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All parents would like their adult children to come to church. If the adult children decide to join the parents in their home church, it’s even better.
One warm spring day my adult son and his family phoned to say they would be meeting us at church for the early service. My adult daughter and her family were also committed to sit with us. “Mom, could you save us seats?” came the request through the phone line. “The baby needs to nurse, and we aren’t quite dressed but we will be there soon!”
“Of course, we will save you some seats!” Okay, maybe a lot of seats since this meant 10 people counting the babies would sit together. When we got to the service our usual pew was waiting for us, so we threw down some sweaters, Bibles and programs to save space for our family to worship together. All this seemed good until the minutes began to tick away with no sign of kids.
An older lady who used a walker came in the sanctuary with her faithful daughter guiding her down the aisle. She tried to take a seat at the end of the pew we had saved. Her daughter noticed we had littered the pew with materials, gave me a scolding look and moved up one pew. I knew it was her usual seat but my family was coming. It was difficult to concentrate on the service when the realization that my children weren’t going to show up began to sink in. We had scrambled to get the seats reserved, and another member had been booted from her usual place for nothing! I felt horrible for her and asked God to grant her peace. I thought, “She is quite old and obviously is in love with the Lord. My son and his wife do not yet know the Lord. The seats were being saved for the unsaved. Surely she would understand?”
I just happened to know the woman and knew she had failing health. Her daughter was visibly disgusted with us, especially when the seats were never occupied. It was an unfortunate situation, not easily corrected. We certainly felt unfriended that day, but I did not hold the animosity shown to our family against the feeble woman. I didn’t try to make her understand, I just prayed for her.
God took the woman home within a few weeks of that event. When I heard of her passing, I immediately thought, “Wow, God has just given her a front row seat!” I thanked the Lord for her life and her service to Him. I was not harboring anything against her or her daughter but wondered if they had held us hostage for interfering with their seating assignments. I know this seems like such a small thing, but people really get offended easily when things don’t go their way or they don’t get what they believe they deserve. It’s a great picture of what we do as a church family without meaning to.
I cannot go to the dead woman to ask her forgiveness, but I can release her and her daughter from any wrongdoing. It was my decision whether or not I was going to hang on to that offense or not. I decided to let it go. I decided to forgive and forget – forever.
My old cat Molly loves to soak up the sun. In the summer months she can be found on the patio, in a flowerbed or on a lounge chair for hours at a time letting the warmth of the sun penetrate her fur. When the cold north winds begin to usher in the below freezing temps of winter she tucks her tail and runs for the warmth of her bed inside. She is a great weather forecaster!
With the slightest rise in temperature, she cautiously pulls herself from the confines of her princess pad and ventures to a spot where the sun is shining. It may only be a small beam on a spot just big enough for her, but she takes full advantage of it. She will stretch out her paws and purr, warming her weary bones until she gets her fill. I notice she never misses an opportunity to get into the light and capture its luxurious warmth.
When the sunbeam fades into dusk, Molly is content to return to her bed indoors until the next opportunity to relish in the light of the sun. During winter’s short days she will be content to grab hold of any ray of light she can, and when summer comes again and she can rejoice in the heat from dawn ‘til dusk every day. She didn’t need lessons for finding sun beams, she instinctively knows to go where the light is.
Winter months can be a difficult time to get through because of the long dark nights and short days. This gloomy atmosphere after the hectic holiday season can pull many into a pit of despair. An excellent remedy for those suffering from the dreary days of winter is to find your own sun beam, and get into the light! Bask in its goodness and enjoy its warmth on your skin. Even in the dead of winter, the sun will find a way to warm its captor, and is a necessary component to good emotional health.
Another element to great emotional wellness is following the SON! John 8:12 says “Then Jesus again spoke to them. Saying, I Am the Light of the world, he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness but will have the Light of life.”
Jesus seems to be saying, “I’m throwing out a beam of light so you can see! Follow me!” It tells me we will have dark and difficult times in life. We need to look for the Light of the world and follow Him so we won’t lose our way!
The Light of the World will never grow dim or burn out, God sent His Son to illuminate our path all the way to eternity. If you’ve grown cold, it could be because you stopped walking! Following Jesus means we are always pursuing Him, and we need to be moving towards the Light! Come on get up and get going, travel into the warmth of the Son, bask in His goodness, enjoy His presence and feel His warmth penetrate your soul.
Teenage girls love to use this phrase these days. If something goes awry, they will “tweet” soon after with “On the bright side!” naming a positive to follow their perceived negative. Now those of you who don’t know what a tweet is, well, you just might be showing your age. Twitter accounts are used to “tweet” short little phrases to give your followers a little “heads up to what is going on in your world”. With technology moving so fast, most probably won’t even know what a “tweet” is within a few years. However, for now it is the quickest, shortest form of communication there is.
So, “on the bright side,” Lily Grace was released from her captors (i.e. NICU) on a wonderfully brilliant fall day. You know the kind. Where the sky is so startlingly blue, meeting the red, orange and yellows below; making it seem surreal as if you just stepped into a painting. So brilliant and crystal clear, everything appeared to stand at attention like a parade to welcome this child home. It was such a relief to so see this young family escorting their newest edition to what would become her permanent place of residence.
These homecomings are a bit different than those you usually hear about for a new baby. No one was there to greet them, there were no streams of well-wishers, no casseroles or cookies. It was just them pulling into their familiar surroundings with hopes of settling into a regular routine after a storm. Much like a hurricane, flood or fire, it takes time to adjust once you have returned home. You must assess the damage and rebuild if you will. This family would begin right away by making their oldest feel safe and secure again, reassuring him that mommy and daddy were not leaving any time soon. They then introduced his little sister to her new sanctuary that had no wires, cords or noisy machines. It is a precious peaceful room with her name over the bed, a rocker in the corner, and framed scripture on the walls. One reads “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6. May I go on? Verse 7 and 8 says “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to our body and refreshment to your bones.” Now verses 5 and 6 are displayed right there in her new space but I couldn’t resist sharing the next two verses and how very fitting they are for this situation. How much like God’s Word to be so sharp! Go ahead read all 35 verses of this Third Proverb, it’s chocked full of things we all of need every day.
Even though the baby was handed over to her rightful owners they are still fretful for her well-being. Their heads are full of questions and concerns. Is she sleeping too long? Is she eating enough? Is she gaining weight? Is she breathing too fast? Nights are filled with anxious moments. When all is quiet mommy will jump up from a sound sleep “just to check on the baby.” The trauma of an entrance like Lily’s has long lasting effects on a family. It will take some time, but God has a way of pouring grace into our skeptical hearts bringing with it a peace that passes all understanding. Philippians 4:7. Like Job, we are probably not ever going to know why this was the path chosen for Lily and her family but we did see glimpses of His Hand at work there in the NICU and beyond. Countless people were changed because of her illness. Thousands prayed, many for the first time. This hurting couple would minister to other parents in the NICU who were there for the first time. They prayed openly over their child’s incubator, effectively preaching the gospel without ever saying a word. Nurses and doctors alike would be affected forever because of this small life.
We had no reason to expect the same scenario with this new baby. It came completely unexpected. The news that our newest granddaughter was gravely ill, just like her brother had been when he was born, caught me unaware and feeling like an unsuspecting wave was sweeping me out to sea. I was overcome with grief for this family, for their aching hearts and for mine.
I began to question God. Why had He allowed this to happen again? We prayed on our knees that this baby would be born without incident and we would welcome her into the world with the usual hoopla that most babies are delivered with. We would all hold, snuggle, and grin stupidly at her as we passed her from one to another wondering who she looked like.
As those hopes and dreams began to evaporate into thin air on that unusually brisk day in the early fall the harsh reality began to sink in. Again! We are going to do this all again! Really, God?!?!
The suffering was so great, the grief so intense, as we watched this beautiful girl restrained with padding across her chest, headphones to keep out the noise, no touching, stroking or holding. The incubator was completely enclosed with a quilt over the top to add even more darkness. All the lights were off with a big SHHHHH! Sign on the door. Her mother sat quietly by her side day after day while the ventilator/oscillator filled those tiny lungs with air. More medicines than I can even recount pumped into her pic line, which had to be surgically inserted. She was also sporting a thick elastic shoulder brace to protect a broken clavicle and a feeding tube in her belly button. Tubes and tape prevented us from seeing her face for more than 10 days!
Those days were dark days for her and for us. We watched in disbelief as this little flower from God was kept alive with machines, equipment and medicines. All of a sudden God didn’t feel so good. He didn’t feel so loving and kind. All of the sudden I felt abandoned, lonely and disappointed. His Word no longer comforted me. Let the suffering begin!
When God begins to squeeze us with circumstances in our lives, He is proving us, testing us, to see if we will trust Him in the dark valleys of life. At those times we begin to see ourselves more clearly. Our faith is on the front burner now. It is here where we begin to see the pressure of our current situation expose our weakness. Dark days indeed, for more than one reason!
As God burned off the unbelief, weak faith and skeptic that had taken up residence in me, He revealed my heart to me. Suffering like My Jesus had suffered would be the only way to strengthen my relationship with Him. I would need to partake in some of what He had experienced for me.
Thank you, Lord, for dying for me.
My 2 ½ year old grandson came to stay with us when his newborn sister was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) one hour and forty five minutes away from home. His mom would stay by her newborn’s bedside for the next 21 days while his daddy went to work and school in between his trips back and forth to the hospital. It was a trying time for all of us.
This was not the first time we had been to this NICU and as unfortunate as it was we already knew all the staff in this specialized care facility for newborns. You see, the little guy that was smiling up at me every day asking for “a bite of” was in this same facility during his first month of life as well.
Even though our time together was unexpected we made the best of it, and like any good “Meme” we got caught up on our Looney Toons episodes! One day, as I watched these old familiar cartoons, Sylvester the cat said “sufferin’ succotash.” I thought, “That’s it! This suffering is for a reason, it is meant to help me understand how much Jesus suffered for me.” In this light bulb moment I realized I had wanted my salvation and all the goodness that comes with that, but I wasn’t willing to suffer like my Savior had. I wanted my cake and to eat it too!
Reality set in and I began to question my faith, my belief in God, and I think even lost my hope for a time. God began to show me some things I didn’t really want to read or hear about. We must be willing to suffer like His Son did. Jesus was lonely, hungry and tired. He had no home or income. Once it was discovered he could heal people Jesus was hounded and called upon until it made it very difficult for him to spend time alone with his Father. He was persecuted, ridiculed and laughed at before he ever got to the cross.
I began to ask myself: could I trust God even when I couldn’t see? Did I really believe He was the God of all comfort? Was my faith strong or weak? I honestly was not very proud of some of my answers.
1 Peter 4: 12-13 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.
“The Good News” comes with a price. Jesus suffered and died for our sins so we could have access to the Throne Room. We must be willing to partake in the sufferings of Christ to really know and experience the glory of God. Let me ask you today – are you willing to share in the sufferings of Christ? Can you trust when you cannot see? Will you hold onto your hope in Christ when things look bleak?
One interesting side note: When I googled suffering succotash I found the following information on the term:
In the mid-1800s, during the Victorian era, there was a rejection of all profanity and so the common people developed a wide variety of malapropisms to avoid swearing on Holy names. Soon, one could hear “cripes” and “crikey” replace “Christ” and “dangnabit” replace “G*d damn it”; and “cheese ‘n’ rice” replace “Jesus Christ.” The phrase “suffering succotash” replaced “suffering Savior.”
Electronics and their power cords have become a way of life for most of us. Each time we get a new gadget it requires a new source of power. After a while you begin to wonder, “What does this cord go to anyway? Do I still own the contraption it was partnered with?”
Unlike the new-fangled devices of today, we have an old but ever-present power source in our Savior, Jesus Christ. His sacrifice on the cross established a never ending connection to move the mighty hand of God at the mere sound of His name!
I am reminded of Peter’s proclamation in Acts 3:6 — But, Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk!” The lame man had spent 40 years begging when all he needed to do was believe in the power of the name of Jesus!
Do you realize if you have received salvation you have the power described in this verse?
When we become believers in Jesus Christ we tap into the ultimate power source! No special cords or adapters required.
Recently, my husband ran into an old college buddy who is now a pastor. The men looked at each remembering their former days. My husband simply stated, “That was a long time ago.” The pastor nodded in agreement and commented on God’s grace. They exchanged a hearty handshake and said no more. I stood by marveling at what God can do with a life willing to accept His grace and forgiveness. Both men had been changed by God and were now nothing like the young boys of their past.
Have you ever run into someone who knew you in your younger years? Maybe you weren’t a believer in Jesus at the time. Maybe you were involved in immoral behavior or sinful pleasures of the world. Are you embarrassed by your past? Do you wish you could erase your life before Christ?
Rest assured, God uses all things past and present for His Glory! He does not waste an experience, no matter how ugly or unbecoming. We can be confident that once salvation is granted by God through repentance we have an eternal home in heaven. Our name will never be erased from the book of life! (Rev 2:5b) When we stand before Jesus at heaven’s gate we will no longer be remembered for the sins we have committed. We will not be a felon, a number, or have an ugly past. Since we will also be leaving our earthly bodies behind, all abnormalities, obesity, or self inflicted reminders of our previous life will also be wiped out.
Isaiah 65:17 says, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.” Just think about it. No one in heaven will remember your past or what you have done. We will all be forgiven and it will be forgotten!
Thank you for wiping out our past by your death on the cross. How wonderful it is to think on these things. Help us to remember that once we are saved by grace you will never erase our name from the book of life and that you use all of the good, bad and the ugly to bring glory to your name! Amen.
453 photographs, desert dust on the bottom of my shoes and Jordan River water smuggled in my luggage were some tangible things I returned from my pilgrimage to God’s Country with. My mind however is full of real time locations that our Lord walked and worshiped our Great God. So many sights and wonders to behold among the droves of people bustling about. I wondered how I would comprehend all that I was experiencing. Like Mary, mother of Jesus, I began to treasure all these things in my heart.
Exact locations of actual events pertaining to Our Lord, Jesus Christ are impossible to predict but as our wonderful guide stated almost every day “We are in the area.” The area indeed! Thousands of years of wind, rain and weather have blown the terrain from place to place making it difficult to discern locations but new excavations are unearthing some wonderful realities related to Jesus. Many churches have been built over locations that have been decided upon by scholars and theologians as an approximate spot for various events.
Even though the city of Bethlehem and Jerusalem have changed, God has not! He still loves that land and the people. He is still in the business of offering salvation to those who will accept it by faith through Jesus. He is still going to return one day to that very spot! Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!!
It was my impression along with many others that God doesn’t really want us to know the exact location of these precious moments of Jesus life for fear we might become idolatrous towards them. It was enough to know we were in the area.