New location – my blog moved this week! Please come check out the new site at http://www.passagethroughgrace.com.
Hope to see you all there!
New location – my blog moved this week! Please come check out the new site at http://www.passagethroughgrace.com.
Hope to see you all there!
My sons lost their father- I lost a friend. My sons learned the lessons of a fragile life at the ages of 18 and 21- much too young to lose their dad, much too young to fully comprehend the “why” behind God’s plan. I started reflecting recently on the fragility of life when a friend from my summer camp days passed away suddenly. This is also the time of year when loss weighs heavily for my sons and I because the anniversary looms. Losing a friend in the last week brought many questions to the surface and caused me to lean into God and what He wanted to teach me through this reflection.
As I headed to pay my respects to the family and friends of my former camp coworker, the sky burst open with flooding rains and in that moment I knew that God was present and was reassuring me that He too felt the sorrow of a life taken too young. But it didn’t stop at sorrow- a reminder poured forth that a life well-lived is not measured by the number of years someone lives on Earth but on how well the life is lived.
My sons’ dad modeled a life well-lived. He immersed himself in living with a servant’s heart- volunteering in all areas of his church. My friend also lived a life for others. As an educator his time was consumed with touching the lives of hundreds of kids on a daily basis. God calls us to live a life for Him. He knows that life is fragile because He created it. He wants us to thank Him everyday, worship Him in praise and thanksgiving and serve others like there’s no tomorrow.
Some of us will be given the gift of extended time to teach others and to follow God in all we do. Our story will have many chapters. My parents are an example of this life-long legacy. Their story has been blessed with multiple chapters because God has chosen this for them. I continue to learn from my parents everyday. God knows what He’s doing. Their story is not finished yet. Others exemplify a fragile life because their story is a shortened version with just a few chapters. God’s plan has been carefully scripted. He knew us before we were born and He has already planned the beginning, middle and end of our stories. God does not reveal the ending to our story. There have been many times that I have peeked at the end of a book I am reading to get a glimpse into how the story will turn out. With God there is no peeking allowed! Our fragile life needs to be a strong and courageous life for God no matter what ending is written. Each day that we are given allows us to add to our story and make a difference. Everyday should be spent honoring God in our words, actions and interactions with others. Life is fragile but with God it is healthy and meaningful. Each chapter is our opportunity to become more like God in all we do and to create a life that is better. We want our life to become the book that no one wants to stop reading because it is so in sync with God and all that He is calling us to do.
As the anniversary of a fragile life looms for you each year, let’s pray that we are not mourning over the passing of a life but rejoice in a life well-lived.
10 Hear, O Lord, have mercy and be gracious to me! O Lord, be my helper!
11 You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,
12 To the end that my tongue and my heart and everything glorious within me may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever. (Psalm 30:10-12) AMP
Take a look, take a close look at this picture-what do you see? Trees, water’s edge, clouds, lush greens and blues? How does this picture speak to you? What story does it tell? The snapshot stirred a yearning in me to understand and know God more completely. Questions formed in my mind about the accuracy of what we see in a picture. Is it always what it appears to be or is the reflection portraying the reality in the picture? God is real, He is truth, He is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. God can be found in everything around us. The people who intersect our days, the people whom we love, the people who are but a quick blur but somehow their contact reflected God’s presence in that quick moment.
God’s presence is far-reaching, widespread, immense and infinite. It completes our day and calms our nights. The fingertips of God caress us like a gentle breeze that floats in through the windows of our soul. It stirs us as the ebb and flow of the ocean’s tide laps the sandy beach. God is everywhere but are we looking for Him with focused eyes as a camera lens zooms in for the perfect shot? In our mind’s eye, do we have a perfectly focused snapshot of God in our lives or are we seeing only reflections?
I am currently learning about Gideon, a judge chosen by God to lead his people, but a rather weak leader who spent too much time questioning God and all that He asked him to do. Consequently, the Midianites continued to gain the upperhand because Gideon did know that God was who He said He was in his mind but the reality of this belief was not set in his heart. Priscilla Shirer, the author of the study on Gideon, says “when life’s shadows distort reality, those distortions can easily become our truth, ripping away from God’s truth and thwarting our purpose … His perspective might sound unbelievable and even look completely incorrect based on the way we are acting and feeling but trusting God and walking in His pronouncement of potential is the foundation of spiritual victory.”
Those words slayed me and cut into the core of my being. God wants to teach us and being open to reality and listening even during the ordinary routines of life are necessary so we don’t miss the lesson.
Our reality many times is not God’s reality. We are spending too much time looking at the reflection of life and questioning God rather than the reality of what God has planned for us. Just as in this picture, there are two views, we can choose to be like Gideon or choose to trust and know in our heart who God is and that He will do what He says He will do. His promises are true!
I am listening! Open my heart to your words and your ways. Teach me the truth of who you are on a daily basis in the snapshots of people, objects, and life that fill my day. Focus my heart on you and center my life on the true picture of your promises. Build my faith in you that I may carryout the ultimate plan you have for me. In the precious name of Jesus. AMEN!
How many times have we heard or actually used the expression ASAP? We might have said it to our children, to our spouse or it might have been directed toward us at work verbally or in a memo. In our “hurry up” world, ASAP means “as soon as possible”. Our lives are filled with ASAP moments as we flit from one activity to another or one responsibility to another taking little time to reflect on whether we have actually accomplished the task to the best of our ability.
What if we were able to change the meaning of ASAP to provide us with more time instead of less? What if ASAP became a mantra that we looked forward to daily and what if it empowered us to change our lives? A church in a small, farming town in North Carolina has proclaimed to all passerbys a new meaning for ASAP- Always Stop and Pray! As we passed this church on our travels down the road, I did a double take to see if I had read it correctly. Could it be that our “hurry up” days could be replaced by the grace of God by turning to Him in prayer? Could we pause the fast forward button in our lives by focusing on God rather than the tasks that need to be completed each day? Could our lives become a video with a connected story line that flowed smoothly as our lives unfolded before us?
As I ponder these questions, the image of the church sign shines brightly in my mind as a reminder of where our focus should lie each day. In the few days since I passed the sign, ASAP- Always Stop and Pray has made an impact on me and has changed my “hurry up” world ever so slightly. The anxious moments of feeling overwhelmed by busyness have been replaced by a calm because of pausing the fast forward button to turn to God in prayer.
I challenge each of you to change your ASAP moments into God-breathed ASAP moments. Embrace the difference it will make in your life!
Here are some verses to reflect on to center your focus today:
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV)
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:11, 12 NIV)
Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:8 NIV)
Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me! (Psalm 66:16-20 NIV)
What verses do you read when trying to stay focused on God in your daily life?
My boy is a man! I didn’t wake up today and realize this – it has been unfolding in front of me for years but today the wind has been knocked out of me with the reality of that three letter word – MAN!!! From diaperhood to adulthood in the blink of an eye – where have the last 23 years gone???
How do I even begin to describe 23 years in a few paragraphs or count the many blessings that my son has bestowed on myself and many others? How do I describe to all the man of God he has become? A little over a week ago my son graduated from college. My little boy had on his black cap and gown bedazzled with a purple and gold tassel and a cord of silver around his neck. He walked in beaming with a huge smile on his face as “Pomp and Circumstance” swelled and echoed throughout the auditorium. As he took his seat on the stage with the other graduates, my mind replayed the story of my boy’s life which began on April 12, 1990.
A series of snapshots flashed quickly as if they were a deck of cards being fanned before a card game. A picture of my son squeezed into a onesie, another with Tasmanian devil slippers on feet that were just learning how to take steps, many pictures with his big brother squeezing him tight out of love or maybe frustration, pictures of him swimming in the summer or trying to build a snowman in the winter, pictures with his childhood friends all wearing silly grins of sheer delight, snapshots of birthday parties, family, grandparents and finally the one that is flash frozen in front of me now – my boy – no man- in his cap and gown ready to begin a new chapter.
A deep longing for one more minute of the boy nestled in my arms as we watched the nest of baby robins outside tucked into the corner of our porch filled every pore of my being. A deep sadness for what was but a new hope for what is to come slowly seeps into my soul. The longing for what was will slowly be replaced by God’s promises. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. So we say with confidence, the Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.” Hebrews 13:5-6
The longing for what was turns into a yearning and excitement for the new chapter about to evolve. My heart of sadness sheds its layers one by one at the prospect of how my son is following God’s plan for him to become a youth minister and now… flash forward to this weekend, the beginning of the chapter-the one that has been written and continues to be written by God. The move to a new state will be complete and my son will begin his first job as a Youth and Family Minister. I see a glimpse into the next chapter – a small teaser has been written but as of this moment the words, sentences and chapter are all God’s to slowly reveal on the page.
I look forward to this next chapter and I am so proud and excited to watch, learn and be a part of this journey. I will pray as a mother prays for her children and I will hold this verse near to my heart knowing that God’s purpose is your purpose and it’s going to be an amazing ride.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Mother’s Day is approaching and I’m being nudged to write today to honor all women. Our society categorizes Mother’s Day as a day to honor women who have children. I challenge everyone to expand this group to include all women. I would like to encourage some amazing women who have not been blessed with children but who epitomize what a mother should be. Who wouldn’t want to recognize all women this Mother’s Day when you read the qualities written above? I am blessed to have been touched by many amazing women who possess these qualities, some who are moms in the traditional sense and some who are moms in an untraditional sense. All share a sense of motherhood and the absolute devotion that comes with that title. God has created us to be unique and with this individuality comes all that God calls us to be.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)
Today and everyday, encourage those amazing women that have made an imprint on your life. Honor them for who they are and all they contribute to enhance your life. Love them and recognize those qualities that make them uniquely who they are. So today I pray for all women that God will bless them and cover them with his unconditional and untraditional love. Join me in praying and honoring all women on this Mother’s Day!
Since my weekend at Women of Joy in Louisville with my sister-in-law, God has been gently reminding me through my daily life and interaction with others, that absolute surrender always ends up with God’s loving hand and grace written all over it. God asks us to let go and let Him be in charge. I don’t categorize myself as a controlling person but intimate reflection time has enlightened me of specific circumstances where ” it is my way or the highway”. As I drove home from an amazing weekend in Louisville, God spoke volumes into my heart about surrendering my top three daily stressors to Him. This process continually unfolds as I struggle to give it all to God. I find that my strength in God comes from His word, those around me, daily devotionals and God-inspired books that I surround myself with as a reminder of how I want to live my life. Centering myself on God and His truths truly sets me free and provides all I need when I let go and let God!
Understanding stress and the triggers of stress that flare up in me are important to being able to manage my reactions, relationships and ability to overcome stress in a healthy manner. Being able to wrap my brain around what stress is allows me to work on that area of life appropriately with God’s guidance. Tracie Miles has written the perfect definition of stress in her book “Sressed-Less Living”. She defines stress as “a vicious cycle. The more we worry, the more anxious we feel, the more anxious we feel, the more frustrated we become, the more frustrated we become, the more we want to find someone or something to blame. As frustration builds we get more and more frazzled. The more frazzled we become, the more overwhelmed we begin to feel; the more overwhelmed we feel, the more stressed we become.” The path of stress should lead to God every time because “God’s normal is always serenity, and his normal can be our normal,too” says Tracie Miles. Her message is that we can overcome stress in our lives by turning to God. Understanding that we should turn our stress into peace will happen by understanding how we define peace and where we look for peace in our lives. Tracie Miles’ simple definition of peace “the ability to rise above our circumstances, overcome our innate tendency to stress out over problems, and learn to remain calm and confident despite what is going on around us” is a peace based on Christ and not people or our circumstances. It is a peace that asks us to relinquish our control to God who will then teach us in a way that we are never the same again. I am actively seeking God’s peace because God has promised each of us that we will find this peace when we seek Him and trust Him with our lives. Perfect peace = a perfect stress reliever which is found in our perfect God.
I yearn for your peace in all areas of my life. Embrace me with your peace daily as I learn to let go of stress and cling to you always.
Allow me to understand your words and plans for me and provide the strength needed to say “yes” in trust knowing that you are the Great Provider.
As I release my stress-filled days to you Lord, replace them with your peace and let it infuse all of me!
In love and thankfulness, I lift this prayer to you Lord. AMEN!
You know that surreal moment when you are talking and you can hear your voice coming out but the words are not your words but God’s… Have you ever had any of those moments? Have you prayed for God to give you the words to get through a difficult conversation? Or asked for God’s words to infuse with yours to make them one? Or asked for grace-filled words as you speak? I have made this request many times as I am faced with a conversation that I feel could “head south” at any moment. In those moments when you are faced with a tough situation or person and you are rendered speechless- turn to God. The results will be amazing and you will no longer fear the conversation.
Life chugs along quickly and people are woven into the fabric of your life. Many times the fabric is made of beautiful designs and patterns and the workmanship is seamless. Other times, there are distinct pieces of fabric that are worn and the threads are loose and pulling apart. If you are anything like me when it comes to sewing, your fabric will continue to show wear and tear and will not be repaired due to lack of skills as a a seamstress. God is the Master Tailor of Life and by allowing Him into your heart, you allow Him to repair any damage to your fabric.
When faced with having a difficult conversation with a spouse, your children, a co-worker, a son’s girlfriend or a parent, take a quick second and lift your heart to God- “It’s all yours God!” Center yourself, take a deep breath and let God, the Master Tailor, do the job that He does best. The moment feels surreal because you know you are talking but God has provided you the grace-filled words to speak. Your momma’s heart releases anxiety or your daughter’s heart breathes more freely as your parents listen and accept the truth-filled words of God and it spills out as it is caught in the hearts of those you are having the conversation with.
Blessed are the times that your friends, co-workers, children or parents speak God’s words to you as a reminder that His presence is always near. The blessings of a friend who prayed for me to have a great day or remind me to look up, breathe, and breathe again come at just the right time. A co-worker who shares a positive, silly story at that moment when you are feeling very frustrated, a parent whose main desire is to love you and pray specifically for your challenges and an adult child who has the insight to be able to advise you in a situation are the voices of God. We need to listen for them and recognize them as God’s truth.
The prophet Elijah heard the voice of God but it was not a “thunder and lightning” moment. Below is a description of how it sounded for Elijah:
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV)
Listen for the whispers in your life. Pray specifically for God to send you the words you need so you are speaking truth and grace to all those around you. Thank God daily for His blessings and for providing you with all you need.
God calls us to draw near and let His presence infuse our bodies and soul. Taking time to allow Him to be the center of our devotional time allows for opportunities to get to know Him more intimately. He craves our time and loves when we make Him the center of our attention.
As Holy week is coming to a close and we look forward to the joyful shouts of “He is risen!”, we need to backtrack and spend time understanding why He chose to die for us and save us from ourselves. Why did Jesus make the ultimate sacrifice for each of us – sinners that we are and continue to be? Why didn’t He just put an end to the madness and make all things new?
The lesson I am learning about Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice is His amazing love for us. It is His strong desire to bring us even closer to Him. By dying on the cross, Jesus chose to make an investment in us. Jesus died for us to teach us how to draw near to Him and to seek His presence as the first and foremost focus of our lives. Immersing ourselves in the Word and listening to all He is teaching us allows us to more successfully follow His path for our lives. Days that become train wrecks are days when I have not centered myself and trusted that God is in charge. God provides the path for our life and commands us to come and approach Him with everything.
“Drawing near is not moving from one place to another.
It is a directing of the heart into the presence of God
who is as distant as the holy of holies in heaven and yet as near as the door of faith.”
Love to the Uttermost: Holy Week with John Piper
God sent Jesus for us – no strings attached except to love and trust in Him. He did this for our joy and His glory. Let me say that again – for our joy and His glory. Jesus wanted to please us and invest in us through the final act of dying on the cross. Our response should be to open our hearts each day to the presence of God. That simple act honors God and blesses us because our eyes are on the one, true God who loves us more than words can describe.
As we shout in praise to our risen Savior on Easter, remember that the one simple act of spending time with Him will provide us with all we need. He is never far and you are closer than you think.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
May God bless us each day! May we honor Him by drawing close to Him and craving His presence as the center of our lives. AMEN!
My church recently presented a series titled “Follow the Leader”. Simple words, ideas and visuals were portrayed each week to bring a deeper understanding as to what it means to follow OUR LEADER – GOD! One week the focus was on listening. Do we listen, truly listen or are we just hearing? Listening = Doing and when you hear from the leader it is different and it is difficult. Words from the leader require action! Do not fall into the trap of feeling stress which translates into fear and ultimately results in not trusting God. I have been asked over and over to be strong and courageous and if I continue to listen, this requires me to do something about the fears that I need to overcome.
This was never more evident than when my job became an overwhelming challenge this Fall and was transformed into a new beginning. God called me clearly and without hesitation to become a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV). I now needed to follow the leader even in my fear and let Him lead me home.
When you hear the voice of God, whether it is a faint whisper, a loud boom or a gentle urging to move forward, He asks you to grab His hand and follow and you do it! God filled me with an inner strength I didn’t know existed and held tightly to my hand and did not let go through all the uncertainty and transition. He led me home to a new job, new colleagues, new challenges and a new start.
How do you know you’re home? Listen to God speaking, follow Him with faith and let go of your fears to allow the works of God to settle into your soul. Allow God to grab your hand and lead you home!
I arrived home the minute I walked into the building and began my new job. I was welcomed by all, I was extended grace by my new co- workers and I felt the weight I had been carrying was lifted. Every step I took was God-driven and every new challenge was and is covered by God’s grace. You see – you know you’re home because God provides all you need for the challenges and anxiety that accompanies it. He makes these promises and He is never going to let you down. Our amazing God takes an obstacle that seems insurmountable and says “Hold onto me and we will ride through this storm together.”
Take some time to read and reflect on the words of Phillip Phillips song “Home”. Listen for the voice of God who will reassure you and who will always lead you home. Hold on…
Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m gonna make this place your home
Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m gonna make this place your home
Hope, Healing, and Freedom for Hurting Hearts
Passage Through Grace
a journey to discover grace in everyday life
Graceland...a place where we turn toward grace-centered thinking for God, ourselves, and others. We do that here by asking ourselves a significant question once a week.
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