Saturday, May 20, 2017

Thankful for the old; hopeful for the new

        It's been a whirlwind of a week.  After an incredibly busy four days of graduation dinners, dances, ceremonies, and a grand finale of Mother's Day/graduation lunch with all our family, Janie's finally an official Carolina grad.  Thank You, Lord, thank You!
        Just a few memories: One of my very favorite pics from the weekend--all the crew running to graduation since they were late (but they made it just in time!).  Love, love, love these girls!  Thank You, Lord.
        Our dearest Aunt May May with our grad.  So thankful for the priceless gift of brothers and sisters and family.  Thank You, Lord.
          Then there's the beloved Old Well in the background...with beloved brothers in the foreground!  Thank You, Lord.
           And all the fam for the grand finale of Mother's Day/Graduation lunch.  Loved so much being with cousins and aunts and uncles and grandaddy!  Thank You, Lord.
           And then there was the UNC hospital emergency helicopter landing right at the end of the ceremony.

I looked at my husband and sister, and we all smiled (and maybe shed a tear).  How fitting to end Janie's years at UNC.  Just such an emergency helicopter had saved her life nearly five years earlier.  I felt that rush of gratitude all over again--grateful for the nurses and doctors and emergency personnel who saved Janie and Tessa.  Thank You, Lord, for all those who work incredibly hard every single day and night to bring healing and help to so many in desperate and dark places.
          So much for which to be thankful.  But here's the thing--we're overwhelmingly grateful to God...but I have to admit that I also spent a good portion of that Sunday evening weeping.  Yes, crying my eyes out that it was all over and yet another one of our children was grown and saying good-bye to our home.  Weeping that these wonderful girls at 501 North would all be leaving and moving all over the place.  Lamenting that, once again, life was changing forever.  Oh brother, how can you be so thankful and thrilled...but at the same time so broken-hearted?
         I don't want all these girls to go their separate ways--I want to be able to continue to see them every week and enjoy their joy in all things Carolina.  What incredible and beautiful friendships they have enjoyed--thank You, Lord--but I don't want it to end for any of us.  Can't we just avoid all this change and transition and growing up and moving away stuff?  Seriously?  Sigh, guess not.
         I reckon it's time to take my own advice--repeated ad nauseum to my children and friends--that's a quote from the great Dr. Seuss: "Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened."  Yep, the crying's now stopped and the smiling's recommenced!
       After all, there's not one blessed thing any of us can do to stop life's inevitable changes...and we surely can't--and mustn't--keep our children from growing up and moving out and away into God's glorious plan for their lives.  Gotta open up the old tight-fisted heart and hands, let those children fly, and trust that--as my dear friend Kelly always says--"God's got this!"  God's got our loved ones.  God's got us.  God's got the unknown future.  And God's got this crazy old world in His nail-scarred, loving, powerful, and perfect hands.
       "Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." (Isa.43:18-19)  God is indeed doing new things every single day for every single one of us.  He's making new ways in the wilderness.  H's crafting new streams in the howling desert.  
       He's working and moving and transforming and redeeming and reviving and resurrecting.  And He's doing it today.  On this new day that He has given us.
      Let us trust Him and embrace the new--the new that He is doing and bringing.  Let's choose to be thankful for the old, trustful for the present, and hopeful for the new.
         To God be the glory.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Singing, not snarling

        "They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city. They wander about for food and howl if not satisfied.  But I will sing of Your strength, in the morning I will sing of Your love; for You are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.  You are my Strength, I sing praise to You; You, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely." (Ps.59:14-17)
         I read these words a few days ago from Tim Keller about this Psalm: "You can snarl--I will sing.   In contrast to the  snarling, howling dogs is the singing, praising psalmist.  Though still under attack (the dogs are still howling), he praises God in his heart for being his fortress and refuge."
         And that's exactly what we see in the Psalmist--he's under attack.  Perhaps he's surrounded by vicious enemies.  Life is hard and scary...but instead of snarling and howling, David is choosing singing and praising.  Oh my, the power of praise.  The gift of song.  The joy of singing of God's goodness and greatness even in the very teeth of pain, doubt, and fear.
        "You can snarl--I will sing."
        I've experienced it over and over again in my life.  Making the choice to praise and thank changes everything.  Thanksgiving may or may not change our circumstances, but it always, always, always changes us.  It's as if God takes even our feeble, weak praise and uses it to renew our minds, strengthen our hearts, and transform our attitudes.
         Oh Father, help us to sing rather than snarl!
         And on this damp, chilly day, I'm remembering and singing of God's goodness and grace in healing our Janie and allowing her to graduate from UNC this weekend.  My husband keeps this picture on his cell phone to remind him of where we've been and what the Lord has done--
          As he often says, "It has to matter."  It's so easy to allow life's bumps and bruises to cause us to start snarling and howling, isn't it?  But that's because we forget.  We forget the infinite amount of God's extraordinary goodness to us all.  We forget all that Christ did for us in saving and redeeming us.  We forget all we have in Christ.  We forget the joyous gifts of family and friends.  We forget how many times God has come through for us...again and again and again.  We forget His tender mercies that are new every morning.  Oh my--every. single. morning.  Forgive us for forgetting, Father.
           But not a day goes by that I do not remember and rejoice in what my infinitely loving, powerful, and gracious Savior has done.  Thank You, Lord, thank You.  Thank You for saving those four precious girls over four years ago.  Thank You for so many, many people praying for them.  How I wish I could hug every one of those far flung prayer warriors!   Thank You for sweet Tessa, and all that she and Janie endured together and all they've enjoyed together.  Thank You for allowing them the opportunity to attend college and to graduate.  We will never ever take that gift for granted.
           Thank You, Lord, that in the hardest, darkest places, You are our refuge and strength, and we can sing Your praises even in the darkness.  And thank You that You are a God of Resurrection.  You do some of Your best work in a graveyard--in the graveyard of dead marriages, of dead hopes, of dead love, of dead strength.  You, Jesus, are the Resurrection and the Life--real life, abundant life, joyful life, eternal life.  Thank You that You do not treat us as our sins deserve.
            I don't know where those who are reading this right now might be.  Perhaps you are rejoicing in the light of great blessing--graduations, new babies, healing, happiness.  But maybe you're struggling in the hard--sickness, uncertainty, unwanted changes, sorrow.  Wherever you are, Jesus is there.  And He will lead you through.  You have an eternal, glorious hope ahead.  And You have the Almighty Lord of heaven and earth who is Your strength, Your shield, Your refuge, Your song, Your joy.  "For you  shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace..." (Isa.55:12)  Your God is with you and in you and for you.
            So on this day and everyday, choose to sing.  If others choose to snarl, you choose to sing. Your Savior is worthy.  To God be the glory.    

Monday, May 8, 2017

A few lessons from a sweet lost dog...

        It was 5 a. m. and raining cats and dogs as I drove in the predawn darkness to an early morning exercise class.  Suddenly, a big, beautiful grey dog seemed to materialize in the blackness right in front of my headlights.  I slammed to a halt, thankfully missing the dog, who stared at me with frightened eyes.  I looked back in my rear view mirror, and there he was, in all that rain, galloping after my car, right down the middle of Lassiter Mill Road.        
        Stunned, I paused for a few seconds, thinking, "Well what on earth can I possibly do with some unknown dog at 5 in the the the darkness.  After all, I've got a class to go to and friends to laugh with.  Goodness, he could be rabid for all I know...and, uh, and..."  It's so tempting to make excuses and to not get involved, isn't it?
         But after a moment's hesitation, I knew doing nothing simply couldn't be an option.  Selfishness comes so easily, so naturally to our prideful, sinful selves, doesn't it?  Well, at least it surely does to yours truly.  Oh mercy, Lord, save me, help me never to become one of those people who are too busy, or too self-important, or too preoccupied, or too plain old self-centered to care about the hurting and helpless, whether that sufferer is a fellow child of God or one of His animal creatures.  "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." (Phil.2:3)  Jesus--the Almighty Lord of the universe who willingly served and gave His life for all us sinners--is our ultimate and perfect example of that.
         And by the way, when we refuse to get involved, when we look the other way (me? Guilty!), aren't we essentially demonstrating not only a lack of love and compassion, but also apathy?  Now there's a word to despise.  "Apathy" comes from two Latin words that mean "without" (a) and "passion" (pathos).  Is that who we want to be--people living day-to-day without passion for others, without excitement and anticipation that God can and will use us today and everyday?
         Yeah,  all that to say, that selfish, "prone to wander Lord I feel it" me, thankfully heeded God's still small voice (because all too often I don't...but praise God for grace and second chances).  I turned my car right around and headed back up Lassiter Mill to see if the dog was still there.
         And he was.  In fact, when he glimpsed my car, he began racing towards me again.  I reckon my white highlander looked like salvation to him.  I pulled up beside him, jumped out, opened the back door, and he jumped right in as if this had been his plan all along.  We drive home in the pounding rain and inky darkness with him sitting up in the backseat like this was his car and I was his person.  I had to smile.
         But when we pulled in the driveway,  I'm thinking, "What in thunderation am I gonna do now?" Nobody's awake.  This dog is soaking wet. No tags on his collar.  And, by the way, he won't get out of the car.  Of course, I can't blame him;  he's had a pretty stressful start to the day and he's got no idea who this strange person is who's trying to coax him out of the car with hot dogs (which, incidentally, he enjoyed immensely).  I won't go into all the details, but my husband (who was less than thrilled that I woke him up at 5 to ask him what I should do!) came up with the brilliant idea to drive my car into our garage (which we never use so this had never occurred to me) and open the doors.  Genius.
         Sure enough, he (the dog, not my husband) eventually jumped out of the car and stood at our kitchen door, staring at Mr. Bingley...who seemed a bit confused.  I started sending out a photo of the dog to several friends, asking if anybody recognized him.  I even called a couple of them...yes, called them at about 5:15 a.m.  I'm sure they were delighted to hear from me at that hour of the morning--ha!--but thankfully the Lord's blessed me with wonderful, grace-filled, understanding friends who didn't fuss at me but tried to help. Definitely grace in action.
         When I texted my exercise buddies, they were all up, and let me tell you, they're a sharp bunch! Immediately one of them thought that she possibly recognized the dog, and lots of them had some great suggestions...which is impressive that early in the morning.  Again, too many details, but suffice it to say that it took a while, but eventually we got this sweet old boy back to his home, and all ended happily.  Well, except I missed the exercise class--small price to pay for making a difference...even if it was a very tiny difference.
          I share all this, because God used this little incident to teach--or perhaps remind--me of of a few very simple little lessons...but they're lessons worth remembering (because, as I always say, we're mighty good forgetters).  First, when God gives us an opportunity--even a seemingly very small one--to help or encourage someone else, let's do it.  It's so easy to default to apathy or busyness or  distraction or selfishness.  But these interruptions can often be the Lord's appointments for us, allowing us to share His love and grace--even in a seemingly tiny, insignificant way--with some person or for some need that He's put in our paths.  God's always working and moving in millions of ways that we do not see or know, and He delights to use us in often unexpected ways to bless, encourage, help, and strengthen others in all sorts of ways.
        Yeah sure, we can't do everything...but we can do something.  We can't change the world...but we can change the small part of the world where the Lord has placed us.  We can't help everyone...but by golly, we can help someone.  Speak the word of encouragement.  Write the note of thanks.  Listen to that lonely person.  Hug that frustrated teenager.  Thank that harried waiter.  Offer the help.  Give the money.  Don't just think it: do it.  Don't wait for the gigantic gesture...take the opportunity before you to love, help, or encourage even in the seemingly insignificant or small ways.  Those "small" ways, after all, add up.
        And second, it really does take a village.  So be thankful for your village.  I'm so thankful for my buddies who gave me great suggestions and advice that morning.  Maybe it seemed a mighty little thing to them, but their encouragement sure didn't feel little to me!  I was so grateful!
       Aren't you thankful God didn't make us to be lone-ranger Christians?  Oh my, how thankful I am for my priceless family, my wonderful friends, my brothers and sisters, my loving church family, my Bible study women, my dear exercise peeps.  God has given us the irreplaceable gift of community and the joy of being part of a family and of the body of Christ.  Let's don't take it for granted.  Let's love, forgive, help, strengthen, encourage, and enjoy one another.
        Here's how God's Word puts it in Hebrews 10:24-25: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."  In other words, people, keep loving, helping, encouraging, and meeting with your village.  We have to daily--in the busyness and stress of life--fight passivity and isolation.  Don't neglect the priceless gift of your village!
        All that from one unexpected predawn meeting with a wet, scared dog!  But God moves in mysterious ways, doesn't He?  The thing is, He's always moving and by His grace and for His glory, let's be a part of it.
        To God be the glory.           

Friday, April 28, 2017

Becoming people of praise

        Just call me a slow, slow learner...or a fast, fast forgetter.
        For you see, God's been teaching and teaching me--for years and years and years--about thankfulness and praise, about gratitude instead of grumbling, about faith instead of fear.  I've read it in His Word.  I've tried to memorize it and hide it in my heart.  I've repeatedly experienced the astounding power and peace that comes from choosing praise and thanksgiving, even in the hard and dark places of life.  And I've written and shared about it over and over again (as recently, as say, the last few days).
          But oh my goodness, in the nitty gritty of life, my default mode can so quickly go straight to complaining and worrying!  Good grief!  Yeah, sure, maybe I don't fret and fuss out loud, but in my heart--my faithless, fretting heart--I can sometimes fall prey to anxious and discouraging thoughts.  Oh forgive me Lord!  How much peace and hope we forfeit when we give in to grumbling, because the path of blessing, rest, and joy always runs straight by and through praise and thanksgiving.  Always.
         I was reminded of--and convicted by--this yet again the other day in listening to David Jeremiah.  I Samuel 12:24 says, "Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart.  For consider what great things He has done for you."  We've got to daily take time to "consider what great things He has done" for us.  Consider it, ponder it, contemplate it.
         Stop right now and consider what great things God has done for you--He's given you the Lord Jesus, salvation, eternal life, His Word, not to mention your very life, your family, your friends, His glorious creation and on and on and on.  Have you truly paused to consider all the great things He has done for you?
         Moreover, this is interesting, but did you know that both "think" and "thank" have the same root word?  When you pause to think about all God has done, you cannot help but thank Him with gratitude in your heart!  Think and thank.  If we'll think, we'll thank.  If we'll pause, we'll praise.  Don't just read about it--do it!  Do it on a daily basis!
          And practically when should you do it? When is a good time to start the practice of praise and thanksgiving.  Well, here are a few places to start--
          First, morning and evening.  Ps.92:1-2 "It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your steadfast love in the morning, and Your faithfulness by night."  Okay, I'm thinking, that's a good practical place to begin--spend a few moments thanking and praising God as soon as you wake up in the morning and then again right before you hit the hay at night.  Lord, thank You for waking me up for this new day.  Thank You for Your steadfast love.  Thank You that the sun is rising once again.  Thank You that You've given me people to serve and love this day...  Or thank You, Father, for so faithfully getting me through this day with all it's challenges.  Thank You for this comfortable bed and this good book to read.  Thank You for keeping those I love safe today and bringing us to a quiet night...
         Start with that--praise and thanksgiving first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
         But what about when you wake up in the middle of the night--which frustratingly I do more and more frequently.  Ugh!  Let's face it--whenever we awaken in the wee hours, our worries are exponentially louder and more frightening.  Things we'd shrug off in daylight hours look terrifying and impossible in the darkness.
         Yet God's Word tells us to offer praise and thanksgiving instead!  Ps.119:62 "At midnight I rise to praise You, because of Your righteous rules."  Oh my stars--what a game-changer if we'd assume when we awaken at night that God wants us to start rehearsing all our reasons for praise and thankfulness rather than recounting our worries and woes!  Let me tell you, I'm putting that baby into practice starting tonight!
          Then how about at every meal time (surely my favorite part of every day!  Food glorious food!)? "...The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God..."  Goodness, saying grace should never be just "Please bless this food." Rather, we have the God-given opportunity whenever we eat to thank the Lord for His relentless goodness and faithfulness.  Oh my, loads of reasons for thankfulness there--for the gift of taste, for good food, for hunger, for family or friends to share a meal with, for Jesus our Bread of Life, for chocolate (of course)...
           And finally, how about this one: Col.3:17 "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."   I'm thinking that pretty much covers ALL of life.  "Whatever" we do--whether words and deeds. Whether early morning or right before bed.  Whether the middle of the night or before enjoying the gift of food.  All that doesn't leave much room or time for anxious fretting or ugly complaining, does it?
          Lord, You well know our fickle hearts, but Oh Father, how we want to be Your faithful, joyful, grateful, and ever-praising children.  Teach us.  Help us.  Encourage us.  Remind us.  And do it through us, Father.  We know that we can't, but You can and will.  After all, You've commanded us to "Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  We want to do Your will, so empower and enable us to be in Your perfect will by giving thanks in all, all, all circumstances.   We thank and praise You in advance for how You're going to transform us into Your relentless and joyful people of praise.
          To God be the glory.    

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

No sun like the Son!

                  A brief addendum to yesterday's post:
          1) About noon today, we suddenly began to see little patches of blue sky...and then, lo and behold, the sun began to poke his happy head out again!  Yahoo--who knew how fabulous a little sunshine could be?!  I'd venture to say most of us hadn't given the weeks of sunshine we'd been enjoying much of a thought...until the rain arrived in force.  Yes, grateful for the April showers, but mighty thankful for the sun.  And thankful for all the multiple daily, "small" graces we take for granted.  Sunshine, laughter, fragrant flowers, good food, hugs, waving green leaves, chirping birds, favorite songs...not so small after all, are they?  
         2) Also a reminder that NOTHING lasts forever.  That rain seemed to go on and on and on. All day Sunday.  All day Monday.  We could hear it all night, relentlessly falling.  Mr. B and I walked this morning in a seemingly endless wall of dreary rain and yuck.
            But guess what?  Those rough patches will end eventually.  They always do.  That's why they're called "patches"--you will eventually come out the other side of every patch.  If life feels a bit dark and snarky right now, hang on.  Keep walking with Jesus.  He's not only with you through every patch, but He will always bring you through to the other side.
           3) My daughter and I both love  Paul Tripp's wonderful devotional, New Morning Mercies.  Turns out this morning we both read, loved, and were convicted by his words:
                 "Today you will spend solitary moments of conversation with yourself, either listing  your complaints or counting your blessings." 
                  Please reread that, because it's profound and powerful.  Are you listing complaints or counting blessings?  No one--absolutely no one talks to you more than you do.  We all have inward chatter going on throughout our day, and I'm just wondering--what are we counting?  Upon what are we focusing?  What are we daily, consistently, preaching to ourselves?
               I ask myself that question, because it's all too easy for me to slip into the complaining mode rather than the blessing counting mode.  And you know why? Because of my selfishness.  My stinking sinful selfishness that makes life all about little old me.  About my desires.  My agenda.  My needs.  My family.  My dreams for my children.  My ideas about how life should go.  Sigh.
                  Of course, I totally know that's sin. I absolutely recognize it as selfishness.  But as I said yesterday, my sin also causes me to forget.  I forget God and focus on me.  I forget God's Word and fixate on my feelings.  I forget God's faithfulness and dwell on my little myopic world.
                 Anybody else?
                So what's the antidote?   First, recognize it and repent of it!  Confess and repent of that sin and selfishness which leads to complaining.  Second, fix our eyes on Jesus.  "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb.12:1-2)
                 Fixing our eyes on Jesus--daily, steadily, consistently.  Gaze at Him.  Look to Him.  Call to Him.  Depend upon Him.  Walk with Him.  Trust in Him.
                 So simple, yet so transformative.  Today, let's count our blessings rather than listing our complaints.  Let's choose gratitude over grumbling.  And no matter what, let's fix our gaze on Jesus.  That sunshine is wonderful, but there's no sun like the Son!
                To God be the glory.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Rainy Monday musings

        For the record, it's raining...a lot--as in grey, grey, grey and rain, rain, rain: all day yesterday, all last night, all day today, and predicted all tonight and all day tomorrow too.  I know we need the rain. Absolutely...but gee whiz, it's tough on the old spirits, isn't it?
        Also for the record, it's Monday.  And yes, I know Mondays--just like every single day of every single week--are special and unique, never-to-be-repeated gifts from God for which we need to rejoice and give thanks to Him.  After all, how many times have I quoted it and repeated it--pretty much every morning of every day--Psalm 118:24: "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."  Yes, yes, yes, I totally know these things with my head....but my heart?  Oh my, my heart can often be quick to forget what it knows and slow to respond to God's true Truth.  
        And while I'm on the complaining bandwagon (never a place you want or need to be--yes, yes, yes, I know, I know), one of our children just learned that her job next year will take her out of state.  And she has to start not long after the beginning of summer.  All of which means she will be leaving our home and moving away--way too far away if you ask me--and doing it all way too soon.  Which is just another reminder that our children are growing up and leaving the home.
       Here's what I'm thinking right about now: I'm not super crazy about this plan of God's to have our children grow up, spread their wings and fly the nest into the great wide world.  Goodness, even the very phrase, "empty nest," (though we're not quite there yet, thank goodness) sounds so, hmm, so empty. So forlorn.
        Finally, can I also add--for the record--that about everybody I've talked to today or exchanged emails or texts with is having the same kind of um, let's just call it "challenging" day.  Nothing earth shattering.  No excuses.  But just a lot of giving in to the dreariness, low level fear, and nameless discouragement.
        I think I need some chocolate.  Lots of chocolate.
        But here's the thing.  There's something far, far better even than chocolate.  It's remembering.  Remembering Who's in control. Remember Whose I am. Remember His infallible Word. Remember His unshakable promises.  Remember what He did for us on the cross. Remember Easter...and the resurrection...and heaven...and abundant life...and the church...and eternal and indefatigable hope and joy.  Remember His infinite and unrelenting gifts of family and friends.  Of flora and fauna.  Of all around us and about us.  All by Him.  All from Him.  All for Him.  
        My husband read me a prayer this morning from Tim Keller's devotion--words the Lord knew many of us might need to hear this day: "Lord, worry and fear come because I forget what you've accomplished for me in Christ Jesus.  You have defeated sin (so it can't condemn me) and death (so I can be assured of my resurrection).  Meanwhile you are working things out for good. Remind me, remind me of all this, so I can rest in You.  Amen."
       Oh my, thank You Lord for so faithfully reminding me, reminding us once again, of Your forever and ever faithfulness.  "If we are faithless, He remains faithful--for He cannot deny Himself." (2 Tim.2:13)  Reminding us of Your perfect plans and ways. "This God--His way is blameless; The Word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him." (Ps.18:30)   Reminding us of His wonderful love and kindness.  "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing." (Zeph.3:17)
        I could go on and on and on.  The point--choose to remember.  Remind your heart of what your head knows.  Because when we'll remember, we will find our complaining replaced with rejoicing.  When we remember, we'll discover our worrying replaced with trusting.  And when we remember, we'll see our discouragement and despair replaced with hope and joy.
         Today, this day, remember your forever faithful Father.  Remember your loving, glorious Savior.  Remember Who He is, what He's done, and all, all, all He has for you both now and in the perfect, wondrous, eternal future.  Oh thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord Jesus!
         To God be the glory.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Resurrection--already and not yet

        Hard to believe that Lent and Easter have come...and gone.  Lent seemed so long while we were in the middle of it, didn't it?  But then as Easter approached, whew, the weekend and the wonderful celebration on resurrection Sunday flew by in a nanosecond.  How I thank the Lord for this glorious, history and destiny altering event that we have the joy of remembering and celebrating year after year.  Jesus Christ the Lord is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Oh might we never, ever tire of rejoicing in this wondrous, astounding, gloriously Good News!
         And I also thank the Lord for the joy of having all our children home.  That truly is a tiny foretaste of heaven--to have your loved ones home.  Home together.
         If "home together" could be this happy and heart-filling and overflowing, can you even begin to imagine what our real heavenly home will be like?  No sorrow, no disappointment, no sin, no separation, no failure, no weakness, no disease, no despair.  And love, love, love unbounded and unfettered.  What a Hope we have ahead of us.     
         Yet right now, today, we're still in the midst of the muddy trenches of "real" life (though one day we will clearly see that this thing we call "real" life was actually just a pale, poor imitation, just a pitiful shadow of the truly real, perfect, and all-things-made-new heaven and earth).  And sometimes, oftentimes, this life can be challenging, confusing, and downright crushing.  We live in the "already and not yet"--already Christ has come, died for our sins, and risen from the dead.  Already He has given us abundant, eternal life now.  But not yet has this old earth been fully redeemed and restored.  Not yet are we fully sinless and perfected.  Not yet do we enjoy the infinite wonders, joys, and glories of our heavenly home.
          But because of Easter, because of the resurrection, we know--we know with absolute certainty--that one day we will.  We will live forever in the perfect, wondrous, endlessly joyful, completely satisfying, and completely loving heavenly home.
       Today may be hard...but the resurrection reminds us once again that the best--the infinitely best!--is yet to come.  As Tony Compolo preached many years ago, "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming."  It may feel like an endless, hard, perplexing "Good Friday" in your life...but Resurrection Sunday is coming.  Resurrection has come in Jesus...and it will come in your life as well.
         These words I just read from the Bluebookblog reflected this so beautifully:
"you let men ride over our heads;  we went through the fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance."  Psalm 66:12

we can only see it
in hindsight
this place of abundance
to which we have 
been brought

we could never
have recognized it
while our heads
were being ridden over
or as we were
walking through
the fire and water

yet here we are
on the other side
of it all
in a spacious
and fruitful land

who could have imagined
that such a rugged road
would lead to
such a beautiful place

this too is resurrection 
        I don't know where you are right now in your story, but if it feels like you're slogging through the messy trenches of a never-ending, confusing Good Friday, take heart: Christ is risen from the dead.  And because He lives, you, too, will live.
        Resurrection has come...and is coming.  And one day you will look back, stunned, "that such a rugged road would lead to such a beautiful place."  I've seen it in my own life over and over again.  He truly does--and is--making all things new.  Even as you walk through the fire and water and toward that spacious and fruitful land.
        So trust Him as you walk and as you wait.  He's working...and Sunday's always coming.
        To God be the glory.