When death was arrested

We have been faced in our community with a young life lost – in a tragic accident a happy holiday will forever be shifted for a family.

We stood beside them and watched their immense strength in the face of this trial. Even though they shed tears, they remained level, optimistic and a light in their darkest times.

I recently listened to Rend Collective’s newest song, “Weep with me”, and one of the lyrics goes as such:

“What was true in the light,
is still true in the dark.”

When we walk through the high-times in life. When things are going well, when everything just FITS, we are rejoicing in the good things of God. But do we still have the confidence in who God has shown Himself to be even in the dark times?

God remains the same in every situation. Our hope remains solely in who He is. Not in our circumstances. God doesn’t change because a medical test came back better than we hoped, or when a new baby is born, or when we are burying our babies. God remains faithful, ever-loving, ever faithful and ever kind.

And He does weep with us. He cares for our hearts and what when we suffer. God is always with us.

And while this song was originally about the tragedy that continues to plague Europe, it applies to so much of life, death, tragedy and misfortune.

We were faced with the what-if’s of a tragedy, what-if that same thing happened to us? What if we as parents found ourselves in the same shoes? Previously any time I had gone down the dark path of “what-if” it always led to a panic-inducing place where my heart would run away before my brain could catch up. I’ve seen people lose children before, it has always been life shattering devastation and I expected no less if that awful thing ever happened to us.

But something changed in my heart and mind after being with this family.

Death wasn’t the end.

Death was leading to LIFE. Life in Jesus, and an ever present need to seek life for OTHERS. In the moments that they spoke sweet life into friends and family in the cold waiting room as their child was prepared for burial, LIFE began to spring up all around. Death wasn’t the end as so many of us perceive it, even us Bible believing Christians we can see death as the end.

That’s not what Jesus intended for His believers. We were to live life, abundantly, He took on death and He arrested it (if you haven’t heard “Death was Arrested” you are living under a rock), so that we could live life eternally and with eternity in mind.

While so many people are crushed on the immeasurable weight of death, my hope is that I will stand firm in who God is, in the light and in the dark.

Don’t let him win

Hey ladies – I’m going to write specifically to you – not that men can’t experience this as well, but I have had a lot of friends talk to me about this struggle recently.

About a year ago I was struggling with anxiety and letting fear rule my life. A tragedy had happened with another pastor’s wife in a few states over and it really shook our denominations world. It felt too close to home, and having just moved to our new appointment, I was feeling very insecure and nervous. A new neighborhood, new people, no idea what these people were like, and being 6 months pregnant with out youngest made for a very rough go.

I remember lying awake for hours at night, running through scenario after scenario of what would do if an intruder came into our house. How would I protect my children? How would secure a future for them from some unnamed assailant. And I would cry. I would shake. But mostly – I would just lie there until my eyes would betray me and I would fall into a fitful sleep only to awake the next morning thanking God that I had made it through another night.

Phew.

That was exhausting writing that out. I can still remember how exhausting it was to live it.

That’s the funny thing with fear, though, isn’t it? I was terrified. I was trying to maintain control of my household.  was the protector of my family. Fear makes you scramble to control your situation. Fear makes you the center of your life. Fear disables you from what is really happening.

That doesn’t sound right as a Jesus follower, does it?

I remember after months of lying awake and worrying and fretting, (I even think my husband was out of town, which made it 10x worse), I had had enough of ME.

As I laid there, I knew. I knew that somewhere deep inside me that I had tried to regain control of my life. That I was somehow the master of my destiny and all outcomes of my life were up. to. me.

And that’s not how life works as a Jesus-follower.

Looking up at the ceiling, I felt those God-nudges again. I knew, I knew that what I was doing was wrong. I knew that God had never been unfaithful to me. That even though evil lives here, God is perfect and good. And no matter what happens to my earthly body, I will live forever with God in heaven when He deems it fit.

“God, I am terrible at running my life my way. I give you my precious babies, Lord, You see them, You know them, You are their Father and will take tender care of them as will you take care of me. Whatever the outcome of my life, let it glorify You. I will not worry about what outcomes happen, I give everything over to you.”

I closed my eyes and had the best, most restful sleep I had had in months. I awoke the next morning refreshed and my spirit renewed.

It didn’t happen over night that my anxiety and fear were gone, it took willful action on my part to every night take my mind hostage and fixate on Jesus before falling asleep, but the longer I have done it, the more secure I am in what Jesus has done and so much so, that I no longer have to fight myself to sleep at all. I am free in my mind and heart from the fear that so easily entangles.

I mentioned at the beginning that I was writing to the ladies – and you can see where men can take from this too – since fear isn’t female exclusive. But a lot of us mommas tend to fret and worry over our babies and the fear of something awful happening can seem crushing.

Just know that trusting Jesus with your babies is the most freeing thing in the world – and necessary for your walk. Jesus is much better at being there for your babies then you are, although we try really, really hard. 😉

Precious ones – let go of your fear and live a life abandoned to Christ and Christ alone. Our control tricks us into thinking WE have power. We don’t.

 

Edification of the Saved

I have had a lot of internal struggles lately.

I have a group of 40-50 non-Christian friends, or some who claim a bit of faith, but no relationship with Jesus. And we talk, constantly. I’m one of the only people in our group who is following Jesus and so a lot of time there will be negative talk about Christian’s and Christianity in general, and it is very eye-opening to see how we are perceived to the non-Christian community.

It’s not flattering, people.

They see us in a completely different light, and our “Christian” culture items (movies, mainstream music, items) come under scrutiny on a regular basis. The favorite mock-piece is anything produced or published by Kirk Cameron. And after seeing what they are looking at – it is very…Surface level.

There is zero depth to what we as Christian’s are consuming, and if this is our portrayal of Christ to others, what are we trying to drive home? Messages over-simplified as to allure the new believer? Or a feel-good movie for the more mature believer so that we have “quality” content that we can watch.

As someone who is in contact with non-Christian’s so much, I am beside myself by the things we say are “wonderful” or “amazing” in our Christian culture. What we are producing is something for Christians, but in reality, it’s not going to get anyone closer to Christ.

Even one I really DID appreciate (The Shack) was lackluster in it’s answers that they gave to the poor mourning father. Questions that my friends are constantly asking, “If God is so good, why would x, y, z, happen?” And I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the answer, a thoughtful engagement. Instead a pithy answer was given and the plot moved along.

I’m tired of “the plot moving along”. I want someone to give substantial answers, so when the inevitable review comes out, that my friend’s get to that point and go, “oh, that makes sense.” Instead of mocking the insincerity of the point.

Are we seeking to save the lost or are we seeking to save the saved? The image that keeps coming to my mind is that of coast guards rescuing people. They pull ten people out of the water with life savers, they get them on the deck of the ship, and then continue to give them lifesavers instead of throwing them into the water to save the rest of the people.

Saved people don’t need to be saved. So why do our “Christian” answers not reflect that?

I’ll continue to ponder this, and my lack of answers as well.

Conflict

Sometimes conflict can happen in the most unlikely of places. Personally, for me, it occurred in a planning meeting. Innocuous as one would seem, tempers fly and people get heated.

I often wonder what it looks like to have true Christ-like conflict. I’m sure the bitter feelings afterwards wouldn’t happen, or the anger, or the distrust. Often times in the Bible it says that we are “brothers and sisters” in Christ – and what do we know about brother’s and sister’s, folks?! They fight. A lot. I mean, sure, you’ll get the odd sibling-set that doesn’t fight or say anything mean to one another, but those are one in a million cases.

So why does the Bible use the brother/sister imagery to depict it’s believers? Maybe because in any group of people, people will get heated, hurt, bossy, mean, or bullying.

I believe it has to do with the fact that while brother’s and sister’s may squabble, at the end of the day they love each other. They share a bond that is hard to break. They are their first friends. And the Love of our Father binds us together as He patiently seeks to make our hearts more like His.

As we look to how to resolve conflict with our brothers and sisters, we need to keep what Christ has to say at the forefront of our minds.

 

Prayer

Prayer is a funny thing.

It is a direct communication line to God – not that He necessarily needs us to get into a prayer posture to be able to hear us – but we need to get into a prayer posture in order for us to feel heard.

We are currently in the midst of a storm with friend’s of ours. A serious medical condition has turned their life a different direction than they had planned. Uncertainty and anxiety are ebbing away at them. The only closure to this medical issue was a risky surgery, it wasn’t convenient, it is dangerous, and the consequences are severe should it not go as planned.

I awoke this morning with the surgery heavy on my heart. I began to pray fervently that God’s blessing’s would be on the surgeons, that the couple’s hearts would be calm, their children be calmed. And then my anxiety addled brain began to think about the what-if’s:

“What if something goes wrong?”

“What if the bad outcome happens?”

“What if they are never the same?”

“What if the unimaginable happens and he doesn’t even make it through the surgery?”

And then I began to pray against my negative thoughts and pray that God be glorified and that only He would be shown through this situation and how much better would it be for God’s witness if things were to go well?

And that’s when God did one of those funny thing’s with my heart. After having been a Christian for 16 years (in August! Hey!), I’ve learned when God’s gentle rebukes are coming and a lesson is on the way.

God began to speak to my heart – The what-if’s are always a possibility. Things happen in life, everything is in God’s will.

God began to show me that when I pray, I’m always asking for things, and wanting things, and begging to change His mind about certain outcomes – but that’s not how God works. God isn’t a genie. He isn’t here to grant wishes. He doesn’t expect us to pray a certain way and then He will grant our desires. No. Prayer is much more than that. God’s understanding is more than that.

As I sat there feeling the stirrings, it became clear. I needed to pray that my will aligns with God’s in this situation. I’m still young and eager, and God is infinitely more wise than I am. God has this. God knows this situation. God knows these people. His will is perfect.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

And that verse ran through my mind two or three more times, and I began to change my attitude about how I was praying.

“God – align my will with yours. You are God of the universe and see our hearts and minds and I thank You for all You do in and through our lives. No matter how much we want to control the outcome.”