Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Weight of Glory

[Just a brief mention that this post title may sound familiar to some of you who have read some of my earlier writings. I kept the title and the primary story it contained..but I changed some of what I shared since my life has also gone through so changes since I first wrote it! I pray you are blessed regardless if this is the first time or second time in hearing how God chose to answer the cries of a new widow...

 "For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever."
-2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NLT)

My life over the past few years without my husband has sometimes felt like I was in the middle of some strange emotional tug of war with myself! Some days I feel pulled by my memories of Brad's and my life together ...recalling the moments I treasured and remembering all those tiny details that went into making our life together special. I than feel my spirit's desire pushing me to move forward with God beyond what my life held as Brad’s wife. Today was a day I gave into the pull of my past memories. 

After a little while (and a few tears too) I knew I needed to move on...but I hated the thought of letting go again of the dreams Brad and I shared for the future that was never ours to have. 

Sooo...feeling as though I had taken three steps forward in my “new life” and now suddenly feeling I just took two giant steps back...Jesus only allowed me to sit alone in my pity party of one for a brief while before sitting down beside me and helping me to recall some of the lessons I have been taught through His love these past years. 

As difficult and painful the process has been for me since Brad’s death...I’ve learned through my loss to look inside my heart to find the things that had been keeping me from placing my complete trust and love in God. 

Where I once had looked to Brad as my main source for a lifetime of love and security…it is in Jesus that I will always find the One true source that will always meet every (tangible and intangible) need my life yearns for. I discovered that God alone remains faithful in providing me with His abundant provisions of love and security for every day and every need. 

In fact...through studying His Word and in prayer, the Lord has given me eyes to see beyond my own needs and even gives me glimpses of this world through His eyes so that I may know His heart more fully and respond to the needs of others with love and compassion. Although I still have those days and nights that I long for what I once had with Brad I know that there will be a day when the weight of this world will be replaced with the glorious weight of Heaven! 

I just have to share this one experience with you...

After Brad died...and for months afterwards...I cried out many times to God that Brad's long days & hours of dying were too painful...the memory and thoughts I held of my precious husband being so tormented were more than I could bear. I wanted to "trust" God with how Brad died...but I struggled beyond imagine with the "why" it had to be "this way." Brad loved Jesus wholeheartedly...everyone who knew Brad, knew he had a heart for Christ. “Why Lord would you allow him to suffer so greatly in death?” 

And than one morning as I laid in bed awake...once again crying for comfort from these tormenting thoughts… God blessed me with the most beautiful answer I would never have imagined seeing and hearing with my heart.

I saw myself walking along side of Jesus with my head turned towards Him as I spoke with him. (I was very animated while talking and moving my hands like I do when I am excited about something…yikes!). As we walked, Jesus' eyes were always on my face and He was smiling and even laughing at something I had said. (That image alone is “off the charts” wonderful…); Then Jesus suddenly stopped walking and turned his head looking straight ahead.  So…of course I stopped too and turned my head to see what he was looking at. 

As I looked ahead of us, I saw the back of a tall slender man wearing a white shirt with a
head full of thick brown hair…and as he turned around to face us it was my most handsome and youthful husband Brad! Before even a moment went by...Brad cried out, "You're here!” He ran to me and scooped me up into his arms and swung me around and around saying over and over again, "You’re here, you’re here!"

As Brad swung me around I began to cry and thru my sobs I said..."I'm so sorry Brad, so sorry…you had to die in so much pain. I'm sorry..." Brad quickly stopped spinning me and as he closely held my face to his in the palms of his hands…with those beautiful deep set eyes fixed on my tear filled eyes, he said, "Oh was is nothing!” While saying this his face broke out in the biggest smile…his face was filled with joy! I understood immediately what he meant... 

You matter the trials and heartache this life will bring...the moment…the very moment we exhale our last breath in this life and inhale our first breath of Heaven…all the pains and all the heartaches, every trial and trouble are washed away into the glory and beauty of our Lord's presence and our eternal home in Heaven! 

What a gift…what amazing love God poured over my grieving heart on that morning. Finally… I found the peace I had been looking for and needed concerning Brad's last days and hours. 

I no longer ask God "Why?" or cry out to God asking him to “explain.” I still shed some tears in missing Brad and I still don't know "why?" But...that question of “why?” no longer holds my attention or torments my heart. For I have a better answer than a reason could provide…

It is to the joy of what is coming…the promise of one day I will be in heaven worshiping my Savior. One day, I will actually be walking along side of Jesus and we will be talking and laughing together. I will again be with Brad. 

The promised weight of glory lifts off my heart all the weight of pain this world can ever give.

"Once you feel the weight of glory
All your pain will fade to memory...

Would you dare would you dare to believe
That you still got a reason to sing
Cause the pain that you've been feeling
It can’t compare to the joy that’s coming."
- Before the Morning by Josh Wilson

"For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever" 



Friday, April 19, 2013

Living Life to its Fullest

...I came to give life—life in all its fullness. ~ JOHN 10:10

Ever since I was a young girl I wanted to live an adventuresome life. The books I read and the dreams I dreamt were usually full of twisting plots and  unexpected turns. The main characters were always exploring uncharted paths and venturing to interesting places all over the world. I prayed that God would allow me to live a life full of adventures. can probably imagine my excitement when I began my career as a Flight Attendant. Talk about my life “taking off” on an adventure! 

The Lord blessed my adventuresome spirit even more when He gave Brad to be my husband. Brad's career as a professional photographer may have found his feet on the ground...but, he had a very adventuresome spirit that willingly took off with me in my love of travel. We both embraced most of the twist and turns of traveling with great resilience! We loved pursuing the unknown more than we disliked the trials that often accompanied traveling.

Brad and I not only shared a love for travel adventures...we shared an even greater love for the adventures we experienced in serving Jesus with all our hearts. 
My husband's love for Jesus led him to leave his successful photography business to answer God's calling to be in ministry full time. Brad had a beautiful singing voice as well as a musical background. The Lord obviously had prepared Brad for his calling to lead others to know Jesus through music by becoming a Worship and Music minister. 
Brad's ministry eventually led us to move away from our established roots and leave behind all the people we loved...traveling over 800 miles away to serve at a church where we knew no one!  
We both embarked on this new journey anticipating all the unknown adventures we were about to experience in following God’s plans instead of our own...never imagining that in six shorts months of arriving that Brad would be diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. 

This was not an adventure I ever dreamed of or desired to explore. Nor was it one I wanted to experience. If given a choice ahead of time, I’d likely have tossed that travel brochure aside and said; “No...this cancer adventure is not for me!” 
Never in any of my dreams of living an adventuresome life did I consider experiencing my husband's battle with cancer and his eventual death 5 years later, to be something worth exploring. 

 I mean really...other than a creative story writer...who would ever add deadly illness and death to a perfectly good story about living life to it's fullest? 

Hmmm...come to think of it...I believe God’s Word is just such a Book.

The Bible is filled with true accounts about numerous chosen followers of God living very adventurous lives! Among them are; David, Esther and Daniel. There is Paul, Peter, Mary, and John as well. Each one accepting God’s adventure plans over their own. Every one of them had to “let go” of their plans to “live fully ' the life God planned for them.
To live a life full of godly adventure came at a cost to them. They all had to move away from their established roots. They didn’t escape life’s hardships and trials...nor were they shielded from the heartbreaking pain caused by illnesses and death. 
I feel very certain when we all meet in Heaven, not one person who followed God’s path for their life will tell us they wish they had said “no” to God’s plans over their own...including ourselves! 
Through my husband’s battle with cancer and since his death, I have learned I can trust God’s plan for my life...even if I don’t always like what He has allowed.  

After writing these thoughts down, I paused to reflect on what I’d written and how God has taught me so much about trusting Him for my future. It was in these quiet moments that God gently revealed to my heart that for nearly 5 years now I have still been holding on to...even if only by a thin thread...a couple of longtime plans I made for my life with Brad that I know can never happen this side of Heaven. 
The Lord lovingly pointed out to me this truth. I cannot go where He leads...if I do not let go of what I'm holding onto that is not of His plan.
So with tears of faith and trust in Jesus, I asked God to help me cut the last threads that have held me back from my full devotion to His will for my life. As my tears gently fell...I felt a bittersweet release as the threads were cut. 

“From now on...” I heard my Savior whisper to my heart; “you no longer have to limp through this life tangled up by the threads of your own plans, missing out on experiencing the full adventure that I have already laid before you. I am with you always and I’ll never leave your side”

"I’ve commanded you to be strong and brave. Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged! I am the Lord your God, and I will be there to help you wherever you go." ~ Joshua 1:9 CEV

What plans (or people) are you holding tightly on to? Just because you loosen your grip,and place them trustingly into God’s Will doesn’t mean you love them means you trust God’s plan more. I’ll never regret following God!

Jesus offers an abundant life to live here on earth that He does not want us to miss out on! When we focus on our wants...or on what we don't have or can't have...we open ourselves up to Satan providing us with a counterfeit contentment in the things of this world that can not satisfy us.  

Yet, when we choose to trust God in all circumstances and to desire His Will, refocusing our thoughts & hearts away from our losses and onto our resurrected lives with Jesus...we are able to surrender our false security and gain the "real thing” in Christ. He generously gives true and lasting contentment in all our circumstances. 

Dear Lord,
I Praise Your Name! Thank you for making the way for all who believe in you to see that Your plans for our lives are good and give us hope. Not even death can steal us away from your promises. When death comes to your’s not the end of our’s a flight we gladly take which lifts us away from a world where our dreams and adventures an eternal place where our dreams and adventures forever and fully expand. 

...I came to give life—life in all its fullness.~ JOHN 10:10



Monday, April 8, 2013

Sincerely Wrong...

 "For I can testify that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not in line with the truth. For ignoring the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to God’s righteousness." - Romans 10:2-3 NET

I will never forget a saying one of my favorite Bible teachers shared concerning doing what is right according to God's perfect definition of righteousness. It goes like this;

"It's never right to do the wrong thing...even for the right reason." 

I use to believe if my motives were right...that even if my actions were slightly wrong...the right results made my actions right as well. Yikes! 

Just imagine with me that I'm in the presence of our Powerful and Righteous God and I say to Him... 

"Father, I did a little something wrong, but...I thought I was doing the right thing and I did it with the right motive!"

Our Father replies..."Child, I gave you my righteous guidelines to follow in My Word, did you not read them? Or perhaps you read them without effect because you didn't understand them. Even did wrong. So,now you are defending the decisions you make because you think if you have a right motive...that I should accept it as good because you believe your motive is pure.

" motive was pure!" I reply with a great sense of relief...thinking God "gets it!"
If my motives are pure and right than God will not mind me changing a few of His laws and guidelines around...after all..."times are a changing!"

A quiet stillness follows these thoughts and I can see in my Father's face an expression of great patience and love for me. But I also see He is not swayed by my new theology! 

In 1 Chronicles 13 we read of David's sincere desire to bring the Ark of God back to Jerusalem. David even seemed to have the right motive for doing this. Along with David and several others, is Uzzah. Like David...Uzzah chooses to do this in a way that seems right to David and to himself...and does not seek to know and follow God's laws and guidelines in how it should be done. 

On the way to Jerusalem...the oxen carrying the Ark stumbled and Urzzah who was walking along side the cart did what seemed the rightest thing in the world to do...he put his hand on the Ark to prevent it from falling! Who can blame the man? 

But God had commanded that no hand other than a Priest should ever touch the Ark. Even though Uzzah had the "right" motive...he did the wrong thing...and so Uzzah paid the ultimate price because God will not have men rewrite His laws and guidelines to suit their own ways of doing what they feel is right. 

It seems prevalent in todays world for God's Word to be disregarded not only by unbelievers but by believers as well. Some perhaps have decided it is too old-fashioned or difficult to follow. How often like Uzzah do we dare to place ourselves in a dangerous situation by altering or toning done God's Word to suit our ideas of righteousness and than say boldly to God...that we were sincere in our motives to do the right thing? 

Who are we to even dare touch a single letter of God’s Book? Sincerity needs to be allied to truth...for it is possible to be sincerely wrong! 

"Father..." I humbly spoke. "Forgive me. I realize now that no matter how sincere I think my motives are...that it's never right to do the wrong thing. May my sincerity always be aligned to Truth for I understand that it is possible to be sincerely wrong!" 
(John 16:2, Acts 26:9, Romans 10:2). 

 “Now respect the Lord and serve him fully and sincerely." - Joshua 24:14 NCV