The Last Time

School is over. My son, my youngest child, graduates from high school next week.

As I spread mayonnaise onto a piece of bread, I realize this is the last sandwich I’ll make for my son to eat at school.  No more brown-bag lunches filled with sandwiches, chips, and sliced apple.

20140521_091908

Only the Lord knows how many hundreds of school lunches I’ve prepared when I multiply them by three children. My son offered to make his lunch, but years of habit evolved into my morning ritual.

Last evening, I attended our last High School choir concert. While my eyes were fixed on my son’s clean-shaven face, I remembered another concert years ago. The elementary-aged children held battery-operated candles as they sang. Well, most children held them. My third-grade son used his candle to sword fight with the boy next to him.

Today my son’s strong body towers over me. His deep voice is reminiscent of a Bass Cello. I love to hear him sing. So when the choir sang the last note in the last song of his last concert, tears clouded my vision.

My son isn’t obsessed with last moments. He’s ready to raise anchor and leave shore, bound for new horizons. I’m excited for him, but this melancholy mom cradles last moments.   

What emotions swept over Jesus when he ate the last Passover Meal with his disciples?

Jesus knew it was their Last Supper. “The time has come for me, the Son of Man, to enter into my glory….Dear children, how brief are these moments before I must go away and leave you!” (John 13:31-33)

Although Jesus had warned his disciples this day would come, they panicked:

“Lord, where are you going?”

“Why can’t I come now, Lord?”

“We haven’t any idea where you are going…”

It may have been their Last Supper, but it wasn’t the end of their relationship with Jesus.

 “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

For three days, the disciples were derailed by their circumstances…the trial and death of Jesus. They ran and hid. Peter denied knowing Christ. They might have lost all hope for tomorrow if not for Jesus’ words.  “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.” (John 16:22)  

True to His word, Christ was resurrected and appeared to them before he left them and was taken up to heaven. And his disciples were “filled with great joy.”

Likewise, our sorrowful moments…even the last ones…can become joyful when we trust Jesus and keep our eyes on Him. 

Show Me a Sign

Rain all through the night,” announced the man on the radio.

I welcomed the winter rain. We need the water. But most folks across the country are ready for Spring. They’re sick of snow. And who can blame them?

Sometimes we need a change.

Perhaps it’s not the weather. Financial hardship, marital problems, rebellious teens, ill health, or a tedious job will stretch our patience thin.

We pray, but nothing changes.

So we hunker down and wait for the season, or storm, to pass.

When I’m overwhelmed by duties or sorrows, searching for answers, I’m prone to act like Gideon (Judges 6-9). I want assurance that God is present and has a plan.

Show me a sign, Lord.    

That was my exact prayer when a three-day rainstorm paused, and the sun broke through the clouds like a welcomed guest. Enjoying the calm before another storm, I walked to my mailbox and found a package. Inside the package was a slim metal bracelet that I had ordered eight weeks earlier.

A package long overdue, but not really because ….

God’s timing is perfect.

A smile spread across my face as I read the tiny, engraved words on my bracelet.

Abide in Me

Not exactly the answer I was looking for that blustery day, but I knew it was a sign from above. Circumstances change, but God’s response remains the same.

Abide in Me

Abiding is that sweet union which allows believers to experience uninterrupted fellowship with Jesus. When we abide in Him, not only can we rest and experience peace, Jesus says we will bear much fruit and have joy (John 15).

When we abide in Christ, our eyes are fixed on Him and not our circumstances. We lean on Christ, and not ourselves.

As storm clouds gathered on the horizon that day, I ran my fingers over the bracelet. Three words once spoken by Jesus were now etched upon my heart, wrapped around my wrist.

Abide in Me

Today and every day…..even in this storm.

Photo of Bird: Molly Smith Detweiler 

Thunderstorm: Karen Foster

Not What but WHO

The house is robed in darkness when I slip away from the warmth of my bed and my slumbering husband. I’d rather brew a cup of tea and pray than toss and turn.

I weave my way through the dark and around the furniture until I find the kitchen light. While tea leaves steep, I notice my hungry cat waiting at the back door.

Open a can of food for her, open the Bible for me.

I’m not a morning person, but I love the silence where God is able to speak without interruptions.

If only I can keep my mind from distractions. My year that began slow has picked up speed. The winds are changing.

I tell myself “rejoice in the Lord” because my joy is not based on What is happening in my life, but WHO is ever present.  

El Roi, the God who sees me, even in the dark while I sip tea.

How odd…or is it…that I open my Bible to Psalm 143 where my words were once scrawled in the margin: February 2001: anxiety attack and winter depression.

What happened long ago that caused me to underline emotions that King David experienced: “persecuted, crushed, overwhelmed.”

I can’t remember why those emotions held me hostage, but the solution remains underlined.

“I meditate on all Thy doings; I muse on the work of Thy hands. I stretch out my hands to Thee; my soul longs for Thee as a parched land.” (verses 5,6)

On that winter morning, I lived in dark places. (vs.3)

But I knew then…as I know now…the ONE True God who could and would …

·        Revive me.

·        Teach me.

·        Deliver me.

And bring my soul out of trouble.

Even now, as I write these words, night has slipped away. Daylight is here. And on my window sill, a cross with the words from Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you…to give you hope and a future.”    

20140122_095030

If anxious thoughts woke me, they are gone.  Not because my circumstances changed, or God fixed my problems overnight.

My soul is at rest because the Lord is my hope and refuge.

And He never changes…not even in this.

The Moment Just Before

 “‘Well,” said Pooh, ‘what I like best,’ and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” ― A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

That moment is called…

Anticipation: the action of anticipating something; expectation or prediction.

Think of expectations leading to Christmas Day.

·         Boxes wrapped in colorful paper, filled with who knows what.

·         Fresh sheets on the guest bed, ready for out-of-town company.

·         Scent of homemade cookies in the oven, tempting taste buds.

·         Family traditions and memories waiting to happen.

·         Children, longing for that special toy, unable to sleep

Could it be that ….

“Anticipation is sometimes more exciting than actual events.” ― Ana Monnar

 Perhaps, unless those events surrounded Jesus’ birth.

Imagine people’s anticipation who grew up hearing the prophecies/predictions of a coming Messiah.

And then Immanuel, “God with us,” stepped into their lives, exceeding expectations.

·      Mary expected to deliver a baby boy, who was no ordinary child. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” 

·      Joseph expected the angel of the Lord’s prediction to come true, and named the baby “Jesus, because He will save his people from their sins.”

Shepherds heard the good news. “A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord….So they hurried off (with anticipation) to find the baby lying in the manger (exactly like the angel predicted) and they were amazed.”

Magi from the east traveled with gifts to see the Christ Child. And when they found him, “they were overjoyed, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”

 

Today …

·         Christ is exalted, seated at the right hand of God, the Father.

·         Good news is preached.

·         People are saved from their sins.

·         Believers worship Jesus, the risen Savior.

Only now, there’s another event that Christians anticipate.

Jesus said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:3)

Confident God’s Word is true,

 “We eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:21)

And yet, a moment just before we behold Jesus face-to-face, will not be better than being in His presence ….

Because Christ will exceed even our greatest expectations!

How To Respond To Pain

“Your grandmother has a beautiful smile.”

The young man nodded. “You’d never know she lives with migraine headaches.”

His comment triggered the same question, the one in my previous blog.

How do people live with pain?  

Some people say, “It is what it is.”

Others credit “God’s grace and people’s kindness.”

When I look at my own life, I realize how I respond to pain and suffering has a great impact on my well-being.

That’s because my response determines my mood which affects my ability to cope.

I’m a slow learner, but over the years, three Biblical principles have shown me how to respond during trials.

Acknowledge

Accept

Adore

Remember Job? His children died, he lost his fortune, he suffered from bodily sores and the insults of foolish friends. He was miserable.

“What is my strength that I should wait? And what is my end that I should endure?”  

Job questioned why these trials happened, but he never questioned God’s sovereignty in his life.   

“Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10)

“I know that Thou canst do all things, And that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

Jesus Christ, in the Garden of Gethsemane, pleaded for God, the Father to spare him from the agony of the cross. Even so, Jesus was obedient, and willing to accept God’s eternal purposes.

Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Hebrews 12: 2 says, “Jesus.…for the joy set before Him, endured the cross…”

Habbakuk, the prophet, trembled while he waited for calamity. He knew the people of Israel would be attacked and taken captive.

Even so, Habbakuk adored God regardless of his circumstances because he trusted God’s character.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food …  

yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; … He enables me to tread on the heights. (Hab. 3:17-19)

Learning a lesson isn’t the same as application. 

My first reaction is not humble submission or praise. But whenever I am willing to …..

Acknowledge God’s sovereignty in my life….

Accept unpleasant circumstances because  “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God,”(Romans 8:28)

Adore God because He is faithful and “His mercies are new every morning”

Then I receive the Lord’s joy and strength which enables me to carry on even in this….pain and heartache of life.

Illustrations/photos courtesy of Microsoft Office

Sun-kissed Day

I kick off my high heels after a day of substitute teaching and head for the couch. Heavy eyelids beg for a catnap, but weary muscles suggest a walk.

Catnap wins. I lean into the cushioned armrest, listening to the wall clock’s advancing second hand. But instead of it lulling me to sleep, I hear conviction: “You should walk before it gets dark, you should walk before it gets dark.”

My stiff joints squeak like the Tin Man in Oz as I push myself up from the couch.

“Sorry,” I respond to defiant limbs. “It’s the New Year. Either we lose weight or we buy a bigger pair of jeans.”  Lose weight wins. I shove my AARP feet into tennis shoes and head outdoors.

The calendar says it’s January, but the sun-kissed day makes it feel like April. My heart leaps knowing the cold ground will soon give birth to Daffodil bulbs. Pine trees and leafless Oaks line the asphalt street cheering me onward as an “acclivity” looms before me.

       FYI: “the definition of acclivity: an ascending slope (as of a hill).” That was one of the vocabulary words in our Literature class today.  I don’t know about the students, but I learned something.

      Heart pounding, chest heaving, I take baby steps until the road flattens ____________

When I’m halfway around our three mile loop, I peel off my scarf and vest. I’d quicken my pace, but it feels as though my legs are dragging an anchor through lake water. Voices in my head drown the music on my IPOD: Out of shape! Use it or lose it!  

My breath catches as a jackrabbit darts across my path and disappears into the wooded landscape……

Dare I behave like Alice in Wonderland and chase that silly rabbit? A smile stretches across my face as my thoughts turn outward, and then upward,

                Where a three-quarter moon, upstaged by the western sun’s golden glow, peeks through a powder blue curtain. My stride increases, matching the rhythm of Casting Crown’s praise album dancing in my ear.

Eyes fixed heavenward, I raise my hand to honor HIM who made the day, “This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24),

and dwell on the ONE who “made the moon for the season; The sun knows the place of its setting.” (Psalm 104:19)

After my walk, I kick off my tennis shoes. And bright-eyed, look out my kitchen window as heaven’s blue canvas melts into a rosy hue.