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Temporary good-bye

I Thessalonians 4:14-18 – “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

Well, I find myself on the road again. This time, we are headed to a funeral. Grandpa lost his battle here on earth but won a far greater prize – the presence of Jesus. As my little niece so appropriately put it, “Grandpa closed his eyes and when he opened them again, he saw Jesus.” How cool is that!

But as comforting as it is to know that he is in the presence of His Savior, we still have to say good-bye or rather, so long for now. And that’s not always the easiest task to accomplish. 

You see, we all are a bit selfish. We want him here. We don’t want to have to face all the challenges of living without him. We want it to be easy. We want to go up to his house and have him go with us to get the 4 wheeler out of the shed. We want to see him stand at the gate to the pasture and call the cows. We want to fuss at him about not putting his own socks on (long story). We want to hear him give grandma a hard time and laugh at his quirky little ways. But that’s not the case with this trip.

This time, we go to comfort one another. We go to say our “so-long for now” and to lay him to rest. We go to remember. We go to cry. We go to laugh. We go to give our support.

But one day, in the not too distant future, I imagine, we will see him again. We will see him, my dad, my grandma, my other grandpa, my uncles, and all the friends and loved ones who have gone on before us to the presence of God. Jesus will come back. Those graves we so diligently keep will burst open. We who are left will meet Jesus in the air. Oh….I can’t wait! Even so Lord Jesus come!

So amongst all the tears and sadness, I will be holding to hope. I will be smiling on the inside because I know this is just a temporary good-bye. This is just another bump in the road. Grandpa knew it. Daddy knew it. All of us who have accepted Jesus as our Savior know it. Death is hard. Death is sad. Death seems so final. But it’s not. Jesus has overcome death. And that is why I will be smiling on the inside – because I know it is just temporary.

Through the valley

Psalm 23 – “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”

It has been a challenging last 4 days. I got a call Friday night that my grandpa had been in a really bad accident. So, the kids and I set out Sunday on a 12 hour tour up to visit him in the hospital. Now, we are on our 12 hour leg back home. I am so grateful that God prepared my path and provided a way for me to go and visit him. He prepared my car. He prepared my son to help drive some. He took care of it all.

But for the second time in his 87 years, my grandpa is walking through the valley. And it is hard to watch him go through it, again. I feel so helpless and confused when I walk into his room and see all the machines and hear all the noises. Suddenly, all the training and knowledge that I have received about medical conditions and prognosis and treatment become a distant memory that I have to work really hard to retrieve. 

It is a challenge to be positive. The devil is right there on my shoulder whispering in my ear all the negative thoughts he can muster up. He wants me to think about the very worst. He wants me to dwell on all the things I see wrong. He fights me when I try and remember that God is in control.

Yet, I know Jesus is in control of it all. 

Let me tell you about the day before I got the call – my tire pressure light came on. For land’s sake, I just got new tires within the last 3 months! So, my husband and I decided to go get it checked out and get the oil changed while we were at it. It was that time. This was Friday afternoon. I got the call Friday night. God knew on Thursday that grandpa would get hurt Friday afternoon and that I would get the call Friday night. He knew that I would want to go visit him and he knew that my husband needed the knowledge that the car was safe to carry his precious cargo 800 miles away without him. 

God knew. God prepared the way. 

So as my family and I walk through the valley, we covet your prayers. Pray for my grandma. She needs it. Pray for my aunt and my mom. They need it. 

But the great thing is that no matter what God chooses to do in this situation, the table before us will be prepared by Him. He will provide everything we need. He will be our rod. He will be our strength. He will anoint our thoughts with His grace and mercy. He will make our cup run over with His blessings. Of this, I have no doubt.

St. Augustine “grass”

Galatians 6:1 – “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

Have I ever told you how much I detest St. Augustine grass? For me, it is no more than a glorified weed. We have it in our yard and I do believe it is on a mission to overtake the world. 

You see, this “grass” has tentacles that reach out and invade everything. It has sprung up in our bushes. It has overtaken our rose bushes. I believe it would attempt to destroy the house if given the chance. It is invasive and terrifying if you think on it long enough. When you go to pull out one “weed” you see in your bushes, that “weed” keeps going until you feel as though you are pulling out half the yard! It is maddening.

As I was facing this battle the other day, God reminded me of sin. Sin is a lot like this “grass” that I have in my yard. It may look nice and people may want you to take care of it, but in truth, you need to get it as far from you as possible. Sin invades. Sin takes over. Sin reaches out and deceives you into thinking it is just one tiny thing when in reality, it has taken over all parts of your life, if you let it. Sin is invasive and terrifying if you think on it long enough. 

However, we aren’t to be judges of people we see overtaken with sin. No, we are supposed to go alongside of them and show them a better way. We need to realize that we are none too high and mighty to escape the clutches of sin. It is only by the grace of God that we ourself have not been overtaken. Sometimes it is difficult to go up to that person you see ravaged by sin. We want to stay away lest we would be accused of such wrongdoings.

But Jesus wasn’t like that. He went to the overtaken. He reached out to them. He showed them a better way. And aren’t we supposed to be more and more like Him? Aren’t we supposed to be that light in a dark world? Aren’t we supposed to plant the seed and make disciples? We can’t do that if we are sitting back judging others.

So let me encourage you today to be that living testimony that people need to see. Don’t steer away from those who need Him the most. And don’t let the tentacles of sin overtake you. Be on your guard and listen to the Holy Spirit convicting your heart of unrighteousness. And for Heaven’s sake, pull some weeds! Happy Friday!

Permanent Resident

John 15:4,5 – “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”

“Without me ye can do nothing.” I don’t do well with doing nothing. I’m busy from the time I get up until I go to bed. And I guess in a way that’s good, but it can be very tiring. 

But when I stop and consider my spiritual life (which should seep over into my physical life), do I try to do things without Jesus? Do I try and read my Bible without inviting Him to come along side me? Do I try to serve at church without asking Him if it is where I’m supposed to be? Yep. 

So what does this have to do with these verses and this blog title? I need to take up permanent residence in Jesus. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Duh, Melissa. We are followers of Christ. Isn’t that where we should be?” Yep. But are you? Are you truly abiding in the Vine? Are you letting Him supply your every need? Are you producing His fruit or your own? Have you truly established yourself in Him? Could you be the person you are today without Him?

Jesus should be so much a part of who you are that to attempt to disconnect yourself from Him would bring complete and utter destruction. You need to be a permanent resident in Jesus. He has to be your source of life for all parts of you. He needs to be what gets you out of bed in the morning. He needs to be what motivates you to care for those around you. He needs to be the One that you rely upon when the job gets too heavy. He needs to be your Friend when no one else is around. You and Jesus need to be stuck together with eternal glue – no coming apart, ever. 

So let me encourage you today to dig a little deeper. Grow that bond a little stronger. Make Jesus a bigger part of your life. This is what He wants. This is what He desires – a relationship with His child – you. Happy Wednesday. 

Bearing burdens

Lamentations 3:27-33 – “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach. For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.”

This was my son’s Scripture choice for the devotion he did for us last night. Deep content for a 15 year old boy, but he nailed it. 

When it comes to bearing burdens, we all are challenged by it. Sometimes we want to take the burden from our friend or loved one and carry it for them. Sometimes we want to give our burden away because we just don’t want to deal with it anymore. 

But neither one of those options is the way God wants us to handle things. He wants us to carry our own burden while allowing Him to lighten the load. Sometimes He does this by sending someone into our life to walk alongside us and help ease the load. Sometimes He wants us to give the burden completely to Him and let Him deal with it. 

Nowhere does it say to let another human take care of our burden. The Bible does tell us to “bear one another’s burdens” but that means by prayer and assistance. Not taking it on completely as our own. We have a tendency to want to take over when it comes to something like that. We want to own it and make it better. I think that’s the pride in our life wanting to do that. 

Yet, when we bear our own burden, it can sometimes get tough. We may feel overwhelmed and overtaken. We may feel buried under the weight of responsibility. Yet, God knows exactly where we are at in the situation. He knows what we need and when we need it. And waiting for Him can be hard. When it gets hard, I think that is when we go running and whining to someone else to take the difficulty away. What we need to do is buckle down and carry on. 

During my son’s devotion, he said that it was good for kids to learn to bear their own burdens while they are young and have parents there to help. He said that they needed to learn to take responsibility even when it is hard. And part of that responsibility is knowing when to turn it over and knowing when to ask for help. 

He’s a pretty wise young man. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with him because I know it will be incredible.

Shelter

Jeremiah 16:17 – “For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.”

Well, we made it! We made it to our vacation spot among the hills and mountains out west. And it is BEAUTIFUL!! I’m sitting outside wrapped in a blanket that I know will repulse me in a few hours because it will be so incredibly hot. But for now, the warmth feels good. 

As we were driving here yesterday, we crossed a lot of desert type land. Flat. Dry. Scrub bushy. A Joshua tree here and there. But really, no place to hide. No place to take shelter from the blazing sun. No place to pause for a respite. 

When I saw this verse this morning, the terrain I witnessed yesterday was brought to mind. When we walk with God through this life, He is our shelter. He is our place of refuge. He is our place to hide. He our fountain of Living Water. 

He sees all our actions. He hears all our thoughts. He knows the intent of our heart. We can’t hide from Him whether we choose to follow Him or not. 

We think we can pull one over on God. We think that little scrub bush is going to give us all we need. We think that straggly little tree will provide all the shelter we need from the oppression of this world. The pride in our heart keeps us from accepting what is good and perfect. Our pride keeps us from seeing His blessings and protection. 

So this week, as I look out across God’s amazing landscape while walking through the desert, trust me when I say I will truly appreciate God’s shelter and protection – because without Him, this old world is really, really hot. 

Be prepared 

1 Peter 3:15,16 – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.”

Well, the packing is almost done. I have been thinking about as many scenarios as possible to prepare for. I have bandaids, moleskin for blisters, a first aid kit, sunscreen, muscle rub, medication for pain and headaches, aloe. I have extra clothes. I have water bottles to fill. My goodness, I can’t believe all the stuff I have packed!

I like to be prepared. I don’t like to be caught off guard. I have even written off the address and lock box info for the house we are staying at just in case I don’t have cell phone service. I try to be prepared. 

But how well do I prepare myself for spiritual journeys? 

Each and every day is a new challenge, a new focus, a new opportunity to share Christ with someone. But am I ready?

Getting into the Word is a great start. Reading and studying and thinking about God’s precepts and principles is a necessary step in growing and preparing. 

Prayer is also a necessity. How can we expect to be ready for any spiritual battle or situation if we don’t communicate with The Commander and Chief? 

There is also one more thing that helps get me ready for spiritual journeys – my brothers and sisters in Christ, aka – my church family. I need them. I need their love. I need their support. I need their encouragement. But you can’t have that church family if you don’t make the sacrifice to be a part of it. 

Be prepared. Be prepared for life. Be prepared for spiritual issues and battles. Be prepared to be in His Word. Be prepared to spend time with your Savior. Be prepared to find love in your church family. Happy Monday.