You Are Glorious!

Romans 3:23-24 MSG

“[God Has Set Things Right]But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.”

Glorious lives…. I look back at the life I’ve lived and what I see is the long and sorry record I’ve written as a sinner.  But what God sees is the glorious life He has willed for me.  He sees me through the veil of the blood of Jesus Christ.  He sees the perfect creation I will be when I enter into His glory.

What is a glorious life?  Is it one of self-destruction and self-pity? Is it a life of hiding in the shadows or is it a life lived in the light cast upon us by the wonder of Easter?

I recently reconnected with my very first boyfriend via social networking.  He is married and has a small son.  I love that!  Having someone to share your life journey is so important.  What does this have to anything?  Exchanging emails with him made me think about the girl who was so excited to get letters from him in the mail.  Life was ahead of me and for me everything was glorious.  I’m not sure when the “real world” stepped in, but in the matter of a few years glorious turned to gloomy.  Heart break and personal struggles created shades of gray for many years.  After my husband passed on the rainbows we’d had together turned to shades of black.

I have determined though that I will not sit in the blackness and feed into my own personal pity party. I am surrounding myself with color and I will use every tear I’ve cried to embrace the glorious future that God has created for me and paved with blood of my Savior.

Heavenly Father, help me to see the glory of this day that you have created for me.  I thank You for the colors of Spring that fill my soul with joy.  I thank You for my friends and family who fill my heart with hope.  I thank You for Your all-consuming love for me that sees me as glorious in spite of my sins.  In Jesus’ name… ~Amen

Who Says You’re Not Perfect

Will You Marry Me?

2 Peter 3:11

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[a] make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Message version of verses 3 & 4 read:

3-4Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust. o the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I don’t know about you, but I love invitations.  Most of the time.  Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers (especially if the baby is there too!).  I love all of these life events.

Seventeen years ago I received the most exciting invitation this side of heaven.  On March 3, 1995 Larry Brandon invited me to be his wife.  I was living in Denver at the time and one night during our daily phone conversations Larry asked me why I hadn’t moved to Michigan yet.  I informed him that I had not yet been invited.  A week or so later he flew me to Michigan for the weekend and in the parking lot of the Bay City Saginaw airport Larry gave me an invitation that he’d made on the computer and printed out for me.

It read:

Although we haven’t known each other very long

My feelings for you can’t be wrong

Please agree to be a part

of my of heart

and of my life

Take this ring and be my wife

Love,

Larry

I was so excited.  This wonderful man who I’d only known 5 1/2 weeks (no I don’t recommend this, but….) was inviting me to share his life in the most intimate way possible.  Two months later we were married and the nearly 15 years that we were together we the best years of my life.  Our love for each other was the stuff that Fairy Tales wish they were made of.  Yeah, it was that good.  Until cancer cut our happily ever after too short.

This intimacy is only a foretaste of the invitation we have received from Jesus Christ.  Jesus loves us so much that He paid the ultimate cost, the ransom required for us to have a relationship with God.  He longs for us to know and desire Him as much as He desires us.  Jesus is inviting us to know His Father as He does, up close and personal.  Not just for a few temporal years on this earth, but for all eternity.  Happily Ever After has nothing on this invitation!

This picture was taken right after our wedding ceremony. When Jesus looks at us, there is more love in his eyes than there is Larry's eyes. WOW!!!

A Little Lamb named Mary

I’ll Fly Away sung by Mary Juengel and Sarah Schieber

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15 NIV

 

I have a friend whose 11-year-old daughter is fighting Leukemia.  She was diagnosed last fall and now this little Lamb is having to go through horrendous chemo.  One week in the hospital and one week at home for eight weeks.  She’s half way there.  All together her treatments will last 2 1/2 years (I think that’s right).  At the end of her hospital weeks Mary gets mouth sores and nausea among other side effects.  So much for child to have to go through.

Mary has one very important thing going for her.  Her love for her Savior, Jesus Christ.  Mary’s trust is a portrait of the faith of a child.  When she’s feeling well she sings praise songs and her momma posts them on Facebook.  When she’s not feeling well she vocalizes her trust for the God that loves her and holds her, and her momma posts them on Facebook.  Mary is a modern-day Billy Graham, just by her faith, love, hope and transparency.

These are the kind of  situations that beg the question, “why?”  Why are the ones who love Jesus getting sick.  There is no answer for us of course, at least not this side of heaven. There is no promise in the Bible that exempts us from the broken-ness of our physical bodies.  Ours is not to know why.  Ours is to be like Mary.  Trust that there is good that is now and will continue be to coming from our faith in the midst of trials.  Hope for a future with another view from the mountain top while we’re still exhausted from trying to climb out of the valley.  Love our Savior unconditionally just as he loves us, knowing that no matter what we’re going through…. he’s been there.

Mary is always prepared to share her faith.  There is nothing at all shy about her love for Jesus Christ, she freely sings it out from her hospital bed, from her home, from her heart.  There is so much to learn from this little Lamb.

Heavenly Father, we try to have the faith of a child but we know that we fall short.  We try to keep our focus on You Lord, but there are so many distractions.  We try to love you unconditionally, but we still get angry when things don’t go our way.  Please forgive us God.  Thank you Lord for the inspirations to greater faith that come to us from the little Lamb named Mary.  Protect her, please heal her, and continue to use this precious child to give us a glimpse of You.  In Jesus name ~Amen.

 

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…..

Sometimes I Cry by Jason Crabb

 

Hosea 2:14, 15

14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor (trouble) a door of hope.
There she will respond (sing) as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

I came to Guatemala in search of Jesus in action.  I guess that’s the best way to describe it.  Missions trips were something that Larry and I had always planned to do “someday”, but our “someday” was cut short.  I first heard about this particular mission project last year when we went to church with Jeff & Amy Brandon, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law.  Something in my spirit perked up when Pastor Jim was talking about it and my heart whispered back, “next year”.  When next year arrived and we were moving to Allendale anyway, it was time!

As I said, I came to Guatemala in search of Jesus in action, or the real Jesus.  The Jesus who got dirty and sweaty and reached out to help the ones in need.  Something else happened along the way.  I came face to face with myself.  I didn’t care for what I saw.

Dan, the mission director, asked us the very first night if we loved Jesus or if we were in love with Jesus.  Being in love is so much more than just loving.  When you are in love your thoughts never stray from the object of your affections.  You are consumed with them.  You long to be with them every moment that you are apart.  I love chocolate, but I’m not in love with chocolate.  I had to admit that I treated my relationship with Jesus more like chocolate; it was there when I was hungry for it but otherwise I just left it alone.  My relationship with chocolate was probably stronger than my relationship with Jesus.  Ouch.

What I found in Guatemala was a woman who knew all the right things to say, knew the words to all the right songs, a woman who talked the talk but couldn’t walk that path because deep inside she was still full of resentment.  How could I profess to be there serving the Savior that I love while my spirit was still gray with resentment because my husband was not healed of his brain cancer on my side of heaven.  How human, broken, and selfish that is!  God did not take my husband.  He restored and perfected my husband and brought him home to glory.  My life is still so full of undeserved blessings that I take for granted every day.  Even simple things like safe water.  I do think about that now when I go to the refrigerator for water that is filtered of even the chemicals used to make it safe so that it tastes good.  A bathroom that can handle toilet paper and has a roof and door and seat….  A large house, not huge but compared to what we saw there it is a mansion!  I have 4 sons that I am so proud of.  Three of them have grown into amazing men.  School for them wasn’t an impossible dream.  They are all paying for their own college.  Drew, Wade, and Scott… I am so proud of you.  I love you more than you will ever know.  I fall short in so many ways as your mother, but my love for you will never fade!  The fourth is Noah, a gift to my loneliness.  I see bits of each of his older brothers and his daddy in him everyday.  I have the love of my husband’s family as well as my own.  I have a steady income. I have the privilege of worshiping God openly without fear of persecution.

All this and more, and yet I still held so much resentment.

I set out to court my Savior, to fall in love with him in the days we were down there.  I found Jesus in the work.  I found Jesus smiling in the brown faces that were overjoyed to see us, to have someone care enough to reach out to them.  I found my own heartbeat again.  I found joy in the trust of a little girl who only wanted me to love her and hold her. I found that I could leave a bit of my heart behind and still be overflowing with the love of God.

 

The last evening before the flight home we had devotions that were a bit more intense than they’d been so far… and they’d been intense.  That evening found me kneeling on the floor with my head buried in my arms on my chair, a river of tears that could not be stopped wracking my body with soul shattering sobs.  My only thought was, “I’m so sorry, please forgive me.”  That phrase rang out inside me over and over.  My Jesus was there with his arms open, waiting patiently for the resentment to flow away from my heart, whispering to my spirit, “It’s time, let it go.”

I went to Guatemala to find Jesus.  Jesus didn’t need to be found, he was with me all the time.  I had to go to Guatemala to lose myself and fall in love with the One who saved me.

This drawing is an image that captures my week in Guatemala. God promises us that He catches every tear and He gives us beauty for ashes. The roses are the ones that Heidi wanted me to paint on the walls of her new home. I will be painting them on the wall in my new home as well.

 

It’s All In The Attitude

Philippians 2:13-17 New International Version (NIV)

13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.

I love the book of Philippians. It’s so full of positive attitude. Depending on the version you have the words “joy” and “rejoice” are mentioned about 10 times in Philippians, a book with only 4 short chapters. It is also the home of the “whatever’s”.

Philippians 4:8

8

philippians_banner
Image by bridget_willard via Flickr

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

It is the former verses that hit home today however. “Do everything without grumbling or arguing”. I want to quote this verse to my son, like constantly. I think it would be more productive if I modeled this verse to him instead. Lately I’ve been a grumbler. My energy level is down to zero. I don’t want to do anything. My attitude is….”who will care anyway?”

Who will care? God cares. He cares if I give in to the desire to sleep all day long. He cares if I make a promise and then decide that keeping it isn’t important. He cares about all of it because He cares about me. It’s not so much the condition of my floors that concern God as it is the attitude of obedience and gratitude.

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing”. Everything? Yes, everything! But there is so much to do, I don’t know where to start. Where do I start? It doesn’t matter where you start…. Just start. Complete something, gives thanks for the energy that you had to finish it and move to the next thing. Pray for the energy to complete that next thing and when it’s finished give thanks again. Everything we need can be found in Jesus. Jesus can give us the drive to carry on. Do everything without grumbling or arguing…. Even to yourself. Don’t grumble, pray. And then change your “whatever’s” to the “whatever’s” listed in Philippians. It’s a short book, give it a look and start your days with an attitude boost.

Open The Eyes of My Heart sung by 10-year-old Autistic, deaf boy.

Jesus Came For The World

Corcovado jesus
Image by @Doug88888 via Flickr

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (MSG)

16-20Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ‘s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

21How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.

Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus Christ is the Savior.  Not just my savior, not just your savior.  He is the world’s Savior!  This song is the most expressive visual of that fact than any I’ve ever heard or seen.  It’s a fairly familiar song, but don’t pass by this version of it.

Not much else to say…..   🙂Revelation Song

Stop, Look, and Rejoice in the Day

Psalm 118:1,5-9, 22-29

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.

5 In my distress I prayed to the Lord,
and the Lord answered me and set me free.
6 The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?
7 Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me.
I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in people.
9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.

22 The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing,
and it is wonderful to see.
24 This is the day the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
 25 Please, Lord, please save us.
Please, Lord, please give us success.
26 Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God, shining upon us.
Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords on the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise you!
You are my God, and I will exalt you!

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.

 

Yesterday morning was one of those mornings when all I could do was marvel at God’s day as it was unfolding before me.  I was driving to see my bestest of all best buds.  The drive takes about 20 minutes.  This was a crisp January morning; cold but strangely void of snow.  The sleeping countryside shimmered beneath a fresh veil of morning frost.  A full moon was still suspended in the early morning sky, shining brighter as the sun approached the eastern horizon, reluctant to relinquish her hold on the night.  As the morning dawn began to give way to sunlight I could see a light fog hugging the curves of the landscape dancing with the low clouds of smoke drifting about from the wood furnaces hard at work in the farm houses I passed.  With each moment the sun advanced turning the sky everywhere that beautiful pale blue and soft blush pink that beckons us to start the day.  Still the moon shone brightly, clinging to western horizon, just above the tree line.  The country highway I drove was a quiet one so I was able to drive slower than I usually would to soak in as much of this beauty as I could, knowing this gift would soon disappear as the minute hand marched forward into the day.  Even the cows lazing about seemed a lovely gift on this morning, almost as if they were encouraging me to slow down and fill my soul with this incredible morning.

This is the day that the Lord has made.  I’m afraid to say that I don’t normally take the time to enjoy the beauty of the Michigan countryside surrounding the tiny town that I live in.  I’m always much too busy with the busyness of doing nothing it seems, to even notice the beauty in the places I take for granted.  I’m so very grateful that I did not do that yesterday.  The memory of that beautiful morning hangs in the art gallery of my mind as an exceptionally precious gift.

This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!!!

 

His Love Endures Forever ~ Chris Tomlin