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

The God Who Stays

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Child loss is not a hammer in the hand of God.

He didn’t “take” my son so He could mold me into the person He wants me to be.

But He will use this pain and sorrow if I run to Him.

Sometimes I resist but His Father heart is steadfast in its love toward me.

God doesn’t give up and decide I’m “too much trouble” or “too far gone”.

NO!

He’s the Faithful Father watching and waiting with open arms for the Prodigal to return.

He will weave even the darkest and most tangled threads into a beautiful, redeemed tapestry if I let Him.

He’s the God who stays.

Always.

Forever.

Amen.

Father’s Day 2020: “Death Ends a Life, Not a Relationship”


“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” ~ Tuesdays with Morrie

A parent’s love doesn’t end simply because a child leaves this earth.  

The relationship is not over as long as a  bereaved parent’s heart beats. 

Read the rest here: “Death Ends a Life, Not a Relationship”

A Bereaved Dad’s Perspective


I belong to a number of closed online bereaved parent groups.  

I’m not sure if it is a function of gender or not, but the moms seem to be a bit more willing to share their feelings and to respond to the feelings of others.  

Every now and then, a dad speaks up. When he does, I usually pay close attention to this male perspective.

Read the rest here: What I’ve Learned About Grief: A Bereaved Dad’s Perspective

2020: Father’s Day For Bereaved Fathers

I’ll be honest-I bristle more than a little bit when people suggest that bereaved fathers don’t feel grief as deeply as bereaved mothers.

They absolutely do.

The problem is that, as a group, bereaved fathers are less likely to make their feelings known, less likely to talk about the impact grief has on their lives and less likely to allow others into their private world of pain and sorrow.

For that reason, fathers are often overlooked grievers.  

But they shouldn’t be.  

Dads aren’t bystanders in the shattered world of child loss-they are participants as parents of a son or daughter whom they love just as much as any mother.  

So just like Mother’s Day is hard for moms, Father’s Day is hard for them.  

Read the rest here: Father’s Day for Bereaved Fathers

*I wanted to get this out early enough to help friends and family of a bereaved father understand a little better how they can encourage him as Father’s Day approaches.*

Daily Bread: His Provision Is Sufficient

If I had my way I’d store up grace like green beans-stacking one can atop the other “just in case”.

Then I could decide if and when to open it up and pour it out.

But grace isn’t like that. It’s a perishable though infinite commodity-like manna.

Just Enough Grace — ASK Apparel LLC

When God led the Israelites into the desert, He promised to feed, nurture and sustain them.

Daily bread rained down from Heaven every morning-enough and more than enough-for their needs. But He warned them not to gather more than they could use THAT day.

He promised there would be another bountiful plenty the next morning.

Manna and the land: God's methods of miraculous provision – Acton ...

Faced with the choice to trust God or trust themselves, some tried to hoard this gift and guarantee (so they thought!) tomorrow’s bounty. It turned to maggoty mush by the next morning.

God was making a point.

He wanted His people to know that He was the Source of their provision. He wanted His people to learn that His faithful love endures forever and shows up every morning.

Many of us grew up reciting this blessing without understanding the deep truth hidden inside:

God is great,

God is good,

Let us thank Him for our food.

By His hand we all are fed,

Thank You, Lord, for daily bread.

Children’s Blessing

Few of us live on daily bread anymore.

Most have pantries and refrigerators and freezers full of food. It’s hard to hearken back to a time when the penny you earned for working a field was the penny you used to purchase that day’s meal.

So, in some ways, the idea of having only enough and no more is both foreign and frightening.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

But my Father wants me to trust Him, to lean on Him, to wake looking for His face and reaching for His provision.

Like manna in the desert, if I try to gather more grace than I need it rots before I can use it.

God greets me each morning with the grace I need for that day-no more, no less. It is always enough for the work I must do and the challenges I must face.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sunrise-trees.jpg

He nurtures and sustains me.

His daily grace is sufficient.

I can rest in His bountiful provision without fear for tomorrow because His faithful love endures forever.

Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: “Fear Not!”-An Invitation Not An Admonition

It’s a commonly repeated untruth that there are 365 “fear nots” in the Bible.

But there ARE a lot of them.

While many folks like to interpret these commands as admonitions to the trembling hearts standing, kneeling or falling on their face before the Angel of the Lord or begging to be delivered from a perilous situation, I think they are an invitation.

Image result for i will never leave you or forsake you

I think they are an invitation to walk into the perfect peace promised by the King of Peace.

They are an invitation to rest in His Presence.

They are an invitation to admit my weakness and appropriate His strength.

I love the book of Psalms because in many ways it feels like the most accessible and “human” book of the Bible.

David and others poured out their hearts to God-no filter, no mask, no pretense-the good, the bad, the ugly, the hopeful, the desperate. So while we could explore many other “fear not” verses, I will start here.

“I will bless the Eternal, whose wise teaching orchestrates my days
    and centers my mind at night.
He is ever present with me;
    at all times He goes before me.
I will not live in fear or abandon my calling
    because He stands at my right hand.

This is a good life—my heart is glad, my soul is full of joy,
    and my body is at rest.
    Who could want for more? ” ~ Psalm 16:7-9 VOICE

The Psalmist says a lot in these three verses:

  • he relies on the truth found in God’s Word to guide his days and focus his thoughts at night
  • he trusts that God is with him always
  • he knows God will fight for him
  • therefore he can rest secure
Image result for psalm 16:7-9 image

When I spend time in Scripture, saturating my heart and mind with God’s Word, I have truth readily available to combat the lies of the enemy.

Satan wants me to worry and fret, to doubt my Father’s goodness and faithful love and to shake my confidence that God is for me.

The more I sit with Jesus, the more I listen to HIM and learn His voice, the less power the enemy of my soul has over me.

Another favorite :

Image result for psalm 27:1

I am hardly fearless.

In fact, I struggled with fear of the dark until I was nearly 40 years old. I only overcame that fear when necessity forced me to face it and I walked out trembling reciting every verse I could remember about not being afraid.

This was one of them.

I face different fears now.

When the one thing you think won’t happen DOES happen, the thought it might happen AGAIN is never far from your mind.

So all this virus talk is working on that fear. People I love might get sick. People I love might die. I know exactly the wreckage death leaves behind and I don’t want to live through that again.

But I might have to so I’m clinging to the truth David sang hundreds of years ago:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1 KJV
  • the Lord is my light-He illuminates my path and my heart
  • the Lord is my salvation-He alone can save me (in this life or in eternity through Christ)
  • the Lord is the strength of my life-He made me, He keeps me and I am His
  • with the Creator of the universe caring for me, what can anyone or any force do to me without His consent?
  • I have nothing to fear

When I accept my Father’s invitation to crawl up into His lap, rest in His arms and rely on His strength, I am fearless.

But like a child I often run away just when I most need His comfort.

I love this translation of Psalm 94:19 because it reflects my temptation to bring my anxiety, sorrow and fears to God but then to take them back:

After the multitude of my sorrows in mine heart; thy comforts made glad my soul. (And after a multitude of sorrows gathered together in my heart; once again thy comfort gladdened my soul.)

Psalm 94:19 WYC

God knows I am made of dust. God knows my heart is prone to fear and worry. God knows my feelings often drive reason right out of my head.

He’s not surprised by my trembling knees and weak hands.

He doesn’t turn away because I am afraid.

“Thy comforts made glad my soul”-God will comfort me in my distress. He will wait for me to turn to Him and will wait for me to turn to Him again when I turn away. “[O]nce again thy comfort gladdened my soul.”

He never tires of holding out His arms to me.

He says, “Fear not, little one.”

I see you.

I love you.

Come here and let me comfort you.

QUESTIONS:

  • Use an online or print concordance to find at least 3 other Psalms that speak about God’s desire to comfort us when we are afraid. Copy out one of them and put it where it will encourage your heart.
  • What frightens you most today? How can these verses help your heart hand that fear over to your Father?
  • Do you consider yourself a fearful person? Why or why not?
  • Have you conquered any fears? If so, think about who or what gave you the courage to do it. Can you weave your previous experience into your current situation?
  • List at least three times you have been afraid of something that MIGHT have happened but DIDN’T happen. Did your fear contribute in any way to the outcome?
  • How can thinking about “Do Not Fear” as an invitation instead of an admonition strengthen your faith?

PRAYER:

Father God, When I look around at how impossibly different the world is today from only a few weeks ago my knees buckle and my heart trembles. I know I’ve never really been in control but at least there was the illusion of control.

I am afraid.

Thank You that I am not defenseless in the battle against fear and worry. When anxiety rises up within me let Your truth be my sword and shield.

Help me run to You. Help me climb into Your lap and rest in Your Presence. Deafen my ears to the lies being whispered and even shouted that threaten to undo me.

Speak courage to my heart and sing comfort over my soul.

Amen

Why Lament Is Worship

We usually think of worship as songs of joy and happiness extolling the virtues of God and Christ.  

While that is most certainly a form of worship, it is absolutely not the only one.  

Biblical lament is an honest, vulnerable expression of pain, a crying out to God in faith as we are suffering.
― Cindee Snider Re

Worship is also the broken whimper of a scared and wounded child, crawling into the lap of her Abba Father.  

There is no less adoration in this ultimate act of confident trust than in the most eloquent declaration of theological truth in word or song.  

Lament is worship.  

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/02/03/refuse-to-hide-lament-as-worship/

You Will ALWAYS Be A Mama (or Daddy)!

There are all kinds of ways child loss plays with your head.

One of the most common and often repeated questions among bereaved parents (especially those who have lost their only child , all their children or a child before or at birth) is this: Am I still a mama (or daddy)?

Short answer: YES. Absolutely!

The fact that your child has taken up residence in Heaven and is no longer here to hold and love and parent on earth changes NOTHING about your status.

Being an almost mother isn’t a thing. You have seven children, whether they made it here or not doesn’t take away from the fact they existed. They were yours, and they were loved fully if only for those small moments.

You are a mother, Grace. I am so, so sorry you were never able to hold your babies, but you are, and always will be, a mother.

Brittainy C. Cherry, Disgrace

For the uninitiated, it may well seem that the lack of a physical presence changes how a parent’s heart feels or thinks about a child.

But it doesn’t.

Sure it’s more complicated-in fact I’m not certain that six years has been time enough for me to figure it out-but I am still Dominic’s mother. He is not an only child, but even if he were, I’d still be a mother.

I know that for those in our “club” who had only a few minutes or hours with a precious child it can seem even more difficult to convey to others that our daughter or our son is very, very real and important to us.

Image result for child loss I an still a parent"

When there are few witnesses to the beautiful life and light of a tiny baby, it can almost seem like a dream.

But it’s not.

So for every single parent who has wondered if you are “still” a parent-please accept this affirmation: You ARE a parent. Your child matters. Your relationship is ongoing regardless of your child’s address.

You are a mama.

You are a daddy.

And don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

A Reason Can’t Wipe Away Tears: A Modern Lament

If it’s random or providence neither are a comfort to me

Are You cruel if You planned it or weak if You allowed it to be?

Half of me is still believin’, the other half is angry and confused

Oh, but all of me is desperate and longing to be held by You

Jason Gray, “Remind Me You’re Here”

I have lots and lots of questions.

And I don’t think ignoring them or shoving them in a chest and sitting on the lid is helpful.

But I’m far enough along in this journey to admit that if I let my heart and mind focus on the questions I’ll drown in sorrow and despair.

Because whatever reason I might come up with or answer I might get from God will never feel like it’s enough to wipe away the tears and satisfy my mama heart.

So I’m learning to live with mystery.

None of my pain has ever caught You by surprise

Still it’s hard to trust You when I’m lost in the wondering why

But I’ll trade every question just to lay down and rest in Your heart

And I’ll reach for Your hand, though You led me here into the dark

Jason Gray, “Remind Me You’re Here”

I love this new song by Jason Gray.

“Remind Me You’re Here” is a beautiful and honest lament before the Lord.

And like all good laments, it ends with asserting the truth about our faithful Father, His everlasting love, and the promise that I am never, ever alone.

So I won’t ask You for reasons

‘Cause a reason can’t wipe away tears

No, I don’t need all the answers

Just be here beside me

Father, remind me You’re here

Jason Gray, “Remind Me You’re Here”