A True Picture of Community

community

Earlier this afternoon, a farmer from a mile down the road came up our way to share that one of his calves had gotten out.  Unless you are a farm family, you may not understand or appreciate what that may mean.  It might be a cherished pet, but more than likely it might be the money to pay an outstanding medical bill or be the very meat that will feed your family.  When a farmer hears of a cow out or some other issue on a neighboring farm, there is no need to think about what to do.  You just go help!

The boys pulled on their boots and were gone before being asked.  They spread wide knowing how to corral a calf that was enjoying it’s new found freedom.  They knew they had to act smart since this calf outweighed them and could out run them.  One can not underestimate the craftiness and danger of working with animals.

Our property was the closest so the calf was herded into a lot outside our milk parlor for holding while the owner got a trailer down to our place to load it and take it back home.

So what is the big deal?  Are we heros? NO. but that is just it.

Community is being able to understand the struggles of another and just doing what is needed to treat that neighbor as you would want to be treated yourself.

I felt compelled to sit down and write as there is so much that is being done and seen in our own nation in the name of “Community”.

There is so much that may be called Community, but is so far from it.

Community is not beating someone because they have a different skin color (and no, I don’t care what color the skin is of the attacker or the victim).

Community is not setting fire to personal property because you disagree with how someone voted.

Community is not waging war on the police officers that are just trying to enforce the laws that the American people put into place through their personal votes or those that they put into office.

Community is not forcing your own personal values on others to the point of destroying their business, places of worship, or homes.

Community is not about self worship, but putting others before yourself!

There is no greater example of this type of love than what Christ did for us in coming in flesh as we commemorate His birth at Christmas and His ultimate sacrifice and gift at Easter.

So let us not lose hope, but return to the greatest commandments given to mankind.

 

Let us love God first and each other more than ourselves!

Traveling Back

traveling-back

Coming back to writing has been a long time in getting here.  It hasn’t been a lack of things to write about, but so many different detours and side roads in life that it has honestly left me searching. Searching for directions.  Searching for answers.  Searching to make sense of all of the thoughts and feelings that each new challenge has brought to the surface.

During this past year, we have been adjusting to changes in our parenting.  We thought we faced challenges when our children were little.  No one really tells you about how that changes when you start parenting adult children.  And yes, you are still needed in a parental role as your children enter adulthood.  Their needs are different and the level to which you are actively involved in their decision making also changes.  It is a whole new ballgame with new rules.  And of course, the rules and needs vary from child to child.  Isn’t that just how life seems to roll? Changes and adjustments for everyone!

Our homeschool has changed.  We are now down to half of our beginning enrollment and a unisex school.  Just the boys and I!  Yes, it does matter.  Helping them grow into the men God is calling them to be is quite different in some ways than educating and raising our girls.  Our sons are yearning to be independent and taking on more control, decision making, and leadership.  These are all wonderful qualities and ones they will certainly need in becoming the heads of their own households some day.  However, it is a real balancing act right now in also still being under my authority in the schoolroom.  We are learning how to balance this and still allow them to flourish and grow.  Yes, mom is certainly going through a lot of growing  pains as well.

With all of this growth, we are seeing our “workforce” around the house and farm coming of age in taking on more responsibility, but also gaining wings and leaving for the next phases of their lives.  With two now in college and a young man beginning employment off the farm, we are feeling the changes in how we address the needs here at home.  Gary and I are also realizing that our kiddos are not the only ones aging so we feel like we are in a transition plan of sorts and really evaluating what God has for us in the coming years.  Part of this transition has been a rekindling of my professional life in taking on the role of Director of Advertising Sales with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  Being a virtual organization, it provides me with the opportunity to work from home.  However, it also comes with challenges of being here, but not here when my family needs me.  As with any job, these responsibilities that must be fit into our daily routine and sometimes last minute adjustments as needs arise.

Uncertainties? Questions? Worries? Confusion???

We find ourselves once again at a crossroads of sorts in feeling as if we have more questions than answers.  More uncertainties than firmly established plans.  So what is a person to do?

Just as our earthly bodies remind us that things are changing and not as solid as they once seemed, we are facing a future that does raise many questions.  We honestly are struggling.  According to the American Dream, we should be at the prime of our lives, preparing for retirement at seaside property, and having all the answers for our children and grandchildren as they come around in the coming years.  In using this as the measuring stick for success, I am sad to have to report that Gary and I are miserable failures.  But there is something that I am beginning to learn that may be a greater truth of golden value to carry us through our golden years.

We aren’t meant to have all the answers….

I have come to the determination that we really aren’t meant to have all the answers.  God is faithful to provide slivers of truth and direction as we seek Him, but we will never have all the answers.  Answers that reveal total security in how our needs will be met for years to come.  Answers to the most meaningful ways to spend the rest of our years.  Answers to just how our kids will turn out and who will they grow to be.  Answers to so many questions and prayers that feel unheard in the here and now.

This is the thing about having all the answers.  When we feel like we have it all under control, just know the next thing to do, and exactly how things will turn out, we lose all sight of our need for our Heavenly Father.  The most dreaded part of watching our children grow up is not feeling needed any more.  We so very much want them to be wonderful capable adults, but realize that as they do we are no longer needed in the same way.  It is in these days of such uncertainty and what feels like more than our fair share of questions without answers that my heart yearns more and more for long discussions over a hot cup of tea with my mom and seeking God’s Word for insights and direction.

In coming full circle and back on the main road from all of the detours, I can say that I am beginning to find comfort in questions without answers.  For it is in the seeking that I am forced to find answers from God the Father and learning more about who He really is.  These very truths are changing and molding me for a day when I will enter His courts with praise and worshiping He that sits on throne.  After all, the work He is doing in each of us unto completion is not to be successful according to the standards of this world, but for life everlasting in complete fellowship with Him.  This world is not our home!

When Counting Your Blessings is Hard

Counting BlessingsI was sitting in church this morning and was hit with a memory as if it was something that happened just yesterday.  In actuality, it was really 10 1/2 years ago.

Our youngest had been involved in a accident that caused part of one of his fingers to be amputated.  It was a surreal moment riding in an ambulance with my then 17 month old on my lap. His hand was bleeding profusely and the end of his finger was literally in a cup of ice on the other side of the rig near the paramedic.  How could this be happening I remember thinking?  We were transported to the local hospital which quickly determined that we would need to be transferred to Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati.

Once in the ER at Children’s, the plastic surgeons arrived to begin developing a strategy for reattaching my son’s finger.  I imagined that they would whisk him away to the operating room, but instead they decided to not wait for an OR to open up and would do the necessary work right there in the ER.  We were in a relatively large private room.  Up to this point, Josh was amazingly calm. There was no question that God’s presence was there.

However, that calmness was fleeting when they began to prep him.  They would need his arm restrained to a straight board while he was also placed in a papoose restraint to minimize any movements while the surgeon worked.  The nurses tried to calm Josh.  The recreation therapist with all of her tricks and tips was also unsuccessful.  The restraints threw him into a cycle of fear and anger.  The surgeon finally looked at me with all seriousness and commanded me to start singing his favorite song.

I found myself frozen.  Of all the things in the midst of my son screaming and holding him in his blood drenched clothes, the surgeon wanted me to sing.  Wanted me to sing his favorite song.

I couldn’t!

Before we had children, there was an older couple in our church that had counseled with us.  When we first became pregnant, one of their nuggets of wisdom was to sing hymns over our children instead of regular children’s lullabies.  They encouraged us to flood our children with Biblical truth in all aspects of their lives from the very beginning.  Can you see where this is going?

We had taken Wayne and Ginnie’s advice.  And fast forward to that ER at Children’s hospital, I find myself frozen as the surgeon tells me to start singing my son’s favorite song.  How could I?  Could I really in the midst of watching my son undergo surgery, covered in his blood, and scared begin to sing Count Your Blessings. 

Are you getting the picture? Do you see the irony?  There in the middle of that chaos, hurt, and scared feelings, God was using the surgeon and my screaming son to remind me more than anyone that even in the most difficult times, we need to pause to Count Our Blessings naming them one by one. I began to sing.  As the very first strains of that hymn were heard being sung in that room in the ER, my son was overcome with complete peace.  I watched in astonishment with tears rolling down my face as my son became completely calm and surrendered in the moment.  I was convicted as I humbly continued singing realizing that the words were growing louder as some of the nurses joined in.

But the story doesn’t end there…

Upon returning to the plastic surgery clinic a week later, it was determined that the grafting of our son’s finger did not take.  The prognosis by the doctors was 100% confidence that our son would still lose the end of his finger.  We turned to churches and friends for prayer.  The doctors offered nothing else for us to do, but to return in 6 weeks to assess the condition of his finger as the graft died away and fell from his hand. As a determined mom, I returned home to apply natural health strategies that I thought may offer some hope and lifted each treatment before the Lord.  It was now completely in His hands.

After the six weeks, we did return to the plastic surgery clinic as scheduled.  The doctors and nurses were in astonishment.  God had allowed a miracle against all odds and restored our son’s finger.

In some ways, I wish the story ended there, but God had a bigger plan.  In our humanness we want to tell God thank you ever so much for that miracle.  We can now use that for quite some time in sharing your greatness and power so there is no need for additional trials.  But His plan is greater and sometimes that requires a journey that requires a greater uphill climb and battle.

Just 10 days after that follow up appointment in the plastic surgery clinic, our family would face one of the most horrific and surreal experiences of our life.  Yes, more horrific and surreal than your child having his finger amputated.  In the days to come, I remember people asking me in disbelief how I could be still standing in the face of the adversity that we were facing. I shared countless times in those days how I served a God that grows back fingers and performs miracles.  I shared with them the important lesson I had learned in Counting My Blessings and Naming them One by One.

The days were not easy.  Many challenges would come to us especially over the course of that year.  However, I could still stand because I knew the author of the miracle and the one worthy of my praise for each blessing.  The key was in keeping my eyes on God and not just our circumstances, because God is always more powerful than the circumstances around us.  Sometimes He allows us to endure those days to show forth a miracle of healing and sometimes it is because we need the blessings of initial challenges to carry us through those that are yet to come.  And yes, there are those times that through sharing these experiences, we can also encourage one another.

So…

Keep counting your blessings.  Say them out loud. Record them in a journal.  Share them with a friend.  Utter them as worship and praise to our Savior. Give them as a gift and legacy to your children so that as they grow they may too know where to focus there eyes and place their hope.

 

Farmers are a season ahead, but God is in Today

These days seem to be marked with struggles to live in the present.  As our oldest recently left for college, there were so many moments when I found my mind drifting back to the past.  Moments of her learning to walk, teaching her to read just before bed as we poured over Charlotte’s Web, and watching her grow into the young adult that she is today.

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As farmers, we find ourselves spending a whole lot of time in the future.  Our lives seem to always revolve around preparing for the next season.  As summer is drawing to a close, we are hauling and chopping wood for the wood stove.  The finishing touches are being placed on canning vegetables from the garden.  Animals are being butchered to fill the freezer and today we are rendering lard that will be frozen and used throughout the winter.  I see Gary with that faraway look as he calculates the amount of hay we will need, checks the weather forecast, and ponders how much is already stored up.  Fuel cans are being filled to be sure that the generator can keep the milking equipment running through any power outages.

The challenge is however that God asks us simply to live in the moment and to trust Him.  How easy it is to find ourselves filled with regrets over how things might have been done differently in the past.  How tempting to worry over what is to come.  God’s grace is new each day, but like the manna provided to the Israelites in the desert it is only fitting for the day that it is given.  His mercies will be new tomorrow to meet the needs of that day.

So as we prepare for what is to come- both the expected and unexpected – let us remember that God is in today and simply asks us to worship and serve Him in this moment.

Invisible in Christ

Feet Washing

Our culture today is very much focused on our personal rights.  In just watching my newsfeed on Facebook or through regular media channels, we see the fight over our rights related to health care issues, what constitutes legal marriage, the right to life versus the right to choose, educational choices and parental rights, and even gender rights.  As I began thinking more on these, I began thinking about my role as a wife and mother.

Wife and mother – I honestly don’t think that there are two more exhausting, yet fulfilling roles in life.  In many ways, it is a life of servanthood.  Yes, I hear the outcries over wives not being doormats and teaching our children to take responsibility and learn to contribute.  At the end of the day, being a mom and wife means you are a servant.  The meals that you fix are for others and not you alone.  When the washing machine is running, the clothes are not just your own.  As you spend what it feels like is your entire life on the road, you are generally not driving alone to meet a friend for coffee.  We have convinced ourselves that the word Servant  somehow suggests menial or subhuman.  Is it or is it just the demand for personal rights in our culture that has convinced us of this.

Recently, I have felt invisible.  My life seems to revolve around what everyone else needs of me and in meeting their needs.  I shared this with my husband and he had the gall to say, “But that is your job”.  How dare he?  They definitely felt like fighting words, but then the realization hit.  Is that not what God calls us to be whether we are a wife and mom or not? Being a servant should actually be the highest honor we could attain as Christ so eloquently shared in Matthew 20:28

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many

Paul expounds upon this further in his letter to the church at Philipi as he writes in Philipians 2:5-11.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death –
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

He made himself nothing. He humbled himself. He took on the very nature of a servant.  And…. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

When we feel invisible we want to scream out, “By I matter!  What about me?  What about what I want?”  It is so incredibly hard to put off ourselves to wholly and completely let others see Christ in us.  We get tired and beat down.  However, it is only when we can shed ourselves of Self that we have a hope of having others truly see Christ in us.

In having gone through labor with four children, I can honestly say that I don’t know a woman that would voluntarily walk that path if it weren’t for what came on the other end.  The pain, fear, and exhaustion from giving birth become tolerable and something we choose to do.  Why?  Because in all honesty, our eyes are not focused on us.  We are focused on holding that new life; a miracle that we have had the highest honor of bringing into this world and love before we ever meet him.  What would our lives look like if we lived each moment that way?  How many more sacrifices and hurdles would be bound over if we could just take our eyes off of ourselves.

I would like to close to say that I do rejoice in one right – the right to worship my God.  The amazing thing about this right is that before it was ever written into our Constitution, it was given to us by God.  The world may try to threaten this right and our country may dwindle in the truths of God’s Word that it was founded on, but no one can take away our right to worship our God and live invisible lives for Christ.

May we each be Invisible in Christ!

And when it is difficult, don’t give up. Imagine yourself serving Christ himself when you find yourself caught in the trap of valuing your servanthood by the measure of gratitude expressed. For God knew that the call to servanthood would not be easy.

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether slave or free.

A Visit to the Traveling Wall in honor of Vietnam Veterans

Veterans Wall 1 Rev

Over the weekend, we got word that a traveling version of the Vietnam Memorial would be at the KY Horsepark not far from our home.  We made an impromptu decision to make a trip down on Saturday evening and are so glad we did.

It was just before dusk when we arrived.  Flags were lining the streets and creating a walkway down to the area where the Traveling Wall was set up.  There were flags in the hillside for each of the Vietnam veterans that had given their life that were from our state.

1,100 Flags Symbolizing the 1,100 from KY that gave their lives during the Vietnam War.
1,100 Flags Symbolizing the 1,100 from KY that gave their lives during the Vietnam War.

As we approached the wall we shared with the kids that each name represented a son, husband, brother, or friend of someone.  Our children have never known anyone personally that lost their life in battle.  The boys have never known our country to not be at war, which really makes it difficult to explain the significance of war.  For them, America being at war is normal, but at the same time I am not sure it feels real.

The evening progressed with a candlelight service honoring the Goldstar Mothers.  These are the women who have had children serving in the military and were killed in the line of duty.  It was an honor to hear them speak and share their experiences, but even more their love for our country.

During the candlelight services, a chaplain from the military opened and closed the service in prayer while one of the Goldstar Moms led us in the singing of America, the Beautiful.  I was flooded with emotion.  Empathy for these moms whose sons gave of their lives for our freedom.  Sadness over the reality of death that comes from war.  But the emotion went beyond this.

My intent was never meant to take away from honoring those veterans whose names are engraved on the wall.  But there was so much more.  There was the grieving over the fact that American children across our land do not have the benefit of sharing in a similar prayer at the beginning or ending of their school day in schools across our nation.  My childhood years of elementary chorus were outlined with patriot songs that beseeched God to continue blessing the United States of America and expressing gratitude for our freedoms; of which, the freedom to openly worship is scripted in the very words of our Constitution.  How incredibly disheartening that we are not only stealing a right guaranteed under the Bill of Rights from our children, but that we are also robbing them of their country’s true heritage.  Without heritage, what do we base the future on.  We can not determine our ending spot if we no longer know where we are.

I think the most powerful moment of the entire evening was as we were walking to the car.  Our daughter had become quite quiet and contemplative.  She began sharing that she was honored to be a part of the candlelight service that evening.  Her thoughts didn’t end there though.  She continued on to say that by fighting in a major war to defend our freedoms makes these men and women great in our eyes and she is quite thankful.  Her final comment really hit home.

“Mom, it doesn’t really matter if they are war heroes.  Being a war hero is not enough in and of itself for them to now be in God’s presence.”

Her heart was breaking for those that we would consider having made the greatest sacrifice and how disparaging if it was all for nought with regard to their eternity.

Before leaving we shared in a prayer for we realized that there is an even greater battle being waged that has eternal consequences.  If we were to add all the names of every soldier that has lost their life in battle, it would only represent a fraction of the unborn children that have lost their lives before they had the opportunity to take their first breath.  An incredibly sobering reality and yet another indication that America has failed to protect her heritage and is losing her moral compass.

May we never forget!

Marriage is a Choice, Not a Feeling

It never ceases to amaze me that when you talk to many young people about marriage, their first response is about the wedding.  There is always so much excited and anticipation of an approaching wedding day.  Handsome men in tuxedos, the bride in her flowing white gown, beautiful flowers adorning the surroundings, and melodious music accompanying all the guests that have come to help the couple rejoice.  Just as quickly as you see the dreamy look on most teenage girls as they fantasize about their Cinderella moment, you can get just as emotionally filled responses from asking those who have already wed about marriage.  The reaction I get from many is that marriage is… HARD!!!

Hard is not the word that those engaged or newly married would ever choose to characterize their relationships.  So how do we get to that point.  The answer is walking the ups and downs, joys and disappointments of life.  More than the circumstances, it is the response of two individuals who are far from perfect trying to blend their humanness.  Sometimes that brings about wonderful chemistry of marital bliss.  Often times, it can bring conflict, poor communication, and hard feelings.  Unfortunately the image of Cinderella and Happily Ever After disillusion most of us from believing that life can be hard after the I do’s.  Which begs the question –

Really Forever

There used to be a phrase that was quite common years ago, “If it feels good, it must be right.”  As a parent, I can assure you that this saying holds little worth in making credible life choices.  I would challenge it is also a poor standard for measuring the value of a marriage.  There will be days filled with joys of your first child’s birth or a promotion at work, the anticipation of a family vacation or the purchase of that first home, and the contentment of the familiar.  However, there are many days filled with disputes, anger, and bitterness as we struggle to find our way in budgeting those paychecks (especially when there seems to be shortfalls), parenting children who just seem to know how to pit us against one another, or even instances where we both feel that we are following God’s lead, but it seems like we are headed down different roads.

It is on these days in particular that we must realize that as unromantic as it may sound, marriage is not about a feeling, but about a choice.  Feelings are fleeting, but a commitment is meant to stay a lifetime.  But what about the days when the only feelings left are those filled with hurt, rejection, ridicule, or even hatred.  Then marriage is still a choice.  In really doing some pondering, I do believe that marriage is not only a choice, but a choice for a lifetime.

Why???

 

  • God’s Commitment to Me. In Scripture, Christ is the bridegroom and the body of believers are His bride.  I am part of that body.  My faith would mean nothing if one day Christ could just say, “I just don’t think I feel in love with you” and walks away.  My God is faithful, long suffering, and perseveres through my darkest times to continue carrying me and caring for me.  Loving me. Scripture further says that we are molded each day by the Master Potter to be refined in His image.  What does that say about my faithfulness, long suffering, and perseverance to my spouse?  
  • A Covenant Promise. We serve a God that makes convenant promises to his people.  In the book of Genesis, He sends forth a rainbow as a promise to never again wipe out all of creation with his wrath.  In Isaiah, He promised a Passover Lamb to wash over our sins with His grace.  I can trust in my faith, because I serve a God that keeps His Word.  Even on the worst of days, I am reminded that my wedding vows were not just made to my husband, but to my Heavenly Father.  If my Heavenly Father can keep His Word for all of eternity, should I be excused from the same to Him.
  • The Two Shall Become One. When we marry, there is a physical aspect of the two becoming one.  Much deeper than the physical union is the binding of two lives that will be intertwined for all of eternity.  No matter how much we want to walk away and maybe even attempt to do so, the reality is that after being married for any length of time you can never claim back that part of you that has become part of your husband or vice versa.  The person that I was before I married is forever gone.  In leaving my marriage, I will never get my old self back.  It is no more.  No matter how talented a divorce attorney I could ever hire, there are some parts of my life that would forever be intertwined with my husband.
  • Just a Different Name. Our modern day culture would love for us to believe that if we are unhappy, we can simply file for divorce and all the marital problems will disappear.  Hello, out there!  Yes, the marital problems end, but the problems with an ex-spouse are just beginning.  You see the problems and struggles don’t go away.  You are both still two sinners trying to find a way in the world and short of God’s grace and a lot of forgiveness toward one another, the problems will endure just under a different name.
  • Marriage: A Tool in God’s Toolbox. In Romans 8:28, God promises that all things will work together for good to those that believe in Him.  On some of the hardest days of my marriage when it is hard to speak a kind word, offer forgiveness, or extend grace to one that may be too prideful to see his need for it, God may be using those very trials and struggles to develop us into His perfect bride.  Only God knows exactly what it will take to make our stubborn personalities yield to His Will so that we can have the most beautiful and intimate communion with Him when we are called home.

So the next time life brings hardships and struggles that have explosive power in your home, marriage is not about feeling, it is about a choice.  A choice to implement the fruits of the Spirit for His glory in the highest of all relationships that mirrors Christ and His Bride, the Church.  It isn’t always easy, but most things that are truly worth it aren’t.  Which is a great lead-in to why, as parents, we should never give up on our children.  But that is a post for another day.  Keep on loving even went you don’t feel like it – one hour at a time.

Passion, Obedience, and Devotion ~ A Holy Week Meditation

During my devotional time this morning, I began meditating on the passage in Luke 22 where the Lord gives instructions to his disciples about preparing for the Passover.  Keeping the Passover was integral to who Christ is.  In actuality, He would forever become the Passover Lamb on our behalf.

As He was directing His disciples after being asked how to prepare for this specific Passover, Christ provided the following words:

“As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you.  Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.” Luke 22: 10-12

In hindsight, it is easy to just expect that the disciples would do what Christ asked.  After all we know how the story ends.  But let’s just think about this for a minute.

Christ directs his disciples to go into a city and tells them that a man carrying a jar of water will meet them.  This makes it seem that the man will approach them and what will make him stand out is that he will be carrying a jar of water.  I am not a biblical scholar, but all the other references I find in scripture signify that carrying water was typically a woman’s job.  What an oddity to find a man carrying a water jar.  When this actually transpired, I wonder if the disciples found this extraordinary.

Did they even question the likelihood of finding a man carrying a water jar?  Did they grumble over how they could enter a city and be able to locate exactly the right person?  The account in Luke does not say that Christ provides them a name or even a more exact location where this clandestine meeting would occur.  Yet, there is no reference that the disciples ever questioned going or lacked confidence that things would transpire just as Christ said they would.

Jesus then continues in his directions by explaining that they are to ask the owner of the house where the man carrying water enters for space and accomodations for their celebration of Passover.  The culture was certainly different in that day, but let’s just think a moment.  It is one of the highest celebrations of the Jewish people.  A time that served as a reminder of the promise of a Messiah.  A time when extensive preparations were done in cleaning, preparing food, and preparing oneself for this spiritual time.

Yet, the disciples followed a stranger to another’s home that they did not know and asked for provisions to be made for them to utilize space in the Upper Room for the celebration of their own Passover observance.

Our family has been on some road trips in the past.  There are times when we must stop for a meal, bathroom breaks, or just to stretch our legs and get some rest.  I think we would be more inclined to just sleeping in the car and running into woods to use the restroom before we would approach a complete stranger about supplying our accommodations in their home.  Yet, none of this seems to phase the disciples.  There is never a suggestion in Scripture that they questioned Christ’s instructions.

Yes, the culture was more understanding of travelers needs.  However, I still find this amazing.

It also causes me to pause in wondering how I would have responded to their request if I were the home owner.  God’s Word is quite explicit in how we are to reach out to those in need and commands us to show hospitality to the stranger.  Would I welcome the disciples and Christ into my home?

God’s Word has not changed.  He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  So, is His expectation of us any different today than that which He expected of His disciples?  Do we chase after Christ in such a way that we have unabandoned faithfulness in carrying out His every command?  Do we have faith that no matter how odd the prompting in our hearts that He will provide for us and direct us completely?

He demonstrated this faith, love, and obedience in fulfilling the role of our Passover Lamb for all eternity.  If we are to be like Him, we must focus on how to be just as obedient, not because we will ever reach perfection, but in molding ourselves like Him as an act of worship and in recognition of His Lordship in our lives.

The Significance of Palm Sunday

So many things about our faith seem to be getting labelled as “out dated”.  In a culture filled with busyness and so many competing interests for our time, it is so easy to just check things off the list and forget why we do what we do.

In looking at our own family calendar, the day to day events of the week could easily squeeze out time to prepare spiritually for the remembrance of our Lord’s Crucifixion and Resurrection.  This week we are trying to get school done before Spring Fever really hits, have a college visit scheduled, a planning meeting for graduation, and hubby’s birthday on Saturday.  Of course, there is also all the commotion of the hometown team making it to the Final Four with a perfect record for the season.

I find myself sitting back marveling at how easy it would be to lose complete focus on what this week really means.  Even if we were able to clear our calendars, it could be all consuming just making sure everyone’s clothes were ready to go, menu made and groceries purchased for a large Easter banquet, and goodies for the children in keeping with many American traditions.  I am reminded of the exclamations at church on Easter morning of “He is Risen” followed shortly by “I just love your dress.  Where did you get that?”

For many families, extra funds for fancy dresses or big meals with all the frills may not be an option.  The question it raises in my own mind is if we were to take away our more secular Easter traditions of the bunny and chocolates, remove the fancy outfits, and even chose to not make that splendid meal would it feel like there was anything left to make Easter special.

If I were to answer that question with a “No” or a sense of disappointment, then maybe I have lost my spiritual focus on what Easter really means and the need for remembering Palm Sunday and the important events biblically that lead up to our Savior’s death and resurrection.

Today marks the day that we remember Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Hallelujahs were resounding in the streets while he humbly road into the city on the back of a donkey.  In realizing what the coming days would hold and the changing tide of sentiment that His people would have, the Bible tells us that He wept.  He wept.  He knew how fickle our hearts can be and how weak our faith can also be when under pressure.  He wanted so much more for us.  He knew He was the answer, but it still broke His heart understanding that need far better than we ever will.

I condemn no one’s choice in how to celebrate what could be considered one of the most pivotal times in our faith and God’s provision for our need.  However, I challenge myself and each of you reading this to dig a bit deeper.  Look beyond the Easter dresses, the egg hunts, the commotion of the Final Four and general Springtime busyness, and search with all your heart for a renewing of the vitality of our faith.

He is Risen!  Hallelujah! May those be words that change our lives forever and not just an annual salutation.

To help prepare our hearts, the kids and I are reading The Vinegar Boy together to help refocus our minds on the reality of Easter and not just our society’s traditions.  If you have never read it, we highly recommend it to you.

Reaching the Grieving Heart with Hymns

I received word this week from a friend that her mom passed away quickly and unexpectedly.  In the midst of all the logistics of getting home and helping her father, her heart is hurting.  She is grieving!  It is in the moments of grief that words seem to be so inadequate.  The person that is grieving finds it so difficult to even begin finding the right words to give significance to what they are feeling and the meaning of the relationship that is now lost in some ways.  For those that surround the grieving, there are no words that we can begin to share that will alleviate an ounce of the pain and sorrow.  In our humanness, we want to make it all better.  But is that what grieving is really about.  It is in feeling the loss that we get a tiny glimpse into the how our Heavenly Father felt separated from His own son as Christ was turned over to death at the time of His crucifixion.  It also helps to magnify the importance of our earthly relationships and how God has knit us together.

As Christians, we are not left in despair with no hope.  For our hope lies in not a crucified man, but an Everlasting and Victorious Savior.  But God does understand the pain, the loneliness, and the darkness of our grief.  There are many verses of Scripture that address our crying out and even moanings before the Lord.  Utterances from our very soul where words fail.  God understands our moanings, our crying out, and times when words are so lacking.  We yearn though to put these feelings into words so that we can put boundaries around our pain and share it in a more concrete way with those around us.

Healing Music

Over the years, I have found no better way to bridge this gap than music.  It transcends past the mental exercise of words and speaks a more native language to our hearts.  I have felt this personally in grieving the loss of my mom, a dear sister-in-law, and close friends.  Professionally in having worked as a music therapist, there were times of healing that I saw through the use of music that did not seem achievable separate from its power.

My greatest love during these difficult times are some of the powerful hymns stored away in many church closets as they are replaced by large screens with the words of Contemporary Praise songs projected.  There is a power in the hymns of days past that I fear our generation and those that will come after will suffer the loss of.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love praise and worship music, but there are times when the depth of both the music and lyrics of the older hymns can speak our crying out and inward groanings like nothing else can.

Before I knew her mom had passed, my friend posted the beginning of the hymn, It is Well with My Soul as her facebook status.  When I first saw the words, my mind went immediately back to our first days on the mission field in 1993.  Gary and I had just arrived in Alaska and it was one of my first days in our staff devotions on Wednesday mornings.  As I was still learning the names of the other missionaries, there was a couple that struck me as we sang this same song.  Their faces were marked with a determination to join us in singing as tears streamed down their cheeks and fresh, raw grief was apparent.  It was after our time together that one of our nurses shared that Burt and his wife had just returned from burying their young daughter.  She had been serving on the mission field in Germany when she was killed.  They sang in the midst of their sobs with a determination to keep singing until their heart caught up to the words that were being uttered from their mouths.

It is Well with My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Before Gary and I were blessed to have children, an older couple in church shared with us how they would sing hymns to their children rather than lullabies.  I took this to heart and all through their early days, the great hymns of our faith were sung over our children.  At 17 months of age, our youngest was involved in an accident that caused one of his fingers to be amputated.  As we were in the emergency room of Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, he became hysterical while the plastic surgeons attempted to graft his finger back on.  As I stood by the bedside, the doctors told me to sing his favorite song to see if it helped to distract him.  I stood there incredulous.  What they did not know was that our son’s favorite song at the time was the hymn, Count Your Blessings.  I battled with God in not knowing another time in my life that I struggled so in seeing the blessings through the pain.  In the distance, I could hear the doctors urging me to sing.  So as Burt and his wife had several years past in Alaska, I began singing with determination words that had a hard time reaching my heart with tears streaming down my face.

Count Your Blessings

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings—*money cannot buy [*wealth can never buy]
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

My favorite hymn of all is How Great Thou Art.  Not only does it speak of God’s greatness, but also how in His very essence He is truly the only one worthy of our praise.  But there is an emotional connection as well.  It is one of several hymns that was sung at my mother’s funeral 34 years ago.  I remember as it was sung how happy she was in being in His presence.  How she would be singing How Great Thou Art face to face with my Savior and how someday I would join her in that chorus on the streets of gold.  The feelings became that much more poignant when a dear friend passed away a few years ago and we too sang of how great our God was.  How I blasted that song and sang at the top of my lungs as I drove my car in those early days of her passing.

How Great Thou Art

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art! 

I wish I could promise that life’s trials were over, but they aren’t.  There will be more days of grieving and pain.  Hurts may abound, but God is still God.  He will continue to heal your wounds, listen to your cries and carry you each step of the way when you are just too weary.  So join me in singing the hymns from the midst of our pain until our hearts catch up to our mouths in uttering His Praise.