Do You Ever Wonder, “Is God Punishing Me?”

I’ve heard it from more than one bereaved parent.  

I’ve thought it myself.  

“Is God punishing me?”  

Have I done something so terrible that it falls outside the grace and mercy of the God Who sent His Son and so I must pay for it with my own child?

Read the rest here: Is God Punishing Me?

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

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.

Today Is A Gift

“Today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.” ~unknown

Do we treat each day as a gift from a loving God, a present wrapped up in His grace and goodness, to be opened with joy, used with care and set lovingly on the shelf of life when done?

Or do we bear it as a burden?

I’ll admit not all days are equal.

Some ARE burdens.

No one (I don’t think!) loves going to the dentist. Few of us are keen on doing taxes or taking tests or slogging through the rain to work or school.

Some of us have much heavier burdens as we wake to an empty bed, an empty heart or an empty bank account.

But even these awful days are a gift.

Why?

Because God’s mercies are new every morning. The rising sun brings fresh opportunity to rest in, rely on and relish God’s grace, goodness and promised strength.

And every new day means we have more time.

More time to love the people we love, more time to find new people to love, more time to do the good works which God in Christ has planned for us to do.

We wake each morning to the same 24 hours given every other soul on this planet.  It’s ours to choose. 

How will we spend it?  Will we fill it with foolish things? With important things?

Here’s how I do it:

  • Put the significant and essential things in first. Time with the Lord, time with family, time with my own thoughts. (Orienting my heart and mind to what truly matters first thing makes the rest of the day so much better.)
  • Then the necessary. Work, school, chores, appointments, cooking and meals. (No way around having to do these things, but I can still choose to fit them in AFTER the most important and valuable ones.)
  • Finally, the incidental things. Facebook, television, window (internet) shopping, binge watching Netflix. (So hard to discipline my heart to focus on what will truly make a difference instead of distracting myself with the trivial.)

And surprisingly I manage most days to get it done (even checking social media).

Life is not an emergency, although I often live as if it is.

I careen around the corner of hour after hour like I’m driving a car out of control, begging someone to make it stop.

I can make it stop.

I can take my foot off the accelerator, park it and decide where and how fast I’m going to drive tomorrow.

Every single day is an opportunity to choose.

I can start fresh and make time for the things that are truly important.

If I want to.

Sorrow Will Not Have The Last Word

If you find your heart limping through Scripture instead of gaining strength, may I suggest you try a different Bible translation for a bit? Sometimes familiar words-even the words of God or His prophets-just fall flat.

I can read them and not digest them at all.

So lately I’ve been reading and copying from the VOICE translation and it has helped me see old passages in a new light.

Here’s one of them. I think those of us walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death have a lot in common with Jeremiah.

I love to read familiar verses in different translations or paraphrases.

It helps my heart hear what I might otherwise miss because familiarity DOES breed a form a contempt even when considering the Word of God.

Recently, on my way through verses on HOPE I copied out Lamentations 3: 19-26.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/01/20/new-mercies/

“Is God Punishing Me?”

I’ve heard it from more than one bereaved parent.  

I’ve thought it myself.  

“Is God punishing me?”  

Have I done something so terrible that it falls outside the grace and mercy of the God Who sent His Son and so I must pay for it with my own child?

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/01/15/is-god-punishing-me/

When I Need A Little Grace: Quotes To Help My Heart Hold On


I need to remind my heart on a regular basis that grace covers it all-every mistake, every sin,  every need, every. single. thing.

Because if it doesn’t, then it’s not grace at all.

So here are some of my favorite quotes about grace. 

They help me hang on when my heart wants to let go. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/12/28/grace-quotes/

Repost: I Don’t Want To Know The Future

Many years ago my grandparents had a lovely Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration with family and friends.

My dad videotaped it and the tape was full of fun moments where my grandmother was smiling, laughing and having a wonderful day.

It was a short time afterward that she began to show signs of dementia and not very long after that she left us.

We watched the videotape a year or two after her leaving and I thought, “What a mercy she didn’t know what was coming!”

Those moments were full of unadulterated joy because a sorrowful future was hidden from her heart.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/11/29/i-dont-want-to-see-the-future/

Scripture Journal Challenge: Earth Has No Sorrow That Heaven Can’t Heal

Can we just admit that life is hard?

Can we stop hiding our sorrow and pain and struggles and difficulties and let people in on what’s going on?

I truly believe that if we did, we’d all be better for it.

Because no one-really, truly no one-is spared from some kind of problem. And for many of us, it has nothing to do with our own choices. It’s visited upon us from the outside.

It comes out of nowhere, happens fast and suddenly consumes every aspect of our lives.

If you are a believer in Jesus, you might think you should be immune to these hardships. You might do a quick calculation and decide that, on balance, you’ve led a pretty decent life and certainly God should notice and spare you and yours from awful tragedy.

Or you might look around and notice all those who leave hurt and heartache in their wake and wonder why they seem to live a charmed life while death and destruction have visited yours.

No matter how you try to disguise it, death is a hard pill to swallow.

Jesus didn’t deny that.

Today’s verses are some of the most poignant in His long discourse to the disciples as He was preparing them for His death.

Jesus knew they had questions to ask of Him, so He approached them.
Jesus: Are you trying to figure out what I mean when I say you will see Me in a little while? 20 I tell you the truth, a time is approaching when you will weep and mourn while the world is celebrating. You will grieve, but that grief will give birth to great joy. 21-22 In the same way that a woman labors in great pain during childbirth only to forget the intensity of the pain when she holds her child, when I return, your labored grief will also change into a joy that cannot be stolen.
23 When all this transpires, you will finally have the answers you have been seeking. I tell you the truth, anything you ask of the Father in My name, He will give to you. 24 Until this moment, you have not sought after anything in My name. Ask and you will receive so that you will be filled with joy.

John 16: 19-24 VOICE

Notice that Jesus didn’t wait for his disciples to approach Him with their questions. Out of compassion and love, He approached THEM.

He does the same with us today.

Many of the questions I’ve struggled with since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven are answered in Scripture.

That’s why it is so, so important to read my Bible. Some days I use a concordance to help me find pertinent verses, sometimes the Holy Spirit brings them to mind. Not every question will be answered this side of eternity. But at the least I am reminded of God’s faithful love and trustworthy character.

Jesus begins by asserting what He knows is true but wants them to affirm: “You’ve got some questions, don’t you?”

Then He acknowledges their pain. He doesn’t shy away from saying that things will feel unfair. It will appear as though evil has won and the Kingdom of God defeated.

But then He offers hope.

Their grief will ultimately turn to joy.

I think this joy is twofold-they had a taste of it when Jesus revealed Himself as Risen Savior during the forty days after the resurrection. But the fullness of that joy for them, like us, is only available in eternity.

Childbirth as analogy for this life leading into the next is so helpful!

When laboring to bring forth a baby, no one knows for sure how long that terrible pain will last. In the middle of it, more than one mama has thought (and sometimes said or screamed), “I don’t want to do this!”

But that same mama, when handed her precious child, often bursts into joyous tears that wash away the memory of how impossible it all seemed just moments before.

How many of us would gladly go through every moment of pain to have our child back in our arms?

No woman is pregnant forever.

Sooner or later that baby will be born.

This life of travail won’t last forever either.

By death or transformation, we will be freed from this earthly tent. The worn out and worn down will be restored and renewed.

One day-one glorious Day-I will have every answer I seek.

Jesus says, “when I return” and “when this transpires” their grief will turn to joy.

I have a foretaste of ultimate joy in the comfort, ministry and companionship of the Holy Spirit. But I cannot know fullness of joy until Jesus returns.

And that joy will overwhelm every heartache.

QUESTIONS:

  • Can you relate to the disciples’ fear of asking Jesus their questions? Why or why not?
  • Do you have a concordance? Do you know how to use it? Have you ever looked up verses when you had a specific question?
  • Just as it’s really impossible to describe both the intensity of the pain of childbirth and the intensity of the joy of holding your baby, it’s impossible for us to fully comprehend how the pain of this life will eventually be swallowed up by joy in eternity. Write 3 ways you think this is a good analogy. How might this help you hold onto hope in the long “labor” of life while waiting for “delivery” on God’s promises?
  • I admit I’m impatient for some of the answers to my questions. I have to remind my heart that no amount of time will seem long in comparison to what waits for me. How do you help your heart make peace with the idea that many, many years may stretch before you without answers?
  • C.S. Lewis was a gifted writer and faithful follower of Jesus. Read the quote above slowly, repeatedly and thoughtfully. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?

PRAYER:

Lord, You do not despise my questions.

You don’t expect me to transcend my frail human understanding. When I bring my questions to You, you may not give me the answer I seek but You always give me mercy, grace and more of Yourself.

Help me hold onto the word picture You shared with Your disciples. No labor lasts forever. I can rest assured that however long life lasts for me on earth, it will be but the tiniest blip in light of eternity. Agony here-yes, and often more than I think I can bear. But joy unspeakable is waiting!

Thank You for the hope I have in Jesus. Thank You for Your grace.

Give me strength to endure no matter how hard it may become. Help me finish strong and enter Heaven with “Hallelujah!” on my lips.

Amen

Heaven’s Song

A precious waiting mama isn’t waiting anymore.

Eight years after her son ran ahead to Heaven, she’s joined him.

And I have to think that the step from earth to Home wasn’t a huge one for her.

I have never known a kinder or gentler soul in my life. She was always encouraging other hearts, always pointing others to the hope we have in Jesus.

She never preached, she simply extended grace and love that made it absolutely impossible for anyone to ignore the difference between her and most other folks.

I only met this sweet mama once face-to-face when she and a couple other waiting mamas came all the way to my house for lunch and an afternoon of sharing and encouragement. But our friendship continued long distance through Facebook and private messages.

Our mutual love of Jesus, children and children’s books wove our hearts together in so many ways.

I am convinced that the distance between her heart and Heaven is so short because she was already singing Heaven’s Song here on earth-calling grace, mercy, strength and hope to every heart she met.

I thank God for the privilege of knowing her and am looking forward even more to that Day when everything is redeemed, restored and renewed.

Rest well, faithful servant. Dance in the joy of your Savior. Hug your son. Revel in faith made sight.

We’ll be there soon. ❤

Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.

Deuteronomy 33:12