More Hope Resurrection Sunday: Easter 2018

Easter

Photograph by Donna Harris

Dear God,

We are adopted by you into your forever grace and our lives are forever changed because you rescued us once and for all through your son, Jesus … yet you continue to rescue us again and again by making a way for us to escape and to break free from strongholds that want to devour and destroy the peace and joy that comes with being a child of the King.

How thankful I am that you are my heavenly father. How thankful I am to be named a child of God. You are so gracious and so very generous with lavishing your love upon your children. You love us unconditionally, inviting us to sit with you around your banquet table. We come filthy and wearing dirty clothes; and you wash the dirt from our feet and dress us in clean and pure garments of righteousness. You serve us bread that is broken by you and we eat of it until we are full and we drink of the living water you pour into our cup until it overflows.

I am reminded that our children are comforted by the unconditional love we give them. They are kept. We will never let go of them. How much more awesome it is to thank you, gracious God for never letting your children go … we are kept.

With a humble heart I praise and pray.

He is Risen 1

Photograph by Donna Harris of Lake Wylie, Charlotte, NC

The resurrection of Jesus changes everything! His death is the death of death, and His resurrection is the resurrection of all things. He died for our sins and is raised for our justification. Oh, the wonder, marvel and gratitude that fills our hearts today. We are forgiven, we are beloved, and we are His!

Easter post 2015

Photograph by Donna Harris

“Getting found almost always means being lost for a while … Easter says that love is more powerful than death, bigger than the dark, bigger than cancer, bigger even than airport security lines.” ― Anne Lamott, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace

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Photograph by Donna Harris

“Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.” ― Mary Oliver

An Easter morning painting  

Snippets of Posts and Quotes | Take 4

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The Hardest Peace | Mundane Faithfulness

I often fail, I’m often found in weakness and brokenness, but through it all I am met- always met in love. This is not simply my story and journey with cancer. It is a book written to appeal to us all as we meet the bitter edges of life on this side of eternity. In the brokenness of our unmet expectations of life, will we look for Jesus and His abundant love? Or will we tumble into bitterness and anger that leave us utterly self focused and disappointed by the hard in our story each of us are asked to receive. —Kara Tippetts  http://www.mundanefaithfulness.com

On being healed of being a big deal | Deeper Story

I’m learning to take those moments, called “small humiliations”, as gifts.  http://deeperstory.com/on-being-healed-of-being-a-big-deal/  —

Don’t ever hide your joy | The Beautiful Due

There’ll be days when you’re on high beam joy. Shine on, unapologetically. But if you’re flesh and blood, there’ll be days when you dim your lights a little because you’re having a crappy day or you know someone else is having a crappy day. You can still shine on those days, its just a little dimmer and that’s perfectly alright, sometimes even quite inviting. —John Blase http://thebeautifuldue.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/lucky-2/

Study: Working moms’ stress levels linked to ‘mental labor’ | Fox News

“A reminder of the incredible stresses working moms try to manage. A reminder for grace.” http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/08/13/study-working-moms-stress-levels-linked-to-mental-labor/ —Fox News

 The Path Through Pain | Recovery Room

“Pause and consider: in a truthful moment, do you have areas of your life plague with unnerving, breath-quickening, near-crippling anxiety?”   http://deeperstory.com/recovery-room-the-path-through-pain/  —Seth Haines

For anyone who has ever felt alone | Journey Box Media

“With You (I Feel Again)” reflects on how easy it is to be lonely in a crowd. Set to the platinum hit single, “Feel Again” by OneRepublic. Best Video: http://journeyboxmedia.com/with-you  —journeyboxmedia.com

Poetic black and white watercolors | Bored Panda

Linger here. http://www.boredpanda.com/animals-children-black-and-white-watercolor-art-elicia-edijanto/

10 self-defeating thoughts that can wreck your workout | Today

Think of yourself as an inspiration story just waiting to happen. http://www.today.com/health/10-self-defeating-thoughts-can-wreck-your-workout-1D80342643  —today.com/health

Foggy and Fine Days | Barnstorming

The weather and my mood have little connection.I have my foggy and my fine days within me; my prosperity or misfortune has little to do with the matter. (Blaise Pascal) Being lost in the fog is never forever. The sun is always up there somewhere and all will be fine. —Emily Polis Gibson  https://briarcroft.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/foggy-and-fine-days/

When Christmas Joy Becomes Sorrow Becomes Hope

Christmas tree

Well, hello 2015! So grateful to welcome the first Monday of a new year. A new year of adventures for our family and another year of meeting new friends to share our adventures with. All of us on separate journeys, each with different stories to live out, yet through our family and friendships, our stories take on the shape of God’s providence, weaved and held together by strands of grace, hemmed in behind and before by his unstoppable love and relentless mercy. (Psalm 139:5)

When Christmas joy …

The year of 2014 neared its end with an awesome Christmas Eve celebration at our church and a wonderful Christmas morning with just the two of us, my husband and I. And we actually had a fun time! I was quite surprised by that since it was our first year we were apart from family. We were hoping for a white Christmas but instead we had Indiana sunshine that is bright as a grey wool blanket. To be honest, I was struggling to feel the joy of Christmas this year and my grumbling about the circumstances that prevented us from traveling didn’t help either. I soon realized I was substituting family to experience real joy instead of reveling in the glad tidings of great joy, for unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given. Isaiah says, “Once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder…” (Isaiah 29:14). An outrageous wonder of sacrificial love… Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to all the earth. There was much joy!

Redeemer Christmas Eve

Photo credit: Chuck Horn, Christmas Eve, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN

 When Christmas joy becomes sorrow …

We received a phone call informing us of sad news that a member of our family passed away unexpectedly Christmas morning. The harsh brutal bite of reality hurt, leaving an open wound of unsettling grief. I read that death is a thief whose robbery is profoundly felt during holidays. We pray our family will believe that God will never stop pouring out his grace upon them. God keeps track of all their sorrows, collects all their tears in his bottle for he has recorded each one in his book. (Psalm 56:8)

When Christmas joy becomes sorrow becomes hope …

It is hard to find hope on your own. At least I think so. I’ve never been strong enough to pull myself up by my bootstraps. I need others to remind me that joy will come in the morning. I should be reminded of God’s promises and assurance of a living hope through Christ. Here are a few quotes (and Bible verses) that have helped me to understand that it is God’s grace that joy springs out of sorrow and sorrow grows into hope.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This living hope is our hope of salvation that includes an imperishable inheritance. The new life that we have in Christ is something that can never be taken away. (I Peter 1:3-4)

When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for this world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks. [1]

We are not the Author of our story. We are the characters. [2]

Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you…We can trust God, because the biblical story will help us endure when our own little stories seem confusing and we feel forsaken. And we can pray, as Job did. Though filled with anguish and despair, Job continued to wrestle with God—unlike his friends, who talked about God but never really knew him. In that story, God reveals himself to be almighty and approachable, transcendent and personal, and the ultimate answer to suffering. [3]

Our stories are different, our journeys are different, but to keep on keeping on, in hope, is our deepest vocation, whoever we are, wherever we live, whatever we do. [4]

Behold, I am making all things new. (Revelation 21:5)

[1] Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts | [2] Kara Tippetts, The Hardest Peace | [3] Tim Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering | [4] Dr. Steven Garber, The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture

Snippets of Posts and Quotes: Take 3

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LOVE  IN  ACTION :

“The church needs to be the safest place on earth for children from hard places and for the families called to love and care for them.” —Michael Monroe

COMPASSION:

“We have a large and growing team of compassionate, respectful, Christ-following volunteers who love to see God work in the lives of those who learn differently.”  —Irving Bible Church special needs ministry

TRUE  MISSION:

“You cannot have true mission while ignoring the disabled! They too, are marred by sin, they too need to be told of the beauty of salvation, they too need to be our mission, they too are the church.” —Tim Challies   (http://www.challies.com/articles/the-disabilities-dilemma)

SUFFERING:

“I have thanked thee a thousand times for my roses, but not once for my thorn. I have been looking forward to a world where I shall get compensation for my cross, but I have never thought of my cross as itself a present glory. Thou divine love, whose human path has been perfected through sufferings, teach me the glory of my cross and the value of my thorn.”  George Matheson

GRACE:

“The early church didn’t say, “Look what the world is coming to!” They said, “Look what has come into the world!”  —Carl F. Henry

CHARACTER:

“All of us have wondered at times why God doesn’t do more to fix our problems. But our human eyes often fail to see that God isn’t rushing to change our circumstances because he is concerned with a much more serious problem—our character. While you struggle with the woes of this world, God’s main occupation is preparing you for the world to come. The focus of what God is doing in your life takes place in you, not around you” — Andy Stanley

 IMMEASURABLE  VALUE:

“One of the topics we discussed frequently, as we journeyed from city to city, was the value of every human being. Not because of who we are, or what we do. But because of Whose we are, and what He has done for us. By endowing us with His image, God has imparted to us immeasurable value. As Professor Jerram Barrs from Covenant Seminary says, we should learn to look at every human being and say, “You are glorious!” We ought to see the goodness, truth and beauty of God in every person we meet. One way I like to think of the image of God is that it is like a mirror. We image God in the ways that we reflect the essence of His character through our God-given capacities. But the problem is this: because we live in a fallen/broken world, the mirror is cracked. We have cracked bodies, cracked spirits, cracked emotions, cracked minds, and cracked relationships. So here is the challenge: What will you and I focus on? Will we focus on the cracks? The brokenness? The marred aspects of the image? Or will we focus on the reflection—distorted as it may be?” — Stephanie O. Hubach  (http://specialneedsparenting.net/open-eyes/)

CHILDREN’S  MINISTRY:

“What the future of children’s ministry needs most for success is a return to an emphasis on the study of and teaching of the word of God, and less on making ministry easy for volunteers, attractive to families and processing large groups of children through fun environments. That hasn’t produced disciples who will walk  with Jesus for life. The future doesn’t need more technology – it needs deeper and better relationships. If technology can foster more connectivity or methods of relating, fantastic! But to often we look to the future as though it has some new things we need for success, when the truth is we already have everything we need.” — Karl Bastian

Snippets of Posts and Quotes: Take 2

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GOSPEL-HUMILITY:

“If we were to meet a truly humble person, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble. They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.” — Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness

GRACE:

“Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unloveable. Grace doesn’t make demands. It just gives. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver. It is one-way love.” — Tullian TchividjianOne Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World

UNCOMFORTABLE  GRACE:

“God will take you where you haven’t intended to go in order to produce in you what you couldn’t achieve on your own.”         — Paul Tripp

FAITH:

Bono: Who is Jesus? A rockstar talks about Jesus, faith and prayer.

PRAYER:

“A praying life is interconnected with every part of our lives. Learning to pray is almost identical to maturing over a lifetime. When life makes sense, it becomes a journey, a spiritual adventure. Writing down the adventure as it happens gives us a feel for our place in the story God is weaving in our lives. When we keep a prayer journal, we can reflect on what God is doing, on the patterns of our Father’s care instead of reacting to life. If we see our lives as a pilgrimage, then it becomes an integrated whole. It makes sense. When we understand the story, it quiets our souls. It’s okay to have a busy life. It’s crazy to have busy soul.”

KNOWLEDGE:

“…There are some who long to know, simply for the sake of knowing, and that is shameful curiosity. Others long to know to show off before others, and that is shameful vanity. There are others who long for knowledge to make a fat profit from it, or to make honors from it; and this is shameful profiteering. But there are those who long to know in order to be of service to others; and this is charity…” — Bernard of Clairvaux

GOODNESS:

‘His sovereignty is exercised in a way of grace. All shall work together for good; everything is needful that He sends; nothing can be needful that He withholds.”  — John Newton, Puritan Sermons

FAITHFUL:

“The word faithful can be illustrated by the image of the strong arms of a father that uphold and protect his helpless child. When the word faithful is used with regard to God, it means that He is worthy of absolute trust, and that we can depend upon Him without doubt or reservation. It is important to understand that God is faithful, not because He does everything we want, but because He does everything that He has promised.” — Paul Washer, The One True God

LEADERSHIP:

“Leadership is the lifting of a man’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a man’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a man’s personality beyond its normal limitations.” — Peter Drucker 

CHILDREN’S  MINISTRY:

“Everybody needs someone who knows their name, and what’s happening in their life.”  — Lead Small

CONVERSATION:

“I believe that folks who are de-churched or seemingly apathetic toward Christianity are sending the church a clear message. They want us to demonstrate how a book written several thousand years ago could possibly have something to say to them in this day and age. I think we owe them that much, don’t you? …I think that real people talking about real faith in a relevant way is what makes sense in the real world.” — Doug Pollock, God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally

Snippets of Posts and Quotes: Take 1

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The following are a few snippets of posts and quotes to ponder that I’ve saved from reading books and blogs. I use Evernote  to save information I collect from books, articles, blog posts and more. Evernote is like a digital file drawer. I wrote a post about being an “Evernote Junkie” and you can check it out here. I clicked through the notebooks in Evernote to select a few that I thought would be worth sharing as you move forward into 2014.  Scroll the cursor over the name of the author for a link to the blog or book.

CHRIST-LIKENESS:

“You will not stroll into Christ-likeness with your hands in your pockets, shoving the door open with a careless shoulder. This is no hobby for one’s leisure moments, taken up at intervals when we have nothing much to do, and put down and forgotten when our life grows full and interesting… It takes all one’s strength, and all one’s heart, and all one’s mind, and all one’s soul, given freely and recklessly and without restraint.”  A. J. Gossip

LIFE:

“Hard stops for prayer, rest so you can have the rest of God. Unplug to plug into your purpose. It’s the everyday, not the every now and then…We are all going to botch it somedays. We all sometimes get the notes wrong. But the song only goes wrong when we keep thinking back to the wrong notes…When a piece starts to fall apart — fall forward. Fall forward into the next bar. Moving forward is what makes music.“ Ann Voskamp

STRESS:

“Stress is the inappropriate response to a stimulus. Do our hearts provide a home for stress? You are no doubt completely aware of the concept of stress in your own life, but perhaps are not looking at its insinuative manner. What idols lie in waiting? I would propose that we sit down, often and for longer periods of time, and let Jesus shine a light in our hearts on the idols we harbor. His love, kindness, and desire for us to be whole will reveal what lies deep within and does not belong. He will haul these idols out and turn our affections toward him.” Greg Gelburd



 

LEADERSHIP:

“The kind of people who oppose things as a matter of course often don’t have an alternative vision…Opponents generally don’t possess a vision for the future, only a vision for the past which is an impossible vision…Leaders who attack people rather than problems are a very different breed. They can leave a trail of bodies in their wake..You will never look back with regret if you remain generous and kind to people who are not kind to you…When you listen to the loudest voices, you miss the most important voices…Decide whether you will focus on who you want to reach or who you want to keep.”  Carey Nieuwhof

FORGIVENESS AND HOLINESS:

“The grace of Jesus doesn’t just work to make you comfortable before God (forgiveness), it works to make you like him (holiness).”  Paul David Tripp

ASTONISHING:

“Never believe anything about yourself or God that makes His grace to you seem anything less than astonishing. Because that’s exactly what it is.”  Randy Alcorn

CHILDREN’S MINISTRY:

“That’s where I met Jesus, Daddy! Can we go to church again sometime so I can see Jesus again sometime?” Quinn, a three-year old

PEACE:

“Whatever disrupts our peace….unexpected news, heartbreak, daily interruptions, or even tragedy, His peace is available and it’s worth fighting for. We can walk through anything and He promises peace in His presence. Breathe in his presence, exhale peace.”  Godschick.net

SPECIAL NEEDS: 

“When the church attempts to function without all of its parts, the body of Christ becomes disabled.Same Lake, Different Boat is a transformational work–designed to renew our minds to think biblically about disability in order that our lives, our relationships, and our congregations might wholly reflect Christ.” Stephanie O. Hubach

PARENTING: 

“God is at work telling a story of restoration and redemption through your family. Never buy into the myth that you need to become the “right kind” of parent before God can use you in your children’s lives. Instead learn to cooperate with whatever God desires to do in your heart today so your children will have a front-row seat to the grace and goodness of God.” Reggie Joiner

WORSHIP:

“It is easy to see that you and I have been created to worship. We’re flat-out desperate for it. From sports fanaticism to celebrity tabloids to all the other strange sorts of voyeurism normative in our culture, we evidence that we were created to look at something beyond ourselves and marvel at it, desire it, like it with zeal, and love it with affection. Our thoughts, our desires, and our behaviors are always oriented around something, which means we are always worshiping — ascribing worth to — something. If it’s not God, we are engaging in idolatry. But either way, there is no way to turn the worship switch in our hearts off…Trying to figure out God is like trying to catch a fish in the Pacific Ocean with an inch of dental floss…God does not regret saving you. There is no sin which you commit which is beyond the cross of Christ.”  Matt Chandler

GRACE:

“As 2014 progresses, open the eyes of our hearts to see all these glorious riches more clearly that we might enjoy them more fully (Ephesians.1:18-19). We rest and rejoice, in your covenant and capacity to keep us from falling. Though we may falter in the journey, the grasp of your grace is steady and secure.” Scotty Smith

 

A Stumble and a Bumble

Stumble and Bumble
She pulls open the bottom drawer of the dresser and searches for the “colorful bathing suit” to put on. The black and white swim suit will not do. It must be the colorful one. “Let’s go to the pool, Gigi!” Already at three years of age, she talks about being on a swim team one day.

Out the door she bounds…walking too fast, slightly unsteady on the top step. Down she goes! Thankfully there are only two wooden steps to stumble and bumble over, plus there was a thick carpet remnant on the concrete floor of the garage, a cushion for her forehead and nose. After a good cry, lots of hugs and comforting, I prayed with her and thanked God that she wasn’t hurt badly and especially for that cushion of carpet. While driving to the pool,  she said, “Gigi, I did a stumble and a bumble but I’m okay.”

Don’t we all stumble and bumble! And we all want to be okay.  We stumble with anger, anxiety, envy, resentment, self-pity, disgust, or frustration. We bumble through discouragement, lust, irritability, impatience, hard-heartedness, brusqueness, unkindness, or withdrawnness. [1] We hope for a cushion of carpet to break our fall.

And you know…we can be more than, “Okay.”

This is what we must do. We must read and know and think and believe that it is trusting in the blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to cover the stumbling and conquer the bumbling. This is the only way we will be more than okay.

I read the book of Jude today. It’s not long…just 25 verses. Here is verse 24:

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.

How awesome is that?  One day I will stop stumbling and bumbling…but not today. John Piper is wise when he wrote, “Whether you are in your twenties or sixties, you probably have some long-standing heart-responses you don’t like. These are like reflexes. You don’t choose them. They spring up unintentionally from your heart, usually in response to the people around you. When any one of these attitudes springs up unbidden, you hate it. You have fought it for years with gospel-faithfulness, trusting in the blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to cover it and conquer it. Still it returns. You weep over it, and ask your closest friends to pray for you. There is a short season of reprieve. And there it is again stamping you. Telling you: This is who you are. You say no. In Christ, this is not who I am. His stamp is on my life. True. But O you would be done with this! O to be new, through and through!” [2]

So the key is not to give up. I’m sure God has reasons for why he allows us to fight so long, but he never intends us to give up on Scripture. [1]  Don’t give up when you stumble and bumble.

God’s designs are to bring a surprising verse into your heart in a surprising moment in a surprising situation and do a surprising work of transformation. [2]

Expect a “cushion of carpet!” God’s word is there to break your fall.

Footnotes

[1] See 2 Timothy 3:16-17 │ [2] Is There a Key to Godliness? by John Piper