
“Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.” ~Isaiah 1:17
When I turn to scripture, I’m comforted and know that God will take care of my Mom better than I ever could. God has already put in place a plan for us, as believers, to care for the widows and the orphans. From across the country, I will rest assured her church family will care for her when I geographically can’t.
Losing a parent is such a hard rollercoaster, but so is caring for the parent left behind.
I’m requesting prayers this week for all the widows of the world, but most especially for those who are newly titled “widow.”
When I was a child, the Monday after Easter always included potato salad in order to use up some of the dyed hard-boiled eggs that had been hidden the morning before. Watching my son, the Monday after Easter includes smuggling candy to school and breaking in new shoes that were in his baskets. As a child the Monday after Easter did not include much reflection on the significance of the “day after” the resurrection.
On this Monday after Easter, I wonder what you are doing and thinking? Was Sunday a day of family gatherings, a day of matching clothes, of delicious food, of family photos, or even one of wonderful worship at a church you only attend a few times a year? Are you reflecting on family fights, messy kitchens, or money spent on Easter baskets and clothes?
Are you thinking of Jesus and his sacrifice? Are you wondering about the glory of this miracle of saving Grace? Does this Monday mean the start of real Christian living and serving?
Or is the Monday after Easter a letdown for you? Another start to the work week, complete with baseball games and ACAP testing for the kiddos, and laundry or grocery shopping to be done?
Both Luke and Matthew record doubt and bewilderment on Resurrection Sunday; what we now know as Easter. After reading the Gospels, I wonder what the Monday after Easter was like for the disciples, the women at the tomb, Jesus’ mother, and the followers of Christ. They were likely still filled with wonder and excitement over all of the events the day before. Word was still spreading and it would have been filled with anticipation and rejoicing (and probably some skepticism which led them to be labeled as delusional). At that point, the resurrection of Christ was so new and in some cases so terrifying, that many may have been filled with fear and trembling rather than pure excitement about the implications of Christ’s resurrection.
The Monday after Easter for them would have been one of wonder…but also one of dismay and uncertainty. The Monday after Easter would have been when the work of spreading the word began in earnest.
In 2022, we have a different perspective on the events of Jesus’ life; specifically, Easter. We celebrate this as a major Christian holy day. We rejoice in our relationship with the Savior. We worship diligently and find our place in pews with other believers.
But most likely our Monday after Easter is just another Monday. Or is it? Could we capture the wonder and excitement of the past? Can we be just as diligent in sharing the Good News? Can we hold on to the knowledge we hold tight to our heart on Easter morning?
Whether you are a child smuggling candy to school, a New Testament disciple being labeled delusional, or a current day Christian working to emulate the life of Christ, please know that the Monday after Easter is the day we have a chance to show the world the Grace of God. We have great opportunity on the Monday after Easter to initiate the Great Commission.
Make a difference in someone’s life this Monday after Easter.
“When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, ‘Get up, and do not be afraid.’ And raising their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.” ~Matthew 17:6-8 (NASB)
As Good Friday comes upon us, I pray that we all can take time to remember the great sacrifice that was paid for our sins. The Bible tells us in Romans that we are all sinners. “There is none righteous, no not one,” Romans 3:10 tells us. We didn’t deserve for Jesus to come to earth so that He could be a sacrifice for our sins.
Yet, He loved us enough that He did exactly that. John 3:16 tells us just how loved we are by God. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” He became sin for us so that we might know eternal life with Him.
Jesus was beaten and tortured. He had a crown of thorns pushed into His scalp. He was scourged with a cat of nine tails which had metal and glass and nails attached to the leather straps. His flesh was torn off. And if that wasn’t enough, they nailed Him to a tree. They mocked Him. But they didn’t realize that they were completing what the prophecies had foretold.
The blood that poured from His body was meant to be the sacrifice. Our very own spotless Lamb was willing to let His blood cover our sins. It covered it all. It washes us clean. It makes us whole. And when He rose on the third day, He showed His power, His glory and His might. Our God is a living God who reigns today!
Maybe you’re wondering how you can be washed clean by the blood of a risen Savior? I encourage you to examine your heart today, right now, as you’re reading this. If you don’t know that He is your Lord and Savior, here is a prayer for you to speak to God: I know that I’m a sinner. I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose on the third day. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust You as my Savior.
If you prayed that prayer today, then congratulations! You are a part of the family of God! Don’t forget to share this decision with someone, and get connected with a Christian you know or a church that can help you learn and grow in God’s grace! It’s the best decision you could ever make!
Last month my mom said, “This business of dying is harder work than being born.”
She’s right. It’s hard work for the one who is dying, but it’s especially hard work for the friends and family left after the death.
In the last year, I’ve had friends mourn family members who died from COVID. I’ve watched my Mom make the hard decisions about hospice for my Dad, just months after he was diagnosed with cancer. I’ve watched my husband’s family mourn the death of their matriarch, Deea. I’ve had High School classmates die from suicide and cancer.
The business of dying is hard work.
So is the business of living.
In each scenario where someone has died, there are families and friends doing the hard work of continuing to live…paying bills, going to school or work, loving children, putting on a smile…all while grappling with the very real stages of grieving. In the scenario where a spouse becomes a caretaker, it’s hard work to keep living…to juggle the knowledge that you aren’t a medically trained professional, but you are expected to advocate for your loved one. In the instances where we just want to give up, it’s hard work to keep trucking along…to keep putting one foot in front of the other while wanting to scream profanities into your pillow.
In John 10:10 (NASB) scripture tells us “The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
In this verse, Jesus promises that He’s come so that we’ll have life to the fullest. We’re warned against an enemy whose primary mission is to steal our joy and taint our memories through destruction. How can we have that promise of a full life?
When we choose to intentionally make God the foundation of our lives, we receive clarity about the hard work of living. As we walk through creating focus on Jesus, we are able to see ourselves making it through the “narrow gate” that is discussed in Matthew 7. Through that scripture we are able to see a few foundational principles. 1. The rightful place of God is on the throne of our lives. 2. Jesus Christ and our faith in Him is the requirement for entry into heaven. 3. As Lord of our lives, Jesus allows us to focus on Him, which then allows all other priorities to become easier to walk through.
This doesn’t mean we won’t have strife and trials. It does not mean that we won’t grieve the deaths of those around us. It certainly doesn’t mean that we won’t be anguished and full of questions when struggling with all the issues around dying.
It does mean that we can have comfort, peace, love, and even joy in the midst of those horrible moments…if only we allow Jesus to help us with these difficulties.
You see, both dying and living are hard work.
But both can be made slightly easier with our reliance on Christ.
I’m praying this week for each of us who are facing or have faced death recently. Specifically, I’m praying that we each find comfort in knowing God is walking right beside us in these trials.
Have you ever wondered how some people are given a promotion over others? Was it because of their merit? Their work ethic? Their personality? Or was it at the expense of others? Was it because their own ambitions drove them to promotion regardless of those around them?
In the military environment (I’m confident that this is likely true in any corporate environment), I’ve witnessed this set of questions in regards to leadership. Specifically, when someone is given increased responsibility and/or rank, those around the leader will often remark that they are either well-deserving of the promotion, or they will comment that they were moved ahead as a result of stepping on others to get there (this self-promotion can be overt or subtle, but it eventually shows itself for self-promotion, given enough time). It does not appear that there is an in-between, but rather only the two extremes. One leaves the followers happy, the other leaves them scratching their heads.
How does one end up in the category of leading the happy followers? How do you end up being promoted based on merit, rather than circumstances that are at the expense of others?
In Luke 14:8-10, we see the example of waiting for an invitation to move to a place of honor.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.”
In this parable, Jesus noticed how guests have ranked themselves at a wedding banquet. Through this example, He is teaching the concept of humility vs pride. In human nature it is easy to place oneself higher than others may see you in status or positional power. Jesus is teaching us specifically to allow for the host to choose where we sit at the table, lest we embarrass ourselves (and those around us) with our own false sense of importance.
Proverbs 25:6-7 (NASB) cross-references this concept.
“Do not boast in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the same place as great people: For it is better that it be said to you, ‘Come up here,’ Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen.”
These scriptures remind me of a time when I attended a family wedding. The ushers seated me in the 2nd row of the groom side, as part of the family. I noticed many rows behind me Uncle Kevin and Aunt Barbara, who by rights of being in the groom’s family, should be in the same row with me. I waved to them and invited them to come sit with me. As they moved to join me, I distinctly remember Aunt Barbara saying that it was better for them to have sat at the back and waited for the invitation to sit in the family row.
In a seemingly innocent conversation, two people illustrated a real-life example of living out the parables that Jesus taught us about humility and waiting for the invitation. Clearly it was an impactful showcase of this lesson, if years later I can still distinctly recall the scenario.
Something as simple as waiting for an invitation to be moved to a position of honor, translates to humility. It would serve us well to remember this in our daily lives, in the military promotions, in corporate American, or our political parties.
Our promotions to the head of the banquet table should be at the host’s discretion…not because of our own self-promotion.
My husband owns a Traeger smoker and it makes AMAZING pizza. Next to brick oven pizza from Italy, this is my favorite way to have pizza.
Notice I said, my husband owns a Traeger smoker. Not “we.” Not “me.” My husband.
Years ago, when the Traeger was a fairly new addition to our house, my husband got it going with food happily smoking on its grates before leaving the property to take care of an errand. I was left in charge of the Traeger and smoking meat.
It caught on fire.
Legitimately, I caught the darn thing on fire. There was smoke billowing up and I was confident the entire porch roof was going to go up in flames…and then I had visions of the entire house being engulfed in fire. I was a hysterical crying mess by the time my husband, father-in-law, and son came home.
Since the Traeger fire catastrophe, I have not touched the Traeger. Not once. I won’t plug it in, I won’t monitor the temperature, I can barely bring myself to put the cover back on it the next day after it’s cooled down. I DO NOT touch the Traeger.
I can think of countless times in my life when a crisis (like the Traeger fire) has caused me to completely withdraw and build up walls (as in, the vow to never touch the smoker ever, ever again). A betrayal; wall built. Lies; back away. A broken promise; trust destroyed. Double-cross; abandon the relationship. Maybe it’s been a friendship, something at church, a fight with parents, grumbling with a significant other, work strife, struggles at schools…we’ve all been in similar scenarios. Something happens that causes us to back away from those involved with the scenario.
You know who never leaves? Who never backs away? Who doesn’t forsake us?
Scripture repeatedly reminds us that the Lord is always near us and does not leave us when there are times we feel abandoned.
“The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” ~Psalm 34:18 (NASB)
“And the Lord is the one who is going ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not desert you or abandon you. Do not fear and do not be dismayed.” ~Deuteronomy 31:8 (NASB)
“Teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ~Matthew 28:20
Regardless of the crisis, conflict, or tragedy and regardless of how we react, we only need to hang onto the promise that God will not leave us.
I believe God is always near me and that my reaction to strife doesn’t always have to include extremes. I’ll be praying this next week that we all have opportunities to see where we can react more gently in knowing God is with us.
In America, it seems like the social media influencers, the wealthy, or the aggressive leaders are the ones who always have success. These are the movers and shakers who get things done with all the right networking connections. Take a peek at any Fortune 500 company, successful military unit, or LinkedIn profile and you’ll see the expectations and self-reported tips to become successful.
When did we become such a success driven society? When did we flip to a “me-centric” society? One which is more drawn towards success, towards supposed-beauty standards, and towards financial savvy. Do you associate success with the word meek & mild?
What do you think of when you hear the word “meek”? Perhaps you associated it with being quiet or reserved. Some may even associate it with being a pushover. The “me-ness” of Americans typically would reject the adjective meek. It’s as though, we associate meekness with weakness. As a society, we don’t believe you can be successful if you are meek.
From a Biblical perspective, meekness is not weakness. Rather, this is a person who is able to control themselves. Their emotions, reactions, and power are well under their control through submission to God.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5
The meek are those who choose to die to self for the greater good. This may be the missionary who forgoes materialistic items, or it could be the military member who sacrifices themselves for the country. We see examples of this when teenage football players rush a school gunman or when there is quiet praying in the midst of chaos. Another example is Jesus, who surrendered himself to the soldiers at Gethsemane rather than escape. You see, Jesus, above all others had the ability and power to save himself from death on the cross.
The meek are content. Why? Because they trust God’s will over their life.
In the next week, consider how you are able to display meekness in your daily life.
A few weeks ago, my girls and I decided to get tattoos. It wasn’t really spur of the moment in the true sense of the phrase. Peyton has been wanting mother/daughter tattoos for a while and since the three of us were together, we just went for it!
We each have a different dinosaur on our wrist. The theme is the same, but they don’t match. We were wanting something that identified us as a unit.
This got me to thinking about how I’m identified as a Christian. When people see me or talk to me, do they know I’m a believer? Do they recognize I put my trust in Him? Do my actions scream ‘I love Jesus!’?
In James 2:17-18 it says, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may say, “you have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith BY (emphasis mine) my works.”
I LOVE that! This doesn’t mean that works saves you. What the scripture is telling us is that if you have faith (you are a believer), it compels us to do good work for the cause of Christ. When we walk in Christ, we produce faith-filled works that represent who God is and what He commands us to do. In Bible study, we say those actions are faith-based works and not a works-based faith!
The works we produce as believers bring about things like love, joy, peace, faithfulness, self-control….you might recognize these as some of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). I love looking at these two passages of scripture together!
When we see ourselves with a steadfast faith, we WANT to do things that show God in His glory. When we do those things, the people around us see who our Creator is. They see the power of an awesome Father who cares for His children. People see something ‘different’ in the Christian who is doing works because they love God and want to honor Him as opposed to the person who is doing works for the rewards or accolades.
I pray that this year we see mighty works completed and that our faith-based works bring glory to the one true God!
We celebrated Christmas with my oldest daughter and her family this last weekend. It’s exciting to go down and have a “second” Christmas with the grandbabies, watching their excitement as they see gifts they weren’t expecting as Christmas had long since been over.
I dutifully wrapped the gifts for each of them and handed them out, one by one. Andros, that sweet little boy, opened his first gift. He looked at me and said, “A shirt? I have shirts!” Everyone started giggling, but the best part of the evening was when he went to open his second gift. To an adult, the second gift was obviously too small to be an item of clothing. As he slowly unwrapped it, he looked at me and said, “It’s not a shirt, right?!”
We got such a giggle out of that! He’s only four, and while his momma is teaching him about being grateful and gracious about what’s given to him, sometimes he just doesn’t quite understand and acts like the little boy he is!
Do you ever think that we are like my grandson with God? He provides for us. In fact the Bible tells us in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
It doesn’t mean the needs that we’ve asked for. It doesn’t even mean He meets the needs that we want! God knows our needs and supplies them. However, just like little Andros, we get something and we look at it and say, “Hmmmm…that’s not what I asked for!” When He provides for us again, we pray and say, “It’s not that one thing is it, God?”
I don’t think we do this on purpose, either! I think in sin, we assume that we know what’s best for us. We know what will make us happy or content or pleased. We think that this thing or that thing will be what we need to make everything better. In reality, God already know our needs, and He will give them to us when it’s the right time. Often times, even though it’s hard to admit, the things that He gives us we don’t even realize we need until we look back on that moment in our life and say, “Yes! I see where you were, God, and how You provided for me!”
I encourage you, friends, let’s take the time to ask God to supply our needs, and then step back and take all that He gives us with open hearts and gracious spirits. You never know if the one thing you don’t think you want is exactly the one thing you’ll need!
P.S. His second gift was a book for us to read together!