What Must I Sacrifice?

Does the word sacrifice leave a rancid taste in your mouth? Why does that word have to be a negative connotation? What if the purpose of sacrifice was releasing something (maybe even something good) to receive what’s best?

Last month, I wanted what I wanted. What I wanted is mine to know. But oh, how I clung to it with selfish hands when a thought fluttered into my mind and hovered there. A lightbulb clicked.

Could I . . . would I give up this thing I wanted? Were there things I refused to sacrifice? I cringed to think I might have other gods before GOD!

The Lord knows I love him, I reasoned, without sacrificing something to prove I love Him. Lord, is there no other way?

“No other way.” Weren’t those the words Jesus spoke before he went to the cross?

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Sweating drops of blood, Jesus knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane and begged God to remove “this cup” from him. Jesus wasn’t refusing to give up some pleasure, or vice, or “thing” that stood between him and God the Father. He asked if there was some other way to atone for people’s sins than death by crucifixion.

However, Jesus only wanted what the Father wanted. So he said, “Not my will, but Yours.”

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Do I want what God wants?

I remember a woman who once sat beside me, crying buckets of anguish. Her red, puffy eyelids were squeezed shut. Tension riveted her body so that even her hands were clenched in fists as though subliminally curling herself into a fetal position.

I’d tried to soothe her with words. Then I held my tongue and stroked her knuckles, threading my fingers between her fists to gently prod her hands open so she could release the stress and sorrow. As I massaged her hands, her tears subsided. She breathed deeply and relaxed.

Is that me, Lord? Holding onto regrets? Worry gripped between my fists? Clinging to what I want instead of receiving what you want for me? Even if it feels painful in the moment?

“So often man, crying out for some blessing, has yet such tight hold on some earth-treasure that he has no hand to receive Mine, as I hold it out in love.” (God Calling)

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Lord Jesus, help me open my hands, knowing your will for me is better than any “thing” I hold dear in this world.

Show me how to spread my fingers, palms up . . . the same way you stretched your arms wide when they nailed your hands to a cross . . . so I can release whatever’s inside my fists. And receive Your very best even in this moment.

Are You Grieving Tis Season?

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on.”

Thus sings a young man (in the musical Les Miserables) after his friends have died in battle. And it was these heart-wrenching lyrics from the song Empty Chairs, Empty Tables that echoed in my mind as I drove to the airport a few days before Christmas.

Although I was over-the-moon excited to hug my son who was coming home from college, my heart mourned for two moms who will never hug their sons this side of heaven.

 

A week earlier, their eighteen-year-old sons were killed in a vehicle accident while driving in our town. I didn’t know the young men. Never met the families. But my heart still aches like an open wound whenever I think of them; pray for them.

Sadly, they’re not alone this Christmas season. I have several friends who celebrated Christ in the midst of a grief that can’t be spoken…

The death of an elderly father. The loss of an infant grandson. A broken marriage. A pre-school child with cancer. Someone facing a double mastectomy. So many lives touched by a pain that goes on and on.

I try to make sense of it all especially during Christmas when hearts are meant to be merry and bright. A friend told me that tragedies like these remind us to hold our loved ones close, forgive and keep short accounts, and share Jesus. Another woman, whose husband was killed, said, “Instead of asking why this happened, I ask how I can live to honor God despite my circumstances.

Wise words, but I also opened my Bible to Matthew because I thought of those ancient moms who grieved for their sons—martyred babes, slain by the sword when Jesus was born.

For even though a bright star led the Magi to worship the Christ Child, the troubled soul of King Herod resulted in the blood-thirsty slaughter of children.

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.’”

When I look at the current mayhem and sorrow in the world, has anything changed since that blessed year when Christ was born?

After all, one of the Magi’s gifts was Myrrh, a bitter perfume, that breathed “gathering gloom, sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

lamentation-of-christ-by-antony-van-dyck-1599-1641However, outward appearances can be deceiving.

Jesus wasn’t born to spare folks from pain and death on earth. He came as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. To prove God’s great love by dying for us while we were still sinners. And His resurrection guarantees us new life when He’ll wipe away every tear and there will be no more death.

“Rachel wept…refused to be comforted.” Maybe you’re mourning too.

Just remember, when we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we may have life in His name, it truly is possible to experience His peace and comfort that defies human logic… 

Even in this grief that can’t be spoken.

 

References: Matthew 2:16-18, John 1:29, Romans 5:8, John 20:31, Rev. 21:4 & lyrics from We Three Kings of Orient Are

Photo of woman: Pixabay

Craving Comfort?

As I waited in my car at a traffic light, tears came. My heart ached for my friend who had shared sad news. I also toyed with vain imaginings. What if that happens to me?

My mood darkened. And a strong craving stirred deep within me like a gluttonous creature waking up after a winter’s sleep. Restaurants on each corner of the intersection beckoned me.

“A coffee frappucvino would lift your spirits.”

I shook my head. “Too many calories.”

“How about a hamburger with fries or ice cream?”

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“I’m trying to lose weight!”

I turned left and drove towards home, never realizing how many restaurants lined the main highway in our small town. My mouth watered as advertisements for tacos, footlong sandwiches, and barbecue pulled pork vied for my taste buds.

“You should treat yourself to a personal pan pizza. Think of that warm mozzarella cheese…

I clenched my teeth. “Stop obsessing over food. I’m going home where I can control what and how much I eat.”

True story!

If I hadn’t signed up for Thin Within last week, I probably would have eaten the frappuccino and the pizza. Why?

Because in that moment, I would have gladly satisfied my deep, ravenous craving for a few minutes of delectable joy.

I realize now—hunger wasn’t the issue. As my friend, Heidi, says, “I wanted food to alter my mood.”

Funny, I never thought of myself as eating for comfort. Other folks might eat a quart of ice cream when they were depressed, but not me. So the Holy Spirit used my circumstances to show me the truth in Thin Within’s Lesson One.

I learned experientially that consuming a quart of ice cream is no less emotionally driven than grabbing the Almond Joy just because I FEEL depressed, lonely, or sad.

Sorrow is part of the human experience. When I feel like a hurt child, I want to crawl into Mother’s lap and rest. Rub my back. Kiss my bruise. Make me all better.

Only, I’m not a child and it’s necessary to deal with life’s pendulum of emotions by resting in the Lord rather than acquiring self-destructive habits like overeating to numb my pain.

It’s just like Satan (who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy) to entice people to search for comfort in anything or anyone other than God, the Father who loves us.

God knows we need comfort. He tells us, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you….” (Isaiah 66:13 NIV)

Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless….” (John 14:18)

God longs to comfort aching hearts. However, unlike a mom who might comfort her child with an animal cracker, the Lord doesn’t lure our sweet tooth to produce a smile. He satisfies our deepest cravings with Himself.

Comfort means “to ease someone’s pain,” it doesn’t ensure the Lord will remove the problem that pains us.

Instead, God comforts us with His strength. For the word “comfort” is derived from “fortis” which means strong.

“His strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9)

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

  • Strength to endure pain and sorrow.
  • Strength to walk on feeble feet down the path that leads to abundant life.
  • Strength to abstain from creature comforts that might sabotage our efforts to eat healthy.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25–26).

Now, isn’t that a comforting thought?

Photo:http://www.jennywrede.com

When Death Interrupts Life

My uncle died Friday night.

Lying in hospital, his one strong hand clung to the woman he loved. His pale cheeks wet from my aunt’s  teary butterfly kisses.

My uncle had suffered a Stroke weeks earlier, but on Friday—the first day of spring—I didn’t know his frail body was shutting down….

While I played Florence Nightingale to my outdoor plants—amputating dead limbs, nurturing them with life-giving water.

Springtime—the smell of fresh-cut grass, a sky the color of robin eggs, yellow buds unfurling in the afternoon sun.  My Friday was pregnant with new life around me and joyful possibilities.

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 What a stark contrast to my uncle and aunt’s reality. Death’s chill shadow loomed over them as the life they knew and shared concluded.

And yet, even in this…gut-wrenching pain of letting go….Hope was present.

Hope is the balm that soothes the burning sting of death.

 “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. BUT Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Death can’t be sugar coated. “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.” (Lyric from Empty Chairs at Empty Tables)

However, my uncle and aunt believed “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day….”

And their FAITH is what the Bible describes as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

This world isn’t the end all. There may be mysteries we can’t explain. But God has given us His Word, and His Promise, that death will be swallowed up in victory.

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The Columbine seeds I scattered in my garden last year now rise from the earth, but in a new form. The clover-like foliage and lavender bell-shaped flowers are more beautiful and fragrant than its seed.

So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

Because Christ lives, we live too!

That is the sweet reality for those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in His name.” (John 20:31)

*Other scripture  cited is from 1 Corinthians 15

Photos by Jennifer Foster