Three years ago, we were expecting to see the bathroom tile-layer around 9am. Instead, we got a phone call. He wasn’t coming. He had suddenly died. The last thing I had said to him the day before was, “Thanks for everything you’re doing.” He would die that night. Several times that day, I glanced at the unfinished bathroom and thought of him. I also thought of its unfinished business and the bigger picture it represented. A picture that includes all the business we’d leave unfinished, if we died unexpectedly. I don’t know if you have unfinished business with a relationship? A promise? A commitment to Jesus? An apology? Today is the day to do everything. Yesterday can’t be repeated, tomorrow can’t be predicted. Today is the day. Today is the day to forgive. Today is the day to love. Today is the day to bless. Today is the day to know where you’re going if you don’t get tomorrow. Of course we’ll all have unfinished business when we die. But hopefully it’ll just be something like unfinished bathroom tile. Today is the day to finish…
I remembered the last place I had my wedding bands and diamond engagement ring. It was Wednesday, December 4, 2013, early afternoon, in this pictured parking lot. So the next morning, before the stores opened, I retraced my steps to the lot. Sure enough, scattered on the ground, were two of the wedding bands. However the solitaire diamond engagement ring of fourteen years and the other wedding band were nowhere to be found. I called the managers of the shops in the plaza. They were kind and understanding. I called the police to file a missing-property report, and the empathizing operator said she’d say a prayer. I knew as I prayed for my rings’ return, a blog post would ensue–but had hoped it would be an answered-prayer post. It’s not. What do you do when you lose something special? I learned there are two things to pray and one thing not to do. The one thing I wouldn’t do is let this mess become everybody’s drama. It’s my carelessness, my ring, my loss. And though I shared it with a few people, I kept boundaries on my emotions and perspective on my circumstances. Two things I prayed were, “God, please help me find these rings,” and “God, if it’s not meant to be found, please let it be in the hands of someone who needs it.” I wish I had a happy ending. But if you’ve lost something recently (I emphasis “someTHING” not “someONE”) I pray this encourages you today.
In the Christmas narrative, Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant, I am willing to accept whatever he wants” Mary said this after an angel told her she would become pregnant and that Jesus the Christ, would be her son. Mary’s response is very profound. She was young, single, poor and a virgin. The odds were against her, she could have said, “I can’t.” But Mary had faith: she believed God’s message, though she could not see God; she accepted the impossible, though it did not make sense. The faith in Mary’s heart was greater than the logic in her mind. And by faith, Mary would witness the birth of her son; and by faith, she would witness the death of her Savior. Here’s the consideration: what am I faithful to? The gifts: my family, my husband, my life? Or the giver of my gifts: our God. Several years ago, my “mom #2,” Betty, lost a gift…her daughter. Lisa was a Navy Academy cadet, on her way to the Army-Navy football game, when she was killed in a tragic car accident. I’ve been one of many inspired-spectators to Betty’s faith. Betty walks through pain but lives by faith. To this day, Betty continues to walk by faith with God. Never afraid to ask Him “why,” but never to give up on her faith and leave Him. This Christmas, I pray we declare in our hearts what Mary (and Betty) have declared in theirs, “Lord, I am your servant and I am willing to accept what you want.” That whatever God’s calling you to do by faith, that your faith will triumph!
On the 1st day of Christmas…God gave love.
“Who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8
On the 2nd day of Christmas…God gave One.
“…but God is one.” Galatians 3:20
On the 3rd day of Christmas…God gave light.
“…God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5
On the 4th day of Christmas…God gave his spirit.
“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24
On the 5th day…God gave a door.
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved…” John 10:9
On the 6th day of Christmas…God gave a shepherd.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” John 10:11
On the 7th day of Christmas…God gave bread.
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger…” John 6:35
On the 8th day of Christmas…God gave resurrection.
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” John 11:25
On the 9th day of Christmas…God gave the way.
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'”
On the 10th day of Christmas…God gave a vine.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener.” John 15:1
On the 11th day of Christmas…God gave hope.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him…” Romans 15:13
On the 12th day of Christmas…God gave peace.
“For he himself is our peace…” Ephesians 2:14
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! But this time of year can also yield bouts of depression, or “blues” for people. I’ve had the Christmas blues before; and it’s not that I wasn’t thankful for Christmas because I was. Rather, I had thankfulness and sadness at the same time. If you are having the blues, here are 3 things I’ve done. Again, I am not a professional, just a girl on a journey, sharing her story.
1) Consider Christian counseling in December. If you go once a week, that equates to four sessions. It’s probably the best Christmas gift you could give yourself because you are giving yourself the gift of release and peace. Don’t have the resources this time of year? Then when asked what you want for Christmas, tell them a 4-pack counseling session. If it’ll bring joy to you, it’ll bring joy to them to give it.
2) Go to Church. One of the hardest things to see is someone who tells me that can’t go to church because they’re sad. This can not be! The FIRST place we should run to in our sadness is God’s hospital. There is a supernatural, healing, holistic experience awaiting you that ONLY God can offer. Yes you will have to miserably drag yourself there, but I promise, you will leave better than you came.
3) Give. Give, give, give, give, give. Give old clothes to the homeless, give donations to your church, give time to the elderly, give free babysitting to a single mom, give volunteer hours somewhere. It’s true that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. I would also add: more healing. It’s the ultimate paradox: giving away is filling up. And that’s just what an “empty” soul needs–a fill-up.
I hope this encourages someone today. Merry Christmas, may you know His peace.
Last night I got to go to prison with our CBG God-Behind-Bars team, and tonight I get to go back. You might think it’s nuts that I love being there. I wish I could explain why to you, but I’m still trying to understand why myself. So last night, I was praying and thinking how I could pitch a reason why these women should invite someone else. I know the biblical reasons, and the reasons we give non-inmates. But what is the incentive–if at all–to have one prisoner invite another prisoner to a church service in a prison? Two words: chain reaction. By definition a chain reaction is:
“When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear.” Lamentations 3:28-30
Someone once said, “Life is a many splendored thing.” It sure is. It’s got up’s and down’s like a blindfolded rider on a roller coaster! So when I stumbled across this passage, it was like, SHAZAM! Right before me, the formula for when the roller-coaster of life unexpectedly dips and lags.
1) Go off by yourself. Why not? Shoot, Jesus did. If HE needed to, we definitely need to. And don’t be afraid or resistant to do this DAILY during this season of heaviness.
2) Be quiet. For the love of God, sometimes, we just need to shut up! We are always “on,” “online,” and “on a roll.” In this heavy season, convo may be hard anyway. Embrace it.
3) Pray. Period. The bible couldn’t make this any more clearly: “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Pray for yourself like no one else will!
4) Don’t ask questions. It’s ok to ask “why,” shoot, even Jesus did (“why have you forsaken me?”) but it is NOT ok to stay there. In this season of heaviness, ask why, but don’t stay there.
5) Wait. Not the kind of wait like in a pediatric wait-room with two sick kids for four hours (not that I would know). But like a child on Christmas Eve, knowing when you wake up, there’s something under the tree. Wait like this bible verse says, “wait for HOPE to appear.” Wait with resolve. Wait with expectation. Wait like a BOSS.
If you have a King in your heart, you have a King who is alertly active in this heavy season. You may be lagging but He’s not. Embrace this formula and live it out! I hope this encourages someone today.
A few years ago, Andy’s dentist experience had him trembling, wincing, clutching and resisting, as they pulled a tooth without any numbing injection. DJ (see pic) finally got to the point where he couldn’t look any more. So he turned and faced the corner. Sometimes love has to look away. There’s a heart-wrenching moment in the bible when Jesus was on the cross and cried out to God, “why did you forsake me?” I am not a biblical scholar but I would surmise that Jesus felt like God looked away. And maybe, as Jesus took on all the sin of the world, God did. But nobody loved Jesus more than God. But sometimes? Love has to look away. I’ve watched good, godly parents turn in their addicted, suicidal and even criminal children. As the authorities took their child away–in their undeniable love–they looked away. We can love others so much that to look at them in their suffering or struggle can render us useless. But to hold on to them and keep looking at them might prevent the best from happening. God the Father had to let His Son die on the cross. I had to let Andy’s tooth be pulled. Sometimes love has to look away. But for Jesus, it took him from a cross on Earth, to a throne in Heaven–and you and me from our wretched sinful lives, to eternal forgiveness and freedom. Love does that.
Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery. They rebelled against the words of God, scorning the counsel of the Most High. That is why he broke them with hard labor; they fell, and no one was there to help them. “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom; he snapped their chains. Psalm 107