Friday, November 30, 2018

Because of Jesus~

Maybe, 
it was because the messenger was 
an angel.

Maybe, 
it was because the message was beyond all human comprehension.

Maybe, 
it was both.

But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
~Luke 1:30-32

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
~Luke 2:10

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.
~Matthew 28:5-6

Mary.

The shepherds.

The women at the empty tomb.

All, greeted with the words
"Do not be afraid".

As I ponder these three particular angelic encounters, I see something I've never noticed before.

There it is -
in each heavenly message,
the gift of salvation.

Conception.
Birth.
Death and resurrection.

Maybe, 
it was because the messenger was 
an angel.

Maybe, 
it was because the message was beyond all human comprehension.

Maybe, it was both.

Or maybe,
maybe,
it was because of Jesus.

Because of Jesus, 
we don't have to be afraid.

Do not be afraid, 
you have found favor with God.

Do not be afraid, 
this is God's way of sharing the Good news of peace and joy with the world around you.

Do not be afraid, 
not even death can hold you back or separate you from what God is doing.

Because of Jesus, 
we don't have to be afraid.

When God places a seed of destiny inside us, we don't have to be afraid.

When God is birthing something new in us and through us or around us, we don't have to be afraid.

When God has closed a door, buried a dream, or taken our very last breath, we don't have to be afraid.

The angel spoke it 
to Mary, 
the shepherds, 
and the women at the tomb.

God speaks it to you and I today.

Do not be afraid.

Whatever God is doing, 
we can trust Him.

Wherever God is leading, 
we can follow Him.

Whenever God is calling, 
we can answer Him with a resounding, "Yes, Lord!" -

because of Jesus.

Because Jesus was conceived in a young virgin,
because His birth was announced to shepherds on a hillside,
because He no longer is in the tomb,
but in Heaven,
sitting on the right side of God the Father,
we do not have to be afraid!

Maybe
this is the message of the angel:
the gospel of the Good News, proclaimed to the world.

Immanuel. 

God is with us. 

Jesus has come.

We have nothing to fear.


"Do not be afraid."~



~Stacy

Thursday, November 15, 2018

What a Gift~

I know God loves us all,
with a love
we can't even begin to fathom
or begin to understand.

And yet,
wouldn't you agree -
the way He loves us
so kindly, mercifully, and beautifully
in spite of who we are,
makes us feel
as though He loves us
best,
most?

I am always undone
by His goodness,
by His attention to my life,
by the faithful ones who answer His call
in regards to
simple, little ole me.

In April of 2017,
I was invited to speak at a women's event,
at a church several hours away.

To be asked to attend, a blessing.
To be asked to share my heart,
an honor and a privilege.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time
in the company
of these amazing ladies of faith.
I shared of the loss of my husband,
the loss of my ministry job
because of the loss of my husband,
and God's faithfulness through it all.

Arriving home,
I received an email from the lady
who had coordinated the event.

"Would you mind if we add you to our church prayer list?"

Of course, my answer was
"Yes, please do!"

A week or so later,
much to my surprise and delight,
(and heartfelt appreciation
that poured out of my heart
in the form of tears of thanksgiving)
a Prayer Gram arrived in my mailbox.

"Dear Stacy,
We want you to know that we prayed for you today out of love and concern.
We consider it a blessing and a privilege to do so.
May you experience God's presence, comfort, strength, and guidance in days to come."

The Prayer Gram was a bright and cheery
colored piece of paper.
Most precious of all -
it showcased the signatures
of each person who had prayed for me,
including the precious handwriting
of little ones new to holding a pen in hand,
but already familiar with the sacred honor and duty
of lifting up another in prayer.

What an amazing gift
this church had given me -
the gift of prayer.

Imagine my surprise,
when the following week,
another Prayer Gram arrived.

And the week after that.

And the week after that.

And the week after that.

On and on,
every single week,
week after week.

Including this week.

These precious prayer warriors         
are still praying for me,
eighty two weeks later!

Eighty two weeks later!

Every. single. week.

That they would take precious time
to pray for me, amazing.

That they would take precious time
(and spend precious postage!)
to mail me a Prayer Gram
so I know they did, amazing.

The fact that I am not forgotten,
that I haven't slipped from their minds,
that I am being lifted up
and held in their prayers -
still,
faithfully every week -
priceless indeed.

I know God loves us all,
but sometimes,
in times like this,
when week after week,
these precious Prayer Grams
arrive in my mailbox,
I can't help but think
of the way He loves me.

Thank you Trinity United Methodist Church,
from a heart blessed
beyond words.



~Stacy

Monday, November 12, 2018

Maybe If We Tried God's Design . . .

Grief is messy.

There is no other way around it.

And because it is,
society
(and the deepest part of us, too)
tries to skirt around it,
keep it neat and tidy,
sweep it up and away,
all out of sight -
as fast as new fallen leaves
are raked,
stuffed into trash bags,
and set out on the curb
to be picked up
and taken away.

Only,
God didn't design leaves
to be raked up
the moment they light upon
a perfectly manicured yard.
God didn't design leaves
to be raked up
at all.

Raking is man's idea.

When sin
(and then later, death)
came to the garden
that fateful day when Eve,
deceived by Satan,
took and ate the forbidden fruit,
God had a plan.

God had a purpose in it
and through it.

His ultimate plan:
Loving the world so much
He sent His only Son
to die on the cross,
and then be resurrected to life
so that you and I
can escape the chains of death
and experience life eternal
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

And yet,
in the Autumn season,
when leaves take on glorious color,
then fall to the ground
and begin to "break down" into the soil,
God has a plan and a purpose
in place here, too.

Nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium
are released back into the soil.
Earth worms,
which are so beneficial
to the health of our yard,
have a smorgasbord of leaf litter
to munch on and thrive on.
The soil structure,
made stronger by the addition of the leaves,
can absorb more water.
And, critters such as
box turtles, toads, and chipmunks,
have a blanket to shelter under.

Simply put,
fallen leaves are good for our ecosystems.

And yet,
because they are
messy,
unsightly,
and make us
(or our yard)
look less than "put together",
they are scooped up
and disposed of as soon as possible -
before they have a chance
to do the work
God intended for them to do.

Sadly,
I think far too often,
grief is handled
in much the same way.

And yet,
just like a leaf
is broken down
and morphed into something new -
something that -
if left to do its work -
can benefit the world around it,
loss and brokenness change us,
in a way
that through the power of God,
if given enough time
to do its work -
can benefit those in our world, too.

So often,
when we have experienced
significant loss or brokenness in our life,
society acts as though
we should be quick
to return to our "normal self".

But, how can we
when we are no longer
who we once were?

And yet, for the sake of society
and for the sake of looking "put together",
we put all our effort into trying
to "go back".

Only,
God didn't design our broken hearts
to be swept under the carpet of "normal"
or pushed back in to "life as usual"
the moment grief lights upon
a perfectly manicured life.

"Back to normal" is man's idea.

For in the grief process, itself, -
when the sting of death is felt,
and tears fall uncontrollably
(and often times, inconsolably)
God has a plan and a purpose
in place here, too.

A leaning into,
a drawing deeply from,
and a clearer revelation of God's presence
in our grief,
nourishes and strengthens our own relationship with God
in a way that changes us,
and possibly even changes those
watching us
walk through this season.

Our loss and brokenness
and the raw open wound it leaves,
stirs up in us
more compassion,
more sympathy and empathy,
more caring and responding
to those
walking through grief
with us or
after us.

A greater realization
of the brevity of life,
combined with our
"I wish I would have"
and "I wish I wouldn't have"
regrets and shortcomings,
cause us to live
more circumspectly,
more intentionally,
more passionately,
more selflessly,
more completely
which in turn
causes us to
love deeper,
serve greater,
and appreciate fonder,
our fellowman.

And,
possibly most precious of all,
the comfort we receive from His Spirit,
the peace that comes from His presence,
the joy He gives in the midst of,
and the hope we have in Jesus our Lord,
propels us to tell others about our God
like never before.
We know the difference Jesus makes
and we can't help but share Him with others.

Yes,
grief is messy.

There is no other way around it -
only through it.

And yet,
it is the going through it,
it is the allowing God to use it
to work in us and through us
that changes us more and more
into the likeness of God.

Maybe the better solution
is not to return to "normal",
to who we no longer are,
but to instead
walk with courage, grace, and honesty
into the person
God is helping us become
through this loss and brokenness -
unapologetic for our scars,
unashamed of our tears,
and untouched
by the unmet expectations of others.



~Stacy