Narrow Is The Path

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This year has been a horrible one for me and my family. Mostly losses, but also strained relationships, heartaches, broken dreams, health issues, and on and on. It’s like I could list a “record of wrongs”, but in a different way than 1 Corinthians 13 speaks of.

As I sit and think about Thursday’s theme, Walking Into My New Adventure, I’m not all that thrilled. There’s a quote I heard awhile back that keeps coming to mind.

We’re not afraid of the future, but of the past repeating itself.

Yep. Right on. Hit the nail on the head. I am afraid of reliving the nightmares that have come this past year (and years before).

Who will be diagnosed with cancer this year?

What dreams will fail this year?

What will I do wrong to make someone block my calls this year?

Who am I going to lose in my life this year?

Shall I go on? Let’s not. Rehashing it just makes it worse.

But it’s true. Just because my mom had cancer, didn’t mean my father-in-law was immune to it, because he was diagnosed, too.

Just because my brother survived a car accident, didn’t mean my cousin would…because didn’t.

Just because our business was going well, didn’t mean something would come in and wreck havoc on it all…because it did.

There’s a whole lot of grief going on in this household right now and I can only imagine how many of you are experiencing it, too.

What kept coming to mind were The Beatitudes. Our pastor had a series of sermons on these and he picked them apart for us which was a big eye opener. I now see them and read them in a whole new light.  Here’s what I mean…

Jesus didn’t say “Blessed are those who are happy all the time, because they will get everything they desire.”

No, He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus didn’t say “Blessed are those who never experience loss or sadness, because they will won’t ever need Me to comfort them.”

No, He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Just picking out another one, out of order…

Jesus didn’t say “Blessed are the ones who cause heartache and chaos, for they will be called sons of God.”

No, He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

You see…our lives aren’t supposed to be perfect. Our lives aren’t supposed to be filled with only  happiness. If they were, why would we need God?  Why would we develop a relationship with Him? What would lead us to Him?

I’d love to say that at all times, I only go to God when great things happen. I do thank Him, but sometimes it’s in the wrong order.  (Yes, I did just confess to that…)  Sometimes I thank people before Him. Sometimes I praise others before Jesus when I am blessed.  Saying this makes me cringe.  But, in all honesty, it’s true.

Oh, here’s another good one….

Jesus didn’t say “Blessed are the ones whose motives and hearts are selfish and full of vain, for they will see God.”

He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

How my heart longs to see the face of Jesus….I can’t barely stand it!  I. Cannot. Wait. But that pure in heart thing? I think I need to work on that. Every single day. Every moment of every day.

My excuse is not simply that I’m not pure in heart because I’m a sinner and was born into sin.  No, this is something to really work on.

I mourn the loss of so many loved ones right now; I am poor in spirit almost more than I have ever been; my ability to make peace at this very moment is a huge struggle….and you already know how I feel about the pure in heart piece.

I’ve got a lot of work to do.

This is me…walking into a new adventure.

The adventure might not look all that exciting. In fact, thinking of dealing with these things kinda scares me. But, this is my adventure. Is it completely new? No. But am I willing to take a try at it again? Yes. Hopefully over and over and over again, taking up my cross daily.

I don’t know how your year has been. I don’t know if you’re mourning, or hurting, or poor in spirit, but I can tell you that you aren’t alone.

Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? If so, you will be filled! That’s good news!

All of these “Beatitudes” come with a blessing–at least in my eyes. When we walk with God; when we lay it all at His feet and come boldly before the throne for help, He is there to help.

And the reward? Well, it may not be a perfect life and it may have it’s struggles like mine did this year, because our reward is in heaven. That’s when we receive the prize for taking this crazy adventure with Him!

Matthew 7:13-14 tells us in Jesus’ own words, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Take Jesus’ hand and follow Him on that narrow road. The adventure He has for us awaits. While we’re being navigated on this road, He will lead us. He won’t leave us, He won’t forsake us, He will join us in this adventure of life….the life that leads to eternal life with Him.

I hope you’ll join me. I’d love to have you there…

 

Mary, Did You Know?

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“Mary, Did You Know” by Kenny Rogers and Wynona Judd

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm the storm with His hand?

Did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little Baby, you’ve kissed the face of God?

Mary did you know?

Mary did you know?

The blind will see.
The deaf will hear.
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap.
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb.

Oh, Mary did you know that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will one day rule the nations?

Did you know that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.

Mary did you know?

I can only imagine the feelings this teenage girl felt when she found out she was with child–and that this child would be the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the God of all creation. Can you imagine it?

I don’t know if anyone could comprehend what was about to happen. There were prophets who foretold of the Savior’s coming and his time on earth in His human form, but what really went through Mary’s mind?

As a mother, myself, I anticipated the births of our children.  I read the books, I listened to the stories, I went to the pre-birth classes, but in all honesty, it really didn’t prepare me for what I truly felt and experienced when each of our sons was placed into my arms and I saw them for the first time.

No words can describe the unconditional love you feel                                                             when you meet your baby face-to-face.

It is truly a miraculous experience.

Yet, I wasn’t carrying and delivering the Savior of the world.  I was carrying my child…that my husband and I would raise together. (Okay, to be politically correct, our children do belong to God…I really have learned that lesson…) We are responsible to teach them the ways of the worlds vs. the ways of the bible and compare-hoping when they are old enough, they would choose to follow Jesus.  Not to take anything away from our children’s births, but Mary’s birth was quite different.

Her son came to teach HER the ways of God.

Instead of us teaching our children, He came to deliver HER from sin and death.

It’s almost incomprehensible to me…

Mary was chosen out of every single woman on earth, to carry the Messiah.  What a privilege…what an honor!  I was chosen to carry my babies…and what an honor that was.  But you and I both know that isn’t even a comparison.

Each Christmas season, it seems a new song becomes my favorite.  This year it’s “Mary, Did You Know” and as you see, I wrote the lyrics out and added the song to this post.  Ironically, Isaiah’s high school choir sang it for this year’s Christmas Choir Concert.  I bawled the whole time…(and not just the “simple tear down the cheek” cry…the all out sobbing!  Good thing it was pretty dark in there.)

I sat wondering…did she know what was in store for Jesus?  The miracles He would perform?  The way the lame would speak praises to Him after being healed…the way the blind would see again just by Jesus touching a man’s eyes. Imagine being deaf and in a split second, you can hear…all because of this man a named Jesus.  Did Mary have that mother’s intuition?  Did she know this would all happen?

When the lyrics ask if Mary knew that when she kissed her little baby, she was kissing the face of God, I cried even harder.  I thought of my baby…being kissed by God now.  I thought of my mom whose face has very recently been cradled in Jesus’ hands and how He has looked right into her eyes and smiled.  I thought of the others who have passed and how they are truly seeing the face of God.

But did Mary know all of this?  Did she have doubts?  Did she wonder if it would really all happen like it was foretold, with the child she gave birth too?

All the questions that rise up because of the birth of one little boy.  I could go on and on.  How come He had to be born in a manger?  A trough?  Well, maybe it was a way to show how humble we all should be.  A hospital bed, a barn, an ambulance…does it matter?  Once the baby is born, it really doesn’t matter if it was a gold-plated nursery bed or a manger filled with straw.

The animals that surrounded Him…that gave Him comfort and warmth.  Think of the people who surround us and can’t give us nearly as much comfort and warmth that a simple animal could give Jesus. God gave them just what they needed.

This season of celebrating Christ’s birth can get so out of hand with “worldly” things and tasks.  That’s why I love the lyrics to this song and love the way it reminds us why we are celebrating.  It’s the miracle of a new-born babe so many years ago.

A simple birth of a mighty King.  One Who wants to rock our worlds…change our lives…bring us to freedom.  Will you let Him in this Christmas?  Do you have room in your busy schedule of shopping, wrapping, hosting or going to parties, making the perfect meal–whatever it is you’re working on–to just allow time to sit and celebrate this miracle birth? To really think about what happens those years ago?

Invite Him into your celebration.  Read the story of His birth.  Pray together…and I mean, really pray together. Make room for Him this Christmas.  Make room for him in your heart.  He’s standing at the door, waiting to be a part of your life.  Will you let Him in?

 

Mistake after Mistake

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Boy, do I make mistakes.

Sometimes it feels like I make so many and will never be forgiven for them. My mind is like a movie reel that replays the mistakes over and over and over again.

“What did you do that for?”

 “Didn’t you learn last time?”

“Why do you keep screwing up?”

It’s almost as if each morning I wake up and plan to make so many mistakes even before the boys leave the house for school. Of course, I don’t plan on that, but it happens; and it happens way too often. And that movie reel just keeps playing…

“Again?  Really…again?”

Now, generally, when I make a mistake or do something unkind towards someone, I apologize and ask for their forgiveness.  Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t…at least not at that moment. And that pierces my heart. I guess I want their approval so I can forgive myself.

When I know I’ve messed up, I do try to live differently. But just like every single human on the face of this earth, I continue to screw up. Sometimes in big ways, sometimes just with myself.

I am imperfect and I am a sinner.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way justifying what I do and what I continue to do. I actually feel like Paul writing to the Romans. Starting in chapter 7 verse 15:

I do not understand what I do. For what I WANT to do, I do not do–but what I HATE, I do. (Emphasis mine)

Verse 17 says:

 As it is, it is no longer I, myself, who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18) I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19) For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

Skipping to Verse 24:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  25) Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! 

We are born into sin. We are not immune to it. We sin on purpose—we sin without knowing it—we are just plain and simple: sinners.

But the story doesn’t end there.

 Right after Paul speaks of the wretched man he is, he writes this in Romans 8:1-2:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

 Every single day, I need Jesus.

Every single moment I need His forgiveness.

I need Him to set me free from sin and death.

Not so life can be perfect; not so I can avoid trials; not so I won’t make any further mistakes; but so when I do screw up (and I will), I can repent, turn from my ways with God’s help, and be free. That’s my goal.

Repent. Turn from my sin. Change my ways. Be forgiven. Be free.

Free from eternity in hell—free from the bondage of sin—free from that movie reel that insists on playing in my mind. The list goes on…

Without Jesus, I am nothing. Absolutely nothing. But with Jesus, I am forgiven, saved, loved, accepted, and totally free.

“Utterly dependent, but totally free.”

I’m guessing many of you also struggle with your own sin and guilt. It seems easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves at times. The Good News is that Jesus died for all of us to give us freedom from sin.

He knocks at our door waiting to be invited in. He’ll never push His way into our lives. He wants us to ask Him in. His invitation is beautiful…

“28) Come to me, all who weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. 29) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30) For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

What a precious gift! An invite to a life where we don’t have to carry the burden. We can lay it at His feet and walk away. Not to go simply go back to our sinful lifestyle, as if we’re given a license to sin; but for us to lay our burdens down, turn from them, and walk in freedom towards a better future.

Have you accepted that invitation from Him? Have you accepted the free gift of salvation and eternal life that only comes through accepting Him as your Lord and Savior? If not, I invite you to ask Him into your life today.  That is my prayer for each of you…to experience the beautiful forgiveness that comes from the sacrifice He made upon that cross.

Jesus doesn’t  want us tied up in the shackles of our sins and mistakes. He wants to give us freedom. We only need to accept it.

May you be blessed as you ponder these questions.  May you find the peace that passes all understanding…the complete peace that can only come from Him.

God bless you, my friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overwhelmed, Not Overcome

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I wonder if I were to take a poll, if December would be listed as the “busiest” month of the year.  Most celebrate Thanksgiving and move right into the Advent season, anticipating Christmas.  There are trees to be put up, decorations to be put out, preparations for family gatherings, Christmas programs, Christmas parties, gifts to be purchased and the list goes on…

It can seem overwhelming.

It can feel like we don’t have enough time in the day (or weeks) to get it all done.  The hustle and bustle of “The Season” is in full swing.

However, for some, December may be the “calmest” month of the year.  The days can be filled with laughter while making cookies and gingerbread houses with grandchildren, filling shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, or even just sitting with family and reminiscing of the years gone past.

It can seem quite peaceful.

It can seem quite holy, if we allow it to be.

As a mother of boys (one with a December birthday), the month can sneak up on me and I can choose to be frazzled some years and calm the others.  I hate to admit it, but my mind tends to go back and forth between the two.

All can be calm or all can be chaotic. 

Let’s think about Mary for a moment and what this “preparation time” meant to her and Joseph.  They surely weren’t thinking of Christmas trees and gifts to purchase and goodies to be shared.  They were preparing for the most important event of all:  Jesus’ birth.

If we think WE get overwhelmed during this season, imagine the night Mary was going to give birth.  No room at the inn.  Nowhere to lay Mary down for her to labor and give birth to the King of Kings.

I’m not sure about you, but when I was in labor, I wanted them to meet me at the door of the hospital with the epidural!  I know friends who had planned and unplanned home births and most of them went well.  Almost all had a midwife or an ambulance crew to assist.  But not Mary.  This was their first child and how were they to know what to do?  Talk about being overwhelmed!

You know what?  Maybe they were overwhelmed. But maybe, just maybe…they weren’t.  Maybe they were given peace and strength to get through the labor no matter where or how it happened.

Maybe they had faith that this God who placed Jesus in Mary’s womb would take care of them. 

    Just maybe they remembered something we often dismiss…

This December is a bit different for my family.  My mother passed away on November 20th.  Her funeral was November 28th.  She was a mere seventy-one years old.  If the Lord chooses, I will have many years to live without my mom.  Every single family gathering will have an empty chair; every opportunity for a memory to be made with her grandchildren is gone; every time I think I can call her…I can’t.

I am overwhelmed.  Not with Christmas trees or cookies or gifts or parties, but with grief. Loss. Heartache. Loneliness. I’m overwhelmed with more feelings than I can list right now.

But then I remember what Jesus says in John 16:33:  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Can I truly have peace amidst the grief, heartache and loss?  The reality that’s slowly setting in that I, as the only daughter, no longer have my mom to call/take care of/visit/hug/kiss?  Peace with that?

I think of Jesus’ words in 2 Corinthians 4 when He talks about “jars of clay”.  He tells us:  “7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

My heart says this those words are pretty spot on right about now…

Further in the chapter, He says:  “16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

This month, as I watch the craziness of the season, I will most likely still be overwhelmed.  However, I have the words Jesus spoke to comfort me.

He can remind me that I may be overwhelmed, hard pressed on every side, persecuted, struck down, but not destroyed.

He can remind me that I WILL have trouble in this world, but I really can have peace knowing He overcame it ALL.

I can fix my eyes on Him as I sense Him telling me, “Rochelle, precious daughter of Mine, do not lose heart.  I am inwardly renewing you day by day.  This feeling of grief and loneliness and heartache?  I promise you, these are light and momentary.  They are helping me achieve an eternal glory for you that will outweigh them all.  What you see today with your physical eyes can’t compare to what I am preparing for you to see with your spiritual eyes. 

Wait on me, Rochelle. I am working on you, molding you, creating you into who I want you to be.  One to bring me eternal glory. Place your trust in Me…your grief in Me…your entire life in Me. You may feel overwhelmed, but you will NOT be overcome.”

Oh gracious Jesus…thank You.  Thank You for overcoming death and the grave, so we don’t have to.  Thank you for giving us the best gift we could ever receive…eternal life with You.