Something Bigger Is Happening

Something Bigger Is Happening

TV

I am not an avid news watcher. Hours of death, destruction and hatred—then at the end, throw in a story about a squirrel that can water ski to lighten things up. I’m sorry, but there aren’t enough water skiing rodents in the entire world to lighten the burdens of the evening news. I just can’t do it. But whether or not we actually sit down and watch a news broadcast, the many devices and social platforms we have definitely keep us plugged into worldwide happenings the instant they occur. There’s really no escaping it.

My family and I went to lunch the other day. And about 5 minutes after we sat down, our waitress asked, “Did you hear about the shooting? My sister just called me and said there’s an active shooter near the hospital.” Her next question was, “And what would you like to drink?” And in one of those weird moments where you say something you never thought you’d hear yourself say, I replied, “Oh my goodness, I haven’t heard anything about the shooting…and…umm…I’ll take a Coke…”

My husband got on his phone and sure enough, every local news station was covering the story but very few details were available. We just sat there, unsettled by the fact that there was a shooter loose in our city.

And this story isn’t isolated. My newsfeed and heart have been completely overwhelmed lately with horrendous stories of a pastor’s pregnant wife being murdered in their own home; crowds of innocent people being targeted with bombs; families being driven out of their towns, forced to leave behind everything they know. My mind can’t comprehend the pain, devastation and brokenness that other humans are experiencing at this very moment.

And sometimes, I have a really hard time with it all.

Lord, how does this happen to the innocent? To people who love you? To children? None of it makes sense.

I battle and I pray and still…I just don’t understand. I will never understand. And when all feels like chaos, I desperately cling to the truth that the only place my heart will remain secure is in Jesus. Even when I don’t understand why. Especially when I don’t understand why.

There is something bigger happening here. And I desperately long to perceive it on a deeper level.

In a heartbreaking situation where a man’s wife was brutally attacked then murdered in their own home, his reaction was one of forgiveness…and love. How can a man respond like that to something so hellish?

There’s something bigger happening here.

When bombs went off and the lives of thousands of people were forever changed in the matter of seconds, it would seem that was the end of the story. Yet numerous reports of kindness, selflessness and unity are surfacing from those unlikely moments of devastation.

There’s something bigger happening here.

People who are making their way across foreign lands—who have lost children, parents, and siblings because of the God they worship—refuse to forsake His name. They are struggling to just to stay alive, but will not reject the Savior they serve. He is all that they have. They’ve literally had everything and everyone they love taken away because of their unwavering faith. Yet, they hold steadfast in proclaiming His name.

There’s something bigger happening here.

With all of the fear that surrounds these evil attacks that have been carried out by evil itself, I know that peace—real peace—will come only from my Lord. And when the uncertainty of tomorrow is too heavy to hold, I will meditate on the One who is already there. When nothing can be trusted, I will place my trust in Him.

Because there’s something bigger happening here.

The continual existence of evil and the pain of the innocent still doesn’t make sense—but when the voices of the broken speak of things like hope and forgiveness and wholeness, it’s clear that something bigger is happening within the raw details and moments of their lives. And that bigger thing is the power of Jesus.

Blessed be the Lord!

    For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.

The Lord is my strength and my shield;

    in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;

my heart exults,

    and with my song I give thanks to him.

The Lord is the strength of his people;

    he is the saving refuge of his anointed.

Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!

    Be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Psalm 28:6-9

Grieving Good Friday

Cross

Good Friday.

The day Jesus died.

We know the story. And we know what happens 3 days later.

For years, I read through the story of Jesus’ crucifixion in a steady rhythm with the resurrection already in my mind. It eased the sting of the words. It made it a little happier to read. I resisted soaking in the visual of my Savior being mocked and tortured…for me. My stomach churned to settle into that place.

Oh yes, Sunday was coming. But Friday came first.

The explosion of Christ’s glory was coming. But his blood came first.

I wonder how “good” the day Jesus was crucified looked to his followers.

Their King, their Savior, was betrayed, captured, mocked, spit on, tortured, then crucified. That doesn’t bring the word “good” to mind.

It looked like it was all over. It looked like darkness had won.

The Messiah; the one they had hoped for, the one they believed in, the one they gave everything up for; was now hanging lifelessly on a cross.

The forehead that wrinkled in empathy for the hurting and the lost; the forehead that crinkled when he laughed and smiled, was now wrapped with a crown of thorns. Blood poured out, streaming down the length of his mangled body.

The strong arms that had embraced little children were now stretched out. The same rough, carpenter hands that touched blind eyes to give them sight and that washed the feet of his disciples, were now nailed to the cross.

The feet that had walked countless miles to bring hope to the hurting were also now nailed together.

The voice that commanded the winds and the waves, “Peace! Be still!”; that called into the tomb, “Lazarus, come out!”, was now crying out from the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”

Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

We have come to call today Good Friday. We call it good because that day changed everything.

On the day He died, we were brought to Life.

My heart and mind settle into that raw place of his crucifixion. My stomach still churns knowing He took the punishment I deserved. And my heart aches with raw gratitude knowing how desperately I need his salvation. It breaks me. It brings me to tears.

Chants of victory are coming…

…but groaning cries of bitter mourning came first.

So today, allow yourself to grieve and feel the weight of that day – the day that changed everything.

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

To Love the Unlovable

roses

I recently watched a very complicated situation unfold. I wasn’t directly involved- more of a bystander. But a friend I love dearly was in the heart of it, so I got an up close view of the whole thing.

A close relative of my friend was injured and needed to be cared for during their recovery process. In the best of circumstances, her relative could still easily be defined as “unlikable.” So throw in a traumatic experience, unstable emotions and a resistant attitude, and you’ve got someone who makes it miserable to be around (to put it nicely).

Throughout the recovery process, nothing seemed to go smoothly. There were physical setbacks, unexpected financial blows, constant opposition and emotional outbursts.

And that was just the surface of the situation. There were layers upon layers of emotional scars that ran deep, adding to the messiness of it all. The person who had inflicted those scars now lay in a hospital bed, unable to do basic things for themselves.

My friend, who could have been justifiably angry from a lifetime of pain, chose to bear the scars with mercy, and love someone who didn’t deserve it. Once broken and fragile, my friend now embodied strength and restoration. She had found healing, peace and redemption over the years. That’s what happens when Jesus gets involved in our messes. Sitting in that hospital room, she poured out grace and love without restraint.

Now before I go on, let me just say, having boundaries is a very good thing. I don’t think the “right thing” or “loving thing” means to keep going back to an unhealthy or dangerous situation or relationship. Sometimes, staying away is the harder thing to do. Sometimes, it’s best to get out of a relationship completely because it’s physically or emotionally dangerous. Other times, love can only be offered through limited interaction like short conversations or through prayers for the person. But other times, love physically comes face to face with the unlovable.

That is the love I saw. Given freely and unconditionally. I watched as the emotionally wounded chose to love the wounder over and over.

She made the decision to love.

It wasn’t the feel good kind of love that’s filled with hugs and rainbows and bunnies.

It was the raw, messy, pain filled, undeserving kind of love.

It was Jesus kind of love.

And it shook me.

But if I can be totally honest, I don’t know if I would have loved as well as she did. If put in that situation, I hope I would love well. I desperately hope I would. However, there were numerous times I watched her be horribly mistreated and my heart thought, “She should just walk away. It’s not her responsibility. She’s the one who has been hurt. Her relative is just finally reaping what they sowed for years. They don’t deserve such a love. It isn’t fair.”

But during one of those thoughts, the Lord very clearly interrupted, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

The example of love I saw that left me in awe was human to human. Can you believe that there is a love even fiercer, stronger and eternal? I too, have been given a completely undeserved love by a holy God. I make mistake after mistake, but He continues to love me.

Is that fair? Not at all.

Do I deserve it? Absolutely not.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

He is a perfect God loving a very, VERY imperfect person. Yet, He calls me His daughter, His beloved. He has not only cared for me when I was most unlikable, He died for me when I was most unlovable. He took the punishment of death that I deserved. Death. That is what I deserved.

How’s that for love.

Raw, messy, never-ending, undeserved love.

Freely given…

…despite mistakes.

…despite failures.

…despite resistance.

…despite messing up again…and again…and again.

…despite never ever being able to come close to deserving it.

It’s easy for me to accept something good that I don’t deserve, but the moment I see someone else given the same good thing, I quickly point out the injustice.

Oh, the love of Jesus!

Yeah, it’s not fair or just or deserved. And thank goodness. My life depends on it…and so does yours.

Forgive and Forget

forget

Sometimes our 2 year old likes to remind us that she is in fact, very much 2. That is accomplished with ear piercing shrieks as she runs and hides behind the curtains at bedtime. Or sometimes it’s through very stern, unwavering NOs. She does NOT need a jacket in subzero degree weather. She does NOT need a nap. And most assuredly, she does NOT need to eat dinner before dessert. 

After one of her statements got…umm…brain-rattling loud…she was warned that if she screamed again, she would get a time out. There was a pause and then “the look”. If you’ve raised or even babysat a toddler, you know the look. It says, “I know I’m not supposed to, so I’m going to because I’m 2.” Our house filled with “Noooooo! AHHHHHHHHHHHH!” I’m pretty sure I heard every window in our house shake and every dog in our neighborhood howl.

Needless to say, she was told to march to her time out spot.

She served her time well and was released on schedule due to good behavior. I was so proud of her. She said she was sorry. We told her we forgave her. There were kisses and hugs and I love yous. And off she skipped to go play again.

My husband smiled at me and said something that really got me thinking. “I love that she simply accepts our forgiveness then skips off in freedom. I can’t imagine if she kept thinking about a mistake or continually felt guilty or sad for something she’s done. My heart would break. As a dad, I would be like, ‘I forgave you. It’s over. It no longer needs to affect anything. I forgive and forget.’ I bet that’s how God feels towards us when we keep dwelling on past mistakes instead of accepting His forgiveness and moving on in freedom.”

No truer words have been spoken.

It only takes me a moment to mess up, but I can beat myself up about it for a long, long time. I have the endurance of a marathon runner when it comes to dwelling on the mistakes I’ve made. Even after I’ve asked for the Lord’s forgiveness, my flesh sometimes likes to remind me of my failures.

My thoughts overflow with all the “what ifs.” The “I should haves.” The “I could haves.”

But I’ve realized something.

The enemy loves when we stay in an emotional and mental state of regret because it keeps us focused on the past. And as a result, our present is eaten away and we are not a threat to him in the future.

If the enemy can keep us embarrassed, he can hinder us from growing bold.

If he can keep us ashamed, he can prevent us from knowing our worth.

If he can keep us regretful, he can keep us from experiencing freedom.

If the enemy can keep us distracted, he can keep us from being effective.

We can’t expect the ground around us to flourish with joy and power if we keep our feet planted in contrite soil.

Sometimes looking into the past can bring healing and enlightenment. It can free us from bondage. But sometimes, looking back just reinforces the chains of those bonds.

Jesus has been showing me that it’s not about my mistake, it’s about my heart and choice today. And when He says He has forgiven me, He has forgiven me. Period. That’s it. End of story. He will never remind me of my mistakes to bring me shame, embarrassment or guilt. He will forgive and forget.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:11 -12

Do we believe that Jesus’ blood was enough? If we do, may we live like it.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Thank you, Jesus for the abundant life that You make available to us. May we live in your freedom. You are faithful & good. Your grace, your freedom, your forgiveness is sufficient for me. 

Faithful & Just

It may only take me a moment to mess something up, but I’ll tell you what…I can beat myself up about it for a LONG time. I have the endurance of a marathon runner when it comes to remembering certain mistakes I’ve made. Even when I’ve genuinely repented for what I’ve done & I know I’ve been forgiven, my flesh likes to remind me & keep me in a state of regret & embarrassment. It keeps me focused on the past. And as a result, my present is eaten away.

Sometimes looking into the past can bring healing & enlightenment. It can free us from bondage. But looking back for reasons other than those, it’s usually not for the best.

Jesus has been showing me something incredible. It’s not about my mistake. It’s about my heart & choice NOW. And when He says He has forgiven me, He has forgiven me. Period. That’s it. End of story. He doesn’t bring up my mistakes to make me feel guilty or remind me of how inadequate I am. He doesn’t use it to show me how unworthy I am of His love. That isn’t the heart of my Savior.

Psalm 103:11 & 12, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

God has never expected me to be perfect & He doesn’t demand me to handle every situation perfectly without any mess ups or mistakes. He cares about my heart. When my heart is in line with His, THAT is what matters. So why do I sometimes feel like my past mistakes have a hold me? It’s the enemy. He knows that the forgiveness that Jesus brings is FAR MORE POWERFUL than any mess up or mistake I could ever make & he wants to keep us ashamed, regretful & distracted from the blessings of today.

Acts 3:19, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out,”
  
If the enemy can keep us in that state of regret, we won’t live in the fulness & abundant life that God has provided for us. When we settle into that cycle of focusing on the mistake not the forgiveness, we’re really missing something. We’re missing the beautiful message of the price & sacrifice that Jesus made so that our sins could be forgiven. God sent His precious, perfect & innocent Son to die on the cross for our sins, yet we still dwell on the sins that have been forgiven? Do we believe that Jesus’ blood was enough? If so, do we live like it is?
 

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
 
What if we really grasped onto the truth that Jesus’ rejoices when we repent & doesn’t hold our mess-ups against us? How would our lives change?

Thank you, Jesus for the abundant life that You’ve made available to us! May we live in it, dwell on it & share it with others! You are faithful & good. I’ve made mistakes & will continue to. But with all my heart, I want to live a righteous, holy life & focus on the beauty of Your forgiveness, not my failures! In every circumstance, in every day, Your grace is sufficient for me.

Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Be blessed my friend! I declare my God as faithful!

Those Two Words

Hello friend.

I’d like to think that I have a fairly decent vocabulary. However, I seem to have trouble with 2 words sometimes. They aren’t long words. There’s no tricky accent on them, nor do they require tongue twisting enunciation. These words are…

I’m sssssssss.

Let me try that again…

I’m soooooorrrrr.

Ok, this is more difficult than I expected. Here’s goes.

I’m sorrryyyyy.

Whew! There. I feel better.

It’s not necessarily that those words are impossible to say for me; it’s the jab to my pride & admitting I was wrong that make them a little sticky. When I miss someone’s phone call, those words flow beautifully off my lips. “Oh I’m sorry I missed your call. I’ve been talking to God in my prayer closet for the past 4 hours.” Ok, it doesn’t usually go that way. It’s more like, “I’m sorry I missed your call. I was blowdrying my hair and a large chunk of it got sucked into the backside of the dryer. And while I was trying to pull it out, I panicked and turned to unplug the thing and stubbed my toe. Smoke from my burned hair had filled the room so I couldn’t see anything and ran into the door, knocking me unconscious for the past 32 minutes. The good news is, I saved the dryer. The bad news is, I now have bangs.”

Simply apologizing for something is sometimes difficult, but saying I’m sorry without putting a “but”, “that” or “if” after it…can be even harder! “I’m sorry that you took it the wrong way.” “I’m sorry if you think I said that out of spite.” Or the classic, “I’m sorry for how I said it, but I’m not sorry for what I said.”

Yep. The I’m sorry without a but, that or if. What a challenge.

I have a friend who’s been through thick and thicker with me. We’ve been very close the last few years. Slowly but surely, little things this person would say & do would make me…well…angry. But did I tell them that? Was I honest to them? No, no, no. Don’t be silly. I just kept listening & listening & taking it in. I would take it personally & and let it build up inside of me. All the while, I was smiling and nodding. My friend had no idea that I had had it up to here with her bad attitude & empty talk. And how could she have known? I was smiling & nodding. I didn’t want to have to deal with conflict or confrontation. But a girl gets to her breaking point eventually. You know what I’m saying. You’ve been there. You take it & take it & then…SNAP! Your face gets flush, your heart start pounding & then bllllaaaaaaaaaa. Out come some not-so-pretty things. “Oh sure, just because I’ve been smiling & agreeing with you about everything you’ve been saying throughout the latter part of our friendship, then all of the sudden I explode all over you, you think I’M crazy. Fine. Be that way.”

I thought that everything was said and done; it had become something that couldn’t be reversed. There were so many things this girl had said & done to me; our friendship was over. But then, my loving God began a work in my heart. I didn’t come straight to the conclusion that I needed to ask forgiveness from this person. It was a journey & my heart began going through a transformation that I can only explain as a God-change. I was craving God’s word constantly. I truly felt my relationship with Jesus deepening into something very special & real. Knowing that I wanted my heart to be cleaned out and made pure, I began to ask God to show me things that I needed to do in order to make things right with people so that my heart, motives and actions could line up with God’s heart. And of course, don’t ya know it…He began to show me people who I needed to apologize to.

Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” 

I love how The Message puts Psalm 139:23 & 24. “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life.” 

I knew swallowing my pride was going to be hard enough, but being genuine with my apology WITHOUT needing or requiring an apology from this person, was only going to happen with God’s strength. I knew I couldn’t do it without tapping into God’s mercy and grace. And when we do that, watch out. I was overwhelmed with love for this person. I wrote out a very long apology & sent it off. I didn’t blame, accuse or point out my friend’s wrongdoings. Even if it had ended there, I experienced this incredible sense of joy in my heart from being obedient to God’s command in the situation. I don’t care how hard the situation is, when we’re obedient to God’s leading, there will be joy in our souls.

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”

I can love them, pour grace out on them, give mercy to them through Him.

So within a couple of days, this friend emailed back, expressing her heart & how she was sorry too & how we should just start fresh. What an additional blessing that she was so receptive! That’s not always the case though. But that’s ok. We are only required to be responsible for our own reactions & motives. If we are listening to God’s beautiful voice in our lives and being obedient to Him, we don’t have to worry about others’ responses or hearts. It’s not our place & isn’t our burden to carry. We can however, pray that their hearts & long for God. We are all different. We all have varying opinions, priorities & convictions. But as we all run after God & desire for hearts to be like His heart, we will come to this mutual ground of love, understanding & respect towards each other. And that is a beautiful thing.

1 Chronicles 29:27, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.”

My God is faithful.