You Can Get Back Up Again

Who had a Bozo the Clown blow-up bop bag? did. I remember being so fascinated by how quickly he bounced back up. So much so, I would give him my best shot or 50 and he always bounced back….unless he was low on air and then he wouldn’t bounce back as quickly.

Have you had the wind knocked out of sails? Have you been blind-sighted or sucker-punched? Have there been times when you just wanted to go far, far away to a deserted island and never come back? Or maybe you just want hermit away in your house and never come out? You certainly didn’t feel like bouncing back and getting up on your feet again and facing the world with all of its uncertainties. I certainly have faced times like these.

So, how do you bounce back when you’re punched again and again and again? The first thing to remember is that you’re not the only one. There are many people in this world and many suffer from heartaches and disappointments, many of them are far greater than yours. That doesn’t mean yours aren’t real. They are real. Your pain is real. Your heartache is real. Your sorrow is real. Even the apostle Paul did not discount pain and suffering. He just had a different perspective. His perspective was quite simple and yet profound, “Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice” Philippians 4:4 (KJV) I believe what he is saying is that our response to difficult situations is to recognize that God is Sovereign and He is in control. Rejoice in the fact that He is God and He is good.

Does that mean we cannot question or doubt his goodness? Absolutely not. If that were the case my doubts would have never lead me to the place of understanding that God is sovereign above all things. God loves an honest doubter and in time He will reveal Himself to you if you’re honest about your doubts and you seek Him.

The second thing is to keep in mind that your suffering has a time limit. It will not last forever. Will it go away before you die? I don’t know. Only God knows the answer to that but one day, all pain and suffering will come to a screeching halt. Gone forever. How do I know this? The Bible tells me so, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (NIV). This life and all of its sorrows, trials, and pain are just temporary.

Thirdly, know that you have a friend in Jesus. He knows all about you. He understands everything you’re going through. He came not only to dwell among us but to understand us. Hebrews 4:15 says it like this, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—-yet he did not sin.” (NIV) So, if you’re struggling to grapple with whatever you are facing and you do not think anyone understands, knows, and believes that Jesus does. This will change your life. As the psalmist says, in Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (NIV)He is always present. Always stands ready to help. And He is always near.

Don’t run away from the things that threaten to take you down because in time you can bounce back again. Sometimes you may bounce back more quickly than others but don’t be discouraged because You are not alone and you will get up again.

The Legacy She’s Leaving

As I read the words Paul penned in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him (Christ) who gives me strength.” I simply cannot think of a better story to share.

If you look at the preceding verses you will see that Paul is talking about this as being the very secret that he learned of being content. In every circumstance, whether in plenty or need this is how you become content, fix your mind on Jesus, and know that He is the source of your strength.

So, this is a picture of Aunt Trisha and Uncle Onald. They were married in February of 1966, in a double wedding ceremony with my Mom and Dad.

In 1969 they moved from Brevard to Winston Salem. Uncle Onald began his career as a license examiner and she began her 23-year career with RJ Reynolds.

By 1974, they bought their first and only house located on the outskirts of Winston Salem in Advance. God did not choose to bless them with children of their own; however, He did bless them with nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews to dote and love on.

My four children were the main recipients of their love and care. Every summer or break my children had from school, Aunt Trisha and Uncle Onald would take one of my children for a week at a time. It was their special week to eat anything and do whatever they wanted. My children always came home happy and eager to return when it was their time to go.

Over the years, they traveled with groups and alone and with my grandparents to various destinations. Dollywood was one of their favorite locations and they traveled there often until a few years ago when she began having issues with her knees.

For many years, they came regularly to Brevard to help take care of their ailing parents.

Last year in August they were called to Brevard for Uncle Onald’s twin brother, Donald. Hospice had been called in and he was rapidly declining.

Around mid-September, Uncle Onald began experiencing problems swallowing. An endoscopy and biopsy revealed that he had Esophageal cancer. He too had an inoperable mass/tumor in his esophagus. And so, the arduous chemotherapy began in October. The chemotherapy was not effective in his situation and with Aunt Trisha by his side, he passed away on December 20, 2020, at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital.

After his unexpected death, one would expect devastation. But not Aunt Trisha, she had watched his fast and steady decline. She’s said over and over, “Oh, I am so grateful that God chose to call him home. I miss him but I know that I couldn’t have taken care of him at home.”

Now, this brings me back to the point of this writing. Much like Paul, Aunt Trisha has learned the secret of being content in all circumstances. She knows that her strength comes from the Lord and she knows that she “can do all things through Christ who strengthens (her).”

What a remarkable legacy she has and is displaying in her life. It’s one I don’t want to soon forget.

Was it worth it? …..Absolutely

This was originally posted on April 5, 2019, but stories like these are meant to be told and retold. For me, it’s such a great reminder of how lucky I have been to have such a great story to share.

I’ve been avoiding this post like the plague. A few weeks ago when God began churning my heart, I told Him, “Not now”. Yes, like I’ve said before delayed obedience is disobedience and I disobeyed.

I think as I write you will see why I avoided writing. However, the urge is so great within me, I can no longer resist.

As you know my biological father died when I was 7. He died from Melanoma and you can read some of his stories in my blog post, My sweetest sorrow.

Now, we are at another crossroads with cancer. My stepfather, Ned. He was diagnosed 18 months ago with Stage 4 Atypical Non-small cell adenocarcinoma lung cancer. It sucks. I’m just not going to sugarcoat anything about it.

A few months back, well technically a few years ago God began to stir this thought and idea about these two men I have had to privilege of calling Dad.

First, you must understand the first to understand the second.

Mack, my dad, had a strong enduring faith in God. He hoped beyond all hope that one day a cure for Melanoma would be discovered. Knowing full well it would not be in his lifetime, he allowed the doctors at Baptist Hospital (Wake Forest) to try new treatments on him. He was their guinea pig. His philosophy and mindset were to aid in the research and help others in the future.

Another thing to understand about my dad is that he never shied away from sharing his faith. He firmly grasped and held tight to his belief in Jesus. He had strong convictions about sharing his faith and the above picture is a treasure straight out of his Bible. He desired to see that no one would perish without knowing Jesus. His chief goal in life.

I believe that through his death his chief goal was reached and realized. When Jesus tells us in John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Bear with me while I explain.

When Mom and Ned began dating Ned wasn’t living out a full life with Christ at the center. He had made a profession of faith but wasn’t living a life reflective of Christ.

As their relationship began to grow so did his love for Jesus. Eventually leading up to his rededication. In perfect Ned style, it was not a haphazard decision, it was done with intent and passion. A decision he will tell you was the best choice he ever made aside from marrying my Mom.

The reality here is that without my dad having died, Ned may have never been able to experience the blessed life that only Jesus can give. If you ask Mack if it was worth dying for he would say, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

—————–—————

That was the original post from September 11, 2017.

When I wrote these words, Ned was still with us and it would only be another six weeks until God would call him Home. Today marks 43 years since my Daddy has been in Heaven. In the past, this particular day has been such a painful hard day, but not today. What’s different?

My attitude. What I’ve realized with both Daddy and Ned was they were willing to embrace the process, to endure the pain to receive the victory. They both knew the earth was their temporary dwelling and they both knew where they were going. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross?

His soul agonized over having to endure the cross. He begged God for another way. When He knew there was no other way, He simply said, ”Not my will but yours” At this point, He embraced the process. He endured the cross. And when he spoke, ”It is finished” is His declaration of victory.

You will never get to the victory of the cross without enduring the pain and you’ll never be able to endure the pain without embracing the process.

I found this devotion in my Dad’s Bible. I wonder if it was something he had before his diagnosis or if he found it later. I don’t know the answer but what I know is that He bravely witnessed for the Lord and many lives were changed…….mine included.

He Knew and He Knows….All Things

Today, as I was reading through the evening dinner of the Last Supper a few key points, jumped out at me again. And again I find myself more and more amazed with the way that God reveals Himself to me. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve read through the passages of scripture and I’ve never seen these things. Was I not looking for them? I don’t think that’s the case. I think God reveals things He wants us to discover when the time is right and I also think it has to do with the condition of my heart.

For reference, I read John 13 today and it the story most of us are very familiar with and the greatest act of love Jesus exemplified before His death. The washing of the disciple’s feet. But today as I was reading through this passage, the words, “Jesus knew” or “He knew” were repeated quite a few times. The first time is in John 13:1, “Jesus knew that his hour had come for him to depart out of this world to the Father…”. The second time in verse 3, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” The next time in verse 11, “For he (Jesus) knew who was going to betray him.” And then there’s inference that Jesus knew in John 13:36 when He tells Peter that he will deny Him three times before the rooster crows.

When I think about the fact that Jesus knew all of these things and yet He didn’t use his power or position to make himself look great. He did not make Himself a hero. He didn’t strike Judas dead. He didn’t call Peter a fool. What He did was the most profound act of kindness and servanthood imaginable. He washed their dirty feet. He washed the feet of the one who would betray him. The one who called him a friend to his face and would backstab him later. He washed the feet of the one who would deny him, not once, twice but three times. He washed the feet of the one, Thomas, who would doubt Him. He washed all of their feet and He knew all things about them. And then He gives them this command, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 NIV. You see, three years earlier Jesus had invited these men to follow Him and now He’s leaving behind the most remarkable example of humility and compassion for them to follow and for us as well. Serve others. Treat them with kindness and compassion, even those who’ve wronged you.

Beyond this, Jesus is also teaching us that we cannot clean ourselves up, only He can do that. When Peter tells Jesus not to wash his feet, Jesus responds, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” John 13:8 You see, Peter didn’t want Jesus to touch his dirt and grime. It was so gross to him that he could not even imagine Jesus, the Teacher, the Messiah, touching his filth; but you see that’s why Jesus came and that’s why He wants us to come to Him in our humble, shameful, and dirty messes so that He can wash us clean. Don’t miss the greatest invitation that Jesus is giving you because you think you’re too filthy and dirty. (There was a time when I felt the same way) Follow Him. Give your heart to Him. He already knows all about you and He loves you anyway.

Happy Birthday, Daddy

Fragments. Slivers. Bits, pieces and memories of a seven-year-old child. That’s all I have and yet what a profound and powerful impact they have on me. Your smile. Your strong arms. Your eyes. Your firm but gentle ways. You’ve been gone much longer than you lived but your legacy continues to live. Sometimes I wonder how can this be? How can a man’s life of 36 years continue to have an impact on others 46 years later and especially mine?

I believe that your simple “yes” to God made all the difference. I have no clue at what age you put your faith in Jesus as Lord, what I do know, is that you lived according to His Word.

Did you question the goodness of God when you received the diagnosis of Melanoma at age 30? Did you wonder what in the world God was doing because you had an almost-two-year-old with another child on the way? Did you ask why me? Did you ever get angry?

Maybe there were times when you questioned God but I believe most of the time you just completely believed in the sovereignty of Almighty God and you knew for certain that He had all things held together. You knew that your healing would ultimately come from God. He would perform an earthly miracle or He would heal you in Heaven.

Do you know why I believe this? Because I think held fast to Psalm 23. You knew for certain that you were safe in the arms of your Shepherd. You knew that He would take you to green pastures and lead you beside the still waters, even amid pain and agony. You knew he would lead you in paths of righteousness by allowing you opportunity after opportunity to share your faith, for His name’s sake. You knew and realized that death was only a shadow and shadows cannot hurt you. It was just passing through to eternal life with Jesus. He was there all the while protecting you and comforting you. You knew the table He prepared was bountiful and plentiful even though the enemy tried to steal your joy; you continued to be joyful despite the pain. Your cup continued to overflow. And you could believe this because of the goodness and mercy following you all the days of your life. God blessed you with an amazing family, great parents, siblings, and friends. God’s mercy allowed you six additional years from the onset of the diagnosis allowing you to witness the birth of your third child, the only son. And for 46 years you have dwelt in the house of the Lord and you will continue to be there forever.

Year after year it never ceases to amaze me at how much your life continues to impact mine. Thank you for being faithful to the Lord. Thank you for saying “yes” to His call. Thank you for holding fast to His Word.

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Lessons On Change

If y’all know me, you know that I think a bit on the abstract at times. Let’s just face it I am weird and I know it. Just ask my tribe. They’ll tell you. For example, Alex makes fun of me because, in the latter part of fall, I begin to count the days until December 21. December 21 marks the winter solstice or the shortest period of daylight hours. Why? Because I know as soon as December 21 comes and goes my daylight hours will increase. Also, I know that June 20 marks the beginning of summer and the longest period of daylight for the year. Early dawns. Late sunsets. Long summer days. Short nights. To get through the long winter nights I need to remind myself that spring is on its way, summer and fall will surely follow.

Fall just happens to be one of my favorite times of the year, even though the daylight hours get shorter. The colors of fall. The smells of fall. The sounds of fall. It reminds me of days gone by, times when life was a bit more carefree. Raking leaves into heaping mounds only to jump in and scatter them again. Bobbing for apples. A piping hot pumpkin latte and conversing with friends. Painting or carving pumpkins. Roasting pumpkin seeds. Watching my children run and play for hours with leaves crackling beneath their feet, tossing leaves high into the air and chasing after them. Fall festivals. Trick-or-treating with our kids. Family gatherings. Football games. Campfires. Bonfires. Hayrides. Apple pie. Pumpkin bread. Fall is a time for friends and family and making lasting memories.

Last year as I watching the leaves turn, I began to wonder, “Does change hurt the trees?” Because curious minds need to know and I know how much change hurts me. So I began to do a little research and I discovered some amazing facts. First of all, the shorter hours of daylight in the fall are a signal that the leaf needs to prepare for winter and they stop producing chlorophyll, which is what gives leaves their green color. Each leaf inside has its pigment and this is what produces the color in fall. The trees know to take its nutrient from the leaves but when the leaves stop being productive they dry up and fall off. Another reason the leaves dry up and fall off is to protect the tree during the harsh winter months of rain, ice, and snow. In other words, sometimes the leaves should dry up and fall. The good news is that in spring as the days lengthen, the trees know it’s time to start production once again.

This may be elementary for some of you but it was enlightening for me.

It teaches me that I need to view change from a different perspective and vantage point. Change is sometimes very predictable as in the case with seasons. Change is sometimes hard but necessary. Change is sometimes harsh. Change is sometimes as highly unpredictable as the weather, especially mountain weather. Ask the meteorologists, sometimes they make an educated guess at best. Change is sometimes cyclical. Change is sometimes lasting for example the loss of a loved one. There will always be a void that will never go away. Change is sometimes necessary for growth. Change will always be hard for me because change makes me vulnerable. It makes me feel out of control of both my circumstances and my emotions. Both of which I like to control.

However, as much as I dislike change if I’ll remember this lesson: While the leaves provide nutrients for the tree during the spring, summer and fall, it is the root system that provides nutrients, anchoring and the storing of food during the process of photosynthesis. The root system really provides everything the tree needs for survival and regrowth in the spring. The same is true with me. I can withstand the seasons of change if I am deeply rooted in Jesus and know that He provides me with everything I need.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that send out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year or drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

He Is There…He is with You

To be honest, I wrote this five years ago and it never ceases to amaze me how timely God is. I needed this reminder today and maybe you do as well.

So many people I know have been going through some very significant storms in their lives. For some it’s financial, others relational, illness, others loss of loved ones, and others emotional.

As I have been praying for these dear ones, God continues to remind me that He is with us in our storm. We may not see him but He is there and He will come to our rescue but only when the time is right and always just at the right time.

This picture keeps coming to mind for several reasons. Let me share the story behind it.

Mount Arbel is the place where Jesus retreated to go pray, while he sent his disciples on ahead of him, on the Sea of Galilee, to Bethsaida. While the disciples were on a the sea, a squall or significant storm came. They were terrified. Jesus watched from the mountain top. He knew they were in the storm. He knew they were afraid. He knew they needed Him but He also knew they needed to go through the storm. (Mark 6:45-52)

Rick Warren says, “He’s letting you go through this storm for the same reasons he sent the disciples into the storm — to say, ‘I’m all you need. I can handle anything. I will come to you in the ninth hour. And I’ll come walking on the very thing that scares you the most. I’m not asking you to come to me. I’m going to come to you. You need to stop being afraid, and you need to totally trust me in faith.”

Look at this picture of Amy taken from Mount Arbel. The most fascinating fact about this is that from Mount Arbel you can see the entire Sea of Galilee. Just a great reminder that Jesus sees the whole picture. He sees all that life is throwing at us and He will come to us in our storm. We must believe in Him.

My Love-Hate Relationship with Weeds

Weeds. Annoying. Unsightly. Stubborn. The things that drive me insane but at the same time have become my therapy. During the quarantine when I needed an outlet, I could always excuse myself to go pick weeds. Sometimes for thirty minutes and other times for an hour or more. The beauty of having healthy Bermuda grass is that the weeds are very easy to spot. However, some are so dang stubborn I use a screwdriver to dig them up (It’s a great way tool to use).

Considering we’ve had torrential downfalls this past week, not only did the grass grow the weeds did as well. On Wednesday afternoon I noticed how prominently the weeds were on full display in our yard. It was as if they were screaming, “A few days of rain and no picking bring us out.” If it hadn’t been still raining I probably would’ve gone out to pick the weeds right then. But like a lot of things these days, I had to wait, a great exercise in patience, which has never been a very strong virtue.

Thursday afternoon when I arrived home, the rain had finally subsided and the sun was peering through the clouds. Considering a few hours had passed without rain, I decided it was a good time to go mow the grass and pick those pesky weeds. It took twice as long for me to mow because I was picking weeds with almost every swipe. Fortunately, most of the weeds came up easily due to ground saturation. There were some that wanted to hold on for dear life and others that refused to move at all without the aid of my trusty screwdriver.

After the mowing was complete, I stood back to observe my work. The grass not only looked better, but weeds also were not screaming at me. Did I get every single weed? No. I did get the vast majority.

I am learning that my life is much like those pesky unsightly weeds. There are weeds that pop up all the time. It may be in the form of anger, bitterness, sadness, hurt, disappointment, loneliness…..you get the idea. As those things surface, I can do a few things:

I can leave the weeds alone and allow them to continue to grow. If I do, their roots will grow deeper and they will be much more difficult to remove. Plus they get more unsightly.

I can pluck the tops and leave the root. If I leave the root, the weed will resurface.

I can pull the weed, root and all; even if I have to use my digging tool. Chances are if I pull it from the root, the weed will not resurface. It has been dealt with.

The greatest thing about being able to deal with these weeds in my life is that I am learning to have a healthy relationship with God through His Word. It is much easier to see these weeds surface. Sometimes, I would rather not deal with these weeds. Far to often, they’ve been a part of my life for a very long time and that means that their roots are embedded deeply and they are much harder to remove. While their removal is harder and sometimes a lot more painful, God’s Word brings health and healing.

Again I am reminded that I have NOT arrived as a Christian. My life is a work in progress. God is patient with me and I have to be patient with myself. I will not rid myself of all the weeds but with God’s help and through His Word, I can deal with things as they come to the surface.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 ESV

It’s Your Graduation Day

Dear Amy,

Today is your graduation from college day! Wow! You made it. You overcame some great obstacles and you finished well, both on the field and in the classroom. I know this is not the Pomp and Circumstance we were hoping for, but it doesn’t make us any less proud of your accomplishments and the way you held together through some very adverse situations throughout your college years. You have endured well.

I will never forget about four weeks into your Freshman year, I was feeling pretty low. I was missing you. Maybe not missing you as much as the activity that always surrounded you. I had been asking God for quite some time to grow our relationship to a deeper level. That day, you called me and you were homesick and tired. The 5:00 AM practices were not exactly what you bargained for. The class load was heavy. Being away from home for the first time was hard for you. You cried, and Amy rarely cries. I almost cried with you. But instead, I encouraged you to keep on. I told you that it would get easier. And you actually believed me, maybe for the first time in your life. It did get easier. You found your rhythm.

You didn’t come home after your Freshman year, you stayed, worked a job, and worked out with your coach. You wanted to improve and that was the only way you knew it would happen. You were dedicated, not only for yourself but for your team.

Your Sophomore year, you moved into an apartment. Apartment life was much better than dorm life for you. You made tons of new friends. You also lost your biggest fan in October of your Sophomore year, your Papaw. Instead of allowing a shadow of despair to overtake you, you used his influence and his life to propel you to do better. You loved social life but you didn’t falter in your classwork or on the field. You performed well and you were part of the Southern Conference Women’s Championship Team. Again, you decided to remain throughout the summer and work with your coach, continuing to improve your skills and strength.

At the start of your Junior year, you were pumped. You were excited, not only for the school to start but you were ready for track season. You had worked hard and diligently. You were where you wanted to be athletically. However, a wrench was thrown into your plans and you learned very quickly that things aren’t always what they’re supposed to be. Your coach resigned and went to another team. You were devastated. But instead of quitting, you endured. You struggled a bit during the indoor season but you had no coach. Finally, during the outdoor season, a new coach was hired. You performed well. I know you wanted better finishes but considering the circumstances, you put your best foot forward and you encouraged your teammates to do the same.

During the summer you again remained in Cullowhee to work with your coach…..but one day, you thought it was a good idea to be funny and try to cannonball dive into 2 1/2’ of water. It didn’t turn out funny or to be a good idea at all. But we did see God’s hand of protection over you. The injury you suffered was only minor compared to what it could’ve been.

This injury put a halt to things for about a month. It afforded you some downtime which was much needed and gave you lots of time with your Mawmaw. She spoiled you and took great care of you. She loved every minute and I didn’t hear any complaints from you either. It also gave you perspective on life and how quickly things can change. It only took a split-second decision, didn’t it?

You recovered from your concussion. You returned to Cullowhee and resumed your practice schedule. Then classes began and you were back in the groove once more. One final rodeo: The Senior Year.

There was so much anticipation leading into October. Practice was going well. You were feeling more confident than you had in over a year. Then the unthinkable, your new coach announces that he is leaving to take a new coaching position. You were not quite as devastated the second time as the first time; but again, you had no time to prepare for this blow. A new coach was hired more quickly but you as well as your teammates still felt very alone. But again, you persevered and continued to practice and try to better yourself and encouraged your teammates to do the same.

Then on January 2, in a moment, a blink of an eye, you saw your life pass before you. The wreck happened so quickly you didn’t even know how to respond. By the time I arrived, you were shaking and in shock. When you put your head on my shoulders and cried like a baby, while I held you in my arms, through your sobs you kept repeating, “Mommy, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” The accident wasn’t your fault but sadly the only witness, who knew the accident wasn’t your fault, fled the scene, and didn’t leave his name. I calmed you down and told you, “Amy, you don’t need to worry about this. It will all be okay. You are alive and not hurt and that’s all that really matters. Right now, the only thing you need to worry about is finishing well in track and finishing well in school. That’s your job right now.” You agreed. Again, we saw God’s mighty hand of protection covering you.

On February 29, 2020, at the Southern Conference Indoor Championships, you took the bull by the horns and you finished in 3rd overall in the Shot Put. Not only did you finish in 3rd but you also had the best throw of your college career. You endured. You finished well.

A week later you would leave for Spring Break, only to learn that once you returned from Cancun you would have another week of Spring Break and then all of your classes would go online. Then the following week, the biggest blow, all spring sports would be canceled. It felt cruel and hard. Again, this is just not how things should be.

You didn’t allow the announcement to unravel you, instead, you put more effort into finishing well in the classroom. On Wednesday, you turned in your final paper. You completed your studies at WCU with excellence. You finished well. You endured. You persevered with grace and dignity.

Life is sure to throw some more adversities your way; however, I want you to remember that God will always see you through. His grace has brought you safe thus far and His grace will lead you home.

Today is your Graduation Day and it might not look the way it should but let it always be a reminder that in life things don’t alway work out the way we envision them; but in the end remember what C.S. Lewis says, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” And always remember that your Daddy and I are proud of you and your accomplishments; but we are most proud of the character that is developing in you.

Happy, happy Graduation Day!

I love you,

Mom

Photos by: Sarah Scoggins Siak

Why I Can Celebrate A Risen Savior

Before you read this post, I want you to know that I have spent a great deal of time praying over this post. Not only have I prayed over sharing this, but I have also prayed for you, my readers. I can tell you that this particular writing came through a recent Bible Study God placed on my heart about nine months ago. I realize that it’s significantly more lengthy than I normally write. Please bear with me. For me, personally, this has been a life-altering study and today, of all days, it is why I can celebrate Easter because Jesus took my place and He conquered sin and death. He is my Victory.

The truth is you don’t get to know someone intimately without spending time with them. I spent a lot of time with my Popaw. I knew him well. I knew him so well that when he asked for water it was not a common request. At that moment I believe that God was clearly showing me and Mom that Popaw would soon meet Jesus.

For years doctors, as well as family, tried vehemently to get Popaw to drink water. However, Popaw refused. He preferred his coffee and tea always reasoning, “I’m getting my water from coffee and tea. Besides, I don’t know how you can enjoy drinking something that has no flavor.” Mom even bought flavored water drinks to try to encourage his intake of water. It proved to be a useless, futile attempt. Popaw was adamant, he would not drink water.

So, after we finally got him somewhat calmed down the day of his stroke, I asked him, “Popaw, do you want something to drink?”

He responded, “I want water.”

I asked a second time, “Did I hear you correctly you want water?”

Nodding his head and opening his dry mouth he said, “I want water.”

Mom and I both stood there in utter disbelief and shock. Mom looked at me, began to shake her head and uttered, “He never asks for water. Never. He doesn’t like water. I cannot believe what I am hearing.”

I gave him water that day. I knew his time was short. I knew that God was helping both of us process that Popaw would not be with us much longer. However, if I had not spent a great deal of time with him, if I had not gotten to really know him, I would not have known his request to be so odd or unusual. I knew him. I gave him water on Wednesday and he died the following Tuesday.

I believe with all of my heart that the reason John wrote the Book of John is that John wants us to get to know Jesus like He knew Jesus. He is telling us, in essence, the very reason Jesus came was for us to know Him because when we know Him, we will believe in Him. Consequently giving us the right to become heirs with Him. (“But to all who did receive him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12 ESV)

Look with me at the following verse. I have taken the liberty to give it to you in several different translations. I encourage you to read it in others. Each translation has it’s own uniqueness which helps aid in our understanding.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, the glory of as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 ESV

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son. Generous inside out, true from start to finish.” MSG

“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”
‭‭John‬ ‭1:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“And the Word (Christ) became flesh and lived among us; and we (actually saw His glory, glory as belongs to the (One and ) only begotten Son of the Father (the Son who is truly unique the only One of His kind, who is) full of grace and truth (absolutely free of deception.” John 1:14 AMP

When you read the words, “And the Word became flesh.”? What does that mean to you?

To me it means, Jesus put skin on. It didn’t make him any less God but he took on human flesh. And what that means for me, personally, is that He became human so that He could experience life the way I experience life. He can identify with me.

Think about it like this. The best counselors are those who have walked in your shoes. The ones who have lived through the hard times and made it through. In order to understand us, Jesus was willing to put skin on. The truth here is that he has endured all that we will ever endure. Mock, ridicule, injustice, betrayal, separation from the Father, and death. Knowing this means that He understands and that is what makes Him the “Wonderful counselor” Isaiah talks about. (Isaiah 9:6)

The writer of Hebrews expressed it like this: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV)

Then John goes on to say, not only did he become flesh but “He makes his dwelling among us.”

In order to really understand what that means we have to go back to the original Greek text and see that the word “dwelt or lived” is literally translated as “tabernacled” which means to pitch a tent.

If you’ll remember the tabernacle during the days of Moses was God’s dwelling place. Now, this tabernacle was constructed with human hands and under the direction of God. And if you’ll remember on the priests could enter the Holy of Holies and there was a veil that separated them from seeing God. Now, because Jesus came in human form, not made by human hands, we have God in flesh living among us. He is our Emmanuel, “God with us.” He is near. What a revelation!

You see, Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God!

Pastor Emile Wolfaardt puts it this way: “A little more than 2,000 years ago, God stepped onto our earth, pitched His tent and set up camp right in the middle of us all. That is what the word ‘dwelled’ can mean — to set a tent. In other words, the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us. And when He did that,well men it was the most profound revelation of God man would ever know on this earth.”

“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. “he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:11-12

And now because Jesus put on skin and dwells among us, “we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”

First of all, I think it’s important to remember who is writing this book, John, the disciple. Remember he communed with Jesus on a regular basis. He had a relationship with him. and to remember that he along with Peter and James was with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Look with me at Matthew 17

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.” Matthew 17:1-8

So yes, John has seen his glory but we too have seen his glory. We see His glory when we believe that He is our Savior and He is the only way to the Father. Then we see His glory displayed in and through the lives of others who believe.

What does His glory look like?

“Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Exodus 33: 18-20

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, “ Exodus 34:6

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.” Isaiah 6:1-4

“For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” 2 Corinthians 4:6

“And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” Revelation 21:23

His glory is as brilliant as the sun. And His glory is clearly revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ. Before Christ, no one could see the face of God and live but this scripture tells us that not only is Jesus, the only Son of God, but Jesus himself is God. When Jesus took on flesh, He became the ultimate manifestation of God’s glory. When Jesus went to the cross, died and rose again, He returned to glory.

But John doesn’t stop there, he tells us that He is full of “grace and truth.”

Theologian J.C. Ryle eloquently writes of the grace and truth that came together in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ: “This constant undivided union of two perfect natures in Christ’s Person is exactly that which gives infinite value to His mediation and qualifies Him to be the very Mediator that sinners need. Our Mediator is One who can sympathize with us, because He is very MAN. And yet, at the same time, He is One who can deal with the Father for us on equal terms, because He is very GOD.”

What do you think of when you hear the word grace?

Do you think of the time while Jesus was hanging on the cross and he cries out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do?” Luke 23:34

Here is the epitome of grace and truth.

The truth is that it’s our sin that cost him his life. That is the reason Jesus took on flesh because there was no other way. The sacrifice had to be spotless and perfect. But do you realize what the implications of our sin really cost Him?

Think back to the Garden of Gethsemane. Three, not once, twice but three times, Jesus prayed fervently for God to take the cup from Him. He came with flesh on for this purpose. He knew all along what His purpose was but His spirit was in such agony that He asked God to “take it away but only if there was any other way.” Why would Jesus beg God to take it away? Because He knew for the very first time since before the beginning of all time that He would be separated from God, the Father. Just ponder that for a moment…..I think most of us know what it feels like to be separated from someone we know. Think about how your heart groans and longs to be reunited. But this, this is far worse than any separation we can imagine. And when we begin to realize the vast implications of what our sin really cost Him, it becomes more difficult not to see His grace in light of His truth and not stand amazed with awe and wonder.

He gave us what we didn’t deserve and took our punishment upon him. Isaiah penned it like this “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6 ESV

And if He bore our sins and took our punishment and we have come to faith in Him, then it is profitable for us to remember ”So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 NIV

The truth is He willingly put on flesh in order to take on our sin because there was no other way. He bought our freedom with His blood. And Hallelujah, on the third day he arose and burst the gates of Hell wide open. This is why I can celebrate Easter. Jesus is me Victory!