A Moment Of Grace


If you watch Dancing With The Stars, you are well-acquainted with pro dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy. He is extremely talented, passionate, charming and is known for driving his dancing partners as hard as he can in order  to elicit the very best performance from them.

He can also be hot-headed and has a proclivity for letting loose a string of profanities when he is frustrated by his partner’s inability to follow his choreography.

Such a moment happened on last night’s show.

Maks’ partner for this season is Meryl Davis, the exquisitely talented ice dancing gold medalist at the Sochi Olympics.

Photo Credit: People.com

Normally they are perfectly in sync but last week, Meryl had great difficulty following along. Maks went ballistic. He tossed out f-bombs, accused Meryl of being timid, and angrily placed his hand over the camera lens in complete and utter frustration.

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If I am honest, I admit that I would have told him in no uncertain terms that I would not be treated in such a manner and would have stormed out of the room.

But that is not what Meryl Davis did.

She stayed.

She did not allow herself to be caught up in his toxic emotions and refused to allow the situation to escalate by remaining calm.

She did not let that torrent of anger drive her from the room because she knew that something deeper was happening in her partner’s heart. And she cared enough to find out what it was.

Approaching him, she made one request: “Hold my hand.”

And he did.

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In that moment, all the anger evaporated.

“I think you’re scared,” she said gently.

“Of what?”

“I don’t know. I wish I knew.”

Then the confession: “I’m terrified.”

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DWTS-0011This giant of a man, this tough guy who moments ago had been erupting in rage, became vulnerable and got honest about his fears.

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A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger…a gentle tongue can break a bone.” (Prov. 15:1; Prov 25:15)

They got through the practice session and on the night the show aired, their dance was amazing. In fact, they got a perfect score from the judges and the dance was an absolute joy to watch.

After the performance when Maks was being interviewed, he was still amazed at what Meryl had done for him.

“Nobody has ever said to me, ‘Hold my hand’ before,” he said.

Talk about the power of a moment. That act of kindness will most likely remain with him for a very long time.

It was certainly a compelling reminder to me that to match anger with anger never ends well.

Give grace when you can.

 

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The Beauty Of Easter


Each year, our church hosts a sunrise service at the parsonage on Easter morning.

Easter 2014-0006There is such a sense of excitement as we climb the driveway. The birds are singing and the sky is just beginning to lighten.

The long Saturday has given way to Sunday…and the world feels new!

We greet each other joyfully. Smiles abound and faces glow.

Just as the sun begins to peek over the mountains, we begin to sing.

Easter 2014-0099The people in the valley below have grown accustomed to being awakened every Easter by  the sound of our voices ringing through the morning air.

Once the singing is finished, our pastor takes his place in front of the crowd and opens his Bible.

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Easter 2014-0127Easter 2014-0118Hearing that familiar yet astonishing story of the empty tomb never fails to move me to tears.

Because of Easter…

*there is eternal hope.

* EVERYTHING we will ever need was secured for us.

* we have access to God Himself and can call ourselves the Bride of Christ.

* JOY reigns.

*we are totally secure, regardless of our circumstances.

*light triumphed over darkness

*death was forever conquered

*Jesus offers us the beautiful and awe-inspiring invitation to walk through this life with Him, every moment alive with divine purpose, sacred mystery, fierce love, and magnificent, breathtaking grace!

HE IS RISEN!!!

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Crown Of Thorns


I walked into our empty house yesterday morning after attending Bible study and saw this sight: Crown Of Thorns-0004 Apparently, my mom had placed this crown of thorns against the shades in our living room while I was gone.

My eyes immediately filled with tears.

On the  drive home, my thoughts had been filled with thoughts of so many earthly concerns that they had temporarily drowned out the knowledge that this is Holy Week. The week of Christ’s suffering and shame, betrayal, beating, crucifixion and ultimately His triumphant resurrection.

How easy it is to forget the eternal in the midst of the daily mundane.

The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head. They clothed Him in a purple robe and went up to Him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck Him in the face. (John 19:2-3).

This, of course, was done after Jesus had been beaten nearly to death by Roman soldiers with a flagrum whip. This whip consisted of multiple leather cords that were weighted with lead balls and pieces of sheep bone. The bone was designed to reach into the skin, latch onto it, and rip it out.

Jesus had been tied to a flogging post while the whip was used repeatedly (at least 40 times). This was an extremely bloody and painful process that was designed to humiliate and inflict maximum damage. Sometimes people would not survive this torture. They would often bleed to death as their arteries and veins were laid bare (sometimes their intestines would fall out, so severe was the beating) and the skin on the back would be left in ribbons.

Of course, Jesus did survive this brutality…only to have a painful crown of thorns pressed into his head. The Roman soldiers did not delicately place this monstrous crown on his head either. They would have pressed it deep into his skull so that it pierced and tore into his skin, causing blood to run down his face. After mocking Him and hitting Him some more,  they dragged him out in front of the crowd for all to see.

They did this to God in human form.

In his book A Violent Grace  (highly recommended), author Michael Card sets the scene: “Could that be Jesus?” one person whispers to another. Look! The hands that had healed them were bound. The head that bent over their children is pierced by spines. The face that lifted up thanks before feeding them by the thousands is streaked with blood. 

Jesus will carry that twisted crown of shame into the wasteland of our sin. He will become lost there and forsaken. 

Why?

To re-create and redeem this cursed world. Sinful man, who brought the kingdom of thorns down upon his own head, was helpless to save himself. But praise be to God! The One who wore those thorns like a crown DID conquer the curse. The writer of Hebrews tells us Jesus is now “crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9). —pp 88,90

We all know the rest of the story.

Jesus wore that crown of thorns on the cross where He died the most horrific death known to man.  He died the death that you and I deserve because of our sin. He took our place. He paid our fine.  He wore our shame so that we could know dignity. He took every single drop of God’s wrath against sin so that terrifying wrath would never fall on us. He was deserted by the Father so that we would always know His Presence and His love.

He wore that crown of thorns for me.

He wore that crown of thorns for you.

Yet how often we forget.

How often I forget His awe-inspiring sacrifice, His fierce, eternal love that reaches beyond the grave.

I needed to see that crown of thorns.

It is a vivid reminder that out of the worst horror, the greatest beauty emerged and death was conquered forever.

I had to end up moving the crown because it was poking holes into the shades.

My husband suggested that I place it on the mantle, in the middle of our JOY sign. Crown Of Thorns-0006

I think that is the very best place for that crown of thorns.

If Jesus had not worn that crown on Good Friday, we could never have known the Author of true joy.

I am unspeakably grateful.

May we never lose sight of the beauty of the Cross.

On one hand, the cross is a mirror held up to my sin that shows me, through the price that was paid, just how thoroughly lost I am:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23)

On the other hand, the cross is a window held up to my Lord that shows how greatly loved I am:

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

The cross of Jesus gives the gift of that great love to you and to me.

And there is no greater love.” —Michael Card, A Violent Grace, p. 181

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Invincible


 

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This morning, I read this  in Oswald Chambers’ famous devotional, My Utmost For His Highest:

“NO power on earth or in hell can conquer the Spirit of God living within the human spirit; it creates an inner invincibility.”

The word invincible means:
 *incapable of being conquered, defeated or subdued in any manner
*unyielding
*a position that cannot be taken by assault or seige
*having an unyielding spirit or stubborn persistence in the face of opposition or difficulty

My human spirit is certainly not invincible…but the Spirit of Jesus who lives in my heart is ALWAYS invincible.

My choice is, which one will I allow to prevail?

On a rainy, stormy day that matches the storm swirling  around me right now, I CHOOSE to be invincible in Him.

In Him and His strength:

I am incapable of being conquered.
I am incapable of being defeated.
I will not be subdued in any manner.
I am unyielding.
My position in Christ cannot be shaken by any assault or seige that the enemy might try to bring against me.
I am fearless in the face of opposition and difficulty.

If I listen to my feelings, none of that is true. But I have learned (through painful experience) to ruthlessly relegate tyrannical, ever-changing feelings beneath the rock-solid truth of God’s Word.

And through His Word, Jesus tells me this:

I give power to you when you are faint and weary and when you have no might, I increase your strength, causing it to multiply and making it abound…My grace, loving-kindness and mercy is enough for you. It is sufficient for any danger and enables you to bear the trouble…for My strength and power  show themselves most effective in your weakness…when you are weak in human strength, then I make you truly strong, able, and powerful in My divine strength. (Isaiah 40:29; 2 Corinthians 2:9-10, Amplified version).

My circumstances will not defeat me. Questions will not deter me. Doubts will not stop me. I will not believe the lies of the enemy and I will not allow my fickle feelings to have the final say.

There comes a time in every Christian’s life when Jesus requires you to walk solely by faith in His Person and His promises. I am in such a place right now.

But rather than bemoan my fate and whine about how difficult life is, I will allow this season to be a platform in which I show the watching world around me that I treasure Christ above all things this world has to offer.

I will allow the winds of adversity to fan His flame inside my heart and burn brighter than it ever has.

The darker things get, the more I will praise Him.

I refuse to be defeated.

Jesus cannot be conquered and as long as I take refuge in Him, I can’t either.

If you are a Christ follower and are going through a rough time, what about you?

What choice will you make?

Dare to believe your good God.

You are invincible in Him.

 

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A Fresh Shot Of Faith and Courage!


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It is a gray, rainy day in my corner of the world today.

However, the Son is shining brightly as I spend time with Him in the pages of my open Bible.

I am currently doing a fabulous study called “Amazed and Confused: When God’s Actions Collide With Our Expectations by Heather Zempel. I would highly recommend it.

At one point, the author suggested we look up Hebrews 10: 35-39. These verses made my heart sing. They blaze with hope and joy and serve as a reminder that no matter what we are facing today on this earth, we really do fight from a place of victory! Nothing that is happening to us is random.Whatever Jesus has allowed to come into your life,  it comes with great  and divine purpose.

Even the hard stuff is part of the great story of redemption that He is writing into your life and in a way that we cannot always understand, it is necessary.

So, I invite you to read and meditate on these verses and remember to keep an eternal perspective today. This life isn’t all there is.

Hold on.

Believe your great God.

Be strong and courageous.

Endure with joy: no retreat, no surrender.

Delight the heart of your Savior by walking in fearless faith.

Know and rest in the fact that Jesus is faithful. Always.

And He is coming again.

Do not fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God and thus receive and carry away and enjoy to the full what is promised. For still a little while ( a very little while), and  the Coming One will come and He will not delay. But the just shall live by faith and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in Him. But our way is not that of those who draw back to eternal misery and are utterly destroyed, but we are of those who believe,(who cleave to and trust in and rely on God through Jesus Christ, the Messiah) and by faith preserve the soul. (Hebrews 10:35-39, Amplified version).

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Choose Life!


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This morning at 3 a.m., I was wide awake.

Did you ever notice that in the middle of the night, your thoughts rarely turn to happy, peaceful things? There is something about the darkness that makes it very easy to allow your thoughts to run wild and to give into every fearful thought that enters your mind.

I have lived long enough to know that if I am awake that early in the day, that Jesus has something He wants to share with me. So I got up, grabbed my Bible and my fuel (Pepsi), and sat down next to the fireplace to meet with my Savior, who never sleeps. Isn’t that a comfort? My husband was sound asleep, blissfully ignorant of my insomnia. But Jesus was right there, delighted to see my face and hear my voice. (Song of Songs 2:14).

My directed reading led me straight to what Jesus wanted to say to me: “I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore, choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

CHOOSE LIFE!!!

I have heard that verse a million times over the years, but this morning at 3:20 a.m., it filled me with fresh joy!

And the good news is that I don’t have to wait until everything in my life is perfect to choose life! Neither do you! (As if there is such a thing as a perfect life this side of heaven!).

I  could sense Jesus’ smile as He whispered to me over and over through His Word, “Choose life! Choose life! Choose life!”  He had asked me to meet with Him in the pages of His precious word to give me His prescription against the darkness!

There is this beautiful thing that we have been given called free will. We really do get to make a choice here. Victory or defeat? Life or death? Worry or faith? Trust or unbelief? Fear or peace? Darkness or light?

This day is a gift to me from Jesus.

He has entrusted me with the next 24 hours and I get to make the choice as to how I will live this never-to-be-repeated day.

The good news is that I don’t have to let fear win. I don’t have to allow my faith to falter by looking simply at my circumstances. I don’t have to worry about this or that.  I don’t have to continually ask ‘why?’ or ‘how?’

All of those things represent death.

Instead, I can choose to walk in His Light. I can choose those things that represent LIFE: faith, love, hope, peace, joy, courage, strength!

And so can you, regardless of your surroundings or circumstances!

In His presence is fullness of joy! (Ps. 16:11).

That is exactly where I will CHOOSE to spend this day!

What will your choice be?

“Peace I leave with you; My own peace I now give to you…Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled!…In the world, you will have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer! Take courage, be confident, certain, undaunted! For I have overcome the world! I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you!…The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that you may have and enjoy life and have it in abundance: to the full, til it overflows!”—(John 14:27; John 16:33; John 10:10).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Timely Message


Did you ever have one of those days?

Yesterday was one such day for me. If anything could go wrong, it did.

At one point, it all just became too much. Life has been difficult lately and while there have been many moments of grace and victory, there are also moments of frustration, heartache, and sadness.

I had to pick up my daughter at the high school, so I stormed out of the house and climbed into my car.

On the way to the high school, I had it out with Jesus. Loudly.

As I have said many times on this blog, it really is okay to do that. He can take it and He always encourages honest dialogue. If we don’t get all the ugly out, it seeps into our hearts and goes deeper and deeper until it poisons us and those around us. Bitterness kills.

“WHEN does this season end?” I asked Him, not in a disrespectful way, but with the honest questioning of one of His own who is wounded and hurt and bewildered.

When will You turn the page on this season and lead us into a new one?”

Just then, my car turned the corner.

Our local ice cream shop had one word on their sign and it said this:

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SOON. 

Not “Opening soon” or “Coming soon.”

Just… Soon.

I was speechless.

I had just been talking to a friend the day before about how Jesus is always speaking…it’s just that sometimes we miss it.

It was impossible to miss this message from Him though.

Jesus met me at the lowest point in my day and spoke a message of hope that filled me with fresh joy in His nearness, His faithfulness, and His total and complete knowledge of me and all that I am feeling and thinking.

Do you need to hear from Him today?

First and foremost, stay in his Word. The Bible is “alive and full of power, making it active, operative, energizing, and effective…penetrating to the deepest parts of our nature, exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very purposes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12).

 Then  keep your eyes and ears open as you go throughout your day.

He may have a message waiting for you where you least expect it. :)

 

 

 

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