Turn it up loud and sing with all your heart!!
Turn it up loud and sing with all your heart!!
It’s Good Friday. One of the darkest days in history. Or at least it was for those who lived it. We know what happens three days later, but the witnesses of the crucifixion weren’t sure. Those closest to Christ had left families, homes, and jobs to follow and serve him. There they stood hiding in the crowd or just hiding, clinging to all hope that what he told them was true. He would rise from the grave and make a better way for them and millions to follow throughout time. A better way. An eternal way.
Thinking in terms of eternity is so hard when we’re trying to navigate this world and the ups and downs it presents. It has been said that there are 365 “fear not” statements (or some form of do not be afraid) in the Bible. I’ve not counted them, but if there are, that’s one for each day of the year. Many times fear not is followed by comforting and reassuring words from or about God.
Here are just a few I found. What’s interesting is that while they are words of comfort, there is often a suggested action on the believer’s part. Words of encouragement have no power unless the recipient opens their mind and heart to them. Where is your heart as you read these:
“He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deut. 31:8
“Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.” Isa. 43:1
“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.” Isa 41:10
“Do not be afraid Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” Daniel 10:12
“But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. “Don’t be afraid.”
“Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.'”
Jeremiah 29:11 is often quoted in times of unsureness. But the real key to taking in this verse is to go back to verse 10. It is there that we see that God is faithful and fulfills promises, but it’s in His time; when the time is right. I don’t know what makes the time right. Because God doesn’t function within the constraints of clocks and calendars, more than likely it’s a heart thing or having all the right people in the right place at a given time. Not a clue. So like I mentioned the other day, we just have to listen and expect to hear him and be ready to walk forward in faith.
That fateful Friday the earth shook, it was dark at noon, and nobody understood what was happening or when it would end. Ever felt that way?
Jesus felt that darkest hour when he cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me? Do you think the disciples were thinking the same of him? But then Christ “yielded” his soul. He gave up His life.
In our darkest hour, are we yielding our hearts to the will of God? On this #GoodFriday yield your heart, bow your head and mourn for this world’s loss was eternity’s gain. Sunday will come literally and figuratively.
Jesus walked out of his own grave to solidify our hope in eternity and in promises about our time on earth that will be kept.
We are in a storm. As a world community and as individuals. Whether you are simply going stir-crazy at home or you’ve experienced some other tragedy, it’s a storm. Many years ago when I was in a similar storm, I wrote this quote from Priscilla Shirer, on the refrigerator whiteboard, “Listen and expect to hear Him.” Funny that I never erased it. It’s something we should always remember no matter what kind of season we are in.
Before some of you decide I’m nuts, let me clarify. God speaks to His children in many ways; the Bible, encouraging words or prayers of other believers, in our conviction, or in that still small voice in our hearts. Even before the storm I’m experiencing blew harder, God was preparing my heart. I didn’t see it at the time, but there was a reason a devotion featuring Job and life challenges popped up on my feed.
This morning He spoke to me through one sentence in an email from a friend of mine, Betty Owens. She’s praying for me. And a message from Liz Curtis Higgs in her weekly Bible study reminded me of how much I am loved by our Savior. Yesterday, a former co-worker encouraged me to read Psalm 20 and 91.
May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.[b]
4 May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests.
6 Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
8 They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.
9 Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!
Wow! I needed to hear about the victory that will come on the other side of the storm. We don’t
know how long it will last. So every day we get up and do what we can do. We don’t just sit down, throw up our hands, and say God’s going to get us through. Which is true, He will deliver. But living our faith and doing what is in our control every day allows us to truly feel like we are walking in sync with God’s plan. We are praying, seeking His will, listening for Him, and doing what we can to move forward in what we are seeking. Doing so, we become very sensitive to His guidance, what is an open door, and what is closed.
The winds are whipping and howling. Stressors are thundering down. Remember friend, we are all in this together, and no matter how big the storm, God is bigger.
All the best,
On February 26th I committed to sacrifice one of my favorite things for Lent-soda pop. Specifically, Coke Cola or any drink that had bubbles. Coke is the hardest though. But it is such a minor thing compared to what our #Savior gave up for me and you. And many, many times over the last month when I’ve really wanted to dive into the case of #Cokes in the garage, I have been reminded of His gift. It is preparing my heart and resetting my spirit.
Our last day in the office was March 13th. In observance of CDC recommendations, the NCFL leadership sent everyone home to work. It was the most generous thing they could do to keep us working and serving millions of families who are now essentially homeschooling their children. That was the weekend that I believe everyone went nuts in the groceries as if the worst snowstorm ever was about to hit. I get it, parents are home with their children and the number of meals you serve has increased. We are now eating all three meals at home.
We must monitor how much news we watch or it all can become overwhelming. Admittedly, I check the #COVID19 map everyday praying and hoping the curve will start to flatten. I hope that all these extra make-shift hospitals won’t be used. Just give me something!
It’s in those moments when I’m feeling most discouraged that I wonder why I chose this year to give up soda pop? Someone recently told me that the crisis we are in is no surprise to God. He knew on February 26th what was coming for me and all of us, and still He laid it on my heart to sacrifice. When I stay my craving it not only makes me think of Christ’s sacrifice, it also now reminds me that there are individuals and families around the world sacrificing much more, and hurting far more than I am. It reminds me to think about others to pray for. It gives me the opportunity to look outside myself.
So, while we are all limited to staying at home or quick trips to the grocery, may our thoughts reach far beyond these limits to others we know or don’t know who are alone or hurting. And may we look to the eternal, that which knows no boundaries in time or space. We have hope. Easter is coming.
Click to Tweet: He knew on February 26th what was coming for me and all of us, and still He laid it on my heart to sacrifice. When I stay my craving it not only makes me think of Christ’s sacrifice, it also now reminds me that there are individuals and families around the world sacrificing much more, and hurting far more than I am. It reminds me to think about others to pray for. It gives me the opportunity to look outside myself.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. On the Christian calendar, it marks the 40 days leading to Easter. For our Jewish brothers and sisters, this season includes Passover. Both events profoundly changed the course of history. Both included a sacrificial lamb that today should give us all reason to pause. How do we do that in a time when we have high demands on our time? How do we find and recognize the peace of ultimate sacrifice when we have “noise” all around? We have to make a personal decision-we must be intentional.
In the Christian faith, some choose to give up something of pleasure during Lent. I’ve also heard of people adding something positive to each day, like an act of kindness, a donation, or a special devotion. Whether you are giving up a vice or pleasure or taking up a kindness, the goal is to point us to the eternal, to our Heavenly Father, who made the ultimate sacrifice which was also the ultimate act of grace, mercy, and kindness.
Most of us don’t have fatted calves to demonstrate our faith, but we carry with us many other things we can lay at the foot of the cross- pride, control, self-centeredness and the list goes on. But there are tangible things we can do to refocus.
My family is in an odd season of change. Some of it is exciting, while other things are stressful with the potential for good. This season has brought my husband and I to a decision to pray together every day; not just periodically. Our prayers are for today and the future. Just as in the Lauren Daigle song, First, we bring our hearts before we bring our needs. Above our requests, we want to walk in God’s will; to align the will of our hearts with that of Godliness.
Personnally, right now it’s harder for me to sacrifice something than to do something positive, so I will be giving up soda pop. It may not see hard, but I have a Coke Cola every day. Last weekend we bought a case at Costco that will now have to wait until Easter. And my trips to McDonald’s will be limited to a portion of my daily sodium intake allocated to french fries. To sacrifice this guilty pleasure, I will replace some of the sugar with fruit and the caffeine with coffee. Those things are what draw me to a soda. What I will miss is the effervescence of the bubbles, and the sweetness of the perfect mixture that dances across my tongue with every draw from the straw (let’s face it, the only way to enjoy a carbonated drink is over ice and through a straw). So, until April 12th I will not drink any carbonated drinks.
Will this grow my faith? It is a real sacrifice for me, and every morning I will think of it when I’m not feeling the mist from the Coke falling over the cubes in my to-go cup, or I pass by my local McDonald’s; or at lunch when I go looking for another boost of bubbles. When I experience what I’m missing, I’ll say a little prayer, listen, and expect to hear His voice.
All the best,
For every faith, there are rituals used to draw the participants into the worship experience. For those in the evangelical Christian church, we have very few rituals. During worship services, there is music, communion, and a message. What I’m about to say is going to make me sound very old, but I’m going there. The contemporary Christian churches are building the worship music performance to the point of concert status. The loud music, lights flashing and waving, the imagery on the multiple screens do not help prepare hearts for the word of God to be shared. They don’t. It’s just a reminder of the craziness of the world we come to church to escape for a few hours. Psalm 46:10 is my go-to-prepare-my-heart-for-worship verse, Be still and know that I am God. God of creation, transcending time and space. He is bigger than all our worries, we should come humbly to Him.
One Sunday a few months ago the electricity went out in the sanctuary. The worship team didn’t have the lights or screens. They just had their voices and the words of praise. It was wonderful. They led us in a couple of songs, and the voices of believers were raised to the rafters praising God and inviting Him into the worship hour. As the last note echoed out of the sanctuary, we were calm and ready to receive the blessing of the message.
I heard a preacher, Alister Begg, once say that your church experience for Sunday morning begins Saturday night. He asked if we went to bed at a reasonable hour like we would throughout the workweek, so we can wake up refreshed, or are we up late, and partying? Do we get up on Sunday and go to church with prepared hearts for hearing God’s word and how it applies to our life, or do we scramble out the door fussing and arguing with our families about the issue of the morning?
Walking into the sanctuary are we intentional about leaving our to-do lists outside? Set our hearts on things of God, and pray for an open mind and ears to receive what He would have us learn about Him or ourselves in the passage the preacher shares. Are we ready to be attentive?
Don’t misunderstand, music is a wonderful form of worship. If you see me singing in my car, it’s probably worship music. But have we let the music in our churches become so much of a performance, we’ve forgotten about its purpose in preparing our hearts for God? Where is the quiet reverence of coming to the foot of the cross?
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Psalm 95:1
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing. Psalm 100:1-2
There is plenty of Biblical talk of singing, and use of instruments, but nothing of performing, and flashing lights. We are to be distinctive from the world, and this worship style is not the way to do it.
It’s just my thoughts.
This week is considered Holy Week, or Passion Week. It is the week leading up to the death and resurrection of Christ. While I’m not one to do anything for lent, I do think this week and the events it leads to is worth a pause and consideration. I do believe that Christ came, lived a perfect life, and died as the final blood sacrifice for the redemption of all people. He did not hang on the cross looking down and choosing people out of the crowd so as to say, “I’m dying for you, but not your neighbor.”
The parable of the lost sheep tells us that even if His sacrifice was needed for one lost soul, God would have still sent Him. But we all needed His death, and more importantly, His resurrection.
Christ was dead, wrapped in burial cloths, closed into a tomb, and guarded. Daytime went dark, and the earth shook with distress. He who was the purest of truth, love, and peace, was dead.
While there is speculation about what happened to his soul during those three days, perhaps he did descend into hell to do time for those he had died for. Those who would accept Him as their Savior, by-passing the hell they deserve. I don’t really know. The bigger point is that three days later, He walked out of His grave. He beat the one thing man can’t do on his own-a final death.
This Holy Week, may we live expectantly. May we live a celebration over our own final death, and the joy that we will someday walk with our Savior in paradise.
All the best,
#holyweek #passionweek #resurrectionsunday
I had no idea what to expect. For once in my life, I had slowed down enough to really hear what was being said. “You need to come; sooner, rather than later.” It wasn’t convenient. I had just returned from a work trip, I didn’t want to leave again. But the words stuck, “you need to come now.” Within 48 hours of returning from Minnesota, I was on a plane headed for Florida. She had only said that he had been sleeping a lot more lately, and not eating much.
Dad was 92 years old. To be honest, over the last few years, I noticed him slowing down; the walker, the hearing loss. At the end of each of our last few visits (over a couple of years), I would wonder if it was the last visit. Truly hearing her words were a blessing, “You need to come now.” So, I went.
I had three days with him. Not knowing much about how this end of life stuff worked, I didn’t realize that these were three of his last seven days. He did sleep a lot. But when he was awake, we shared some extraordinary moments. We had conversations about spiritual matters, about my work and my son moving to college. There were times in our conversation when he, like many other times, was strong in his opinion. It was good to see the spark still come from a weakened 90-pound man. He was still in there. Months ago, his distinctive voice, that I pray never leaves my memory, diminished. His deep but friendly voice carried the spirit of what he believed in his heart.
Dad was kind-hearted and believed in helping where and when he could. He believed in getting a good education and being productive. He shared often that everyone has something to contribute. He had a big spirit, but a humble heart. I remember him telling me once, “if you have something you don’t need, but someone else does, you should give it to him. That thing isn’t doing you a bit of good but could make a difference to the next guy.” Dad was full of what he called his little “sermons.” While probably too many times in my life I didn’t listen, sometimes I did and would decide for myself if that was a belief I would adopt.
Sitting with him at his home in Florida, I saw a very big personality, active every day, taking interest in many things, fading. He had spent his years getting up every day and doing something. They would go visit friends, play golf, fish, play cards, rock hunt, yard sale, find something to do. In the course of that activity, there was always somebody to meet, or an adventure to be had. This, of course, led to dad having more stories to tell. “We met this fella…”
Dad always had a notebook of paper and a pen. He would be doodling or designing. His mind was moving, even when he was sitting. He left the writing to me, although during the years he lived in Saudi Arabia, he wrote some of the most wonderful letters.
During our recent visit, when he was quiet, I imagine his mind was still moving. He knew he wasn’t long for this world. His health had failed to the point of having hands too swollen to hold a pencil. His eyes could no longer see to peruse books or magazines. He shared that he no longer had a purpose.
Like so many other times in his life, dad didn’t realize that even in those last seven days, he had a purpose. Three of those days at least, his purpose was to slow his “middle daughter down” in order to connect one last time, to appreciate not in some naive way, her dad. For all of his imperfection, he was my dad, he brought me into this world. He loved me. Like many other parent/child relationships, we had seasons of distance. But those seasons have faded over the last 30 years, to come to the blessing of an adult relationship. One that allowed me to appreciate and love dad for who he was and what he brought to our relationship.
Sitting in his recliner that weighed twice what he did, his eyes were crystal blue. I sat close to save his voice from straining, and to ensure I could hear him. He recalled stories of years past with such detail that I didn’t even remember. Other times, he would just look straight into my eyes. We connected without words. He was my father. And he was fading from this world into the next. He was being called home. His effervescent spirit was calm, he had peace.
The morning I left, he really wanted to go to the airport. Selfishly, I didn’t think I could handle my good-bye to be at the Delta (#deltaairlines) curb. But if he wanted to, I would get over it and enjoy the ride to the airport. After getting dressed and a small breakfast, he decided to stay home. I have to wonder if he had the same thought I did about where our farewell would take place. We held hands and I looked into his eyes unable to say goodbye, I told him I would see him again. Our conversation of spiritual matters and the Bible assured me of that. The last two words dad said to me were whispered, “Love you.”
Thank you, dad, for your spirited example of living. May our lives honor that through continuing to be life-long learners, kind-hearted people, and productive citizens.
Many look to the Christmas season for memory-making. We get together with family and friends, share time and some fun. The best memories from these times aren’t the ones that are made to happen. The extraordinary memories are those moments that happen organically. They are extraordinary moments that fate brings together and that leave an impact on our hearts.
Recognize an extraordinary moment by being in the moment. Go through this holiday season and all of your activities, both new and the every-year traditions, focused on the place, the people and the activity. Be mindful to not let outside distractions rob you of a memory-making moment. Enjoy the events and times you will have in the coming weeks.
One of my favorite passages in the Christmas story is Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Mary wasn’t distracted by the stink of the barn, or the sounds of the animals, or possibly the disappointment of having her firstborn far from home and away from family. It wasn’t her perfect plan, it was God’s, and she rolled with it. She took it all in.
While Mary’s extraordinary moment changed the course of history, ours probably won’t. But if we are paying attention and taking in the times that have potential, they may change the course of a relationship or even our lives.
Merry Christmas (#merrychristmas) season,