Renewed

3

“My chains are gone; I’ve been set free; My God my Savior has ransomed me. And like a flood; His mercy rains; unending love; Amazing grace.” *

After a recent conversation about the real power of the resurrection of Jesus, I started to wonder. Why isn’t this spectacular, sacrificial and all loving act of God constantly at the forefront of our hearts and minds? We have a God who is utterly and truly living. We should be doing cartwheels over this very thought! Not only did God sacrifice his son for us but he gave us His Holy Spirit to live in our hearts. Why then, like winter grass, can our hearts lay dormant to this tremendous realization?

shutterstock_347935919I don’t have to think too far back to recall a few dormant patches. One of the single finest memories in my life was getting married.
However, looking back, “bridezilla” may have gotten the best of me. I focused practically 24/7 on my future husband, the wedding, the dress, the wedding party, the honeymoon plans and our future new apartment. Here and there I managed to squeeze in a little time with God. He knew I was busy planning the next exciting chapter of my life so He was ok with that. Or was He?
Wedding CakeFast forward a few months. After a beautiful spring wedding to my best friend, a perfect honeymoon, a good job and a charming apartment; there I was, feeling a bit mediocre and lost. It wasn’t because I wasn’t totally in love, or dissatisfied with anything in particular. Was it because I had built up all this limelight centered on me? I quietly asked God to rein me in.

One night as I was mindlessly flicking between channels on TV, I stumbled onto the movie “Jesus of Nazareth.” Lying on the sofa, semi-disinterested, I watched. When the drama of the crucifixion and all that led up to it, unfolded, I found myself weeping. As Jesus’ hands and feet were nailed to the cross, I almost literally felt a veil peel off of my eyes. I could see clearly now.

Jesus StatueLife is not all about a constant feeling of happiness and it is certainly not all about me. Perhaps true happiness is better defined as contentment. Contentment in knowing and understanding Jesus and what he has in store for us. So much more than we can imagine! “He was pierced for my iniquities.” Like the dormant winter grass giving way to the rejuvenation of spring; I could feel the renewing of my heart. “He is alive!” We serve a live savior, a live God and have been given the gift of the living Holy Spirit as our 24/7 counselor. As you are out “living it up” this week, pray about how to keep your relationship with God growing and thriving.

“Now the Lord is the spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
2 Corinthians 3:17

 

“It cost God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things; but to convert rebellious wills cost Him crucifixion.” C.S. Lewis ~ “Mere Christianity”

*“Amazing Grace” by Chris Tomlin

Lighting…According to Me

shutterstock_265715363

Confession. I am a self-professed lighting fanatic. Many say that the smartphone is the all-time greatest invention ever but my vote goes to the under-appreciated dimmer switch. Some people have a shoe problem; I have a lamp problem. You cannot catch me without a flashlight in my purse or suitcase. Don’t even get me started about my love for candles. One night I couldn’t find my flashlight and was not happy about it. My daughter said to me, “Mom, why don’t you just use the flashlight on your phone?” Oh, right…allow me to retract… perhaps the smartphone is the greatest invention after all!

shutterstock_267645191Many an evening in this household you can hear my assortment of men and boys saying, “Please turn the lights up, I can’t see my food.” I assure them that the lighting is perfect (according to me) and that if I turn the lights up anymore it will blaze too brightly and activate stress hormones. (Stress to whom?) So I turn up the light because apparently they don’t see what I see.

I took my lighting show on the road with us while visiting family for a big celebratory dinner party. I don’t know what possessed me, but sure enough, I messed with the lighting. This time, it was so dark (again, in my opinion) that I was feeling tired and perhaps a bit depressed. I crossed the lines of decorum and guest ethics and rudely trampled on someone else’s preference. No one put me in charge as lead mood setter at the party. I shouldn’t have been the least bit offended when I was publicly put in my place. “I was just trying to help”, I thought to myself. On the way home, I was reprimanded by my family for crossing that line. It may be a small thing, but I was wrong.

I’m sure there are many of you who can relate to crossing lines in relationships. There is a delicate balance. Wouldn’t life would be so much brighter and simpler if we could always find ourselves in that shiny middle place between over exerting ourselves and tip-toeing around on eggshells? There will forever be challenges in relationships and particularly in family dynamics. The key is to respect and appreciate the fact that we all see things individually. How boring would this world be if we saw everything exactly the same way?

shutterstock_309361388Some see a relationship with Jesus in a foggy complicated light; I see it as really quite simple. He is the light; we follow that light. When we find ourselves in darkness maybe it is because we have become too self-sufficient (turned the dimmer switch to its lowest setting) and have stumbled off that lit path. He knows our hearts and motives and regardless…loves us and delights when we shine.

Ask God this week to shed his brilliant light into your heart and onto His path. Make a list of 5 simple ways you can brighten up someone else’s day. So go out there and live it up!

 

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:1-5

 

“He sees because He loves, and, therefore, loves although he sees.” C.S. Lewis

 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Most likely to have pain killers

shutterstock_203283604

If I could do it all over again, I probably would not have thrown a wet wash cloth at our labor and delivery nurse. She was an innocent victim in all this. My husband, would not have heard the scorching words “turn off that cr–!”, when he kindly put on soft “Out of Africa” background music. He was just doing his job. Boy, did I want to switch places with him at that very moment. I was in pain greater than I thought was possible.

Before our first child was born into this world, we took a class on how to manage childbirth, otherwise known as “Lamaze”. I think my husband Michael was a little apprehensive when upon arriving at our first class our teacher, Esther, passed around fully exposed photos of herself nursing her baby. Michael asked, “Now… where did you hear about this class?”

shutterstock_369896999Aside from lacking a little, shall we say, modesty, Esther was a pro. She shared the steps that would make the mysterious birth process as safe and comfortable as possible. Living in the generation of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” we needed to know everything! We covered all the bases from pain management to sibling rivalry. On the last evening of our class we ‘graduated’ with plenty of tips for low-stress birthing and lots of laughs.

I was especially flattered to be voted “Most Likely to Have Pain Killers” by my classmates. A few of them prided themselves on their decisions to undergo natural childbirth and good for them. Really. But they were not sure what to think of me when I coined this phrase…“Any way you have a baby is natural childbirth.” Be it at home with no drugs and a midwife, in the hospital full of drugs or adopting your baby. Somehow these babies are all “naturally” born and they are yours.”
Many women tell you that you will forget the pain. Well, I tell you that’s a bunch of malarkey. Here I am twenty-four years later…writing about it. There we were in the delivery room. Trying to live up to my Lamaze class superlative, I was getting all set for my epidural when, BOOM, I was 10 centimeters dilated and ready for action.shutterstock_366726791

I hadn’t been in the hospital more than 20 minutes and I was ready to deliver? My doctor gently took my face into her hands and told me there would be no time to administer pain killers. She was kidding, right? I looked at my husband with wild eyes full of trepidation as I decided not to have the baby. Two hours after first arriving at the hospital I was handed my precious son…9 pounds 6 ounces with a head in the 100th percentile and no pain medication. No more details, I promise.

The point is, you can do everything right. Everything by the rulebook and there will still be some kind of pain in your life. It’s that simple. You can’t escape it, run away from it, or ignore it. Even when you take preventative steps to soften the blows, you are still vulnerable to pain. The world is full of affliction. Don’t be caught unguarded.

shutterstock_200856557As we approach our holiest spiritual time of year, Easter, keep this in mind Jesus died a tremendously painful death on the cross…for you. He lived the life of a human so that we could know that we have a savior who understands our “condition”. The Bible is filled with pages and pages of God reaching down to give us what we need to either tackle our circumstances or to find peace in the beautiful fact that we are so deeply loved and not alone. Through suffering, comes life. Just like childbirth. If you know anyone who is in pain, reach out to them this week. You will be blessed.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

 

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

 

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C.S. Lewis

Freedom and the Run Away Nana

shutterstock_353755448

My mom hasn’t driven in two years. Fortunately for her, she thinks she’s out and about driving at least once a day. Best to let her think that way. However, if you let her think she’s a driver, you better remember to hide the keys to all vehicles. Particularly if you are going to slip out for a few minutes. Something I recently forgot to do. What ensued is either horrifying or hilarious.

I saw Mom deeply ensconced in her jigsaw puzzle and thought it would be a good time to run out to the grocery store. Also, my husband was in the next room working so what could go wrong?

So there I was in the grocery store checking out when my cell phone rings. It’s my husband saying “Are you sitting down?” (Not what anyone ever wants to hear.) “Oh my gosh, what is it?” The grocery store clerk is clearly concerned as I say, “I’m on my way now!” My mother has taken my father’s car and left the building.

shutterstock_222053959As I haphazardly depart the grocery store, I think to myself, “wait a minute, if she is going anywhere, it is here.” This used to be her favorite place to go before we had to take the keys away. I scanned the parking lot looking for the escapee, but she and Dad’s car are nowhere to be found. I jump into my car and say a prayer for her safety and for those in her path. It’s rush hour so the road is jammed with slow-moving traffic. Then I spot her! There she is sitting in traffic in the opposite direction. Her ski hat on in 50-degree weather and looking very pleasantly pleased with herself! As a child of the 70’s and 80’s, I was convinced that the song “Free Bird” was lightly playing on her car radio; because this woman was FREE!

I make the first U-turn possible and semi-frantically inch through traffic just a couple minutes behind the escapee. She has returned to the scene of the crime as I suspected, the grocery store. I pull in right next to her get-away car. It looks like she was so excited that she didn’t even close the door properly. Not 5 feet inside the door, I see her rummaging through her purse. I gently step up behind her and ask, “What are you looking for Mom?”

“I can’t find my list!” she replies not one bit surprised I am beside her. We pick up a few shutterstock_394371052items, go through the checkout and head to the parking lot. As we approach the two cars I think, “Oh no, here it comes. I have to break her heart and tell her she is not driving home.” Then she asks me, “Where did we park?” She had completely forgotten she was on the lam and I took her home as if it was any other trip we have made together. Yikes and phew at the same time, right?

I find it particularly ironic that her favorite place to run to is my least favorite. Since this little Thursday afternoon fiasco, I have been more sensitive to my aging mother’s needs and my lack of gratefulness to be experiencing freedom on a daily basis. Do we even think twice about our freedoms? Think back to when you first got your driver’s license? (Again, “Free Bird” comes to mind.)

shutterstock_210417895You were no longer dependent on anyone to get you where you wanted to go. We were born with an innate spirit of freedom that can dull over the years if we don’t nourish it. Abundant blessings follow when you humble yourself with a contrite heart and a spirit of love in whatever you are doing. This week take a moment to list some of your blessings and freedoms. Is there someone whom you could serve better in your life?

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
2 Corinthians 3:17

 

“If I leave here tomorrow would you still remember me? For I must be traveling on now; ‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see…Cause I’m as free as a bird now, and this bird you cannot change…” Lynrd Skynard