“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross Till my trophies at last I lay down And I will cling to the old rugged cross And exchange it some day for a crown”
The Old Rugged Cross
There’s nothing that I can do to change the past. I can only hold fast to the truth. The Crucifixion was a horrible event. But, I can celebrate the empty tomb. Because Christ went to the cross and died for me, because He was raised again on the 3rd day, I will strive to honor Him. The Cross & the empty Tomb are intertwined into my life of faith. It is because of Him that I can have peace through the daily grind.
“At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn’t find the body of the Master Jesus. They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up. Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words.”
Luke 24:1-8 MSG
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true It’s shame and reproach gladly bear Then he’ll call me someday to my home far away Where his glory forever I’ll share
The Old Rugged Cross
When I really dig deep and understand the torture that Christ went through for the world, I cringe. And when I realize that it was for “ME” that He died, I am ashamed of the days that I have not been worthy of that gift, of His death.
“The soldiers assigned to the governor took Jesus into the governor’s palace and got the entire brigade together for some fun. They stripped him and dressed him in a red toga. They plaited a crown from branches of a thornbush and set it on his head. They put a stick in his right hand for a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mocking reverence: “Bravo, King of the Jews!” they said. “Bravo!” Then they spit on him and hit him on the head with the stick. When they had had their fun, they took off the toga and put his own clothes back on him. Then they proceeded out to the crucifixion.”
“On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross The emblem of suffering and shame And I love that old cross where the dearest and best For a world of lost sinners was slain.”
The Old Rugged Cross
Things and events often feel very distant, maybe even insignificant to the daily struggles of life. This is especially true of events that we did not personally witness. In my Christian walk, although we talk of the sacrifice that Christ made, I often look at the cross as something very distant from my life. It happened, but I don’t always count the cost in my day to day adventures.
“This isn’t the neighborhood bully mocking me—I could take that. This isn’t a foreign devil spitting invective—I could tune that out. It’s you! We grew up together! You! My best friend! Those long hours of leisure as we walked arm in arm, God a third party to our conversation.”
We have 4 small dogs. All of them are rescues. Three of them came to us as puppies. They moved right in and made themselves comfortable. Our most recent addition is Theodore. He’s a rat terrier found wandering a country road. He had fleas and dermatitis when he was found. Theodore was 5 years old when we got him. We know this because he was chipped and the rescue organization talked to the breeder. Neither the breeder nor his first family would take him back.
When I first met Theodore, I was amazed at how very stiff and almost distant he was. He’s a very muscular dog and can jump over 3 feet, straight up. We jokingly call him Stick Dog because he never seems to relax. His legs are always stick straight. He liked attention, but he never seemed to settle in one spot for very long. It was obvious that Theodore was comfortable. His skin had cleared up and his coat a returned. He was getting good food and putting on weight. He had learned his spot in the dog area. On occasion he would fall asleep in my lap, but not very often. I had resolved in my mind that he was just a loner.
Early in December, however, something changed. It was like Theodore realized that he was in his forever home. He was suddenly a lap dog. He’s still stiff and likes to know what’s going on EVERYWHERE in the house. But now, he’s the first to crawl up for cuddles. He has “his spot” on my right side and it doesn’t matter if one of the other dogs in lying there. Theodore will maneuver his way into HIS spot. He will stand outside my bathroom window and bark while I get dressed to remind me that he needs to come inside. The more that time passes, the more at home he seems. He even jumped up and down to be picked up just a few days ago. That was a new thing. It has been amazing to watch the transformation of his personality.
Theodore’s journey has made me look at my own walk of faith. As a young believer, I treated my relationship with God much as I would Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. If I was good enough, or gave enough, or had something to trade, I would be “blessed” with a happy, pain free life. If things didn’t go well, then I just wasn’t good enough. I could never relax and really trust God to work, because I was too busy being BUSY.
Through the years, I’ve learned and adjusted. I’ve read scripture.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 2:12 TLB
“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” Jeremiah 29:11 MSG
“Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need! He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most.Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way. You provide delicious food for me in the presence of my enemies. You have welcomed me as your guest; blessings overflow! Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.” Psalm 23 TLB
I claimed these scriptures. I used them as proof that God would take care of me. In some ways, I think I tried to use them as blackmail to get what I wanted in life. I assumed that I would live a long, happy, care-free life. My family and I would serve Him and be under His protection. We were and we are. BUT, my idea of protection and God’s were not the same.
While God promises to ALWAYS care for me, He has never promised that things would be easy and free of trouble. In fact, He said quite the opposite.
”And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.” Ephesians 6:12 MSG
“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” John 16:33 MSG
I think as a citizen of these United States, I have been spoiled to expect an easy life. I don’t have any idea what it means to be persecuted. So, when I hit a rough patch in life, I get all upset and feel sorry for myself. Bad stuff will happen. Even in our country, bad stuff happens. The worst thing I could imagine happened to me when my first husband died. I screamed and begged and cried out to God during that time. I tried to figure out what I had done wrong to deserve this tragedy. It took several years to come to terms with Terry’s death. I had to recognize my own selfishness. “I” was not being punished. God has a plan for each of us. Terry got his reward earlier than we expected. It was a hard lesson to learn. I’m still not totally sure I understand it all.
“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:26-28 MSG
As I have become more comfortable in my faith, I have learned to relax and depend upon God. Trials come. There are situations and consequences in my life right now that I would definitely prefer not to confront. I really don’t have a choice. There are some regrets about past life choices. There is sorrow in the consequences that must be faced. But, ultimately, God is still there for me. There is forgiveness in every situation. There are blessings and joy to be found.
” Then, when Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his wealth and happiness! In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!
So the Lord blessed Job at the end of his life more than at the beginning.” Job 42:10,12A TLB
“We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.” Colossians 1: 11-12 MSG
I think one of my favorite Christmas memories is from 1982. That was my first Christmas totally on my own. I had moved to Houston for my first “grown-up” job. This was the first Christmas that I purchased all my Christmas gifts with my own money. I loved shopping for the perfect gift for each family member. And what was even better? I didn’t have to limit myself to just one gift. I set my own budget and made my choices. It was great!
My next Christmas memory is from 1988, the first Christmas that I didn’t spend with my parents. It was the 2nd Christmas after Terry and I were married. I was pregnant with our son and we spent that Christmas in Houston. We were serving part-time in a church north of Houston and Christmas fell on a Sunday that year. The church leadership decided that we should have our normal Sunday School and Church service that Sunday as well as a Christmas Eve service on Saturday night. We spent weekends in a drab little house next to the church. The furniture was old, the bed uncomfortable. Our tree, gifts and dog were all in our apartment back in Houston. After the Christmas Eve service, Terry and I went back to our little weekend house. While he prepared spaghetti for supper, I went into the bedroom and cried. I was homesick and (if I’m honest) a little hurt by the lack of consideration from our church. After some discussion, we loaded up the spaghetti and headed back to Houston for the night. We got back to our apartment about 11:00pm. For our Christmas gifts, we had agreed to a dollar limit and decided to fill a stocking for each other. So, late that night, we feasted on spaghetti and opened our stocking gifts. We drove the 2 hours back to the little church in time for Sunday School the next morning. I was so grateful for the tenderness and understanding of my husband that Christmas. At was the greatest gift.
It’s hard to pick a favorite Christmas with my Kids. I loved shopping for them and seeing their excitement. I think I enjoyed even more, the days when we would take them shopping for each other. I will always remember the excitement of looking for the “best” gift for a sibling or a parent. I believe we taught them that giving is what Christmas is all about.
I find it disappointing when I see the joy of Christmas giving transformed into the greed of Christmas getting. When I hear comments like “No one asked me what I wanted” or “I don’t want some cheap thing, I want a REAL gift” my heart sinks a little. I don’t think it’s wrong to ask for input on Christmas gifts. But, I think it’s also acceptable to be creative and give from the heart. A handmade gift tells such a different story than a mass produced one. Have I gotten things I didn’t need or want? Yes. And, I try to find something to treasure in each gift, even if it’s only the thought.
Too many of us get caught in the trap of chr”I”stmas where “I” is the most important part of the word. When that happens, it’s all about ME:
“I” want (fill in the blank)
“I” need to be central this holiday season
“I” will not be inconvenienced.
“I” don’t care what you need unless it works for me.
“I” deserve to be happy.
The holiday season can be very difficult and life experiences often exaggerate issues.
The family that is missing a key member for the holidays, grieves for the loss of the person as well as many customs. You may not be able to carry on all of your traditions. Why not try something new this year. Don’t be afraid to be original. After my husband died, I didn’t want to celebrate. It took a few years to face Christmas with any type of joyful spirit. When we were ready, we changed a few things. Our tree was no longer traditional. It was white and decorated in pink, purple, orange and lime green. We used flamingos and boas to liven it up. We still added a Santa figure to Terry’s collection and a house to his village. But, we found new ways to move forward.
Blended families may being a competitiveness to the holidays. There may be a desire to provide the “best” experience. And, when adult children marry it adds another level of stress to the holidays. There are expectations of family traditions from every branch of the family. It can be exhausting trying to live up to it all. Young families need to set their own traditions and accept that not everything will remain the same. We celebrate the Sunday before Thanksgiving and Christmas with our children and their significant others. That’s frees up the actual holiday for whatever the individual family groups need/want to do. I’ll spend some “Mumzy time” with my grandson as well.
Too often, the holidays are a stress on the budget. You may feel the need to spend money you really don’t have and as a result, go into debt. I think I forget the lesson from the story of the Little Drummer Boy. He gave what he had. He played his drum. It didn’t matter that there were greater gifts being given. He gave what he had. When we give the best that we can, it shouldn’t have to live up to anything else. It is the BEST.
When “I” become the center of the holiday season, I miss the reason of the season.
When “I” stress about living up to the expectations that others set for me (or my gifts), I ignore the true gift that we celebrate each Christmas.
When “I” focus on what makes ME happy, I don’t have time to see what others need or have to offer.
I need to keep the holidays in focus. I need to remember that it is CHRiSTMAS and I have a very small part of it. The joy of Christmas is in celebrating the birth of Christ, the greatest gift EVER!
There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!
dictionary defines faith as “complete
trust or confidence in someone or something”. In Hebrews 11:1, we find the Biblical
definition of faith: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance
about what we do not see.” Several times through the years, I’ve heard
speakers use a chair as a tangible example of faith. You see the chair. You believe the chair will support you. You have faith in the chair even though you
have not proven that it is strong enough.
So, what happens when you step out “on faith” and sit on the chair, only
to have it collapse beneath you? Was it
your faith that failed or was it the chair?
Most of us
would agree it was the chair that was at fault.
We will look for a reason to blame the failure. Maybe the chair was designed for a child and
you were just too big for it. Possibly,
the chair was cheaply constructed and the connections just “let go”. Or, maybe the chair was just old and brittle
and was no longer safe for use when you sat in it. Folding chairs are often
have a weight limit. It doesn’t matter
how much faith you exhibit, if you choose a chair that is undersized, defective
or unsafe, you will have to face failure.
But, I doubt you will swear of chairs for life. You will choose to sit in other chairs. You will just be more discerning about your
selection of seating.
So, when we
perceive that our faith in God has failed, what’s the issue? Did God really fail, or did we put our faith
in the wrong things? Too often, I
approach God with my list of wants. I
want Him to fix a relationship or a situation.
I want responsibility for which I’m not really prepared. I want things to stay the same and never
change. I want “stuff” and “things” that
I think will bring happiness into my life.
When I treat God like a Genie in a bottle or a kind of Santa Claus,
there are more failures than successes in my life.
What about that
relationship? Are you asking God to fix the
other person? Are there issues that are
incompatible with your goals and dreams?
What if you focused on growing yourself and becoming the better person? Faith is NOT “a magic wand” that will make
all of the issues disappear. Just like a
chair, you need to be aware of the things the other person may bring into your
relationship: bad temper, sexual promiscuity, control issues, poor spending
habits, stinginess, ego are just a few. The
other person may need to be “fixed”, but it’s not your place to decide
that. You are only responsible for
repairing the areas of your own life. I
believe in marriage. I also know that
marriage is hard. Really hard at times. It’s
even harder when you refuse to see the danger signals in a relationship.
How do we
define success? In our society, success is
often measured by the car that you drive, the diamond that you wear, the house
you buy and the admiration that others heap upon your accomplishments. I work near the River Oaks area. I drive through neighborhoods with large beautiful
houses. While there’s a part of me that
would love one of these homes, the practical side of me can only see the bills
that would have to be paid to maintain such a home and the hours of cleaning
that would be needed. Too many people
saddle themselves with debt in order to be seen as a success. When a young couple is just starting out,
there are enough stresses in a new marriage without adding extraordinary
debts. An extravagant wedding (that is
over far too quickly) is too often the focus instead of the marriage that is to
last a lifetime. The first home doesn’t
have to be a show place. It doesn’t even
have to be your “dream” house. Work up
to that. Give yourself time and room to
grow. Concentrate on who you are, on what
kind of family you want, before you commit to a huge mortgage and car payment.
I have faith that all my needs will be met.
But, all the faith in the world will not erase extravagant decisions and
the resulting debt that I choose to make.
job, success or amount of money will “make” you happy. Only you can choose to find happiness in a
situation. Faith may not make you warm
and fuzzy. Faith is not about “ME” and
my happiness. Anytime, I place the responsibility of my happiness
or (the blame for my unhappiness) on another person’s shoulders, there will be
failure. Being happy is a choice that
ONLY you can make. Nothing will make you
come (and they will) and nothing seems to be going my way, does it mean that my
faith has failed? Does it mean that God
has failed and I should just write him off?
After struggling with these questions after the death of my husband, I
have to answer “no” to both questions.
Because my faith says that God will meet my needs, I am reassured. Because my faith says that God loves me as a
Father loves his child, I am comforted beyond measure. Because my faith does not depend upon “happy
endings” and smiley faces, I stand confident that no matter what, God is still
in control. My faith has changed through
the years. It’s not as me-centric. My faith is stronger because of the rotten
things that have happened. My faith stands
even when the miracles I beg for do not occur, because I know there is a
reason. Ultimately, my faith tells me
that I’m not promised this world. What I am promised is an eternity with my
God. That is my hope. That is why my Faith never fails.
It’s been almost 14 years since that awful November day when my life was turned upside down. The memories of that day will always stay with me. In an instant I was no longer married, but a widow. Our happy family of four was now a single-parent family of three. Dreams that were so exciting became dull memories. I struggled to get from one day to the next. My story now had a definite divider: before he died and after he died. Everything in our lives is gauged by that one event.
Losing my 47 year old husband was devastating. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Why would God allow such a thing to happen? I cried and begged God to let me wake up from that horrible nightmare. But, it wasn’t a nightmare. It was my new normal; a normal that I hated with every fiber of my being.
I spent hours agonizing.
Prayer was not a comfort. The
only request I had was for the pain to stop.
I questioned everything I thought I believed.
Does God really exist?
And if He does exist, is God really good?
Does He really love me and care about me?
Is there really life after death?
What do I believe about Heaven?
Is eternity really a gift for the believer?
Through the days, weeks, months and (yes) years, I got my
Yes. God does exist. And, He withstands my doubts and questions.
“Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God.” John 1:1-2 TLB
Yes. God is good. Fortunately, He’s not fair or vindictive. He treats me with Grace and Love beyond my imagination. I’m often too selfish to understand His caring and love.
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” John 3;16 MSG
Yes. God really cares about me in particular. He carried me through the darkest days. I saw His care and love through friends and family that stood by me.
I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 MSG
I do believe there is Life after Death. It is my hope and the only reason I could get through each day.
And now, dear brothers, I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those are who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again, we can also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him all the Christians who have died. I can tell you this directly from the Lord: that we who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a mighty shout and with the soul-stirring cry of the archangel and the great trumpet-call of God. And the believers who are dead will be the first to rise to meet the Lord. Then we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with this news.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 TLB
I’m still learning about Heaven. It’s a place prepared for me, not a floaty place in the clouds. Heaven is in the presence of God.
“Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.” John 14-1-4 MSG
The promise of Eternal Life is a gift given to those that have finished their “assignment” here on earth. Death is not a punishment, but a reward for those of us who believe.
“The world and its evil desires are passing away. But whoever does what God wants them to do lives forever.” 1 John 2:17 NIV
I finally stopped focusing on what my late husband was missing and accepted that he was EXACTLY where he wanted to be: in the presence of God. He wasn’t missing anything. It was ME that was missing sharing life with him. His death wasn’t a punishment. It was his reward for a life well lived.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7 NIV
I still grieve for my loss. I grieve that my children no longer have their dad. But, I don’t question God’s plan. I know He is in control. I believe in His sovereignty and His plan for me. My faith keeps me on track!
“Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!”
We operate in a world that preaches tolerance, flexibility
and understanding. Not bad ideals to
practice, in most cases. I, however,
have grown tired of being schooled on the “politically correct” response to
every situation regardless of my own beliefs and emotions. I understand that not everyone embraces my
upbringing, my history or my moral compass and I have no intention of forcing
my views onto anyone. But, at what point
do my actions stop being signs of flexible tolerance and become indications of
an untrue and even counterfeit life? Is
there a line where I am expected to stand up and voice my standards and beliefs
even if those very beliefs offend the social norm of today?
I grew up in North Texas in what is often called Tornado
Alley. Like many homes in that part of
the world, we had a storm cellar in our back yard. It had been built by my grandparents, and the
door was covered in sheet metal and made a wonder slide for play time. One day, I discovered that I could walk up
the door if I rubbed gasoline (from the 5 gallon container for the lawn mower)
on the bottoms of my rubber flip-flops.
I thought it was really neat.
That is until my mother discovered what we were doing. I was told it was dangerous to play with
gasoline. I wasn’t sure I understood the
danger, but I knew not to try it again.
Fast forward 30 years, when I met a friend who had been playing with
gasoline and had been badly burned as a result.
Now, I understood the dangers of the highly combustible fuel as well as
how fast fires can and will follow not only the liquid but the fumes. My mother was not flexible in allowing me to
have fun and play. She knew I was
playing with fire and did her best to protect me.
You may be thinking, “Of course she would stop you. So what?” This example is pretty cut and
dried. The danger was obvious. The actions were expected. So I ask:
How many times to we allow others (friends, children, family) to play
with “fire” in their lives rather than offend/anger them? There are so very many moral chasms that we
allow others to delve into without saying anything. After all, we live in a world where sex is
casual, attaining personal desire is the #1 goal and faith is only discussed as
the punchline of a joke. We speak of religion
without conviction and yet bristle when called religious. Christianity has become a social tag and the
Church a place to go on Sunday mornings IF I decide to get out of bed AND it
will benefit me in some way.
My husband uses the term “American
Christianity” to describe today’s social/religious Christian tag. American Christianity tends to focus on:
The importance of
the individual not the corporate vision or destiny of “the Church”.
prosperity instead of stewardship; using faith to attain stability and comfort
versus encouraging taking risks to advance the Kingdom.
and happiness rather than glorifying God and serving humanity.
Promoting a consumerist
mentality with regard to the home church and not the equipping for ministry; A
culture of entertainment that replaces the pursuit of God.
The church as a
building instead of a body that exemplifies a lifestyle of worship, community
and Christ following.
worship but not the effectiveness.
While each individual believer
is responsible for applying the Word of God to his/her own life, scripture was
given to the Church. When you read the
Old Testament, references are made about the Nation of Israel. In the New Testament, the community of faith
(the Church) was the focus of scripture.
As believers, we are to be a PART of the Body or The Church. We are not ‘stand-alone’ in our beliefs.
Only in the United States do
we believe we are “owed” prosperity.
Rather than being grateful for all that we have in our country, we pray
for greater things: bigger houses, nicer
cars, better paychecks. It would never
occur to most American Christians to sacrifice in order to provide for the
community around us. At most, we give a
tithe and expect a big return as a result.
If I hear one more person say “I
deserve to be happy”, I will scream! No
one ‘deserves’ to be happy. Did you read
that correctly? NO ONE DESERVES TO BE
HAPPY. An individual can CHOOSE to be
happy in any situation. When MY
happiness becomes my prime focus, I cannot focus on God. And just to close any gap that may
exist: God will NEVER use sin to bring
you happiness. An adulterous affair may
add a level of excitement and fun to your life, but is it worth the sacrifice
of your reputation and trustworthiness?
I struggle with entertainment
value attached to our American church services.
I struggle as a worship leader and as a participant. I know the danger of getting caught up in “performing”
on any given Sunday. The need to be part of the worship with the body fades if
I’m not on stage. The accolades from
others become my “worship” and I no longer look for ways to grow in my own
I believe we need to attract
people to our church services. But, more
important, I believe we need to be examples of a lifestyle of Christ following. When we show that worship is more than filling
space in a church building once a week, we influence the community is a greater
way. We make effective our worship and our
lifestyle. People are attracted to the
genuine. Worship as entertainment will
lose its appeal if there is no depth to it.
That’s why we are seeing an upswing in small group/family life
worship. My pastor has said “The Row
doesn’t know what you need, but the Circle does.” The Row represents where you sit in a church
service. The people on either side of
you have no idea what’s really going on with you. The Circle, however, represents the family
life group. That’s the small group that
hears you share on a weekly basis. That
may not be efficient, but it’s definitely effective in growing your spiritual
I want to be flexible with
people. I want to be that person that
loves regardless and sometimes in spite of the situation. I need to be a part of weekly worship and
daily growth in order to be my best self.
I cannot pretend to be something other than who I am. I will not be a counterfeit in this world
that promotes individuality but demands conformity.
“Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by
talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only
hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is
this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against
corruption from the godless world.”
We have a blended family that includes 5 adult
children that range in age from 20-30 years old. We are firmly entrenched in the marriage
stage of life. So far, we’ve had 3
weddings: Zac in 2016, Kyle in 2018 and
Reagan was married this weekend. Three
down and two to go.
As a parent, there are lots of thoughts and emotions
that arise when one of your children moves toward marriage. You want the best for your child. You pray they are making sound choices. There’s the joy (and lets be honest the stress)
of adding another person to your family as well as the new extended family. Weddings are fun, beautiful, joyful,
frustrating, tiring and hard work. And,
after the party is over, the REAL work begins in earnest.
Marriage is a constant exercise in give and
to statistics, almost 50 percent of all marriages in the United States will end in divorce or separation. Researchers estimate that 41 percentof all
first marriages end in
divorce. Of the remaining 50 to 59 percent of
marriages, I wonder how many would rate their marriages as “successful”. I love being married. I was married for 18 years, widowed for 10
years and celebrate my fourth anniversary in a few months with my new
husband. I had a successful first
marriage and I consider my current marriage a success.
So, what makes marriage so difficult? I think the answer is pretty simple: selfishness. When I concentrate on “ME” and “MY WANTS”, I cannot put my marriage first. My selfishness takes precedence. I recently saw a sign that said: “Want a bad marriage? Put yourself first. “Want a good marriage? Put your spouse first. “Want a great marriage? Put God first.”
There is so much truth in these words. If I concentrate on what God wants, I will take care of my spouse. It doesn’t matter if my spouse reciprocates. I am still responsible for seeking a Godly marriage. And if my spouse also seeks a Godly marriage, so much the better!!
We’ve all heard and/or read 1
Corinthians 13, also known as “The Love Chapter”. I find that putting scripture into my own words, makes it a little
more real to me. This is my personal interpretation
of a few of the love verses.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13 (Melissa’s
Love is valuable. It is worth everything to me.
Love keeps going even through the hard
gives to others instead of taking for itself.
is happy in its’ own yard. There are no greener pastures.
doesn’t exist only when it gets attention. Love
doesn’t allow my selfish wants to conflict with those I love.
doesn’t manipulate to get its’ way.
plays 2nd fiddle at times.
is calm in the face of conflict or disappointment.
has learned the art of forgive and forget.
doesn’t take pleasure in making others beg for attention
speaks the truth (even when it hurts.)
withstands any attack.
is from God and trusts that He is in control.
often wears “rose colored” glasses and sees the good in a difficult situation.
never asks “what if” and longs for something (or someone) else Love stands firm and stays true to its’
vows and commitments.
There are three things that will make me successful in life: Trust, Hope and Love. And Love is the one that is my focus.
We all crave love. We want to be adored and cherished. Too often, however, we confuse lust with love and settle for less than the best God has for us. We have found that we can avoid solving issues within relationships by moving on to new relationships. There is excitement in the chase. We use the excuses “I’m just not happy and I deserve happiness”, “We’ve just grown apart and have nothing in common”, or (the biggest lie from Satan) “God wouldn’t have brought him/her into my life if He didn’t want me to be with him/her.” Just as Eve allowed the Serpent to persuade her to eat the forbidden fruit, we listen to the world and throw love and commitment to the wolves in order to have a moment of excitement and fun.
As my children begin and continue
to grow their marriages and their own families, I pray that the words of 1
Corinthians 13 will ring true and keep them on the true path.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
We’ve all seen the sign that warns of tire damage if you backup. You can move forward and the spikes lay flat. But, backup or go the wrong direct, and your tires are shredded. There’s no turning back when you see this sign. You are forced to “go with the flow” and drive forward.
How many times have I wanted a “do over” during my lifetime? This is especially true after I’ve made a decision and things haven’t gone exactly as planned. My mind goes into overdrive with “what if” and “if only” thoughts. I’m plagued with plans on how to “go back” and “fix it;.” But, truthfully, that’s not an option. Any time spent trying to go back will be wasted and will come at a cost to myself and may to those around me.
“ But Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt.”
Genesis 19:26 MSG
Lot and his family were living Sodom and Gomorrah. Angels visited and instructed Lot to take his family and “run for your life! Don’t look back! Don’t stop anywhere on the plain—run for the hills or you’ll be swept away.” God was saving them from the destruction that was coming. Lot had seen the debauchery. He and his family trusted the Angels and started on their way. But, what if the city wasn’t so bad after all? If only there was one more chance. Lot’s wife couldn’t move forward. She was too caught up in what she was leaving behind. She turned back and the entire family was affected by her decision.
“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”
Philippians 3:12-14 MSG
As a young mother, I remember being overwhelmed. I worked a full time demanding job. We had two young children. My husband and I always seemed to have more
month than money. It was easy to wonder:
“What if I was single and going out with
my co-workers? If only I didn’t have all
these responsibilities. Don’t I deserve
to be happy and have fun?” It was a
tough time in our marriage. Ultimately,
I realized that I couldn’t go back and could only move forward with the
decisions I had made about my life. And,
I’m so glad that I did.
In our world, choosing ME over anything is what
we are told to do. I need to find MY
happiness. I am the most important
person in my life. God wants ME to be
happy or He wouldn’t have brought (fill in the blank) into MY life. It’s too easy to find an excuse to abandon
what I have for something that “might be”.
I become my own worst enemy. I
plot and scheme to make God fit into the itinerary I have made for my
life. And when that doesn’t work, my
first thought is to try again. I’m
certain I know best. Sound familiar?
I’ve watched so many families/marriages implode
because reality has overtaken the fairy tale.
Things aren’t as perfect as we want.
Prince Charming’s armor is a little dented & tarnished and those
glass slippers really pinch your toes. You begin to look back, to wonder: “Maybe I married too quickly. What if I had waited for the Jack of Hearts
to take and interest. He’s really cute.” And before you even recognize what has
happened, you’re a pillar of salt. Stuck
in the wilderness you thought you wanted.
You’ve destroyed your future. You’ve
destroyed your family. In an effort to
recapture what might have been, you have chosen to backup and have suffered
severe “damage your tires.”
What can we learn from this? Is there any hope? I believe there is. While I don’t think any of us “deserve” to be
happy, I know that I can “choose” to be happy and content in any
circumstance. You see, when I stopped looking
at all of the fun that my single friends were having all those years ago, I
realized something. They were looking
for a life JUST LIKE MINE! Every one of
them wanted a home and a family. I must had to stop day-dreaming about what
might have been and embrace what really WAS.
My reality was a husband that loved me as much as he irritated me. My reality was a son and a daughter that just
wanted to spend time with me: quantity over quality. My reality was God always provided for all of
our needs. I made the decision to invest
in my less than perfect marriage. I
began to focus on what I could DO to bring joy to my husband and my children
instead of what I thought I was missing.
And you know what? The best
years of my marriage started right then!
“But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” E
Ephesians 4:20-24 MSG
You can never go back. Whether good or bad, that is the past. You can only move forward.
“Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms.”