Repost: What Does God’s Love Look Like?


If, as a believer in Christ, I abide in Him and am filled with His limitless love, why do I portion it out in such a miserly fashion?

I often act as though it were MY personal treasure house and that to give love freely diminishes my supply.

What foolishness!

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/09/16/what-does-gods-love-look-like/

Repost: Love The Broken


I definitely don’t have a solo quality voice.

I can carry a tune but it’s best carried mixed in with others in a choir so the occasional missed note is barely noticeable. 

But if I was granted the ability to belt out a single song and have it broadcast far and wide, this would be it:  “Love the Broken”.

Not, “Love the Lovely” or “Love the Sexy” or even “Love the One Who Loves You Back”.

Nope. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/09/08/if-i-could-sing-one-song-this-would-be-it-love-the-broken/

Scripture Journal Challenge: Grieving With Hope

I’ve shared often in this space that when Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, one of the things I had to do was drag out everything I thought I knew about God, about how He works in the world and all the pat interpretations of familiar verses and hold them up to the cold, clear light of loss.

Today’s verses are some I had to think about carefully because they are so often tossed at grieving hearts like a magic cure for the pain of burying someone you love.

The church at Thessalonica was confused about some fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  They were frightened they had missed Christ’s second coming and they were concerned about loved ones that had preceded them in death.  

So Paul wrote this letter to remind them of truth and offer comfort in their emotional distress:

13-17 Now we don’t want you, my brothers, to be in any doubt about those who “fall asleep” in death, or to grieve over them like men who have no hope. After all, if we believe that Jesus died and rose again from death, then we can believe that God will just as surely bring with Jesus all who are “asleep” in him. Here we have a definite message from the Lord. It is that those who are still living when he comes will not in any way precede those who have previously fallen asleep. One word of command, one shout from the archangel, one blast from the trumpet of God and the Lord himself will come down from Heaven! Those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then we who are still living on the earth will be swept up with them into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And after that we shall be with him for ever.
18 God has given me this message on the matter, so by all means use it to encourage one another.

I Thessalonians 4:13-18 PHILLIPS

This verse is quoted often to believers who have lost a loved one.  At first, gently, sweetly–as an invitation to remember that God is in control, that He has a plan, that the grave is not victorious and that burying the body is not the end.

And, in the early days and weeks after the funeral, it IS comforting–I chanted it to myself like a mantra and it drew my heart from the brink of despair.

But at some point, this verse begins to feel like a rebuke–the well-meaning friend says, “Don’t you know, that Jesus followers don’t grieve like those who have no hope!”

And I turn, dumbfounded, to the person saying this, and wonder, “Have you buried a child?”

Have you grieved the too-soon, unexpected, violent end of your hopes and dreams without a chance to say, “good-bye”?  Do you stand over the patch of dirt that now covers the buried body of your son and wonder how this happened?  How can this be your life?

Do you wake up every morning and have that fraction of a moment where all is right with the world before your mind joins your eyes and reminds you that he is still gone?

  • Yes, I firmly believe that my son is now with Jesus.
  • Yes, I stand convinced that there will be a day when all tears are wiped away and I will be reunited with him.
  • Yes, I feed the hope in my heart with truth from Scripture and remind myself daily that the grave is not the end.

But I am made of dust.

I am human.  I am full of the emotions that God placed in my heart.

He gave me the capacity to embrace and love the tiny life growing inside me before I could see it or feel it.  He made my child leap in my womb when I listened to praise music.  He positioned Dominic as the third-born child in our family and gave him unique gifts and abilities.

And now He knows that as long as I live, I will grieve the son that I lost.  I will sorrow anew when others his age reach milestones–get married, have children–because not only did I lose the Dominic that WAS, I have lost the Dominic THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN.

I do “grieve with hope”–I breathe in the life-affirming and spirit-filling promise that the reality I am living is not the only reality there is.  I lean into the Word of God and trust in, rely on and affirm the victory of Jesus Christ.

But I still GRIEVE.  I cannot force my heart to ignore the pain and sorrow that has been laid upon it.

So I continue to live each day, doing the work that God has left for me to do, but walking a little slower, a little more bowed down.

For those of us carrying this burden of grief, the greatest gift is grace and mercy and kindness–we are doing the best we can.

Encouragement (lending courage to) must include acknowledging our daily struggle and the lifelong commitment we have made to battle on.

Ask us, listen to the answers and then hold our hand or dry our tears.

But don’t expect us not to cry.

QUESTIONS:

  • Do these verses help your heart? Why or why not?
  • What do you think it means to “grieve with hope”? Before your child left for Heaven did you have a different understanding of these verses?
  • Yesterday’s verses were all about how nothing can separate us from the love of God. Consider those and these together. One of the amazing benefits of studying the Word is that it feeds our souls and strengthens our faith. What insights have you received from this study?
  • Christian cemeteries are traditionally oriented toward the east in anticipation of this glorious event. I drive by where my son’s body is waiting for resurrection often since it’s just a mile from my home. I always speak this promise to my heart when I do. It’s a small way of affirming truth that helps me wait more patiently. Do you think about the cemetery as a final resting place or as a future resurrection site? What difference might reframing your thoughts make to your heart?

PRAYER:

Father God,

Thank You that we can grieve with hope. Thank You that we have assurance Your promises are true. Thank You that death for believers in Jesus is NOT the end.

My child’s grave is not his or her final resting place. It’s his or her future resurrection site. On that glorious Day when Christ returns, death will be defeated forever. What a reunion that will be!

When I am deep in despair, sorrowing at this temporary separation, help me hold onto that truth. Give me strength to endure and grace to finish well. Eternity awaits! Come Lord Jesus!

Amen

Scripture Journal Challenge: Everything Sad Will Come Untrue

It was a harsh sentence: Forty years of wandering in the desert for not putting their faith and trust in the God who had delivered them from bondage.

But wandering wasn’t the half of it.

Death surrounded them. All those adults who gave in to fear were doomed to die before the forty years were finished.

Can you imagine how many graves were dug in the wilderness? How many tears were shed? How many fists raised to the sky or hands to hearts begging, begging, begging for the sojourn of sadness to end?

So it was no accident that the Lord commanded Israel to set her camp with the Tent of Meeting at the center. He wanted them always to be aware of His enabling, powerful, holy Presence.

Even in the midst of judgement, death and sorrow. He was there.

And God is here with me in the midst of my mourning too. I am thankful for His Presence.

But the most beautiful promise is that there will be a Day when He will wipe away all the tears. He will redeem all the pain. He will undo all the damage death has wrought.

Joy will once again be untainted by sorrow.

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Revelation 21:3-4 KJV

I make seasonal wreaths for Dominic’s resting place. I include these verses every time.

Because I believe them with my whole heart.

I love the way The Jesus Storybook by Sally Lloyd-Jones renders them:

And the King says, “Look! God and his children are together again. No more running away. Or hiding. No more crying or being lonely or afraid. No more being sick or dying. Because all those things are gone. Yes, they’re gone forever. Everything sad has come untrue. And see – I have wiped away every tear from every eye!

Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones

“Everything sad has come untrue.”

Heaven will not simply be rest after a long life’s struggle.

It will be restoration, redemption, recreation and resurrection.

Every thing stolen will be restored. Every thing bartered away by sin will be redeemed. Every thing destroyed by carelessness, hatefulness and cruelty will be recreated in perfection. And every thing dead and buried will be resurrected to life everlasting.

I can’t wait. ❤

QUESTIONS:

  • What does it mean to you that “God is here”?
  • What do you think Heaven is like? Is your idea informed by popular media or by Scripture?
  • Does the idea of “everything sad coming untrue” speak courage to your heart? Why or why not?
  • If you have felt God’s presence in this Valley, how has He manifested that? If you haven’t felt His presence, would you consider asking Him to make Himself real to you today?

PRAYER:

Lord,

I’ll admit that sometimes future hope is not much to hold onto when sorrow and longing and despair overwhelm my heart. I need to feel Your Presence here and now. I’m not asking for a burning bush, but give me assurance that You have not abandoned me.

Fill my heart with hope and help me hold onto the promise that one day all this pain will be redeemed. Give me an eternal perspective.

Amen

Scripture Journal Challenge: Perfect Peace

There has been an interesting back and forth in my spirit since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Before I got the knock on the door I didn’t really fear for my children’s safety.

They traveled the world, did things that would make others cringe, ran into situations when others ran away and I can honestly testify that other than the typical, “Be safe!”, comment by mothers everywhere, I did not sit up at night wringing my hands hoping they’d be OK.

Then Dominic was killed less than a mile from his apartment. An ordinary evening doing ordinary things except for his foolish choice to go too fast on his motorcycle.

And everything changed.

Suddenly imagining child loss was not necessary. I was living it in technicolor reality.

There was no earthly remedy for my heartache. No safe space in the physical world for me to carry my pain.

Only God could comfort my mama heart.

God is our shelter and our strength.
    When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help.
So why run and hide?
No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails.
    When the earth spins out of control, we are sure and fearless.
    When mountains crumble and the waters run wild, we are sure and fearless.
Even in heavy winds and huge waves,
    or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless.
[pause][b]
pure stream flows—never to be cut off—
    bringing joy to the city where God makes His home,
    the sacred site where the Most High chooses to live.
The True God never sleeps and always resides in the city of joy;
    He makes it unstoppable, unshakable.
    When it awakes at dawn, the True God has already been at work.

Psalm 46: 1-5 VOICE

I don’t know about “fearless” but I can testify the fear that consumed me in the wake of Dominic’s death for the safety of my earth bound kids was eventually replaced with a calm assurance that nothing had really changed.

They were still in the hands of a God who loved them more than I did.

They were still secure for eternity because they had put their faith and trust in the finished work of Christ.

They were still just as likely (or unlikely) to be the targets of another’s (or their own) sinful or foolish choices.

And our hope was not (never has been) in THIS life. Instead it is in the eternal life God offers all through Jesus.

Ezekiel records a vision of seeing first a trickle, then a stream and finally a river flowing from the throne of God and giving life to creatures, trees and those who eat them.

Truth is, there is no stopping the plans of the Almighty.

And there is no stopping the flow of life from Jesus to His sheep.

I am so thankful for this promise, this truth and my own testimony that God is indeed the Giver of life, a safe Refuge and a sure Foundation.

QUESTIONS:

  • Would you describe yourself as a fearful person? Why or why not?
  • We are all afraid sometimes. What do you do when you are afraid? To whom do your share your fears?
  • How can you make today’s verses personal and allow them to encourage your heart?
  • I love the water analogies in Scripture. They really speak to my heart because with a farm full of critters I can see how critical water is to life on a daily basis. Has the trial of child loss (or other hard place) made you more or less thirsty for the Living Water Christ offers?
  • Sleep can be hard to come by when you are overwhelmed with grief, stress or fear. Does it help your heart to think about God as the God who never sleeps? Why or why not?
  • What do you want from God right now? What would it look like for Him to be your personal place of safety?
  • Who do you need to release to the care of the Father? Who are you worried about that you need to place in His hands?

PRAYER:

Father God,

You are never caught by surprise. You know the end from the beginning. When things overtake me help me remember that You are there. I need a refuge from this life of grief and pain. I need to rest my feet on the solid Rock of Your presence, Your goodness and Your provision. Open my spiritual eyes to see the way You are working even here, even now.

I want to drink from Living Water. I want to be so filled with Your grace, mercy, love and strength that no matter what life throws at me my testimony is to Your sustaining power.

Joy seems a distant memory. Days when laughter flowed freely and fully from my belly out of my lips are like a dream. Give me joy again. Even tainted with sorrow, give me joy. Thank You that I know you are near and that You have a plan.

Amen

Scripture Journal Challenge: The God Who Comes Near

If someone asked me to describe Jesus I would say He’s the God who does not turn away.

He’s the God who comes near.

He’s the God who will always, always, always show up and bend down.

That’s what I hold onto in this life I didn’t choose-that my Shepherd Savior sees me, hears me, loves me and will help me.

For the Eternal watches over the righteous,
    and His ears are attuned to their prayers. He is always listening.
16 But He will punish evildoers,
    and nothing they do will last. They will soon be forgotten.
17 When the upright need help and cry to the Eternal, He hears their cries
    and rescues them from all of their troubles.
18 When someone is hurting or brokenhearted, the Eternal moves in close
    and revives him in his pain.

Psalm 34: 15-18 VOICE

Not long after Dominic’s death there was a horrible mass shooting and the perpetrator was in his fifties. I have to admit I literally yelled at God, REALLY???? This guy lives to his fifties only to kill a bunch of innocent people and You didn’t save Dominic from his accident?!!!”

I was angry and frustrated and sad and broken.

If I’m honest I’ve had a few more moments like that since then.

But I’m brought up short when I read these verses and others like them. The wicked do not have God’s ear. They will not know eternal life with Him in Heaven. They may even be worldly successes but nothing they do will last forever. Riches don’t secure immortality.

Only a penitent heart leaning fully on the grace and mercy of God is eternally safe.

Because I am His child. when I’m hurting, God does not run away or turn a blind eye or a deaf ear-He meets me there.

Jesus is the lover of my soul.

He is the Healer of my heart.

QUESTIONS:

  • Do you feel heard by God? By others? Why or why not?
  • How do you deal with the fact that sometimes evil seems to win and evil people prosper?
  • How would you describe Jesus? Has grief changed how you describe Him?
  • Is your description consistent with what Scripture tells us about Him?
  • Theology matters-especially when grieving. What I believe about God and Christ either undermine or strengthen my faith. Write down ten things you believe to be true about God and/or Jesus.

PRAYER:

Father God,

I admit that it’s infuriating and feels unfair that sometimes those who don’t love You still prosper. They seem to have a life free from trouble and heartache. And here I am-hurting, deeply harmed and holding on by a thread.

But You are not unjust. You are not ignoring me. You will work all things together for good for those who love you. Help me trust those truths.

You are the God who came near in the stable and on the cross. You are the God who dwells inside those who receive the gift of salvation through Christ. You are not far away.

Hear my cry. Touch my heart.

Amen

Scripture Journal Challenge: My Good Shepherd

I have been a shepherd for twenty years.

The longer I care for my sheep and goats, the more I understand why God put His leaders through this school of discipleship.

Many days it’s a thankless job-my charges often do foolish things that place them in peril, they work hard to tear down the fences I’ve erected for their safety and they wander away forcing me to chase after them and bring them home.

But I never give up on them.

A shepherd’s heart is revealed in how she (or he) takes care of the weakest animals.

I cannot lay my head down at night without taking mental inventory to make sure they are safe, secure and well cared for through the darkness until morning dawns afresh.

David spent years and years in “shepherd school”.

It prepared him to fight Goliath.

It molded his heart to lead God’s people.

The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always.
He provides me rest in rich, green fields
    beside streams of refreshing water.
    He soothes my fears;
He makes me whole again,
    steering me off worn, hard paths
    to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name.
Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,
    I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
    near with Your protection and guidance,
    I am comforted.

Psalm 23: 1-4 VOICE

I could write for days on what these verses mean to my own heart. I could tease out dozens of lessons from the picture David paints of tender care, abundant mercy, amazing love.

But the one thing I’ll share now is this: I never, ever, ever abandon my flock.

If all I had was a stick and my voice, I’d fight off every enemy.

I am never too busy nor too distracted to tend to their needs. I never forget to feed them, water them, check on them and call them home in the evening.

They know my voice.

They follow me because I am trustworthy. They allow me to tend their wounds because I am gentle. They come running to me when they are afraid because they know I am a fierce defender.

If I-a mere, fallible, fragile mortal-am this concerned about my little flock, imagine how our Good Shepherd cares for us!

Don’t rush over these verses because they are familiar.

Go back, read them again.

Know that the Lord God loves you.

He LOVES you.

He loves YOU.

QUESTIONS:

  • Do you remember the first time you encountered this Psalm? Does it hold a special memory?
  • How has the Lord given you rest in the midst of weariness?
  • How has God provided necessities for you?
  • What does it mean to you that Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd? Read that passage in John 10 and notice how He defines what a good shepherd looks like. How might that encourage your heart when walking in this Valley of the Shadow of Death?
  • I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to find an old, lame or nearly blind goat or sheep that wandered off and got lost. I do what it takes to bring them home. No matter how far you wander, Jesus is coming to get you. Can you relate a time when Jesus reached out in a special way and helped you make it back home?
  • What do you need from your Shepherd today? Ask Him for it.

PRAYER:

Lord,

You ARE the Good Shepherd. You love me. You care for me. You lead me to places of rest when I am overcome with weariness. You walk beside me and offer refuge when I am afraid.

This grief journey is hard. Sometimes I wonder if You are really here or if You have abandoned me. Help me hear Your voice. Help me run to You for safety.

Teach me to follow You always, even when You lead me in dark places and I’m fearful. Thank You for leaving us with a beautiful picture through David’s words of Your heart.

Lead on, O Precious Shepherd. Lead on!

Amen