Forgiveness is hard.
We take hurts to heart.
It is personal.
Sometimes it is about us.
Sometimes it is about someone we love.
How many times have I held onto hurt for the sake of being right?
“He should be the one to apologize.”
How many times have I thought this is the one thing I cannot forgive?
“I don’t know if I can ever forgive her for what she did.”
Maybe we feel justified in being angry and holding on to the bitterness that seeps into our souls.
If we left it up to our own feelings and emotions, many of us might choose not to forgive.
But there was this man…..
A man who chose not to hold onto the hurt.
A man who chose grace instead of bitterness.
A man who was blameless and right, and forgave before an apology came.
“Jesus said, Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
He would have been justified in His anger, but chose gentleness instead.
The same gentleness that He wants us to choose.
“Make allowances for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13
Even when we feel like it is something we cannot forgive, we are called to show grace.
Over and over again.
“Then Peter came to Him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times? “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” Matthew 18: 21-22
Forgiveness is hard.
But not as hard as the sacrifice that was made for us on the cross.
No matter how many times we have to forgive others, it will never come close to the price that was paid for us on that cross.
How many times has He forgiven us?
Our heavenly Father is full of grace.
“He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7
Father God, help us to always forgive each other as you have forgiven us.
Thank You for Your unending grace and love for each of us.
“What are you waiting for?”
This is the question asked of a little boy sitting on his bike when Bob, aka Mr. Incredible, pulls into his driveway in the movie, The Incredibles.
“What are you waiting for?”
The little boy’s answer?
“I don’t know….something amazing I guess.”
Maybe you don’t know exactly what you are waiting for either.
It feels like we are always waiting for something.
For the phone to ring.
For the other person to admit they were wrong.
For the apology that might never come.
For the test results.
For our finances to be more secure.
For the RIGHT time.
Maybe at that time, something amazing will happen.
But especially today, amidst the pandemic, waiting feels like a way of life.
Waiting in line at the grocery store.
Waiting for the stimulus check.
Waiting for stores and businesses to reopen.
Waiting to see our loved ones and safely give them a hug.
The wait feels like a heavy weight crushing us.
Finding patience while we wait is as challenging as finding toilet paper and Clorox Wipes today.
But it is not the wait that is important.
It’s how we wait that matters.
God tells us in His word to wait patiently for Him.
“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” Psalms 27:14 NLT
“Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen.” James 5:7 NLT
We can be patient while we wait, because we trust that something good is coming.
The little boy in the Incredibles didn’t know what he was waiting for, but he was expecting something amazing.
Don’t miss this word.
He was expectant.
As God’s children, we are hope filled and expectant.
We know that something amazing will happen when He returns.
“I wait patiently for the Lord, my soul expectantly waits,
And in His word do I hope.” Psalms 130: 5 AMP
Friends, waiting is hard.
Like you, I long for the day when the wait is over.
But as we wait, be hopeful.
He sees you.
He hears you.
“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for my God my Savior, My God will hear me.”
Trust that on the other side of the wait is something amazing.
It is after midnight.
Our family has been keeping odd hours since the pandemic began.
The boys are upstairs playing a video game with their friends.
My husband and I are settled in on the couch, halfway through an episode of Homeland.
That’s when it happens.
The WiFi goes down.
Understandably with everything else going on right now, this disruption pales in comparison.
But it did create some chaos in our household.
Not only did it mean no Madden or binge watching a favorite show, but it also meant no streaming of church services or bible study on Zoom the next day.
We lost our access.
Not having personal contact with those we love has been a struggle for many throughout this pandemic.
But we never have to worry ourselves with losing personal contact with the One who loves us the most.
We can rest in the promise we always have full access to our Heavenly Father.
“For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” Ephesians 2:18 NIV
God will never deny us access to His glorious presence.
That does not mean that the enemy will not try to put up obstacles to weaken our connection.
The technician who came to restore our internet explained that there were several nicks in the cable wires outside of the house.
However, for safety precautions he could not travel inside to access the situation further.
My son ran up and down the stairs, taking pictures of the wires connected to the modem so the technician could see where the problem was occurring.
We were looking right at it, but he could see something we couldn’t see.
But it was up to us to fix the problem inside.
Does this speak to anyone else?
We may not always see obstacles, even when they are right in front of us.
What can we do when we feel like we have lost our connection?
God never withholds Himself from us.
“Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!” Psalms 66:20 NIV
Second, get into the Word.
The Bible is God’s love letter to His children.
“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.” Psalms 139:1-4 NIV
Finally, stay connected to other believers.
Sometimes our brothers and sisters can help us see problems when our vision is blurred.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10: 24-25 NIV
Friends, it is up to each of us to take care of what is happening on the inside.
But take heart, we are not alone.
We have full access to the One who knows how we are wired.
Like many, I have been taking advantage of this time at home doing projects.
Decluttering closets, drawers, and rooms in the house.
Do you have that one spot that you store up the things you have not been able to part with yet?
Maybe it is a drawer, a closet.
Mine is the back basement.
This area in our house holds toys, decorations and boxes and boxes of memories.
It’s my “I’ll deal with it later” area.
I put things here to forget about them for a while.
I distract myself or tell myself I am too busy.
I avoid dealing with them for a bit longer.
Maybe because it is too messy or too hard to deal with that moment.
So as I made my way to the basement in my yoga pants and sweatshirt (my daily attire these days), I already knew I would stir up more than dust in the lower level of the house.
I would have to decide what I would hold onto and what I needed to finally let go of.
I like to hold onto things.
Chances are if you wrote me a note in junior high or sent me a card or letter in college, I still have it.
Trust me on this one.
Do not even get me started.
I unearthed many treasures, ones that brought me many smiles and laughs throughout the afternoon.
But as I came to my parents boxes, I found myself drowning in feelings of grief.
It has been almost eight years since my Mom has passed, nine for my Dad.
My sisters and I took a weekend to go through their belongings years ago.
It was emotionally draining.
We made a dent, but there was so much more to go through.
We said we would get together another time to go through the rest.
But that day never came.
So I gave myself over to this day with little expectation other than to feel their loss deeply.
To laugh, to cry.
To let go of a little more.
I moved through items that had not been touched in years.
Boxes of manilla envelopes, filled with receipts that dated back decades.
Tax returns, gas bills, telephone bills.
Organized by year, day to day life.
And almost ceremoniously, after getting an “its ok” from one of my sisters, I burned these symbols of a life lived well.
A life that is no longer lived here.
Maybe by surrounding myself with these pieces of Mom and Dad, I could keep a piece of them present in the place where they lived out their last days.
A place where they took their last breaths.
And as I watched the flames dance in the fire pit under the starlit sky, I cried knowing that their life is not here anymore.
Some days, I put that emotion on the shelf to deal with later.
And other days I give into the wave of emotion that crashes over me.
The waves eventually subside.
And I resurface a little lighter.
When I dust off the boxes filled with memories, I take comfort in knowing where Mom and Dad’s life is right now.
And that the impact of their love still lives on.
The heaviness of grief was felt by Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James when they went to the tomb to anoint Jesus ‘ body.
I am sure that when they saw that the stone was rolled away from the tomb, a wave of emotion crashed over them.
But these waves subsided when they were told that Jesus was not there.
They must have felt lighter when they were told He had risen.
“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” Mark 16: 1-7 NIV
There was comfort in knowing that even though Jesus was no longer with them, He had life with His Heavenly Father.
His life was no longer there, but the impact of His love still lived on.
The impact of His love still lives on.
That is the hope that sustains us.
May that hope along with His peace be with you today.
The alarm clock buzzes, jolting us awake.
The coffee pot brews a cup of morning motivation.
A quick kiss goodbye to a loved one before racing out the door to work.
For some, this is what the morning routine looks like.
It’s just another day.
Business as usual.
But the weeks that have preceded Holy Week have looked anything but usual.
Truck drivers, cashiers at grocery stores, janitors, police officers, EMTS, doctors and nurses.
Anyone deemed essential has had to go through the motions of the daily routine, knowing the dangers that lie ahead.
And everyday they go.
Daily serving that others might have the essentials.
Daily serving that others might be safe.
Daily serving that others might live.
Friends and neighbors, giving up time with their own families and loved ones.
Putting others above themselves.
Such an example of real love.
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up His life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
1 John 3:16 NLT
I wonder if there are times some wish they would have chosen a different career path.
Times of doubt.
Most probably never envisioned the circumstances that they find themselves in now.
It is hard to fathom.
But Jesus knew this feeling well.
He gave up being in heaven with the Father to come to earth in human form.
He walked among those who were broken and sick, not just in body but in spirit.
Jesus came for healing’s sake.
Jesus had loved ones He would leave behind.
His mother, His disciples, His friends.
And just before He would be led away to complete His work, He would sit down for a meal with His disciples one last time.
Like He had done many times before with those He loved.
He knew the dangers that were before Him.
So He went to God in prayer.
“Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. There He told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.” He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him. He prayed more fervently, and He was in such agony of spirit that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” Luke 22:39-44 NLT
What I love most about this passage are the words “as usual.”
Jesus did not set an alarm clock or put on a pot of coffee as part of His usual routine.
He went to God in prayer.
Regardless of the circumstances, Jesus daily spent time with Father God.
When Jesus had doubts and fears about the path He was on, He sat at His Father’s feet.
Friends, that is what our heavenly Father wants us to do now.
Bring your worries and fears and give them to the One who is larger than any burden we carry.
He will give you strength.
And as you sit at His feet, lift up those who are truly acting as the hands and feet of Christ in a broken world, that they might be strengthened and protected as well.
“He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands…”
Maybe like me, you remember this song from Sunday School or Vacation Bible School.
You are probably humming the tune right now.
According to Wikipedia, this African American spiritual was first published in 1927, and recorded 30 years later by singer Laurie London.
There is something about these simple lyrics that give me comfort, especially now.
God has the whole world in His hands.
Babies, brothers, sisters.
Doctors, nurses, cashiers at the grocery store.
You and me.
“So God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27 NLT
“On the seventh day God had finished His work of creation, so He rested from all His work.”
Genesis 2:2 NLT
Our heavenly Father sees our brokenness, our fears and worries.
He desires us to draw close to Him, just like a parent shows love and tenderness to a child.
“The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.”
Psalm 103 :13 NLT
Circumstances will change, but the love of the Lord remains forever.
“But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear Him. His salvation extends to the children’s children.” Psalm 103:17 NLT
Our Abba Father does not want us to be fearful as we face trials and tribulations,, but to seek our strength from Him.
“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call him “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15 NLT
“And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering.” Romans 8: 17 NLT
In our present circumstances, we can draw comfort in knowing that we are HIS.
And as His children, made in His image, let us reflect His light and love into a world that is in need of hope and comfort.
“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children.” Ephesians 5:1 NLT
He’s got the whole world in His hands.
And there is no better place to be.
Now I lay me down to sleep….
I don’t know about you, but laying down has not been the challenge lately.
Shutting my mind off so that I can actually fall asleep is a different story.
Increasing reports on the spread of the coronavirus, stay in place orders, businesses and schools closing.
So many what ifs ….
Worst case scenarios dart around my mind like children running on a playground.
Everyday the news around the country seems to get worse.
But everyday I have a decision to make.
Which news do I turn my attention to: the local news or the Good News?
In a time when everything feels uncertain, we must grasp onto God’s truth.
Our God is unchanging, even when the world around us is in constant flux.
Let’s go to the book of Psalms.
When we cry out to our Heavenly Father, He will sustain us.
“But, You, O Lord, are a shield for me.
My glory and the One who lifts up my head,
I cried out to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill.
I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.” Psalm 3 :3-5
Notice the word Selah at the end of the first verse.
There are several meanings listed for this word.
One means “to praise.”
Another defines Selah as a pause or break, a time to reflect.
How timely this is right now, as we have a break in our normally busy routines to reflect on God’s presence..
Finally, my favorite interpretation of the word Selah means “forever.”
Our circumstances will pass, but our God is forever.
God is good and our safety is found in Him.
“There are many who say,
“Who will show us any good?”
Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us.
You have put gladness in my heart.
More than in the season that their grain and wine increased,
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep.
For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4 :6-8
Friends, as we start each day, let us direct our concerns to Him.
“Give ear to my words, O Lord.
Consider my meditation.
Give heed to the voice of my cry,
My King and my God.
For to You I will pray.
My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord.
In the morning, I will direct it to You.
And I will look up.” Psalm 5 :1-3
Begin each day looking up.
Take time to reflect on a God who is good forever.
May He sustain you throughout the day and before you lie down in the safety of His arms at night.
Peace, love and good health to you all.
Connections are important, even if they are at a distance.
At 1:00 am this morning, I was texting with a few friends, discussing what is happening in our world.
We are all awake.
Sleep eludes us.
Everything feels like it is changing.
And to be honest, it feels a little scary.
Almost overnight, our country seems unrecognizable.
The impact of the coronavirus, or COVID 19, seems to worsen with each passing day.
Our normal routines have been interrupted.
Some have come to a screeching halt.
Schools and colleges have dismissed students for the remainder of the semester to go to online learning.
Restaurants have been reduced to take out only.
Non-essential businesses have shut their doors..
The stock market has plummeted to new lows.
Grocery stores and markets shelves lie empty.
Sports have suspended playtime and major events, like March Madness and the Masters.
Visitation has been restricted to nursing homes and senior living apartments to keep our most vulnerable population safe.
Even places of worship have moved to online services to prevent the spread of disease.
It is a time and place that feels unfamiliar and unsettling.
Social distancing has now become a part of our everyday vocabulary.
According to Merriam Webster, the first known use of this term was in 2003 and is defined as:
“the practice of maintaining a greater than usual physical distance from other people or of avoiding direct contact with people or objects in public places during the outbreak of a contagious disease in order to minimize exposure and reduce the transmission of infection.”
Even though the terminology is different, the act of separation from others due to illness goes back to Biblical times,
Quarantine and isolation are found in Leviticus, for example.
“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “If anyone has a swelling or a rash or discolored skin that might develop into a serious skin disease, that person must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons. The priest will examine the affected area of the skin. If the hair in the affected area has turned white and the problem appears to be more than skin-deep, it is a serious skin disease, and the priest who examines it must pronounce the person ceremonially unclean.
“But if the affected area of the skin is only a white discoloration and does not appear to be more than skin-deep, and if the hair on the spot has not turned white, the priest will quarantine the person for seven days. On the seventh day the priest will make another examination. If he finds the affected area has not changed and the problem has not spread on the skin, the priest will quarantine the person for seven more days.” Leviticus 13: 1-5 NLT
Can you imagine being unable to touch those you love or meet with them?
Though the terms and diseases are different than today, the feelings are the same.
When we are told we cannot gather, we feel more alone than ever.
Isolation is a strategy the enemy uses to make us question our faith.
But our Heavenly Father wants us to come to Him with our questions, fears and worries.
He does not want us to face this day alone.
Nothing can separate us from His love.
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38 NLT
That is what I am holding onto during this time of chaos.
Friends, so many of us are feeling anxious and afraid in this time of uncertainty.
But even though we are asked to adhere to social distancing, we are never asked to stay distant from God.
Distance from God is what makes us feel unsure, not the circumstances going on around us.
And when our anxiety increases, tune out the news and tune into Him.
Start your morning with praise and worship at the feet of the One who is a constant in ever changing times.
That is not to say we should not stay informed.
We need to keep updated on what is happening around us.
But we need daily time in His presence.
And as a community of believers, we also need to stay connected to each other.
How grateful I am we live in a time when technology allows us to watch an online sermon or Facetime with a friend.
As the hands and feet of Jesus, we can reach out in other ways, like shopping for someone who is at risk and cannot leave home, sending cards and letters to nursing homes and mental health facilities that cannot receive visitors, or supporting local businesses by ordering take out.
Brothers and sisters, this is a time that the world can see that we are Christians by our love for each other.
Connections are important, even if they are at a distance.
“This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13 : 35 MSG