New Glasses, Anyone?

Many might consider tedious what I spend untold hours doing, but I find it therapeutic to transcribe my handwritten journals, giving thought to the words as I type them into the computer. Each entry revisits life moments, and the Lord’s part in them I tend to forget otherwise. Sometimes, I need more than just to remember.

I hoped to find at least a thread during this undertaking, at least a hint of a theme, to make sense of what I’d experienced. There had been so many hard things, so many hard times. Perhaps the wrong choices I had made (must have been many) and the point at which I turned away from the Lord’s joy and peace would become obvious in the multitude of keystrokes.

i-can-see-1426645Entry by entry, the threads came together, but the emerging picture wasn’t what I expected. You see, I was looking through the wrong glasses. The difficult circumstances did, indeed, take place, as did my struggle with them. But my perception of them was way off. I needed new glasses to help clear things up!

Maybe telling you how I read Hebrews 11 when wearing the wrong prescription will help. I plunge into the highlights of the lives of those often referred to as the heroes of faith. I agree these are great people worthy of Bible mention, until I remember the rest of their stories. You know, the parts including adultery, murder, drunkenness, self-indulgence, etc. My old lenses quickly cause what’s not written in this chapter to supersede what is. In other words, I become a harsh judge.

When I read with God’s glasses, however, my attention is drawn from the very first verse to the reason for recalling this part of their lives:

1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. . . 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

This chapter is all about faith, real faith. Faith in the perfect Jesus Christ. And about people who somehow believed even before He came to earth in human form. It isn’t about humans living perfectly, but about what happens by faith in the One Who is perfect.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Our Father sees them through lens of the perfect Christ.

When I began to transcribe, I steeled myself for a heavy hand of correction from Holy Spirit. What a completely skewed perception – to think this of my wonderful Lord! Instead, as letter after letter and word after word made their way from the pages to my eyes, into my brain and through my fingers, He gently exchanged His glasses for mine, and I began to see myself as He sees me.

Now as I viewed the journal, I saw the reality of ongoing physical challenges and unconnected emotional hardships not being caused by my bad choices, but resulting from life in a fallen world. Had I re-read entries during those tough times, I’d have been reminded of Daddy’s gracious words of encouragement and the ever-unfolding and expanding revelation of Christ and His unconditional love. His tone was only gentle, and His responses to my rants contained only amazing grace and tender mercy, no hint of judgment. That’s Who He is! That’s Who He was at the time I lived through it! And that’s Who He will always be!

cross-fabric-1-1145687-1279x1657By the time I completed these journals, the threads had woven a simple picture, correcting my vision for the future, difficulties or not. It reveals what God always sees when He looks at me . . . and you. He sees us seated with Him in Christ Jesus. Christ, the perfect One Who received at the cross the heavy hand of correction we so deserved.

Thank You, Lord, for the new glasses! Thank You, Lord, for the cross!

Saddling Up!

As you’ve probably noticed from the tone of most of my posts over the last six months, life has been on the tougher-than-normal side for me.  Several dear people have moved on to heaven, friendship seasons have changed (or, I just accepted that they already changed,) and we had to say goodbye to our beloved dog.  About the time I felt like I was getting my feet back under me, my son and daughter-in-law told us they were moving from a few blocks away to half the nation away.  It is a good opportunity for them, and they really love Texas, though he doesn’t get that from either of his parents. 🙂  Bam!  That quickly, I plummeted back to the depths of grief.

All I could see was loss.  All I could do was wonder what I will be about now that I don’t have family here, especially the three young grandchildren.  But God!

At the beginning of Our special Sunday morning time together, Holy Spirit spoke to my spirit, “Saddle up, Kay!”  Bam!  That quickly, hope was restored.  I was taken back to the morning 19 years ago when we drove away from our Florida home for the last time, heading to North Carolina.  Steven Curtis Chapman was singing The Great Adventure, with these words going deep:

Saddle up your horses.  We’ve got a trail to blaze through the wild blue yonder of God’s amazing grace.  Let’s follow our Leader into the glorious unknown.  This is life like no other.  This is the great adventure.

horsesNow, as all those years ago, a sense of excited anticipation is developing.  Now, as then, I know my Lord Jesus is moving me into what I’ve not seen before for my life, though He’s seen it all along.

Am I through with the tears?  Probably not.  After all, I still love all these deeply.  Yet, with those three words, I suddenly knew my life isn’t over.  There is more He wants to do with me here on earth.  I don’t know what it is, but I know the One Who does.  And I trust Him to take me step by step into a new chapter of His great adventure.

The words of Proverbs 3:5-6 seem to have a more solid footing in my heart than ever before: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.

Bam! That’s life!  That’s Jesus Christ!

The Dot-to-Dot Seasons

This is one of my tougher seasons of life. Unable to pinpoint its beginning, I am more interested in its end.

dot to dot blankIn my not-so-patient endurance, I thought of the dot-to-dot activity pages I enjoyed as a child. These pictures are without definition, other than scattered dots and corresponding numbers. The goal is to connect the dots with color or pencil in sequential numerical order. The originating artist has created a completed picture from which the unconnected dotted sheet is made. The one with the blank page must fill in those spaces one link at a time to see what has been hidden from view.

Maybe this season of my life is one of those dot-to-dots. The Artist of my life sees the completed picture, while I see only a series of line segments taking me up and down, back and forth, with no discernable pattern. In fact, I feel I’m covering the same territory repeatedly, with different names and faces involved. So I question the path God has me on, not a problem in itself. When I stubbornly plant my feet with hands on my hips to demand an explanation before going on, I’ve moved into problem territory.

dot to dot gone astrayTo stay with this dot-to-dot illustration, I’ll say I arrived at #17, quite near my starting point. With no idea how much longer this journey will be, but feeling hopeless, I decide I have had enough. When I arrive at #18, rather than looking for the next marker, I just keep going on no path at all. Ah, the freedom of independence! Really? Look at the second picture.

I’d rather go independently into the senseless unknown than follow Daddy’s path – unknown to me, but known fully to Him? That’s independence?! Once I’ve taken those steps, I know I will never make it back on my own. Prone to wander, Lord, I fear it 1 rings so true.

Without the Lord’s patient and continual outpouring of mercy and grace, I will not see the intricate beauty of Christ to be revealed in this season’s picture. But, if I trust Him completely, not only will He restore me to the path, but will bring me to the finish. Each season’s picture will be as beautiful as He already sees it – when complete.

dot to dot completedI want to trust Him. Really. And I want the pain involved in the making of this picture to end now. It can’t be both. Either I focus on the pain of each step or I trust Christ completely. Thank God for His grace in Christ Jesus!

My heart’s true desire is not to lean on my own understanding. Rather, it is to trust the trustworthy One, regardless of pain or discomfort in the process. Only in this do I find true rest as I am reminded:

You know exactly where I am and what I am going through. 2

You will never leave me or forsake me. 3

Your love for me will never fail. 4

You are working all things together for my good. 5

You know my every thought and still love me. 6

You are leading and guiding me in the way everlasting. 7

Jesus Christ – the One You gave for me 8 – is more than enough for me 9, my refuge and fortress 10, my shield and defender 11, my Life and my light, my salvation 12. You, Jesus Christ, are ever-victorious 13! And You live in me and I live in You – forever 14!

With that, I find myself again on the path, unsure of what I face, but completely certain of Christ Jesus.

1 from hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

2 Psalm 139:1-18

3 Hebrews 13:5

4 1 Corinthians 13:8

5 Romans 8:28

6 Psalm 139:1-18

7 Psalm 139:24

8 John 3:16

9 Ephesians 3:20

10 Psalm 91:2

11 Psalm 18:2, Isaiah 51:22

12 Psalm 27:1

13 1 Corinthians 15:54-57

14 Colossians 1:27

Lost and Found

This post would be it. The grand finale, that is, the third part of an online blogging assignment involving the lost and found theme. I knew it would, indeed, be grand the moment the following sentences lit the writer portion of my mind, giving foundation to the first and second installments.

Philippians 3:7-9a (Amp) But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [one combined] loss for Christ’s sake. Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One), and that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him . . .

Something happened between the first and third assignments to change this post’s thrust, though I didn’t recognize it at the time. What I had planned from the beginning had lost its luster, though I tried to continue unwavering. The truth it elucidated needed a different delivery vehicle. No grand finale, after all. The Lord wanted, instead, to use the pain of loss I desperately desired to avoid.

The first assignment challenged us to write about loss, instantly reminding me of the recent deaths of an elderly friend and my 14-year-old dog. Besides the lingering sadness and pain associated with those, I faced the imminent death of another elderly friend. Deciding I’d had enough of all this death and sadness, and having written about it once, I decided on a different object of loss. I’ll add my own twist, I thought, and use, “counting all as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ,” as the springboard.

Installments one and two were published, so I had begun jotting down notes in anticipation of the finale. The sense of victory I’d experienced at the beginning of the project was waning, though, not building. Glimmers of understanding touched my heart as I read of a family who left the comfort of England for Uganda to share Jesus’ life and love with those who had no hope – untold poverty found in the slums where sewage ran down every street and into the homes, rampant treatable illness untreated, leaving children and adults dying before their time. Yet this family and others with them continued to serve, continued to love, continued to share life in Christ Jesus.

despairWith every story, the struggle in my heart intensified, as I related it to my world. These elderly became friends because I deliver meals to their homes. A few minutes of weekly interaction led to blossoming friendships – ones that continued even when they moved into assisted living, no longer needing our meals. They shared their lives with me as I did with them, each of us gaining from the other.   One-by-one, they have left me behind, multiplying the pain in each loss.

Self-preservation said I should distance myself emotionally from those who remain, to avoid further pain. It went on to suggest getting involved with children’s groups on some level (totally out of my calling,) because they won’t likely die before me. That way, I could greatly reduce additional pain, I deduced. Those were Kay’s thoughts, not Daddy’s. When I read the challenging words of Nicola Neal, the clarity of His heartbeat took my breath away:

What would you be prepared to give for love’s sake? . . . Would you love knowing that pain will inevitably come? Will you love even when it hurts? 1

Shaken to my core, my mind erupted in a certain, “Yes!” as more rhetorical questions arose.

“Would you rather not have known these precious women, these sisters in Christ, to avoid the pain of losing them?”

“Would you prefer to miss the personal enrichment gained from those you may not have begun to serve, again as self-effort to avoid future pain?”

“Is it possible you are the vessel through whom I share parts of Myself and My love in the latter days of their lives? That you could be helping prepare them for the day when they see Me face-to-face?”

I am undone. The loss remains, but I have ceased the fight against the pain. It is a reality of this life, no less so when living in Christ. My greater loss – temporarily – has been focus on Jesus Christ, the only One Who comforts, encourages, and is my Hope. What I’ve needed all along has been in those quoted words, but I was too focused on my hurt to see. The pain of loss I have felt is as nothing compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. In Christ is the strength and joy of continuing to love even when it hurts.

spring hope

1 Nicola Neal, Journey Into Love: The Unfailing Power that Restores Lives (Shippensburg, PA Destiny Image Publishers, 2014), Ch. 18, location 2304 (e-book)

Finding Freedom Now

Losing the Power, posted earlier this month (click to read), painted a picture of walking free from the power of condemnation for all my wrongs. I had been in Christ many years without experiencing freedom from condemnation due to ignorance, despite reading the Bible. My eyes were opened to what had been mine all along in Christ when I read these verses anew:

Romans 8:1-2 NIV Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

With the help of these same verses, this post will take you a little further on my personal journey of losing and finding. Parking on the latter words of this passage, I contemplate this law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus that has set me free from the law of death. The more I focus on the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, the more all else fades in comparison – even death.

mini-cross of hopeWhen I believed Jesus to be who He claimed – the Savior of the world – I received His Spirit of life. Now I am alive in Christ Jesus . . . forever. Christ Jesus is alive forever, and I live in Him, so I am alive eternally, as well. Already alive forever. Not waiting until my physical body stops working. Now. When my body gives up, my eternal life will continue living in Christ without even a slight pause – simply in a form no longer hindered by mortality. 1

This excites me beyond words and radically changes my perspective on the loss of life as I know it now.   Fear of death is lost to me. What is to fear when I am in Christ? The Romans verse clearly states I am free now (and it’s always now!) from the condemnation that could separate me forever from God. The penalty for my sin, and its justifiable condemnation, was paid in full in Jesus’ suffering and death. It’s gone forever, and along with it, the separation mandated by it. In Christ’s resurrection, I was raised to new and forever life in His Spirit. Death and the fear of it are lost to me now – forever – because I am Daddy’s child.

This is real now, when I’m not at death’s door, and it will be real after my last breath. But it will also be real at the end of my life, evident in the loss of torment often associated with those last days – torment rooted in regrets and remorse and doubts about a less-than-perfect life. Fear of death is lost to me forever, driven out by the perfect love of my Father. 2 Freedom is found – now.

The final verse of In Christ Alone, a familiar hymn, captures the glorious freedom and victory of which I have written:

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

For the final in this series, click to read Lost and Found.

1 1 Corinthians 15:50-57

2 1 John 4:18