Life.

Life.  That is the only word that comes to my mind at this moment.  I reflect back on the last month or so of changes in my life, also leading me to think back on my childhood and everything else in between, and I have come to this one conclusion: Life.

Life is living – the happy, sad and challenging times.  It is not perfect.  Don’t beat yourself up trying to make it perfect, or even fair.  We have a perfect Savior in Jesus Christ, and that is all we need to make sense of our sometimes tangled lives.

Life is relationships.  Put down the stuff.  Jesus Christ was all about relationships.  Jesus did not continue to dwell on our past sins and transgressions, but rather what are we going to do right now.  If you want to have an idea of what God is truly like, just look at Jesus’ life and actions.  Love, relationships, restoration, living.  He never sought fame or things.  Jesus knew what was truly important and lasting in this life.  Only the One claiming to be Son of God Himself could have led such a perfect example.

Life is temporal and eternal.  I know that sounds like a contradiction, and maybe it is for a little while.  Life on this earth will end, and probably unexpectedly.  If that is all there was, it would be terribly unfair and cruel.  But the God of life, love and relationships did not create us that way.  We have a choice.  Choose to follow the God of life.  It makes all the difference at a funeral.

My Dad ~ 1930-2017

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life.  I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
– John the Evangelist, 1 John 5:11-13

I know this testimony is true.  I saw it.

My dad laid in the hospital bed of the Intensive Care Unit after having a massive stroke.  IV tubes and oxygen machines were hooked up to him.  He could correctly answer a few questions while laying there, but his mind seemed to be mostly reminiscent of past times in the 1950’s and 60’s.  He was restless and tried to get out of the bed, pulling off his tubes.  My dad never even wanted to be in a wheelchair so I understood.  He was a Navy veteran and strong to the end.  But there was also something else.

I stood beside my Dad’s hospital bed.  He wasn’t able to move his arms very much or focus on people’s faces.  Then suddenly he began reaching his arms up into the air, to the left of where I was standing, and grasping both hands in an open-and-close movement as if he was trying to hold onto something.  He saw something the rest of us did not.  Maybe it was the angels waiting to take him home, or maybe it was Jesus comforting and speaking to him.  It is life’s great mystery that we will not be privileged to know until it is our time.  But I do want to know the God of eternal life and His Son Jesus at that time.

After that, my Dad was more peaceful.  A few days later he spoke his last words, “Goodnight“, and slipped peacefully into the loving arms of Jesus in heaven.

Jesus said to the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on My way to wake him up.”  Then the disciples said, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will get well.”  So Jesus then told them plainly, “Lazarus has died.  I’m glad for you that I wasn’t there so that you may believe. But let’s go to him.”
– John 11:11-15

In Jesus’ Words: Children are a Blessing (Matthew 19:13-15)

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As a mom, and especially on this recent Mother’s Day, there are no more comforting words to hear than these spoken from Jesus:

~ Matthew 19:13-15  Jesus Blesses the Children ~

Then children were brought to Jesus so He might put His hands on them and pray. But the disciples rebuked them.  Then Jesus said, “Leave the children alone, and don’t try to keep them from coming to Me, because the kingdom of heaven is made up of people like this.”  After putting His hands on them, He went on from there.

Children are a blessing in so many ways.  Whether you have children of your own or have a chance to interact with children in other ways, I cannot think of anything more precious.  Children teach us what is important in life.  They see things through a different lens than us adults.

Children are a promise of renewal.  Even though we have sadness in the world, there is something about seeing a new baby that washes over us like a wave of hope.  Jesus makes all things new and Heaven makes all things fair.  From Jesus’ own words, “Heaven is made up of children and people like this.”  Heaven is a joyous place, for the children.

One of the most important things we can do in this life is to take care of the children, teach them, show them kindness, and let them come to Jesus.  Children are naturally attracted to Jesus.  They are fresh from God.  And a mom praying for her child is a force that can change the world.feet with waves cropped

In Jesus’ Words: A Mother’s Faith (Matthew 15:21-28)

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What is most important to you?  For those of us who are mothers and fathers, we almost always answer that it is our children, for their safety and happiness.
God sees us the same way.

What is second most important to you?  Beyond the immediate physical needs most of us answer in the first question, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we will most likely say that we wish to be in good standing with God.  Everyone wants to know who God is and what He thinks about you personally.
God wants to know us too.

Combine these two answers together, and you will have the answers to just about everything in life.  Anything else – our jobs, worries, sickness – are all temporary.

Below is a beautiful story of a woman crying out to Jesus for help with her child.  Jesus doesn’t answer her right away, nor does He with us sometimes, but neither does He send her away.  With the mother’s consistent pleading and prayer, when Jesus knows her faith is where it should be, He answers her.

~ Matthew 15:21-28  A Gentile Mother’s Faith ~

When Jesus left there, He withdrew to the area of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came and kept crying out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is cruelly tormented by a demon.”

Yet He did not say a word to her. So His disciples approached Him and urged Him, “Send her away because she cries out after us.”

He replied, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But she came, knelt before Him, and said, “Lord, help me!”

He answered, “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to their dogs.”

“Yes, Lord,” she said, “yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table!”

Then Jesus replied to her, “Woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.” And from that moment her daughter was cured.

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In Jesus’ Words: The Two Foundations (Matthew 7:24-29)

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The foundation of a home is rarely noticed unless there is a problem.  But it makes all the difference.  At the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he gives one final statement.  He doesn’t beg or threaten, he simply gives people a choice and the truth.

~ Matthew 7:24-29  The Two Foundations ~

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock.  The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”

When Jesus had finished this sermon, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, because He was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes.

When my young husband and I walked into our brand-new home for the first time back in 1992, we stopped at the entrance-way and prayed.  It was the first thing we did in our new home.  We didn’t have a clue about what life would bring us over the years, but all I knew was that I wanted God’s protection in our home.  Through all our mistakes, joys and sadness, God provided just that.  He protected our home.  Not only in the physical way, from the time we watched a tornado pass by the side of our house, but also in the spiritual way, where we have watched our son grow into a fine young man and be protected from the destructive elements that take hold of so many of our youth.  We weren’t perfect, and we’ve had job layoffs and heartache along the way, but I believe God paid attention to that simple request of ours so many years ago, and has kept us from great collapse.

Protect your home.  Make it the one place in the world where your family can be loved, accepted, and have a place they can always return to.  A place where evil is shut out.  A place of refuge for your family.  Make it a place of warmth, where good food is served and there is laughter and photographs and child’s drawings on the walls, and not just a place where you collect the latest and most expensive stuff.  And these days, the perimeter of our home is more than just the walls and yard; we must protect what comes in through our television and internet too.  If you ask God, in all sincerity, He will make a promise to  you, to be the God of your home and to protect you and your family.

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In Jesus’ Words: Adultery and Divorce (Matthew 5:27-32)

Jesus-sermon-on-the-mountI wonder how many people got up and walked away from the crowd when Jesus started talking about adultery and divorce during his Sermon on the Mount.  It’s fine to talk about Blessings and Salt and Light, but now Jesus comes to this part of his sermon.  Some people may have even mumbled, “Who does this guy think he is to tell me how to run my life!”  Oh wait….

If Jesus is who he said he was – the Son of God and the one who would die for our sins to keep us from going to hell – then what he says truly matters.  This is the direct voice of God.  We have all wished for God to speak to us at times, and Jesus does just that.

The subject of adultery, sexual sins, and divorce can bring up a lot of pain and hurt with many people.  Yet Jesus did not avoid the subject or the truth.  He was warning the crowds about those things that can keep us away from seeking God and repentance, and therefore might lead to eternal separation in hell.  Nothing on this earth is worth that gamble.  Jesus also knew that even 2000 years later, this subject would be more important than ever, as we have seen the breakdown of the family and marriage, pornography addiction, and sexual abuse crimes increase in astonishing numbers like we have never seen before.  Here is what Jesus said on the subject:

~ Matthew 5:27-32 – Adultery in the Heart and Divorce ~

“You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery.  But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell!”

“It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce.  But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Marriage, like life, is never free from problems nor should we expect it to be.  I have been married 24 years and have lived in our home 22 years.  I’ve been told by others that I do not like change… but I like to think of it more as a comfort and safe haven instead.  I’ve known people who move to a new house every few years so they always have the most modern things and latest kitchen.  It feels shiny and new and exciting, but the problem is everything eventually becomes old.  Though my house may show a little wear and tear after 22 years of life, I like knowing there is always one place in this world where my family and I can return to at the end of the day, and know that we are loved and accepted and always welcome.  It is a safe boundary where Jesus is present and evil is not welcome within our doors.  The inevitable of growing old will happen to us too, no matter how many shiny new things I may buy, and I take comfort in knowing I will grow old with the one person who knows me best, puts up with the good and the bad, and is not just around during the good times.

I realize we don’t all have this choice in life, but if the decision is yours to make, I sincerely hope you will choose long life over temporary things.  Yet no matter what your situation may be, know that Jesus can be your home and safe haven.  He will never leave you or harm you, never stop loving you, and He is preparing a far better home for us than we can ever imagine here on earth.

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