Inspiration

Never Alone

Blog_Christmas_SadHow can we celebrate a season built around relationships and family when we feel alone? We could be surrounded by people, but still feel like a barren tree in the middle of an empty forest. The snow is falling all around, and the tree is frozen from the deepest root to the highest branch. But no one seems to notice.

Just as that tree lost all its leaves in the midst of autumn, we might feel we’ve lost everything and won’t make it through the winter season of bitter coldness and death. The Bible speaks of a woman who had lost everything in life. Her name was Anna. She was widowed only seven years into her marriage, and there is no mention of her having had children. She stayed in the temple, fasting and praying. And waiting.

Maybe she watched the people who came to the temple—seeing families with children, and wondering why she suffered such loss in her own life. In her day, society looked down upon widows and often presumed that some sin led to their desolate condition. But God saw Anna’s heart, and chose her to be among the first to embrace the child who would one day die to bring salvation to the world.

What was she thinking when she saw the baby? The Bible doesn’t say except that she “gave thanks to God and spoke of the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” To redeem is to take something that is bad and turn it into something that is good. It’s when God takes the ashes of our lives and turns them into something beautiful; when God uses the death of autumn and the silence of winter to bring about the life of spring. Anna knew that God was going to take her difficult circumstances and turn them into something good. And He did.

Just like He did for all those who had gone before her—those who were part of the lineage of the Savior. Among them were widows who, like herself, had lost everything: Tamar, Ruth and Bathsheba. Each story in the history of our Savior involves loss, but also reveals how God is able to take the trials of our lives and turn them into testimonies. And each story reminds us that even when we’ve lost everything, we’re never alone.

In the midst of war and battle, drought and famine, slavery and loss, our Savior came. Our Savior is also called “Immanuel.” It means “God is with us.” And He is.

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Thanksgiving Comes First

Blog_AutumnLeavesThe last of the leaves take their final stand against the impending cold. Soon, the branches will be empty, the ground paved with a glittery blanket of snow. Autumn’s season of beauty and death is coming to a close. In its midst—Thanksgiving.

Before holiday revelers haul out the holly, trim trees, and haunt the malls, Thanksgiving comes, quiet and gentle. Before gifts are exchanged, Thanksgiving. And before the clock turns to welcome a new year—Thanksgiving.

We want to skip the season of death—when color is gone and trees, barren. The rush of the holiday season promises to suppress the feeling of loss. Deals at the stores await, beckoning us to forget. Maybe we just need someTHING new, someTHING tangible, someTHING to hold our attention captive. Or maybe we just need a whole new year.

But Thanksgiving comes first, putting everything into perspective if only we still our souls to listen and learn the secret.

Death becomes a thing of beauty. We’re able to let go, no longer needing to fill the empty spaces with the latest and greatest distraction to hit the holiday shelves. We no longer need to wait for a New Year for change to come.

Gratitude reminds us that we have all we need. It tells us that loss brings life. It leads us to transform in the glory of knowing God’s mercies are new EVERY morning.

The holiday season is upon us. And Thanksgiving comes first…as it always has, and as it always should.

The Most Hopeless Pieces

A skilled artist can transform the most useless items into something of matchless worth. And that’s what our loving God is able to do with the most hopeless pieces of our lives.

 

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Seen.

If you feel forgotten, know that there is a God whose name is El Roi, “the God who sees me.” When no one else sees. When no one else cares to see. His eyes invade our hearts with light powerful enough to split the darkness and birth new life.

 

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In the Midst of Redemption’s Story

What carries us through the daily warzone? The knowledge that we’re in the midst of redemption’s story, in which the Author of all life is the Author of our lives, working every scene together for good. We may think it’s over, but in His hands, it’s not over until He says so. Only the Author can determine the end.

 

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One Day

One day, whether here on earth or in the glory of heaven, we will see. God, the master designer, weaves good from every thread of pain wrought on this earth. That’s what makes him God.

 

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Why Do You Look for the Living Among the Dead?

Empty Tomb from CrossCardsWhen hope dies, it’s hard to believe life can prevail.  We remain at the burial site—gazing upon what we’ve lost, unaware that something greater is destined to arise from the ashes.  Helen Keller once said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”  When Jesus died on the cross, those who had followed him closely were unaware that His death was only the opening of a greater door in which God was about to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that [they could] ask or think” (Eph 3:20).

The women who witnessed the miraculous were met with the question, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5). They earnestly came to Jesus’ disciples with news of the empty tomb, only to be met with disbelief.  It was as if they had come to a tomb of another kind—where hope itself was permanently laid to rest.  The disciples who’d walked with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry had mistakenly believed He’d come to set up an earthly kingdom.  He had been their hope of liberation from oppressive governmental and religious systems—a political Messiah.

When He died on the cross, their dreams died with Him; when they buried Him in the tomb, they buried their aspirations as well.  They did not understand Jesus’ destiny of suffering, predictions of death or promises of resurrection. They didn’t understand He had far greater things for them, an everlasting hope.

Many times we find ourselves in what appears to be a hopeless situation—a graveyard of disenchantment, surrounded by death.  Life has disappointed us; we have disappointed ourselves.  It seems that God has abandoned us to the grave.  We cry out for hope, but Heaven is as brass.  Alone in a graveyard of doubt and defeat, it seems that the promise of resurrection was nothing more than an illusion.

Yet it is when we have come to the end of ourselves that we are on the verge of finding true life.  When things seem most hopeless, we are closer to a breakthrough than ever before.  Why?  Because we finally come to realize that the things we were hoping in were not worthy of our trust to begin with.  They were incapable of sustaining us or providing the life we were looking for.  We finally seal false hope in a tomb—never to be revisited.  This is the beginning of resurrection.

When find ourselves at the entrance to life’s tombs, we have not come to a place of death:  we have instead arrived at the door that leads to everlasting life and hope.  Jesus’ death on the cross is an invitation to die to all our unworthy expectations.  His resurrection is an invitation to find hope that will never die.