it’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!

How could they bind those Hands that always served, always healed (had JUST healed their own servant’s severed ear), always altered lives with just a touch?  How?  How could they look into His eyes that expressed only love for them and abuse Him so cruelly?  They couldn’t; they blind-folded Him.

My heart aches.  My stomach turns.  The harsh reality of these moments is not easy to think about.  Sin is complicated and ugly and brutal.  No one but our Savior could stand in that gap for us.  But beyond all human suffering, unfathomable as it is, “forsaken by God!”  A beloved Son who was always in communion with His Father, separated from God by my sin, enduring the wrath of a righteous and holy God against my sin…  “Forsaken by God,” is something I will never know because of what Jesus did for me.

There really are no words – just awe & wonder … and sorrow.  The details of that scene are staggering.  It is hard to linger in these thoughts, but I don’t want to brush past them either.  It is in this sorrow that I can appreciate more fully how much Jesus loves me, how much He loves His Father, what obedience to His Father and love for me cost Him.  I hold out to Him only feeble expressions of a heart touched and overflowing with gratitude.

And as I hold deeply to that gratitude, may He help me to step into His joy in “It is FINISHED!” and “He is RISEN, just as He said!” ~ My Lord Jesus, I thank You and praise You – it’s Friday… and … Sunday’s coming!!!

Let us fix our eyes on JESUS, Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, securing eternal redemption for us. – Hebrews 12:2, 9:12

Read more here!  Luke 22 – John 19 – Matthew 27 & 28 – Psalm 22

good Friday

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treasures at His feet

A brave mom reached out to hold her son’s hand one last time as he passed from this earth into the arms of Jesus, courageously thanking Him for what she’d been given – 13 beautiful years with her son and the assurance that he loved Jesus and was safely at home in heaven with Him!

A devoted husband watched as his wife gave their young daughter one last kiss, said her deeply emotional goodbyes and drifted into a sleep she would not wake up from on this earth, courageously thanking the Lord for what she’d been given – the ability to make Him proud with the time He gave her – and her dream come true of waking up in heaven with her Savior!

These dear ones are perfect strangers to me and yet their stories of bold faith in the face of heartbreaking grief gripped me to the core.  Tears flowed freely as my mind flashed through pictures of the countless times my own kids have slipped their hands into mine, the times my husband has held me close, the gift we have received every time our eyes could meet and we could experience a thought, a moment, a question, a realization, or a slice of life… together.

I can’t help asking myself the hard questions… do I realize what I’ve been given?  What have I done with the time I’ve been given with those I love so dearly?  The thought of losing any one of them rocks me to my core.  It is clear that they are treasures to me!  I absolutely thank the Lord for the priceless gift of each of them.

What does the Lord call me to do with those gifts?  This pit in my stomach tells me that I am holding on too tightly – more tightly to these gifts than to the Giver?  As I pray for deeper understanding, I hear a familiar question cross my mind… what would JESUS do?

This prayer of the Lord Jesus in John 17 gives me a really good list to follow:

“Jesus looked up to heaven and said:  Father, the hour has come.

Glorify Your Son so that I may glorify You, for You gave Me authority over all flesh;  so I may give eternal life to all You have given Me.  This is eternal life:  that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent – Jesus Christ.

I have glorified You on the earth – I have finished the work You gave Me to do.  …

I have revealed Your Name to those You gave Me …  They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your Word.  Now they know that all things You have given to Me are from You, because the words that You gave Me, I have given to them.  They have believed that You sent Me.

I pray for them. … Holy Father, protect them by Your Name … Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth.”

John 17:1-19

In all that I do as a wife or a mother, these are important goals to remember:

– Always glorify God, my Father.

– Help my loved ones to know the one true God, to find eternal life in Christ.

– Faithfully do the work God gives me to do – until it is done!

– Always reveal God’s Name – point others to Him, give them His Words.

– Help them to see that all that we have comes from Him, including each of them!

– Pray for them – that God (not me!) will protect them and grow them by His Words of truth!

I also remembered our BSF class studying Revelation 4 a few months ago – a chapter that describes the throne room of heaven.  In the midst of that amazing scene, one thing really grabbed my attention.  Around God’s throne are 24 elders, each seated on their own throne, dressed in white with gold crowns on their heads.

In heaven, the only things they have or wear have been given to them by the One who sits on the throne – a designated place, a white garment and a gold crown.  What God has placed in their hands they offer back to Him.  They placed their best treasures from Him at His feet.  In this way they honored Him!

They fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives for ever and ever.  They lay their crowns before the throne and say, “You are worthy, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and for Your pleasure they exist and were created.”  ~  Revelation 4:10-11

Is it really any different for me?  The things I hold in my hands or in my heart here on earth have also been placed there by the One on the throne.  What does God call me to do with those treasures?  What could be better than laying them down at the feet of the One who entrusted them to me in the first place?

By laying my best gifts before God’s throne I honor Him:

– I recognize that the gift is from Him, and I thank Him for it!

– I acknowledge that the gift has its own purpose for Him that is better than any plan I could conceive.

– I return ownership of that gift to Him, the One who can care and protect and defend that treasure far better than I ever will.

– I free myself from the stressful and selfish white-knuckle gripping of that gift, to receive an even greater gift – the JOY of watching Almighty Creator God work in and through that gift… I get the front row seat to see and marvel and just ENJOY that gift, free of any burden or personal expectations.

treasures at His feet

Just recently, my mom shared this poem with me.  She has had it in her stash of “words for encouragement” since we were born.  Although it may have taken her some time to locate the exact words among our baby books, she recited the key phrases without hesitation.  It is obvious that she repeated them often, likely praying her way through them as a busy mom of three little ones!  These words are “oldies but goodies” and I am thankful for the chance to put myself in my own mama’s shoes for a moment and ponder their truth:

A MOTHER’S LIFE WORK

(author unknown)

My work at home lies with the olive branches

Thou plantest there;

To train them meekly for the heavenly garden

Needs all my care.

I may not in the woods and on the mountains

Seek Thy lost sheep;

At home a little flock of tender lambkins

‘Tis mine to keep.

Thou givest to Thy servants each his life-work

No trumpet tone

Will tell the nations in triumphant pealing

How mine was done.

But ‘twill be much, if, when the task is ended

Through grace from Thee,

I give Thee back, now saved, the little flock

Thou gavest me.

Almighty Holy God has lavished me with priceless treasures.  As He draws me closer and closer to Himself, He is helping me to see that the greatest treasure is God Himself.  He is moving my heart to desire more and more of Him and only His best – for myself and for each of the loved ones He has given me.  He is the One who draws my heart to loosen my own grasp and offer each of them back to Him.

I pray that He will enable to me to follow the example of the Lord Jesus – to bring glory to His Name, to point loved ones to Him, to faithfully finish the work God has given me to do as a wife and a mother, to pray for my family, entrusting them to His care – and I pray that, like the elders before God’s throne, I will worship and honor the One on the throne by laying each treasure He has placed in my hands and in my heart back at His feet!

If the Lord does not return first, the day will come when I hold a loved one’s hand for the last time, give them one last kiss, hold them tenderly as our Savior calls one of us home.  I pray that it will be a moment that is flooded with more thankfulness than regret, inexplicably more joy than sorrow – that I will courageously and genuinely thank the Lord for the beautiful years we have been given – and rest in the assurance that His grace has enabled me to make Him proud with the time that He gave me.

But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?  Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your hand.  –  I Chronicles 29:14

Read more here! – John 17 – Revelation 4 – John 1:3 – Colossians 1:16 – I Samuel 1:27-28

what He gave me

 

He is able

I was particularly encouraged by a group of verses yesterday and thought I might not be the only one who needs to hear them right now!  It would probably be a longer story than necessary to delve into all the reasons I am feeling so discouraged and defeated this week, but these few thoughts strung together from different places in God’s Word meet me right where I am and help me fix my eyes on what truly matters ~ MY SAVIOR, for HE is able!

Be of good courage – HE will strengthen your heart.

Be of good comfort – rise, HE is calling you.

Before they call, I will answer.

HE IS ABLE

ABLE to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think.

ABLE to make all grace abound… all sufficiency in all things… abundance for every good work.

ABLE to save those who come to God through Him.

ABLE to keep you from stumbling.

ABLE to keep what I have committed to Him.

ABLE to transform our lowly body, conformed to His glorious body.

Do you believe that I AM ABLE to do this?

Yes, Lord.

[Psalm 31:24, Mark 10:49, Isaiah 65:24, 2 Timothy 1:12, Ephesians 3:20, 2 Corinthians 9:8, Hebrews 7:25, Jude 24, Philippians 3:21, Matthew 9:28-29]

Whatever my struggle, whatever my weakness, do I trust that HE is able?  Can I let it all melt away, simply come into His presence, leave my cares at His feet and say “Yes, Lord. THANK YOU for all that You are, all that You are doing. I trust You, for You are trustworthy. I know that You will walk me through whatever is robbing me of Your peace and Your joy today… Do I believe that You are able?  Yes, Lord.”

He is able

Hagar

She may have felt like a nobody who was invited to travel and work for a successful somebody… then invited to be a more important somebody in that family until things didn’t work out so well and she ran away, feeling again like a nobody… until she realized the One and only, true Somebody took notice of her and valued her enough to speak to her, comfort her, direct her, and provide for her.

Her name was Hagar.  She was the Egyptian servant to Sarah, Abraham’s wife.  When Sarah was unable to have children, she offered Hagar to Abraham as a second wife for the purpose of being a surrogate mother, through whom Sarah might have children (a common custom of their day).  When Hagar took too much pleasure in the success of her mission, Sarah treated her so harshly that Hagar ran away.  Pregnant and alone in the desert, her head and heart probably swirling with a whole gamut of emotions and questions, this nobody from a pagan land encountered the one true God.

“Hagar, where are you coming from and where are you going?”  He asked.  He spoke her name!  Almighty God knew her by name and invited her to tell Him her story!  She might have been surprised, but we don’t read that she was afraid.  She wasn’t defiant.  Hagar answered the Lord honestly, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.”  I wonder if the years in Abraham’s household helped her to learn about God.  She might have been haughty toward Sarah, but she seemed humble before the Lord and comfortable enough to respond to Him.

God’s words were not easy for her to hear.  He directed her to return to that difficult situation and submit to her mistress.  But He also comforted her, reassuring her that He knew of her suffering, that she would have a son, and that He would multiply her offspring.  He even gave her rare insight into the kind of man her son would become.

Again, we don’t read that Hagar balked at the Lord’s direction to her.  She didn’t plead her case or argue that returning to Sarah might not be the best thing to do.  On the contrary, she seemed genuinely touched that God saw her, spoke to her and cared about her current and future well-being.  She said, “You are the God who sees me… truly here I have seen Him who looks after me.”

hagar text

This nobody from a pagan land felt known, valued, and directed by almighty God.  We aren’t told all of Hagar’s thoughts, but we do know that she obeyed God.  She returned to Sarah and bore Abraham a son, Ishmael.

What a beautiful lesson in this little part of Hagar’s story!  She was not the first and would not be the last to find herself in a sticky situation, with complex human relationships!  God called her to do a hard thing – to submit to an authority who was mistreating her with unreasonable cruelty.  God called her to trust Him and obey Him anyway.  I want to believe it was her appreciation for God and His provision and care for her that enabled her to obey.  She was honoring Him first and He honored her by giving her the courage to do that hard thing.  We don’t read about Sarah treating her harshly after her return.  Could it be that Hagar’s humility and submission earned Sarah’s respect in return?  We don’t know for sure.  But I do believe this is a picture of a soft heart bringing about a much more positive outcome than a hard one.

May I learn from Hagar to soften my heart toward God first, trusting Him to care for me and meet my needs.  The reassurance from His full embrace and the ability to rest in His abundant provisions can be so freeing, allowing and enabling me to soften my heart toward others, opening the way to enjoy healthier and more peaceful relationships!

In time, God fulfilled His promise to Abraham and Sarah, enabling Sarah to conceive their son Isaac.  For the first time in 13 years, there was unrest within their household again.  Conflict between the two half brothers stirred up old hard feelings from Sarah.  She demanded that Hagar and Ishmael be removed from the home where she would raise her own son.  Upon God’s confirmation and direction, Abraham made provisions for their journey and sent Hagar and Ishmael away.

This time, Hagar hadn’t run away in fear and uncertainty, she had been sent away – definitively.  Her own old hard feelings surfaced again, and those haunting voices that she was a nobody… still.  Once again, she was alone in the desert, in despair, with swirling emotions and questions – only this time she had a young son to consider as well.  Convinced that they would die of thirst, she left Ishmael in the little bit of shade she could find and separated from him because she couldn’t bear to see him suffer.

In that dark place, Hagar encountered God for the second time!  “What troubles you, Hagar?  Don’t be afraid.  I have heard your son’s voice.  Go to him and take him by the hand.  Raise him up for I will make him into a great nation.”  Again the one true God spoke her name!  Again He comforted her, directed her, and provided for her and her son by leading her to a spring of water.  God was not only with her, looking after her, but He was with her son!  God heard her son’s voice crying out to Him.  He heard her cries of desperation.  He saw her helpless situation.  And He had the answers.  The one true God was willing and able to meet her every need.  He had a plan for her life and He revealed what He knew she needed to confidently take the next step.

What confidence this gives us too!  It is so comforting to know that when we run out of resources, He is right there!  It is so wonderful that His provisions are perfect and not limited by events, conditions, or human relationships!

We may be different from Hagar in time and place, circumstances and even personality, yet the Lord sees each one of us and meets us exactly where we are.  He is the same God today!  He sees and knows us and will come close to us in whatever situation we find ourselves.  He calls us by name and reminds us that we are never alone and never out of options.  HE is always the best and only perfect option!

Hagar’s story reminds me of the chorus in David Osmond’s song, “He Hears Me:”

He hears me when I’m crying in the night

He hears me when my soul longs to fight

’til the morning comes and the light of the dawn reassures me…

He hears me!

In God’s eyes, I am never a nobody.  I am not only invited to travel with and work for Him, I am welcomed into His family as His redeemed and adopted child.  I am given His Name!  He always sees me and hears me.  He will always look out for me and abundantly provide for me.  He will never send me away!  He will be faithful to preserve and complete His purposes for me.  The one true Somebody is my Father and because of that I never need to be alone or in despair!  Praise GOD!

Read more here!  –  Genesis 16, 21 – Matthew 11:29 – Ephesians 1:5 – John 1:12 – Galatians 4:5 – Psalm 139 – Psalm 145:18-19 – Psalm 5:1-3 – 2 Corinthians 9:7-9 – Philippians 4:19 – Philippians 1:6

 hagar song