Just living my life, and making it work!

Posts tagged ‘Jesus’

Today is the Reason I Never Visit My Parents’ Graves

Yesterday my cousin went to our grandmother’s grave. As many people do, she cleaned it up, and placed flowers in the vase. It made me realize that in all the seven years since my parents died I have only been back out to the grave once, and only at the request of my grandparents.  Today is Easter Sunday, and it also made me think of the women who went to visit Jesus’ grave. They went there to pray, and grieve. On that first Easter Day they chose to go there, because that is where they thought He was. Of course, we know He wasn’t there. HE Is Risen!

It is because of this truth that I don’t go to my parents’ graves. My parents are not in their graves, because Jesus  is not in His. Sure, there is some decaying shell of the human bodies they once occupied while they were here, but they are not there anymore. Just as there was nothing for those women visiting Jesus’ tomb, there is nothing for me at those graves. Now, I don’t know exactly where they are, or what they are doing. But, I do know that where ever it is they are waiting expectantly, just as I am waiting expectantly for Jesus to return. We are waiting for His return to cast  out evil, settle up with non believers, and conquer death once and for all. Basically, this is the whole point of Easter. Jesus died for our sins, and rose again so that we can have hope in our grief, and not fear death. 

Jesus offers this hope to everyone, and just because some don’t believe it, doesn’t make it any less true. On that first Easter Day the tomb was either empty, or it wasn’t.  It is either true, or it isn’t. If you aren’t sure how to answer that, or if you think it’s a lie, I want to encourage you to really look into this question. All of us need to be absolutely sure about the answer we give. Like it or not, you are betting your hope,  your future, and your eternal life on it.  If you are thinking about giving the Bible a look, for what it’s worth, Romans is my favorite. 

For Such A Time As This

This morning my Facebook feed started blowing up that a man with ties to ISIS opened fire at a LGBT night club this morning. This tragedy is being billed as the largest mass shooting in our nations history. There is so much going on in this story that I’m not sure where to begin, so I’m just gonna.

Dear ISIS,

You go about creating these “terror” attacks in hopes that the fear you are perpetrating will force some kind of change. Let me be clear, greater is He that is living in me than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). I am sure that whatever plots you design, and carry to fruition CAN and WILL be used for GOOD, even though they are conceived by you in hate (Genesis 50:20) God is our protector, and healer. Just as He rescued the Jews time and time again, so He will deliver us from the likes of you. I serve the God who is filled with grace, and mercy, and everlasting hope that none should perish, but CHOOSE to follow Him (2 Peter 3:9). Your god teaches you to terrorize and murder those who do not follow him. By your fruits are you known. (Matthew 7:16)

Dear Christians saying the LGBT community got what they deserved,

If sin makes you deserving of being shot down in cold blood by a mad man, we’d ALL BE WEARING BULLET PROOF VESTS. I have a tattoo on my wrist. It has a cross with the words “Romans 3:23”. This serves as a reminder to me that we have ALL sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are ALL in need of Jesus, because we are ALL sinners. Keep your eyes on your own paper, and don’t’ act like you know the smallest thing about the hearts and minds of those who were tragically killed this morning, because you don’t. But, God does, and he expects  Christians to offer the same sort of grace, mercy, and forgiveness that He gives to us daily…..some times hourly. Jesus himself said the two greatest commandments are to Love God & Love Others. (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12 :30-31,  Luke 10:27)  If you are unclear about how God defines “love” please see 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Dear Christian America,

Do not let this tragedy steal your love away from immigrants or make you fear them. First, this particular criminal was a natural born citizen. This tragedy has more to do with the general decline of patriotism than it does immigration. Second, unless your blood line is exclusively Native American or Mexican, you are from an immigrant family. Third, America has long been a refuge for the oppressed, and those who lack opportunity in their native country. . Let the immigrants from these war torn Muslim countries who need refuge come. Just as God used Jonah to turn Nineveh towards Him, so can He use this opportunity we have to pour love, grace, and mercy into the hearts of this immigrant population. Matthew 5:14-16 says “Your are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people hide a lamp, and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

 

When God Tells You Who You Are BELIEVE Him!

The other day one of my kids came in the back door crying because someone called him a “big fat jerk”. I asked him if he was in fact a big fat jerk, and looking at the floor he slowly shook his head no. Hugging him I said that when people say bad or untrue things about him he should stand up tall, and confidently say “Those words are not true, and I don’t care what you say about me.”. I encouraged him to practice saying that sentence. The first time tears were still streaming down his cheeks and I could barely hear his voice. We said it again and again together until his head and shoulders were high and there was conviction and strength behind his words. We practiced because he could say that sentence 100 times, but until he really took it into his heart and BELIEVED it to be true, the words would have no power.

A short time later I found myself in a funk. I was anxious about all the never ending house hold chores I hadn’t completed. I felt insecure about looking older, and worried that I wasn’t spending enough time with my husband. I felt like I wasn’t spending enough time with my kids, teaching them enough, making them eat enough good foods. In short I felt unworthy of my house, my marriage, my children……basically my life. I allowed these thoughts to seep in through the cracks of insecurity and unworthiness in my heart, and pool together at the bottom of my soul leading to feelings of failure and despair.

Mercifully I was doing a women’s Bible study by Pricilla Shirer called “The Armor of God’, and the idea of using the “Helmet of Salvation” to “take every thought captive” was fresh in my mind. (An amazing Bible study that I highly recommend) I began to break down and evaluate these thoughts, and compare them with His truth as found in the Bible. I realized that most of these thoughts were rooted in lies of deception, guilt, and unworthiness. None of witch comes form God, and in fact are used by the Devil to deceive us and shield our minds from the truth.

Every time I identified a thought or someone else’s words as untrue I stopped what I was doing. Bound that untruth in my mind, and purposefully rejected it. I then asked the Holy Spirit to replace that lie by speaking truth to my soul. Over time I began to identify these lies more quickly, and I made room in my heart for God’s truth. We tell our children they should be confident in who God made them to be. We tell them to ignore and stand courageously against lies they hear from others. Unfortunately, we don’t always apply that wisdom to our own lives, because deep down although many of us already know God’s truths we don’t really BELIEVE it in our soul. So……

When He tells you he loves you, and will provide what you need BELIEVE HIM!

When He tells you you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that He knit you together in your mother’s womb BELIEVE HIM!

When He tells you not to be anxious about bad seasons in life, but to see it as an opportunity to grow in wisdom and strength knowing that He will see you through it BELIVE HIM!

When He tells you eternal salvation is as easy as accepting Jesus as your savior and putting Him first in your life BELIEVE HIM!

Anything contradictory to His truths are lies conceived to destroy you peace, your faith, your hope, and your calling according to  His purposes. Once you know these truths and you BELIVE God is who he says he is, and you BELIEVE you are who God says you are in Him, you can easily identify and reject the lies seeping into your life. In doing so you leave room in your mind and heart for the Holy Spirit to speak TRUTH into your life. You start to BELIVE in your heart that you are a child of God, as in the CREATER OF THE UNIVERSE GOD, and any outside approval you may or may not receive becomes insignificant in comparison.

A favorite mantra of mine is “If it is good enough for God, I don’t care if its good enough for anyone else”. I’ve been saying this to people as an encouragement for the last few years, but I didn’t  really BELIEVE it in my soul. I would say it, but just like my son, the words had no power behind them. I still had feelings of doubt, insecurity, unworthiness, anxiety , and fear. Once I started rejecting the lies behind those feelings, and BELIEVING that what God says about me is true I found a inner peace and joy that I have honestly not had since I was a child. Now I can hear the lies whispered into my ears intended to settle in my heart, and say with confidence ” I am a child of God. Those words are not true, and I don’t care what you say about me.”

 

 

I’m a Tax Collector

A few Sundays ago I was in church discussing the fact that Jesus associated with sinners and tax collectors. Tax collectors were thought to be particularly  terrible people as they got rich from taking more taxes than they were due, and by collecting taxes for the Roman Empire they were assisting in the oppression of their own people.  Matthew, Levi, and Zaccheaus were all used as examples of  tax collectors who Jesus spent time with. In Mark 2:16 the Pharisees called Jesus our for eating with “sinners and tax collectors”. The implication of this study being that as Christians we should climb down off our high crosses, and  reach out to the lowly sinners and tax collectors to show them the error of their ways. Are you kidding me?!?!  I find this sentiment especially  repulsive, because guess what ? We are all tax collectors.

In case you missed it I’m gonna say it again.

WE ARE ALL TAX COLLECTORS!

I can clearly remember being 15, sitting on my bed with my BFF discussing everyone else’ sins. We were patting ourselves on the back because we didn’t smoke, or drink, or sleep around, and we were absolutely judging those we knew who did. I had a list of do’s and do not’s, and I felt my list of do not’s was pretty clean (at least on the outside). It wasn’t, but I felt it was especially when I compared myself with the other kids I knew. In reality, on the inside, I was judgmental, manipulative, gossipy, prideful and self-righteous. I was every bit as big of a “tax collector” in need of redemption as the kids we were trash talking. The only difference was my sins are not as easily detected by others from the outside. And by the way over the years I have participated in more than my fair share of those easily detectable sins as well.

The point is all of us have stuff that puts us at odds with God’s standards. Even those who we would consider to be really “good people” are not. Isaiah 64:6 says “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Furthermore, Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” We are ALL sinners and tax collectors in need of reconciliation with God. Even our very best attempts at living a Holy life falls so incredibly short of God’s standards that it is compared to “filthy rags“. Our hope of redemption does not depend on how clean our list of do’s and do not’s is, but from accepting the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and the resulting infusion of the Holy Spirit within us.

I see people all the time standing on street corners throwing people’s sins up in their faces. They are ranting about sins like alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, homosexuality, and promiscuity. They call these sins abominations, and tell people that if they stop doing them they can come to know Jesus. I’m sorry, but Jesus is not a 10 step program. John 3:16-17 does not say “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and  only Son, and whoever  shall not drink, smoke, engage in homosexuality, fornicate, engage in adultery……. will not perish, but have ever lasting life….” Instead it says ” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” It is impossible for people to overcome sin and then come to Jesus, as it is only through Jesus that sin can be overcome.

So instead of thinking of ourselves as Christians reaching out to the “lowly” sinners and tax collectors how much more amazing would it be if we said “I am a sinner and tax collector too. This is my stuff, and this is how Jesus has brought me through it, and continues to bring me through it every  moment of every day of my life. AND this is how you can lay your stuff at his feet too.” Instead of putting on a face of perfection so people will see how Holy and self-righteous I am, I need to be showing people my brokenness so they can see how Holy and righteous my God is.  When confronted by the Pharisees for eating with sinners and tax collectors Jesus simply replied ” It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” I don’t know about you, but I’m just another sick tax collector patient in the hospital of life in need of a cure named Jesus.

 

 

The Thing About Suicide

When the clock moved to 12:01 January 1,2010 my first thought was” is this the year that I am going to loose my mom?” She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and had been told she had 6-12 months to live four months ago. I was broken hearted when on January 15,2010 she died suddenly of a heart attack due to complications of her first round of chemotherapy. I could have never imagined that just eleven days later I would be planning another funeral for my dad.

On January 26. 2010 I came home from work, and mentioned to my husband that I was going to call my dad. I had been working all day on a speech to get him to move in with us. My husband took the phone from my hand, hugged me, and told me that that morning my dad had shot himself dead. My father had left instructions for the police to call my husband with the news. My dad picked his spot, got out of his truck, called 911, and told them where he was, and what was about to occur. He left us a detailed note, and things in as much order as he could get them in less than two weeks. Apparently he had been planning on killing himself after my mom died from the moment he heard the words ” terminal cancer” leave the oncologists mouth.

I took the news well at first. I didn’t even cry. I was just numb, and went into crisis management mode. There were people to call, and arrangements to be made. My dad’s brother and his sister turned right around and drove back ( about 8-10 hours for both) to help me. The rest of his family got snowed in, and couldn’t make it back. My mom had a nice traditional funeral service with all our family and friends. My dad got a grave side memorial with a handful of family. I bought a new dress for my mom’s funeral, but wore jeans and a sweater to my dad’s. I was just trying to survive at that point. Don’t get me wrong I don’t feel guilty for my dad’s sake. He was gone, and didn’t care. I just feel like his suicide robbed us of going through a complete funeral process of saying good bye to him. It’s true what they say about funerals being for the living, not the dead. It seemed like we said good bye to my mom, and just sort of buried my dad as an after thought.

A lot of our family felt really angry once the shock wore off. I was a little mad that I was left behind, and I was completely overwhelmed with the seemingly endless amounts of calls and paperwork to settle their affairs. Every time I made a call to a stranger telling them out loud that my father killed himself widened the hole in my heart a little bit more. I sometimes even felt guilty for laying it on unsuspecting clerks that were just answering phones at some business. There were a couple of times i thought the person on the other line was going to cry. It was awful, but with my husband’s help we got through it.

I was sad to loose my dad, and I miss him daily. However, I never get the feeling that he should still be here. If I am really honest with myself I knew he wouldn’t last long after my mom’s death. I really expected that he would be one of those men who just sort of wasted away after their wives passed. You know, the type that just gives up and dies of some unknown medical ailment, but who really die of a broken heart. I hoped that my children, his only grandchildren, would be enough to change that. Obviously it wasn’t .

I never felt like my dad left because he didn’t love us. I have always been a ” daddy’s girl”, and he adored me and my kids. Everything my dad did in life was for my mom, my brother, and I. He felt like my brother and I were grown, and my mom was gone. He knew I had my husband to lean on, and my brother had a great job. I think he just decided his work was done here, and he desperately wanted to move on to the next stage in his journey. He was also very independent, and the thought of aging without my mom to care for him, leaving it to us, was out of the question. Although it is a task I would have gladly accepted.

I knew there was nothing I could have done or said to change his mind, but the thought of him standing alone in that field haunts me. I wonder what he was thinking in those last moments walking into the field, and putting the gun to his chest. Was he lonely or scared? Did he cry because he was leaving us, or was he excited to soon be in heaven with my mom? It was probably a combination, but I guess I’ll never truly know. What I do know as surely as I am sitting here writing this is that my dad is now with Jesus in heaven. I am certain that if God was not yet prepared to accept my father into heaven his suicide would have been unsuccessful.

There are some Christians that believe suicide is a unforgivable sin. However the Bible teaches us that God has mercy and forgives all sins of those who accept the blood of Christ as atonement. It further teaches that all sin is equal in the eyes of God, and NONE of us are worthy of salvation. God freely gives us salvation through the death of His son on the cross. My dad believed and trusted in Jesus, and I know that I know that I know that he is walking in heaven today, and that someday we will all be together again. Until then I will just have to rely on the truth that whatever he is missing here with me pales in comparison to the amazing, and awesome wonder that he experiences in heaven to such a level that it is completely beyond my vocabulary or understanding to describe.

I hope that if you have lost someone to suicide that you can have the same since of peace that I have found in the gospel of Jesus. If not, I hope that you can find someone to talk through your feelings with. Many churches have grief groups or counselors and pastors that can help you deal with your feelings, and understand what you’ve been through. I know it is not easy to heal, but I’m here to tell you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it often starts with forgiveness. Until you can forgive that person and harbor no bitterness in your heart, you cannot be open to healing. This is a basic truth for anyone looking for peace and healing from a hurt or injustice.

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