A New Year’s Prayer For Hurting Hearts

Some of us enter trembling through the door of a new year. 

This last year wasn’t so good and our hearts are broken.

What if the next year is worse?  How will we manage?  Where can we hide from bad news, bad outcomes, disastrous trauma?

Truth is, we can’t.  

So here we are, bravely marching in, hanging on to hope and begging God for mercy.  

Read the rest here: New Year’s Prayer for Hurting Hearts

Gifts Of Grace In Grief


It was a long time before I wanted to believe that I received any gifts worth keeping from this life I didn’t choose.

I knew I had tears, pain, agonizing sorrow, loss, heartache, dashed hopes, empty arms.

If I could give those back and regain my son, I would do it in less than a heartbeat.

I can’t, so I’m left here to ponder what else I’ve received from burying a child.

And I am learning that I have been given some gifts I truly cherish, although the price was higher than I would have willingly paid.

Read the rest here: Grace Gifts of Grief

Change of Plans

So I had made a sort of peace with a 2020 Christmas.

Not being with my dad. Not traveling to see my grandson. My daughter working the holiday, saving folks from Covid and themselves.

Keeping things small and as safe as possible.

The three of us at home had thought up some fun culinary treats and planned on munching in front of a roaring fire.

And then there was a change of plans.

I woke up on Christmas Eve to a massive lower GI bleed and I knew what that meant: a trip to the ER and transfer to hospital. Yippee!

Not at all how I was planning to spend Christmas.

But my scale of awful is so much worse than disappointment and I’m thankful for modern medicine that ensures I can recover.

I escaped needing a transfusion by a small margin.

I’m tired from too little sleep, too few red blood cells and very little food but I am home after just 48 hours!!!

My tree will stay up and presents wrapped until schedules permit the limited family gathering we had hoped for earlier.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this Valley it’s that only death can’t be undone.

In the meantime I’m getting used to letting others do most of the chores around here and trying to occupy myself with lap projects as my body rebuilds.

This Christmas was hard on a lot of hearts.

And New Year’s is around the corner, reminding us that even when we want to, we can’t stop the earth from turning and time marching on.

I pray that if you, like me, were forced to face additional challenges this season you feel the Father’s loving arms around you and that you find the strength to hold onto hope.

Sometimes Grief Sneaks Up On You

In the daylight

In the dark

In my dreams

Things creep in at the corner of my vision

Or sounds slip in unnoticed

Until my brain puts them together and screams, “Oh no!”.

Read the rest here: Swallowing Panic

When Grief Comes Crashing Down: Post Holiday Blues

It’s a paradox really-that grieving hearts can be more anxious and more sorrowful BEFORE and AFTER a milestone day, birthday or holiday than on the day itself.

That’s not true for everyone, but it’s a frequent comment in our closed bereaved parent groups.

Fearful anticipation of how awful it MIGHT be can work me up into a frenzy.

Image result for grief anniversaries

Read the rest here: Post Holiday Blues: When The Grief Comes Crashing Down

Empty Hearts Can Be Filled

I don’t know about you but I’ve never thought of hopelessness as something I wanted on my resume.

Hopelessness is typically tossed into the pile of “negative” feelings we all acknowledge but don’t want to experience and if we do, we try to minimize, rationalize or disguise them.

If I admit to it at all, I tend to look downward, whisper quickly and pray that no one takes much notice because it feels shameful.

But maybe hopelessness is the first step to truly celebrating Christmas.

Read the rest here: Qualified by Hopelessness: An Empty Heart Can Be Filled

Advent: Glory, Mercy and Truth

If you want to truly appreciate the New Testament you’ve got to begin in the Old.

Jesus is written on every page, revealed in increasing measure in every story.

From Genesis to Revelation, God the Father displays His purpose, plan and passion for His children.

The ultimate unveiling is Immanuel-God with us.

And so the Living Expression became a man and lived among us! And we gazed upon the splendor of his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father overflowing with tender mercy and truth!

John 1:14 TPT

Ever since Eden, humankind was banished from unafraid, uninhibited communion with our Maker.

Sin separated us from His holy Presence.

Pin on Ron DiCianni Artwork
The Fall by Ron DiCianni

When the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt He led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He had Moses construct a Tabernacle for His Presence to rest in the midst of His people but they still had to remain afar off.

Only Moses could come near. And when he left the Tabernacle, he wore a veil to hide God’s glory reflected on his own face.

Moses Face Shining: When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin  of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near… | Exodus,  Exodus 34, Exodus 33

And then came Jesus-His perfect life, sacrificial death and victorious resurrection-removed the veil.

He revealed God’s glory and holiness.

But He also revealed God’s mercy, grace and truth.

Hebrews 1:3 — Berea Project

The Law teaches hearts that no one can measure up.

Christ teaches that because He fulfilled the Law, if we trust His finished work we don’t have to.

Our God who breathes stars, He breathed Bethlehem’s Star, then took on lungs and breathed in stable air.

Our God who formed and delivered the heavens, He waited patient like an embryo in a womb and delivered Himself to free all humanity. Our God who cradles whole galaxies in the palm of His hand, whom highest heavens cannot contain, He folds Himself into our skin and He curls His newborn fist in the cradle of a barn feed trough — and we are saved from ourselves.

We are saved from our hopelessness — because God came with infant fists and opened wide His hand to take the nail sharp edge of our sins.

We are saved from our pain — because God pierced the dark and came to the pinpoint of us in the universe and He took the nails.

We are saved from our loneliness — because God is love that can’t stand to leave us by ourselves, to ourselves. The entire cosmos sings it leading up to Christmas Eve:

We are not alone.

We are a pinpoint in the universe that is now nailed to eternity because of the wood of a manger, of a Tree, of a crowning wreath of thorns.

Ann Voskamp

QUESTIONS:

  • Before they sinned, Adam and Eve enjoyed open fellowship with God. They walked together in the cool of the evening. But disobedience and distrust ruined it. Jesus paid the price to restore fellowship. Have you thought recently about the great value of that gift? How have you felt His Presence this Advent season?
  • Jesus took on flesh and walked among men as the living, breathing embodiment of God. He wasn’t primarily an example (although He was the perfect example). He came to be a sacrifice. God’s holiness is beautiful but frightening. His grace and mercy are beautiful and inviting. How have you experienced the grace and mercy of the Lord?
  • Do you ever feel alone, abandoned or forgotten? Does it help your heart to meditate on Immanuel-God with us?

PRAYER:

Father God,

You could have started over and abandoned us. But your love compelled You to reach out and reach down to make a way.

Jesus is that Way.

He came to reveal more than your glory and holiness. He came to reveal your mercy, grace and truth.

He showed us your heart.

It’s a heart of love and good intentions toward me. Help me trust that heart when I can’t trace your hand. Give me assurance of your Presence no matter how dark the night or desperate the circumstance.

Amen

A Way To Remember: Four Candles


I have always loved candles. 
 Something in the flickering light speaks to my heart.

It’s one of my favorite parts of early evenings-watching the candles I light on every flat surface cast a soft glow and chase the darkness.

Even a small light offers hope.  

Read the rest here: Remembering the Missing: Four Candles

Advent: Right On Time

I admit it-patience is not my strong suit.

I’m a person of action rather than deliberation.

Sometimes that gets me into trouble. Almost always it makes me intolerant of delays.

So I have to be very, very careful not to apply my impatience to God’s timing.

I’m pretty sure Israel was getting tired of looking here, there and everywhere for Messiah. I’m almost certain some folks felt abandoned and forgotten. It had been centuries since the last prophet spoke truth to God’s people. And another despot now ruled over the Jews.

Yet God was not late in fulfilling His promise, He was right on time.

But when that era came to an end and the time of fulfillment had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman,[a] born under the written law.[b] Yet all of this was so that he would redeem and set free all those held hostage to the written law so that we would receive our freedom and a full legal adoption as his children.

And so that we would know for sure that we are his true children, God released the Spirit of Sonship into our hearts—moving us to cry out intimately, “My Father![c] You’re our true Father!”

Now we’re no longer living like slaves under the law, but we enjoy being God’s very own sons and daughters! And because we’re his, we can access everything our Father has—for we are heirs of God through Jesus, the Messiah!

Galatians 4: 4-7 TPT

Of course, for those trapped in time, it was hard to wait for and maybe hard to understand how perfectly every little detail came together surrounding the birth, ministry and sacrifice of Jesus.

I’ve touched before on how the census brought Mary, Joseph and Jesus to Bethlehem.

Local synagogues, teachers of the Law and a well-organized system of worship and education guaranteed Jewish males knew what God required and (if at all desirous of pleasing Him) recognized the chasm between personal holiness and that of the Lord. The whole Sermon on the Mount was about pointing out the impossibility of meeting the Law’s requirements.

It’s hard to appreciate freedom if you’ve never known bondage.

Jesus preached freedom from the Law through His perfect and final sacrifice.

That was welcome news to hurting hearts.

Galatians 5:1 — Verse of the Day for 07/04/2017

I can tell you that I was never more thankful for the truth of the Gospel than when I learned Dominic left this physical plane and entered Heaven.

I was desperate for my Abba Father to assure my heart of His love, His Presence and His provision.

I’m so, so grateful that I don’t have to wonder if Dominic “measured up” because God wasn’t measuring my son. When Dom trusted in the finished work of Jesus Christ, he was no longer a slave to the Law. He was free from the penalty of sin and the sting of death.

The Father looks at Dominic and sees the righteousness of Jesus.

My son is clothed with His Son.

Now it’s still hard for me to wait for the final unveiling of what God is crafting from my sorrow.

But I’m absolutely, positively certain it will be glorious.

And I can rest assured that the revelation won’t be early or late-it will be right on time.

QUESTIONS:

  • Have you ever considered the historical context of Jesus’ birth? It was a unique point in human civilization. Roman rule meant that there was a (nearly) universal language. The empire built and maintained roads that connected most of the then-known world. Even Roman persecution of Christians aided the spread of the Gospel. Can you think of other ways this was the “right time” politically?
  • The Babylonian captivity spurred Jewish religious leaders to codify and expand details of the Law. By the time of Jesus’ birth, the Pharisees and Sadducees had, in many ways, made a “god” of the Law itself. Jesus rebuked them over and over during His public ministry. His death, burial and resurrection satisfied the Law’s requirements and opened Heaven’s doors. Have you received the free gift of eternal salvation through Jesus? Has someone or some experience made you doubt that you are clothed in His righteousness?
  • Not all of us have (or had) a good relationship with our earthly father. But most of us have an ideal in mind of what a daddy should be. When Paul said we have the right to call God “Abba” it was a radical idea for the time. Jews tended to think of God as distant, separate, unreachable and definitely NOT “daddy”. How does it make you feel to know God IS your Father? Can you (do you) come to Him with outstretched arms? What do you expect if/when you do?
  • Are you ever impatient waiting for God to answer? Does the Christmas story, with all the perfectly timed and perfectly positioned events encourage patience?

PRAYER:

Father God,

Thank You for sending Jesus at just the right time. Thank You for preparing a people, a world and hearts for the Good News. Thank You that because I’ve trusted in Christ, I CAN call You “Daddy”.

I admit that even though my heart rests in Yours I can be awfully impatient. It’s hard to wait.

Help me recount and recite Your past faithfulness so that I’ll be more inclined toward patient waiting.

The Christmas story is a perfect example of how You work all things together to accomplish your purpose and to bring You glory.

Grant grace and courage as I count the days until every promise is fulfilled and my faith is made sight.

Amen

So, So Tired of the “Moral High Ground”

Y’all-I’m exhausted.

I’m so, so tired of navigating social media, regular media and personal conversations where one person claims to be morally superior because he or she is wearing/not wearing a mask, taking/not taking the vaccine, traveling to be with family for the holidays or staying home.

I’m worn out with memes and odd glances and offhand comments that make judgements about another human being without knowing one. single. thing. about the other person they claim to understand.

How masks have appeared in art - BBC Culture

Here’s a warning: I’m often honest and open in this space but not often raw. I’m about to be very, very raw.

I wear a mask and am cautious about social exposure for extremely personal reasons.

My son died alone.

I was not there to hold his hand as he took his last breath. I have no way to know if he was frightened, comforted by angels or the Lord’s holy Presence. I don’t know if he called out for me or was senseless.

But all those questions haunt me every night before I finally fall asleep if I let them.

So the idea of being unable to be with a loved one when he or she leaves this world is more than my heart can bear. If something I can do, or they can do (like wear a mask or limit exposure or take a vaccine) means I won’t have to face that, I’m all for it!

My mother died from pneumonia following a stroke.

I wasn’t there but my father was and I heard his frantic voice on the other end of the phone line when I picked up in the middle of the night. We rushed to the hospital but it was too late.

So the idea of another loved one struggling for life-giving oxygen while nothing more can be done to give it to them breaks my heart. If wearing a mask or staying away or managing the number of social contacts is what it takes to minimize that risk, it’s a no brainer for me.

Mask answers No. 3: My face is breaking out, now what? | Novant Health |  Healthy Headlines

I’m not afraid of Covid.

I’m not afraid of death.

I’m afraid of loss.

I realize I fall squarely on the side of caution and you might fall on the other side.

I respect that.

All I ask is that you not judge me any more than I am judging you. Make space in your heart for someone who may, for very personal and very reasonable, reasons have come to a different conclusion.

Each of us walks in the world according to our experience and our convictions.

I promise not to impose mine on you.

And I promise not to make assumptions about yours.