speechless.

Not much renders me without words. I can normally formulate an opinion, draw a conclusion, put my heart into words. But this weekend, words escaped me.

My younger sister defines “faithful.” She radiates love and deep care. She faces adversity with strength that only comes from knowing an all powerful and loving God and Savior, Jesus Christ. She always puts others first, even if it is heart breaking. She is a woman who inspires and encourages me. Her faith steadies her weary feet.  I’ve witnessed this over the last years as she faced difficulties and sadnesses I couldn’t sometimes imagine. She never gives up. She always hoped. She always hopes.

Did you catch that? Yes, I can’t decide on tense.

She always hoped her beloved husband would be able to beat his addiction. She always hoped they would find redemption and restoration this side of heaven. But Friday brought the heart wrenching, devastating news that this hope would be deferred. He lost his fight. Lura lost her husband, her friend, the one her soul loves. Her children lost their father. Chris was a son. A brother. An uncle. He was a hard worker. A talented chef. His sudden death has broken many hearts.

But Lura still hopes. The Bible tells us in Romans 5: 8   that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” There was a day when Chris understood his sin before his Holy God. He repented and believed. And we cling to the truth of that often claimed, often recited verse in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Yesterday, as I sat and wept my way through worship, I felt the weight of this particular sin and the harm it has done. And then I wept more. For my own sin. Every one of us, when we take our last breath, will be caught up in some sort of sin. Perhaps it will be a gripping, destructive sin like drug addiction, or maybe it will be the less flashy sins like lust and bitterness. But we will all breathe our last breath sinners. But those who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord will open their eyes FREE. REDEEMED. WHOLE. LOVED.

That thought…..of Chris free from addiction, of the pain and hurts of this world…..gives me joy. But tearful, heavy joy. There remains a loving, young family that needs to heal from the wounds of this pain. I praise my God that Lura CLINGS to Him. I am so thankful for the gift of faith. In John 16:33 we are given words straight from Jesus: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus is greater than all our sin. Jesus is greater than all our pain and suffering.

Take heart. Have peace. Repent and Believe.

If you are struggling with something that causes you or your loved ones pain, please….I beg you…..open your heart to the Lord. Find a friend, family member, pastor, counselor….get the help you need to walk through this life. We are all broken, but we get to carry each other.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.               -2 Corinthians 1:3-5

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If you would like to help Lura during this time, a Go Fund Me has been set up. You can donate here17643192_1485178672-8449

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retreat.

retreat
 noun re·treat \ri-ˈtrēt\
1 : an act or process of withdrawing especially from what 
is  difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable
2: a place of privacy or safety : refuge
3: a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or 
instruction under a director

My weekend was spent enjoying the fullness of this word: retreat. Nancy Guthrie, along with more than 150 women from 40 churches other than our own joined more than 150 women from CEFC on Friday for a very moving, inspiring, refreshing and worshipful evening. The title of Nancy’s talk that night was “When God Says No.” We have all experienced, in some form or fashion, God telling us No to a repeated request. Maybe it is little. Or maybe it is very big.  But the answer has still been, at times, no. But Nancy reminded  us that when God says no, we find comfort in knowing that Jesus understands (fully man and fully God). We find companionship in drawing close to Jesus (he came close to draw us close!). We find confidence trusting in God’s goodness. (God did, in fact, say no to Jesus in the garden so that he could say yes to you and me for all eternity!). We are so very loved by the One True God! My scribbled notes from the evening end with this: Satisfying and sustaining you as you endure…ask him to use my weakness to put his power on display.

I have always been acutely aware of my weakness. A cry baby. Nervous nelly. Insecure. Unsure. People pleaser. But Nancy reminded me that my awareness of my weakness, ahem, my sin, is what can make me strong! I am able to fully lay it at his feet and let his power be made evident in this very weak vessel. I used to say I reveled in my geekiness. Well, no, now I will revel in my weakness as I glory in my Redeemer!

Oh, I don’t think I can summarize all that was Saturday here and now…I will save that for tomorrow. But, man. I am so thankful for where I am right now. To be surrounded by women seeking to know Jesus more deeply. To love one another truthfully and honestly. For women who teach the Bible like nobody’s business. Dig deep, layer after layer, revealing Jesus, revealing God’s promises, his hope, his love, unfailing, undeserved, unending.

flesh.

How does one Word become flesh and change us?

Words fly by so quickly. Speaking, listening, reading. They are a blur. I feel the urge, need even, to slow down and live life frame by frame in order to simply connect. But life doesn’t often allow for that, so I find myself fighting for it. Listen deeper to those I love, to the words I read, to my own heart.

When I slow down I can Remember and Consider. Remember the Truth of the Gospel (for God so loved the world…) and Consider my Reasons to Trust (I am with you, I will never, no never, forsake you!) These are the ingredients of growing in God. And believe it or not, this combination can transform your, my, Anxiety into Joy and Love.

How, you ask?

Anxiety remade becomes your friend–your door to actually knowing God. It becomes an informative signal, a door to faith. Much like the oil light on your dashboard flashing the need for attention, anxiety remade expresses honest need and distress of faith. When need is expressed as outcry, we are met with joy. When we Remember and Consider, we intercept our anxiety and begin to switch modes, and begin working towards joy. Instead lying on my bed and crying Woe is me, I cry out to the Lord. Anxiety becomes the signal to remind me, drive me, to the psalms, somewhere constructive.

Anxiety transformed makes me a friend to others. It becomes an expression of love and wisdom. Jesus knew anxiety transformed. He spoke the words of Psalms 31 and 22. He is the faithful High Priest who deals gently with the hurting. And we get to become that! Just as Timothy in Philippians 2 who was genuinely concerned, genuinely anxious for the welfare of the church at Philippi, we get to see anxiety transformed into care and service towards others. Anxiety remade lets us know there is a way forward, giving you the ability to help others with compassion and clarity. Actual, real help.

This journey of remaking our anxieties into something constructive is slow, hard and not mechanical. It is both personal and interpersonal. We, I, must face ourselves and open ourselves up to a loving and living relationship with God and others.

It begins with an Honest Conversation. Ask and really ask for help. Live a life of small obediences. Wear a path to the pool of grace. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. His power (divine kindness) is made perfect in weakness.

{all taken once again directly from my notes from CCEFs Anxiety conference}

hope.

Well, dear Readers, be prepared to camp out here for awhile with me as I sort through my pages of notes and wandering thoughts I accumulated in the past 24 hours. How do I describe such a time?

Rich.
Hope-filled.
Grace-drenched.
Love-inducing.
Reminded.
Worshipful.
Grounded.

I could go on and on there. So I need to dip my toe in. I need to start with what is coming to the surface now. My thoughts will not be linear.

My biggest take-away from my time at CCEFs Anxiety Conference is that I want to know more scripture. Why is this something I say constantly and take minimal steps towards? I know that God’s word is the only thing I can cling to I my darkest times. I remember one day where I was stuck in bed, quite content to pull the covers over my head. I had just had a miscarriage and my dad was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. So, yes, just reasons for fear and anxiety. But I was on my bed crying…going nowhere. A dear friend called me up and didn’t ask how to help. Didn’t try to fix it. She stayed on the phone with me for over an hour reading scripture to me. Reminding me of God’s promises until one jumped out for me that I could cling to and rise up. She prayed, emailed the verses to me and continued to fortify me with the only thing that helps: God’s words.

Ed Welch closed the conference with a time of reflection and Where Do We Go From Here kind of thoughts. He spoke of the psalms. Some of them draw a response of Yes, That’s Me! Others draw aspiration.Hope to one day Be There. He closed by reading a “psalm” that has very close relevance to my life, my story, and the lives and stories of my family. He read 1 Peter 1:3-9. At the mention of 1 Peter 1, there were tears flowing. This passage was the only passage highlighted in my Dad’s Bible when he passed away. It was highlighted because he helped my Mom memorize it for her Bible study. There are now a team of women who have this written on their hearts, with a special Ruth Ann Tag attached. So, as I post it here, I commit to joining my Mom and memorizing it. But not just saying the words. I will sit and think on them. Do you memorize scripture? Do you want to? Join me….I am in need.

Praise God for a Living Hope
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

hope.

Jesus, your name, great banner of hope, steadies the knees of the weak. -from “Jesus Your Name” words and music by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Ian Hannah

This verse really popped out to me today during worship. I almost giggled in knowingness. Have you experienced the steadying of knocking knees? I sure have.

I picture a battle raging. Maybe in the kitchen. Words flying like arrows. Looks of death. Fists clenched. Then a silent prayer is shot to heaven. In rushes Jesus carrying his banner of hope. Your heart hears the whisper {hold on}. Soon comes the peace that only He gives (not as the world gives). And you rest. Fingers uncurl. Eyes soften. Words slow down.

So very thankful today for the Prince of Peace, whose name alone gives hope.