For the Record, Please Include an Upbeat Hymn

I have never been involved in a group-funeral-planning-session with the person whose funeral was being planned. Until that day.

There I was, seated in a cozy living room…the kind of room where you actually have uninterrupted visits and maybe even engage in profound conversations of life-changing proportions, because there is no television to act as the central attraction, or to detract from what the actual central feature should be in living rooms: people.

I listened mostly, because that is my nature. When it comes to spoken conversation, I have always taken time to process the previous dialogue and reply with measured responses. And this was one of those days when more listening than talking on my part seemed appropriate.

Questions were asked about what main message she wanted preached, which scriptures she wanted shared, and which songs she desired to be sung.

“She” was my aunt. A woman dearly loved by her family and friends. A woman who was admired and adored by all she encountered.

She was clear about wanting the message of having a relationship with Jesus Christ and allowing God to be in charge of judging others, not us, to be at the core of the pastor’s sermon. The scripture she chose coordinated with that message well. And after the funeral, there was agreement that her wishes had been carried out in a way that honored the life she lived and her God.

The music she chose was comforting and touching. During the planning, a question of whether one of the songs was too upbeat was voiced. She is the one who raised that question if I remember correctly. The consensus was that a funeral of someone who served God and was looking forward to spending eternity with Him is a perfect setting for a triumphant, upbeat song to be sung.

I know that expected funeral decorum is that of reverence and respect, but I believe funerals are an opportune time for reminding the living of what our eternal future holds as well. If we accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness and relationship, our eternal future will certainly be a place of victory and celebration. Upbeat songs work well in that capacity.

I have a God who loves me beyond description in spite of my doubts, my sin, and my anxiety problem that turns me into a complete mess from time to time. He loves you beyond description too. He sees the potential in us. He placed it there. When we accept Him as our savior, new life in us begins, because His love compels us to want to become more like Him. When my time here is nearing an end, if I am able to be a part of planning the funeral, that is the message I will want communicated to those who gather to remember me. My aunt felt this message was something to sing about. I wholeheartedly agree.

For the record, please include an upbeat song at my funeral. Image 4-29-17 at 11.33 AM

 

Sunday is Right Around the Corner

Friday was dark. It was the darkest the world had ever been. Never had desperation, discouragement, and despair blanketed the world like they did the day that Jesus died a horrible death and was put in a grave. The King of Kings endured treatment that could only be classified as cruelest of the cruel.

Imagine how distraught, alone, and confused those involved must have felt. The path toward solutions to the problems they were facing must have seemingly come to a dead end. The questions that they had swirling in their minds must have overwhelmed them, as they stood there with no answers in sight. Jesus was gone. Therefore, so was peace of mind, comfort, assurance, and rest for their troubled souls.

A few years ago, I wrote a song entitled, “You Saw Beyond the Cross.” The lyrics of the first verse are as follows: “We sometimes picture what it must have been like that day; the darkness must have been so cold and deep. It breaks our hearts to know You were mocked and scorned that way. The sight of all our sin must have made You weep.”

It is a picture of a world void of light, life and love. Friday was incredibly dark.

But Sunday? Sunday was the brightest the world had ever been! A talking, walking miracle was in their midst. The turnaround from Friday to Sunday was one for the record books. Depressed to ecstatic! Defeated to triumphant!

One of the things that fascinates me the most about the Easter story is the way an awful situation changed so very dramatically when most likely, there were not many signs that made anyone suspect that the greatest miracle known to man was about to occur. The Resurrection story comes alive in a whole new way when we realize the two extremes: how depressingly dark the world was on Friday and how brilliantly bright the world was on Sunday!

Do I doubt that God is working when I am feeling forgotten? I have to admit that during those moments, I have been talked into thinking that He found something more important to do. However, He might be working behind the scenes or waiting on someone else to make a decision that sets His plan in motion.

We have the choice to wait in hope and joy to see what He is going to accomplish or to not wait that way! Either way, we are on His timetable. Waiting in confidence looks a lot different to God (and others) than waiting with bitterness. One way of waiting sure pleases Him!

I want to encourage you with the fact that our God IS faithful. There have been times when I truly did not see a solution in sight, and I felt like Jesus was ‘gone.’ Then, seemingly out of nowhere, God came through. He was faithful yet again. We serve a God of victory!

Please remember that when you are going through a “Friday” in your life; when a situation is seemingly at its bleakest and most miserable, Sunday IS coming!

Keep trusting God – Sunday is right around the corner!

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Daughter of the King

This is a post that I wrote a while back and it appeared elsewhere.  I updated it with correct ages etc. and wanted to share it here now!

In today’s world, young women can find themselves tying their self-worth to a number. It might be the number of total favorites, followers, or retweets that their smartphone notifies them of each day. It might the number of likes or comments that their selfies generate. Whether it is social media-induced or not, many preteen and teenage girls measure their self-worth and identity in ways that they were never intended to.

One of my most earnest prayers is that young girls would come to the realization that their identity is only found in God. That prayer led me to write a song a few years ago, entitled, “Daughter of the King,” The lyrics are as follows:

 

The cruel phrases echo in her mind – the battle rages within. She struggles to ignore the words, but they laugh and win again. They say, “Not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough to be,” what she had dreamed she would be when she was just a little girl, like you and like me. Oh, how I long for her to see that she’s a daughter of the King. A precious, priceless jewel; a treasure – made by a God who loves her beyond measure.

It seems now she’s convinced herself that she’s a failure, so what’s the use?When a challenge rises to meet her, she is ready with an excuse. When there are hills to climb, she hurries to hide, and those harsh words win again. They drown out the voice of Jesus Christ and the words He wants her to hear and to believe instead. Oh, how she has been misled. ‘Cause she’s a daughter of the King. A precious, priceless jewel; a treasure – made by a God who loves her beyond measure. Lord, hold her closely. How I long for her to see that she’s a daughter of the King. A precious, priceless jewel; a treasure – made by a God who loves her beyond measure.

‘Beyond measure’  – There really is no number that can accurately represent the identity and value of young women!

My husband and I are blessed with three sons who are 22, 21, and 19 and a daughter who is 17. Of course, we think they are all flat-out incredible human beings! But since the title of this is Daughter of the King, allow me to tell you just a little bit about our last-born, Mallory. She’s beautiful, talented, intelligent, compassionate, witty, and kind-hearted. (I’m trying hard to be unbiased here…)

Her dad and I strive to help her realize all this about herself and that she knows that glorifying God through the unique set of gifts that He designed for her is one of the most important things she can do as His child,  Although we strive to put forth parenting efforts that are sincere, sensitive, and somewhat skillful, we are human. So unfortunately, there are times that our best efforts end up being screwed-up, sloppy, and just plain sad! I think we can all agree that parenting is not for the weak.

Fortunately, we have access to the ultimate Source of Strength. He also happens to be the supreme example of parenting! We can pray to Him at anytime and be confident that our prayers are heard. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 29:12. We can know that He will give us the wisdom we ask for. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5. 

If we ask God, He will show us ways to express to our daughters the truth about who they are and Whose they are.

That they are precious, priceless jewels…treasures – made by a God who loves them beyond measure.

 

Your Time to Shine

In the Sermon on the Mount found in chapters five, six, and seven of the book of Matthew, Jesus covers a lot of ground concerning what the believer’s life should look like. Name a topic, and chances are He included it. He spoke to His audience about everything from judging others, adultery, how the needy should be treated, to reasons not to worry. It is straight-to-the-point and easy to understand for anyone who desires to hear words directly from the mouth of Jesus.
While reading through this sermon recently, a phrase in Matthew 5:14 jumped out at me like never before: “You are the light of the world.” Jesus was telling a mountainside full of listeners that they were to illuminate the world by doing the good works they were led to do, and in turn, observers would give credit to God.
The Bible does not say we should attempt to be the light, that a valiant effort should be put toward being the light, or that being the light of the world is an admirable goal. Matthew 5 straight-up says we ARE the light of the world!
Being a light is a tall order, for sure. However, God does not give us a command and then abandon us as we try to fulfill it. If He gives us an instruction, we can rely on Him to equip us to do it and to be right by our side the whole time!
Our job is not to produce the light. Our mission is to shine HIS light wherever we can; to allow HIS light to shine through us. If we live in such a way that His light is visible in our actions and words, others will see His brilliance and be drawn to Him! Something we do or say can be the cause of someone else looking at Jesus in a more positive way, or desiring to be in closer relationship with Him. What an awesome opportunity that is!
Ephesians 5:8 advises us to walk as children of light. In John 8:12, Jesus Himself says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
That aforementioned Light of the World freely gives His light to each and every one of us. Our choice is to reflect that light in our Christian walk or to keep it hidden.
As we look around this world, does it seem as if darkness is overtaking the light in some areas? If we have the Light of the World in our life, then we can strive to shine His light in those dark places. Shining His light in this world means more Jesus in this world! It’s your time to shine!

“It’s Gonna Be Alright.”

Sometimes I wonder if He wants to lovingly put His hands on my shoulders, look me right in the eyes and say, “I’ll take care of the how and you just focus on the Who.”

Have you ever comforted someone with the words, “It’s gonna be alright,” confident you were correct, but trying to hide any hints of uncertainty in your voice regarding HOW their situation was going to reach the “alright” stage?

When I’ve held someone dear to me and promised them that it’s going to be okay after they lost a big game, a cherished relationship, or a job they had their heart set on, I have been confident that God was indeed going to swoop in and intervene in each situation. I have been sure that He was going to give them a better blessing and/or a better perspective, and therefore make it “alright.” However, communicating that to a hurting heart is difficult, to say the least.

There is a quote attributed to Beth Moore that sums up this concept quite nicely: “I don’t know how, but I know Who.” When we do not foresee a place of peace in a troubling situation, or even a pathway to that destination, we need to remind ourselves and others that our minds should be focused on the Who, rather than the how.

When your loved ones assure you after you lose your first baby early-on in pregnancy that it is somehow going to turn out okay, speaking from experience, you might be in a place where the doubts of how it is going be okay overshadow the certainty of Who is going to make it okay! Four children later, (and on the verge of becoming a grandma…which I am just a bit excited about!!) I can say that things certainly turned out even better than “alright.”

I frequently think about how God doesn’t think like us. I mean, I try to figure out how He thinks, but then I remember that I will not grasp His ways this side of heaven.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” He is a Master Designer, a Master Orchestrator. Everything works together, even when we do not know how it possibly ever could in our finite minds. He is unconventional, that’s for sure.

Sometimes I wonder if He wants to lovingly put His hands on my shoulders, look me right in the eyes and say, “I’ll take care of the how and you just focus on the Who.”

Do you believe He hears our prayers? The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; (Psalm 34:15)
Do you believe He has a plan for you? For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Do you believe all things work together for good? And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28)

Well then, wouldn’t you agree? It’s gonna be alright!

Why Do I Go To The Game?

Why do I go to my child’s games?

May I ask you: Have you asked yourself lately what your intention is when you sit in the stands at your child’s events?

A while back, I was seated behind a parent of an opposing team member at one of my son’s basketball games. What I saw caused me to reevaluate my genuine answer to the above question. She was a lively spectator. She clapped, she cheered, she shook her head at some bad plays, and every few minutes, she wrote something down on the roster she was holding. The clapping, cheering, and even the shaking of the head seemed pretty typical of any average fan in the stands. I have done all three, and I think I can safely assume you have too. However, my curiosity about activity number four; using her pen to mark that paper, got the best of me. The white piece of paper that was repeatedly picked up and slammed down in disgust was close enough to me to sneak a peek if I had wanted to. I confess I wanted to. So I did. In large black letters there was a heading that said, “Bad passes.”

This woman was keeping track of bad passes like it was her job.

From my observations, I am guessing (and it IS a guess) she was recording the bad decisions of her son’s teammates.

I could be wrong, and maybe she was counting the “bad passes” of her own son and was going to talk it over with him after the game. If that’s the case, that is a topic for a different blog post with a possible title of, “Please do not count how many mistakes your child makes in their games in order to point them out later.” Too long of a title? Okay, it could be shortened to something like, “Sorta Lousy Parenting Practices”

So let’s suppose she was adding up the mistakes of her son’s teammates to prove some sort of point.

My next question is this: Do I ever do that? And if someone asked you if you do…I wouldn’t expect anyone to raise their hand and confess that they carry a piece of paper and writing utensil to every game for the sole purpose of counting the transgressions of their child’s team members. (If you do, kindly tell us where you are sitting at the next game, so that we can sit nowhere near you and your negativity.) But how many times have I done it mentally? “So-and-so has turned the ball over three times in a row, and my son has a pretty impressive assist-to-turnover ratio…” Or “Practically every time that girl serves, it goes straight into the net, do the coaches not see that?” Reminder: we are complaining about someone who is wearing the same team uniform as our child. They are on the SAME TEAM.

Hoping and cheering for the success of my child’s teammates makes the most sense…every positive play they make is contributing to the success of the entire team.

If we tell our role-player child they should start instead of one of their teammates, our child may actually be hearing, “I’m not good enough in my parents’ eyes unless I start.” Have we forgotten how crucial role players are to a team’s success? What about our child who spends their time on the bench? If we continually complain about their teammates who “shouldn’t be playing in front of them,” 1. We might cause them to lose their enthusiasm for working their way into the playing rotation, because, “What’s the use? My parents are only going to care if I’m a starter…” and 2. We lose an opportunity to teach an important life lesson to our children: EVERY team member is valuable. If instead of being a star player, our child is a role player or a player that spends most of their time on the bench, it doesn’t diminish their worth to the team, right? A team is successful because of a combination of factors including their attitude, their unity, and their preparation in practice. The second and third-string players make the first-string players better through their efforts at every single practice! The players who are on the bench cheering on their teammates on the playing field are imperative to the team’s energy and perseverance. If we instill in our children the truth that EVERY player contributes, it will serve them well for the rest of their life!

If I habitually see the shortcomings of our kid’s teammates, it will make it easier for my kid to see them too. If I point out weaknesses, the people around me are exposed to negativity whether they want to be or not. If I am not a unifying presence in the bleachers, I am a divisive presence. No team needs that!

Will you join me in making a parent pact? It is a pact to support every team member; to be a loyal fan of every single member of team.

Maybe our positivity will rub off on others. It all starts with asking ourselves a question and answering in a genuine way: Why do I go to my child’s games?

Aha!

2016 was a year of some exciting events. To name a few: one son got married, one son got engaged, and a devotional I wrote is being published. Major ups! Also, there were some downs. Forgive me for not listing them, as they are pretty fresh in my mind.

What has struck me a few times seemingly right smack-dab over my head about the aforementioned low points…the prayers answered differently than I had hoped…is: Try as I might, I have not been able to make sense of them.

I know Romans 8:28. I repeat it often. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” I remind myself that God said, “ALL” things. And I remind myself that His good and my good are not always identical, because His ways are higher than mine. His thoughts are higher than mine. He and I are looking at these situations from different perspectives. One of those perspectives is a tad bit self-centered at times.

Do you ever try to politely explain to God why answering a certain prayer a certain way will surely be better for everyone involved? You don’t? Okay, maybe I am the only person who thinks God doesn’t “get it” sometimes. How super-nice of me to take the time to explain it to Him.

By the way, I am a slow lesson-learner when the lesson is, “God is really good at being God, and He knows what He is doing at all times.”

Prayer requests are never unanswered. As I have heard numerous times: sometimes the answer is, “Yes,” sometimes it is “No,” and sometimes it is, “Not yet.”

When the answer is, “Not yet,” that delayed answer to prayer reminds us that God’s timetable is much more timely than ours, after all.

And when the answer is, “No,” sometimes we eventually have that revelation moment, when we say, “Okay, I get it,” because through the trial, someone came to an important realization in their faith life.

But we are not going to be granted that revelation “Aha” moment every time circumstances don’t turn out as we expect or request. If we think that everything that happens in our lifetime is going to make sense this side of heaven, we may waste precious time on this earth being puzzled instead of at peace.

I wholeheartedly believe there will be some monumental revelation moments when we get to heaven. “Aha” moments of unmatched proportions when answers to some of our unanswered earthly questions will cause things to fall into heavenly place in a heavenly way.

Some answers will make sense here, and some will make sense there. Some may seemingly not make sense…anywhere. One of the most powerful statements I have ever heard is, “God is not obligated to explain Himself to us.”

Perhaps saying the following prayer will give us the “Aha” moment we need to experience that will trump all other “Aha” moments: “Dear God, I know You are good. I know Your reasons are good. Even when I do not understand, I choose to trust You and Your loving ways. Thank You for making ALL things work together for good. In Your holy and perfect name I pray. Amen.”