Tag Archives: Jesus

Holding on to a Generational Deep Hope in our Brokenness

The wounds cut deep; both physically and figuratively.

Fourteen Decembers ago, I fell down the stairs. People sometimes talk about traumatic events as experienced through a surreal slow motion reality at the time. That would perfectly describe how it played out for me.

Having come back late from a church meeting, I longed for rest. Having just snuggled into my cozy layers of protection for my body , I was awakened by the high pitched voice of my toddler from the top of the stairs son beckoning me. Our bedroom was in the basement in the not completely renovated lower level (read that as concrete stairs), I was concerned about his possible fall. In my half asleep state, I climbed up to grab him and bring him down.

However, as I held him in my arms and attempted to take the trek back down, I realized quickly that something went wrong. Fear erupted as I felt my foot hit air when it should have made an immediate connection with cold cement. In what seemed like a few minutes (but was likely  a few seconds), I scrambled to make sense of what was happening and how to resolve it. Fearing that my son would hit the cement floor, I turned my body to soften the hit.

Fortunately, he did not sustain injury. I did.

My  broken shoulder commenced a nine month journey into waiting-for physical and emotional restoration. Truthfully, it was painful at times. Waiting for something for which you long but in which you have little control is hard.

It turns out, I also realized that my spirit was in need of attention. I’m not good at waiting. Trusting in God’s character rather than grabbing toward my tendency to a always be in control challenged me.

As I reflected on my experience that happened during Advent, the connections were not lost on me.

Waiting. Longing. Envisioning.

The Israelites knew a bit about these things. The hope of a Messiah. A King. A Deliverer, A Restorer was held up generations deep. God’s promises were embraced as the prophecies were repeated. Hope dangled in front of them as they witnessed God’s presence reminding them that they were never forgotten; through word and action.

But lifetimes went by. Unexpected twists and turns to the vision they held in their minds threatened to detour them toward discouragement.

When will fulfillment take place?

Waiting for something for which you long but in which you have little control is hard. It reminds us of our humanity; broken in body, mind, and spirit. True restoration can only originate from Heaven.

So we hold on to hope-one that is generational deep.

Waiting. Longing. Envisioning.

My shoulder is not completely healed. I lost cartilage that can never be replaced. The amount of movement is limited. I can’t do a backstroke very well but I can live with that. Jesus meets me in my brokenness yet I know that these moments are blips on the journey. Experiencing the fulfillment promised in Jesus will take a lifetime.  Actually more than that.

“Know this with all your heart, with everything in you, that not one detail has failed of all the good things God, your God, promised you. It has all happened. Nothing’s left undone—not so much as a word.”  Joshua 23:14

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come Join Us! http://fiveminutefriday.com/

 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Who is he? Encountering Jesus Through the Eyes of the Woman in Luke 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who is he?

The moments of that day still linger in my mind. Some memories find themselves woven into your senses.

At times, I catch myself pushing back tinges of fear as I watch my daughter rest. Is she only sleeping?

How did deep despair and overflowing hope meet in one day?

I can never forget watching my daughter’s life slip away before my eyes. And realizing I was helpless to stop it.

I had comforted friends in their grief after losing a child. My heart broke with theirs. They bore a pain that appeared inconsolable. At least by anything on this earth. I, too questioned how one walks forward when one’s reason for living is stripped away.

But the initial sting to my soul as I shared in their pain eventually diminished.

Until the day I watched my daughter’s life gradually flow out of her body. Her breathing labored; the tone of her skin fading. Watching your child suffer draws out a fierce desire for control that previously lied dormant.

How can a mother not save her own child?

News about her illness quickly spread. My friends sat with me as I had with others.

But it was different being on the other side.

We prayed for God to grant healing. People tried to sustain my body with food. But I couldn’t eat. Worry had consumed my appetite. My concern wasn’t for me. It was for her. I had never tasted desperation like this.

Someone save her!

In the midst of keeping watch over my daughter, the commotion outside caught my attention. As scheduled, Jesus had arrived in our town as was expected. But, in the midst of my crisis, I had forgotten about it. I wasn’t quite sure what I believed about his identity. However, stories of his healing touch were many. The timing was ironic. Perhaps he could do something. It appeared hope was out of our hands.

Jesus, save her!

Jairus quickly ran to find him. I was certain that Jairus’ position would assure a prompt response from Jesus.

But it didn’t. In fact, he didn’t come right away. And neither did Jairus.

Although my friends surrounded me, I felt abandoned. By my husband. By Jesus.

What was more important than healing a child?

My child took her last breath. While we waited.

The disappointment erupted out of my soul. I wailed. My body felt numb. I remember pinching myself to make sure this wasn’t a bad dream. The tears began welling; eventually flooding into a forceful stream down my face. A loud high pitched wail made its way up through my body and out my mouth.

Never had I felt such despair.

As the world appeared to spin around me, someone ran out to tell Jairus.

Finally, he entered. My mind struggled with what to do. Part of me wanted to collapse in his arms. Yet, I felt betrayed. I watched my child die without him.

But I paused when I realized he had not arrived alone. A few others accompanied him; including Jesus.

Did he not hear that our daughter had died?

I won’t lie. Anger began building in my heart as I spotted him. I felt betrayed. Why was our daughter not worthy of healing? What reason did he have for showing up after her death?

But then Jesus spoke. With an authority and a calmness I had not witnessed in anyone else.

Stop Wailing,” he commanded.

I did not understand. I just lost my daughter! We were grieving. Yet, his voice beckoned obedience.

He continued. “She is not dead. She is asleep.”

What?!

His words made no sense. How were we supposed to believe that she was only sleeping?

He walked over to her and took her hand. The same limp one I had held. And he commanded her to get up. I stared in amazement at what I witnessed. Her eyes opened, and she stood up!

Who is he?

I grabbed her hand. The one that had felt clammy and lacked any presence of life earlier. This time her fingers, warm with the blood pulsing through them, bent around mine. I watched her breathe; her chest rising up and down. My girl was alive!

How do you grasp that reality?

Jesus saved my child from death! I couldn’t wait to tell others what I witnessed.

However, Jesus quickly ordered us not to share.

It didn’t make sense.

But earlier he didn’t make sense either. Yet he spoke and acted with an authority that commanded trust. It was unlike anything I have seen from anyone on this earth.

Jesus didn’t just save my daughter. In a sense, he saved me as well.Who is he? 

This post is inspired by the account found in Luke 8:40-56.

Guest post: Even as the wheels spin, ruts are forming – Encouragement for the struggles of parenting

Today, I welcome Kelsey Scism to the blog. She shares her words on parenting today. Please go over to her site later and give her some love by reading more of her words.

Even as the wheels spin, ruts are forming – Encouragement for the struggles of parenting

One day as I rushed into the van headed for school already feeling worn out, a chorus of “he did this” and “she did that” rang out. I backed out of the driveway thinking, “Man, I am just spinning my wheels with this whole parenting thing.” I feel like every day (multiple times a day) I cover the same things with my kids: show love, don’t blame others, don’t repay wrong with wrong, be nice, be quiet, and on and on. Yet it doesn’t feel like we are making any progress, the wheels just keep spinning. In moments like these, frustration and hopelessness seep deep into my heart.

Driving down the smooth, solid surface of the highway, I started thinking about my wheel-spinning problem. I realized something about those spinning wheels: on a mud road, they create a rut. A rut worn deep into the ground seen by passersby days later or sometimes decades later. I remember hearing stories about the ruts in the fields near my grandpa’s farm having been made by the covered wagons on the Oregon Trail.

Maybe spinning my wheels isn’t such a bad thing if it’s creating ruts that will last a lifetime.

Wheel spinning can be a lonely endeavor, though. We feel like our kids are the only ones who fight, or act unruly, or can’t sit still, or talk back. It seems we’re the only ones without the answers. The truth is, even when we feel alone, our own Father, our Heavenly Father is right there with us. “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Parenting takes strength and courage – saying no, setting boundaries, disciplining. These things don’t come naturally, at least not for me. Sometimes, we think love is about satisfying, giving our kids what makes them happy. In reality, though, love is having the strength and courage to give our kids what they need but not everything want.

Love is teaching our kids the right way to do things by giving consequences when they go the wrong way. “For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:12). When it is time for correction, sometimes we need the courage Moses speaks of in Deuteronomy. As we say no, set boundaries, discipline, and use consequences over and over again, we create ruts. And though it feels like we are getting nowhere, the ruts we are forming in our children’s hearts will eventually produce self-discipline and a willingness to submit to God’s will and calling.

Teaching our children to follow the Lord may have us spinning our wheels, but that is what He has called us to do. He created our children with us in mind. He chose YOU to be that little boy’s, or that little girl’s, mom long before you even dreamed of having kids. The God of the universe knit that little baby inside the womb knowing that he or she would end up in your arms. He destined that child for you. “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3). When the wheels are spinning, it may be hard to consider the struggles of parenting a gift. In fact, sometimes parenting feels more like a punishment than a reward, and Psalm 127:3 might be recited through gritted teeth as we remind ourselves that our children are gifts. Ultimately, though, we recognize the blessings that they have been created to be.

In the frustration of spinning your wheels, it is hard to to keep going. It feels like the best option is to put it in park and wait for someone else to come along and help. We may feel like we are failing our children on a daily basis, but as Deuteronomy 31:6 says, the Lord will never fail us. He is already beside us, urging us to keep spinning, keep going, keep trying, keep working hard.

Even as the wheels are spinning, the ruts are forming. The ruts that will reach deep into the hearts of those gifts we call our children, ruts that will shape them and their futures. Ruts that can reach into the next generation and the one after that. Keep on spinning those wheels, friends, because ruts that reflect the Lord will last into eternity. Have courage, don’t be afraid, the Lord is there, He sees you spinning, and He promises never to leave.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for being the perfect parent. For loving me through my mistakes, for sacrificing the perfect gift of your Son to save me from my sins. Father, this parenting thing is hard, and I need you. I need strength and courage. I need to be reminded that you are with me even when my wheels are spinning. Thank you for the power and encouragement of your word. Thank you for the gift of my children. Help me to raise them for you and with you.

Amen

Kelsey is a former language arts teacher, mother of four, principal’s wife, and most importantly a Christian loving our Lord. As a teacher, she loved inspiring and encouraging her students. Today, she finds inspiration in the everyday moments as a stay-at-home mom and hopes to encourage others along the way. You can check out more from her at https://lovingourlord.com or follow her on Facebook and Instagram @lovingourlordtogether.

How Do You Raise Kids to Love God?: An Interview With Author Shelly Wildman

Today, I welcome Shelly Wildman to the blog! She is a friend I met through my Redbud Writer’s Guild. Among the many titles she wears, author is one of them! Shelly’s new book, First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship released on April 24. Packed with encouragement, her book addresses the significance of nurturing our children’s relationship to Jesus while providing practical tips for navigating obstacles. Today’s post features an interview with her to find out more about what prompted the book and what we can expect to learn from it.

 

Writing about parenting can be a powder keg—people have pretty strong opinions about raising kids. Why did you choose to write a parenting book?

I kind of feel like I didn’t choose to write a parenting book, but that the book chose me. (Sounds like a scene from Harry Potter, doesn’t it?) I fought writing it for a long time because I knew I wasn’t a perfect parent—I had messed up so many times that I didn’t feel qualified to write this book. I still don’t. But the idea kept nagging at me for so long that I finally felt like God might have been pushing me to do it.

I believe with all my heart that stronger families will make for a stronger society, which is so important today. And I believe that the strongest families are those that have Christ at their center. But so many parents today have lost their focus or their sense of purpose. They spend their time on meaningless, temporal things, when, really, the most important mission field is right in front of them. I’m hoping to encourage parents to look at the bigger picture, to ask why they are doing what they’re doing, and to think critically about God’s purpose for their kids and for their families.

I have three adult daughters now, and my hope is, now that my husband and I have raised them, that they will go out into the world and make a difference. And should they have children someday, that they would also make disciples of their kids. Instilling a Christ-following legacy is important work—I believe it’s THE most important work parents can do—and we’ve got to be intentional about it.

What makes your book different from other parenting books?

So many parenting books are “how-to” books. They seem to say, “Just follow these ten steps and here’s what you’ll get in the end.” But I don’t believe we can parent by formula. I think we have to look at our unique family and ask why.

Why are we doing what we’re doing as a family?

Why are we emphasizing these spiritual values? And are there others we should consider?

Why are we even here as a family? What’s our purpose for being put together in this unique combination of individuals?

Asking why gets to the heart of the matter; it exposes our motivations and desires for our family. Asking why leads to intentionality. And asking why helps give our children a sense of purpose as we lead them.

Why do you think some kids, even though they had Christian parents, don’t grow up to follow God? Is there anything Christian parents can do to ensure that their kids will choose to follow Jesus?

This is such a difficult question for me to answer because I honestly don’t know why. I know that parents can do all the right things—have time in God’s word together every day, take their kids to church regularly, pray diligently for their kids—and still have kids who struggle. I don’t believe there are any guarantees in Scripture that our kids will choose to follow Jesus into adulthood.

But I do believe that Scripture commands us to parent with the end goal in mind: having children who know and love the Lord. We are to be diligent in our calling to present our children to God, and we have to trust Him with the outcome. We have to persevere every day to show our kids that following Jesus is the path to true life, even though some days can be downright hard.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 has been such a guide and encouragement to me as a parent, especially where it says, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life that you and your offspring may live.” We have a choice every day, and it’s our job to show our kids that choosing Christ is the only way to a fulfilling life.

What books influenced your husband and you as you raised your three daughters?

Honestly? Not very many. So many parenting books seemed to offer a formula—do this; don’t do that—and we weren’t looking for a formula. We knew that every kid is different and that every family has different needs, and most parenting books didn’t take that into account.

That said, there were a few that made an impact. Our pastor, Kent Hughes and his wife Barbara, wrote a book called Common Sense Parenting back in the ‘90s that, well, made sense to us. Some of the information is a little outdated today, but overall, it really helped us make good decisions about our parenting. And then there was James Dobson’s The Strong-Willed Child, for the obvious reasons. I think the book that made the most impact, though, was probably Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. That book made me realize that my goal as a parent isn’t good behavior, but a changed heart. That, to me, was really impactful. If I were still parenting younger kids today, I’d also recommend Paul David Tripp’s Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Will Radically Change Your Family.

What was your lowest parenting moment?

You mean besides that time I locked my one month old in the car? (True story!)

I think my lowest moments were the times I let my daughters down. When I betrayed their trust by sharing too much with others. Or when I didn’t fulfill a promise I had made. Parents can feel their kids’ disappointment, which hurts so much. But more than that, too many disappointments lead to mistrust or a lack of respect, and I never wanted that to happen.

That said, parents are human. We do mess up. We do let our kids down. And those are the times we have to humble ourselves with our kids and apologize, sincerely. We need to let our kids know that we don’t always do things perfectly or say the right things or even parent correctly. But that we need grace and the help of God as much as they do.

Who do you hope will read this book and what do you hope they will gain?

I hope parents with kids of all ages will read this book, but especially parents of younger children. I hope grandparents will read this book. And I hope it sparks lots of discussion between husbands and wives, moms groups, or even small groups in churches.

My hope is that parents will come away from reading this book with a stronger sense of their purpose as parents and that they might gain a couple of new ideas that they can implement in their own family. I also hope people will read the last chapter very carefully and prayerfully. The last chapter of the book is on letting go, and it’s a concept that I think is becoming lost a little bit today. It’s so hard, but it’s so important, even when your children are young, to start thinking about letting go. We’ve got to be parents who demonstrate faith in God’s sovereign work in the lives of our children.

 

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Do You Believe Jesus is Enough to Meet Your Hopes and Fears?

The angels’ proclamation to the shepherds packs a powerful punch.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10

Their good news communicated the fulfillment of a long anticipated promise.

But. somewhere in the midst of hope lies fear. What if that which we expect doesn’t unfold according to our expectations?

The narratives surrounding the account of Christ’s birth reveal the common human struggle with hope and fear. 

These Jewish “chosen ones” longed for the promised Messiah. The hope had been passed down to them just as it had been through previous generations. The prophecies began to flesh out the vision. But did they understand how chosen they were? And there was a cost.

Hope became infused with fear.

Shepherds: ordinary folk from Bethlehem. As men, they were well steeped in knowledge of Jewish theology. The prophecies created a rough draft as to how the Messiah would be made manifest.

Micah 5:2-3[a] But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,

Hope grew in their hearts.

And then the angels visit. They are chosen to do a hard thing. The earthly implications are staggering. Who will believe them? How will they manage their sheep if they leave? Do they believe Jesus is enough to meet their hopes and fears?

Mary: Poor Jewish teen. Yet, from the line of David. She is aware of Isaiah’s words  “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”  (Isaiah 7:14)

Hope grows in her heart.

And then the angel visits. She is chosen to do a hard thing. The earthly implications are life threatening. She could be stoned for appearing to break her engagement vows.

Does she believe Jesus is enough to meet her hopes and fears?

Joseph: A carpenter’s son-not a significant identity in terms of social and economic status. Yet, from the line of David. He, too was schooled in the hope of a Messiah. One who would transform the status quo. Perhaps he clung to these words spoken through Isaiah:

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Hope grew in his heart.

And then the angel visits. He is chosen to do a hard thing. His reputation is at stake as well as his love for his fiancee. In addition, he and Mary could both be killed for their alleged violation of Jewish law. Does he believe Jesus will be enough to meet his hopes and fears?

Trusting God with what we can’t grasp is hard. Story after story throughout scripture bear witness to it. It’s a human problem.

Fear is mentioned in the Bible over 500 times!

The angels recognize our humanity which is why their first words are:“Do not be afraid!”

The exhortation itself was nothing new. God’s word to them and us spoken through Isaiah is this: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “ Isaiah 41:10

But the angels’ announcement to the shepherds and to the world was different. Because this time God wasn’t just telling us no not be afraid. He was coming to earth to transform their fears.

Upon the official announcement of Jesus’ birth, something happens that the shepherds would have recognized but we may not.

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2)

A host of angels appears here. This is significant. The Greek work for “host” is a military term. These are not cute little angels playing harps. An angel army descended to earth to signify that Satan no longer rules it.  They are operating at the command of the infant Jesus.

Heaven intersected Earth.

Jesus is enough.

Enough to meet our hopes and fears: for

health, power, relationship, provision, purpose….

“The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight” (From the hymn “O little Town of Bethlehem”)

Our fears are transformed into hope when we surrender them to Jesus. 

Do you believe Jesus is enough to meet your hopes and fears? What can you leave in the manger?

*this post originated as a message given by me on Christmas Eve 2017 at Hope Covenant Church.

 

 

Joy

Today, I am blessed to have Elisabeth Klein, a sister Redbud writer, guest post here. She is sharing a piece from her Advent devotionals. May her words speak freshly into your soul.

Joy

 

I did not want to write today when I saw that the next topic on my list was joy. In fact, I closed the document and went on to do some other tasks and even went for a walk. Anything not to have to write about joy today. Because I am not feeling joyful.

 

And then I realized, neither are you, more than likely. So, perhaps, when I don’t feel joy is the perfect time to write about joy.

 

Because joy is not a feeling.

Joy is not based on a circumstance.

Joy is not the same as happiness.

Joy is a choice.

Joy can come in the middle of pain.

Joy can come in the middle of sadness.

Joy can come in the middle of weariness.

Joy comes in the morning.

 

Today, I am sad and confused. I am struggling to see hope in my future. I so wish this weren’t the case. I wish I were steadier in all things no matter what was going on around me.  But this is my reality.

 

And today, I’m wondering what you are feeling, dear reader? Are you sad? Confused? Is hope evading you? Are your circumstances swirling? Are you unsteady?

 

Then these are the circumstances in which you are best able to lean into Jesus, which sets the foundation for joy seeping into your soul.

 

I am a believer that joy comes from gratitude.  So, in the midst of your painful situation right now, I want you to pause, and thank Jesus for every single good thing in your life that you can think of, big and little. Nothing is too small to thank him for.  He is our good-gift provider.  I’ll start you off…

 

Jesus left heaven for you.

Jesus was born of a virgin for you.

Jesus lived a spotless life for you.

Jesus died on the cross for you.

Jesus came back to life for you.

Jesus hears you.

Jesus sees you.

Jesus holds you.

Jesus created you.

Jesus plans to redeem your pain.

Jesus loves you.

Jesus…  (Keep going, sweet one…what else has Jesus done for you?)

 

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. –Psalm 30:5

 

God, I am lacking joy today. But since you command it, it must be a choice. So today, I thank you for all of your goodness and faithfulness and intimate care. Help me choose joy in my pain. Help me lean into you. Amen.

If this post resonated with you, Holidays for the Hurting: 25 Devotions to Help You Heal would be your companion through this season.

Elisabeth Klein is the grateful wife to Richard and grateful mom and stepmom to five. She writes, speaks and mentors women in difficult marriages, those going through divorce, single moms, those dating post-divorce, and those who are remarried and stepmothers. You can find her at http://www.elisabethklein.com.

Thursday Thoughts: Why Our Trials Aren’t “Just About Us”

 

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. (Acts 16:25)

When we find ourselves in the midst of trials, it becomes easy to focus on ourselves. And for good reason.

Life, as we know it, has changed. The anxiety surrounding that moment builds as we feel a loss of control.

  • unexpected illness
  • death of a loved one
  • car repair
  • job loss
  • lack of improvement in chronic illness
  • broken/strained relationship
  • consequences of fighting for justice
  • financial stress

The rhythm was altered without our knowledge. The implications may involve physical/emotional hardship. 

The discomfort is unsettling. We seek restoration. But as we seek it, we may develop “tunnel vision.” We look for God’s redemption within the scope of our own lives. 

Yet, God’s movement in our trials speaks to those outside our scope as well.

Paul and Silas were no strangers to trials.  Because of their passion for bringing Jesus’ message to a secular society, persecution was a regular experience for them. But when God acted to deliver them, others took notice.

Others witnessed them calling out to God through song as they lay in pain from their beating. Their response was counter cultural. But “the other prisoners were listening to them.”

As if that wasn’t enough, God’s power came through with a mighty force and blew open the prison doors and loosened the chains! As a result of this experience, the jailer’s eyes were opened. He recognized God’s hand in Paul and Silas’ moment of trial and sought to be baptized.

Our trials aren’t just about us

Throughout scripture, God is about drawing others to Himself.  Whether it be directly (public manifestation) or indirectly (testimony).  Our trials are one venue through which that happens.

How are others seeing God’s hand at work in your trial?

Sovereign God,

No part of our lives is outside your view. We are reminded of your power to break through those situations which come our way and cause distress. Please hear our cries as you have heard the pleas of those who have come before us. We seek deliverance from the hardships we are experiencing (name them). As you restore us, may others see you at work.  Amen