Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blessed are The Tears

Here in sunny southern New Mexico, the weather is usually, well..............sunny! Not today, however. The skies are dark and overcast, with an occasional drizzle or light rain. You won't hear me complaining, though. It's been so long since we were blessed with rain, I am thrilled with the change in our weather.

The welcomed moisture, albeit moderate at best, has not only cleaned the dust from the air, but filled it with a wonderfully fresh aroma. No more stale air, here! And surprisingly, despite the gloomy darkness, everyone I meet seems upbeat, revived and rejuvenated. It is as though the rain has left the whole town feeling new and alive again. It's amazing what a few good sprinkles can do!

The same can be said about tears. Yes, tears. So often we try to keep our life sunny - free of overcast skies and teardrops. We somehow feel tears will only ruin our day and get everything in our life soggy. How, like the rain, we should welcome the rainy times of our lives.

The song, Blessed are The Tears, by Christian recording artist Bryan Duncan, speaks so deeply to my heart, especially on rainy days. The chorus to the song is:

Blessed are the tears that fall

Clean the windows of the soul

And usher in a change of heart

And bring a joy that angels know

Blessed are the tears that fall

Wash the stains of life away

Forgiven and forgotten now

A new creation's here to stay

Blessed are the tears that fall

Tears, like the rain, can do wonders to wash the dust, the hurt, and the stale air out of our life. They are also God's way of bringing much needed healing and refreshment to a heart that has become parched from the winds and heat of life.

Are you experiencing a rainy time in your life right now? If so, don't draw the curtains of your soul and hide inside until the storm passes. Instead, walk out into the downpour, leaving your umbrella safely tucked in your hall closet. Feel the drops. Let them soak all the way down to the deepest place of your heart. As God waters your spirit with His forgiveness, His peace, His hope, His love and His joy, you will see new life start to sprout up where only despair and gloom once tried to take root. Welcome this season into your life and allow it to renew you and revive you.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving us enough to send the rain into our lives. Help us not to miss the blessings you have lovingly placed into each and every tear.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Blessing

Two years ago, I had the honor of giving the commencement address at an 8th grade graduation at a school where I had served as both a teacher, and up until that year, a principal. I was approached by the students in this class and personally given this invitation. I was both humbled and honored.

Over the years we had spent together, I had observe each student excel academically and fine tune their various skills and talents. I had also watched as this group of children had transformed into teenagers who were independent and self-confident. I was proud of the Class of 2007 and yet, not quite ready to set them free.

Life brings change, though. These students would be leaving our school in pursuit of higher education, and in the days that would follow this night of celebration, I too, would find myself emptying my desk, clearing out my bookshelves and packing my things in pursuit of God's next call on my life.

As I prepared my speech, I asked the Lord to give me the words. While this was just one small milestone in their journey through life, I did not take this ceremony lightly. I knew the Lord had opened a door of opportunity for me to not only speak words of life into these young hearts and minds, but into the parents, the staff and the school. I had been given this one, last moment in time and I wanted the words I spoke to last an entire lifetime.

I chose two closely related scriptures as the foundation for my address.

Micah 6:8
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Deuteronomy 10:12
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul.

As I spoke, I tried to provoke each person in that building, young and old alike, to live a life worthy of their calling - to take what God had given them and use their life to make a difference in this world and in the lives of others. I reminded them they were created to do what only they could do. Never before, and never again, would someone just like them live on this Earth. This was their moment in time. God had created them with a divine purpose and it was up to them to fulfill it.

As my time came to a close, I ended with the words to the song entitled, "The Blessing".

"This is your true calling", I reminded them. "You were created to be a blessing, but it's up to you. How will you choose to live your life? Life is short. Make each day count. Choose to be a blessing."


As I sit here writing this, I can't help wondering where each student is and how they are doing? Are they keeping up with their homework and doing their best? Are they withstanding the temptations that come with the passage into adulthood? Are they happy? Are they still connected to Christ? The choice is theirs, and theirs alone.

And the choice is mine and yours. What impact will we make on our world? Will our life be spent in selfish ambition or reckless abandonment for the sake of Christ? What legacy will we leave behind? May God give us the strength to live our life in such a way as to bring glory to Him and justice, love and mercy to our fellowman.
The Blessing

By John Waller and Troy Denning

Let it be said of us
while we walked among the living
Let it be said of us
by the ones we leave behind
Let it be said of us
that we lived to be a blessing for life

Let it be said of us
that we gave to reach the dying,
Let it be said of us
by the fruit we leave behind
Let it be said of us
that our legacy is blessing for life

This day, You set life, You set death right before us
This day, every blessing and curse is a choice now
And we will choose to be a blessing for life.

Let it be said of us
that our hearts belonged to Jesus
Let it be said of us
that we spoke the words of life
Let it be said of us
that our heritage is blessing for life
We will choose to be a blessing for life.

Will we build up, tear down?,

the moment of truth is now

This day, You set life, You set death right before us
This day, every blessing and curse is a choice now
And we will choose to be a blessing for life.

For your Kingdom

For our children

For the sake of every nation

We will choose to be a blessing for life.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Real Deal

My grandma, born and raised in the deep South, was a spunky lady, to say the least. She had a dry, witty sense of humor and was famous for her one-liners. While her words always brought a laugh, they also revealed her wisdom. Long after the laughter faded, her words resonated in my heart.

As a young, single woman in my early twenties, I often traveled by myself. I thought nothing of getting in my car and driving seven hours North to see my parents, or ten hours East to spend time with my sister. My parents, however, worried about my safety. Time after time, they cautioned me of the dangers of traveling alone. One time, this familiar topic of conversation came up while we were visiting my grandma.

"I don't know why she insists on traveling by herself," my mother said, as I sat right beside her on my Grandma's turquoise couch. "I keep telling her to get a man's hat and place it in her back window. That way, it would at least look like a man was traveling with her. For all they know, he could simply be taking a nap in the backseat!"

Without skipping a beat, my Grandma leaned forward, looked directly at me and remarked, "Forget about the hat, honey. Get a man!" Laughter spilled into the room. Then Grandma continued. "Who wants a silly ole hat when you can have the real deal?!"

And of course, for all practical purposes, Grandma was right! I understood my mother's reasoning and felt her love for me in this odd request, but I had to agree with my Grandma. What good would a hat do? It was, after all, just a hat. At a quick glance, it might give the appearance that a man was along for the ride, but appearances and reality are two totally different things! Could a hat change a flat tire for me? Could a hat take the wheel and drive for me if I got tired and needed a break from the driver's seat? Could a hat protect me from a would be assailant? No, the hat was merely for show and would only provide a false sense of security. I didn't need a hat, I needed a man!

As ridiculous as I found my mother's idea to be, I couldn't deny that the joke was on me when it came to my spiritual life. I had grown up in a Christian home and had attended church from a young age. I knew all about God, the Bible, and what it meant to look like a Christian. In fact, anyone driving by my life would have been sure to notice my Bible, my Christian lingo and my Christian ways. But, if they would have gotten close enough to peer into the backseat of my heart, they would have discovered all these were just for show. I was traveling life alone. I had religion, but what I needed was the man, Christ Jesus.

It wasn't until my earlier thirties that I traded in my religious facade for a true, vibrant, living and breathing relationship with the Lord. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God became real to me for the first time in my life. Now, my Bible is no longer on display for all to see, but instead, it's words are hidden in my heart, guiding, leading and transforming me little by little, day by day. The words I speak are no longer spoken to impress others with my spirituality, but rather to impress upon others the beauty and freedom that can be found in a relationship with Christ. I pray each day God will take the wheel of my life and live in and through me.

I am no longer satisfied with a religion that is just for show, and why should I be? Think about it. Can religion forgive my sins? Can religion create a new heart in me? Can religion live in and through me? Can religion feel my hurt, understand my fears, or speak to my heart? No, only Christ can. Why would I want to settle for anything less than the real deal?...and why should you?
Oh, by the way, in case you are wondering, I took my Grandma's advice and got a man. Now, I not only have Christ in my life, but a wonderful husband, too! No more traveling alone for this girl! From now on, it's the three of us sharing every single moment of this amazing ride called life!

Monday, May 4, 2009

My Hope is in Thee

As I hung up the phone, I could hardly breathe. The news was simply too wonderful to contain. I felt as though my heart would burst with joy and excitement. My husband and I were going to have a baby...a dream come true.

This wasn't the first time I had heard these words from the doctor or experienced this overwhelming flood of emotion. Twice before, I had been able to surprise my husband with this same, wonderful news and watch as his face lit up, and his eyes sparkled. We both have a deep love for children and having one of our own was a dream we both shared and talked about often. Twice before, however, I had also known the deep sorrow and silent grief that rips your heart apart when you lose that little life before you have ever had a chance to meet your son or daughter face to face, or embrace and tenderly kiss them.

This time was going to be different, though. I just knew it. I could feel hope running all through out my body, from my head to my toes! I had lost my father eight months earlier, and I felt as though this was God's way of bringing new life back into mine and joy back into my heart. I could hardly wait to tell my husband and the rest of the world.

Even though my faith was strong, and my hope sure, I have to admit, there were moments when I would start to worry about losing this precious little one, too. When those moments came, however, God was always faithful to send a reminder to keep me hoping.

Like the time I was sitting in a hospital waiting room, waiting to have some routine blood work done. I started to feel anxious, but before I had a chance to dwell on these feelings, a beautiful little girl, about three years old, came and sat down right next to me. We talked and laughed and had the best time. After a few minutes, I asked her what her name was.

"Esperanza" she replied.

"What a beautiful name. Your name means HOPE in English, doesn't it?" I asked. She just smiled, but her mother nodded and said, "Yes, it does."

Instantly, my fear vanished and hope ruled my heart. God was with me and everything was going to be just fine. Weeks flew by and soon, at my six weeks Dr. visit, I was able to not only see my baby, but to hear the beating of it's heart.

"Your baby has a very strong heartbeat. Everything looks and sounds terrific!" the doctor declared.

Still, as days went on, fear tried desperately to steal my joy. With each moment of fear, however, God was faithful to send me a hope-filled moment to hold on to.

Like the time I was driving home from work and caught myself once again fearful of facing yet another miscarriage, and another heartbreak. Turning a corner, a sign at a church beckoned for my attention. There, for all the world to see, were God's words of hope.

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Romans 15:13

I pulled over to the side of the road, found a pen and paper, and copied down this powerful word from God. I decided, right then and there, to commit this particular scripture to memory. The next time Satan tried to bring doubt or fear to my heart or mind, I would hold up my shield of faith and quench his fiery dart by boldly proclaiming the hope in my heart.

Weeks turned into months...three to be exact. Then, my hope died, right along with the death of the tiny life I had carried inside me. I was devastated. This time was suppose to be different. How could this be happening again, especially after God had been so deliberate in His attempts to encourage me to keep hoping, to keep believing? I felt totally and completely numb. To be totally honest, I felt as though God had been teasing me. He knows the end from the beginning. He knew this pregnancy was going to end just like the two before it, and yet he kept dangling hope out there in front of me. My numbness soon turned to anger and bitterness.

Time went by and I struggled to keep my relationship with the Lord vibrant and strong. I had walked with the Lord long enough to know his true character: all love, all mercy, all wisdom, all the time. I knew God loved me and wanted only the best for me. I knew He was always working all things for my good and His glory. I knew what Satan meant for harm, He could and would use for my good. My head knew all of this, but my heart, oh my heart. It felt betrayed. It had dared to hope.

Then one night, as I was reading in the Psalms, God, in his tenderness, revealed to me the true substance of the hope He kept placing in my heart during those three months. I suddenly realized that my hope had been completely misplaced. All that time, I had been placing my hope in the life I carried, not in the ONE who was carrying me. God did know how this pregnancy would end. He knew my heart would once again be broken into a million pieces. He knew all of this and because He did, He was preparing me for this loss by placing seeds of hope into my heart. Not hope in my baby, but hope in HIM! Tears filled my eyes, once again, as I found myself on my knees thanking God for being all loving, all merciful, all wise, all the time.
Over and over again in the Bible, we find verse after verse leading us to the only one we can truly place our hope in.

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD. Psalm 31:24

And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee. Psalm 39:7

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: Psalm 146:5

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. Jeremiah 17:7

Now, almost four years later, I would love to be able to tell you that my heart no longer feels the pain of these losses, but that wouldn't be true. Not a day goes by that I don't feel the hurt. Yet, through the hurt, I have chosen to keep placing my hope in my God. As I allow the God of hope to fill me with joy and peace in believing, I abound with hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever been disappointed by God? Have you ever felt as though he dangled hope in front of you only to lead you to heartache? If so...I encourage you to take a closer look. Could it be, like me, your hope was misplaced? The world and all that is in it will let us down, abandon us, and leave us broken hearted, but our God....who is all love, all mercy, all wise, all the time, never will. Put your hope in Him and I guarantee, you won't be disappointed.