Category Archives: Devotion

Gifts of a Changed Perspective

I’m so happy to have my friend Juana Jordan sharing a message this week. During this season of busy days, I pray that we will pause and look around for people who need love. What better gift could we give?

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son,” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” — John 19:26-27

Rev. Juana Jordan is a native of Jacksonville, Florida, where she is currently planting the soon-to-be Bridges UMC in the city, a multi-ethnic intergenerational faith community in the downtown urban core of her hometown. As an elder in full connection of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, Rev. Jordan holds a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Ga. and a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC. She is the former senior pastor of Harris Chapel UMC in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., her very first appointment where she served for 5 years and is passionate about pursuing her passion as a Gospel storyteller, teacher and writer, and believes like the Rev. Dr. Nancy Lane that “telling our stories is a holy work.” When time permits, Rev. Jordan can be found at the local kickboxing gym, dancing to the rhythmic beats of the African drums or thrift store and consignment shopping. Follow Juana on Instagram at preachergirl_in_the_city.

I remember praying I wouldn’t be asked to preach this text for a Good Friday service. Of all the seven last words of Jesus, this was a passage I feared. Not only did it not seem sexy enough (yes, there are passages that are sexy, therefore making them easy to preach), but it didn’t seem to offer kindling to get a good fire started — or so I thought. Besides, how could I relate to this passage. I am not a mother nor a wife. I am a no children having, single, never been married preacher and in no way can I relate to the Jesus/child/parent dynamic — or so I thought. So with hesitation, “fear and trembling” and in obedience I accepted the challenge to deliver a message, only to be surprised at what Jesus revealed. I did in fact understand the feelings that can rise up when the one you depended on being there is no longer there. I did understand the anxiety around the thought of being alone for the rest of your life. I did understand the feelings of not wanting to go on or knowing whether you can go on and how to go on when your life is torn apart. As a single, never been married, no children having woman, I guess I really could understood the absence of a family and the fear of not having one.

Jesus was Mary’s son, yes, and he was also her family. Jesus was John’s friend, yes, and he was also his family. And in a compassionate expression of selfless love, Jesus introduced them and “gave them” to each other so that they would be each other’s family. Jesus handled it, in an unexpected way. He covered their silent fears and concerns of loneliness and aloneness in one fail swoop. He sent the message that bloodlines don’t necessarily bind us. It’s the love lines we have with each other that matter. It was a point he made to the disciples: “And they will know that you belong to me by your love for each other.” (John 13:35) In other words, it is our act of love and acceptance and embracing of each other that speaks the language of family. Jesus’ action is a reminder of what he does for all of us — loves us so fiercely by adopting us into his family and connecting us to others who share his call to love beyond traditions and societal and familial boundaries. He reminds us of what it means to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. He reminds us of what family looks like and what its members do — they care for each other.

In this holiday season, I was reminded of this gift of family through this passage. I was reminded of the many times Jesus has turned me and others over to each other and sealed us as members of the same family. I was reminded, in the moments of loneliness, that I am, in fact, not alone, but a part of many families that stretch from my days in college, my work in the cities I have lived as a journalist and now those given through my vocation as a pastor and preacher.

What a beautiful present in this season of Hallmark commercials, movies and holiday billboards that can sometimes taint our mood, cloud our perspective and leave us feeling as Mary and John — that love is gone and we belong to no one and no one belongs to us. What a beautiful sight, when in those times, Jesus, in his surprising, unexpected way, commands us to look around to see who is among us and who is with us and what we have been given. He invites us to change our perspective. How has Jesus invited you to change your perspective this season? Who are those Jesus has invited you to name and claim as family? Because I am almost certain that in looking into their faces, we see Jesus and are reminded once again, like insurance, He’s got us covered!

A Teachable Spirit Takes Discipline

Do you want to be successful? Of course you do, so what’s the secret? A teachable spirit—because if you are willing to admit your weaknesses, learn from your mistakes, and seek out wise counsel, with God as your guide, you will develop the skills necessary for success.

For at least a year, I’ve been praying for one of my children to have a teachable spirit, a couple of weeks ago as I literally wrestled him into his soccer uniform, I had a revelation. God was going to use me to instill this virtue in this stubborn child. Would someone please tell me why God always works like this? I really would’ve preferred he just transform my son’s attitude, but alas, that is not to be, so if you hear me shouting, please know I am doing the Lord’s work.

Proverbs teaches us the necessity for a teachable spirit. “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Proverbs 1:5.  “Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.” Proverbs 9:9.

Seems pretty simple, but sometimes it is easier said than done. When we have poured our hearts and souls into our works, the critiques feel harsh. I think a teachable spirit requires not only a humble attitude but also thick skin. Let’s face it, it’s hard to listen to your work being picked apart line-by-line or even word-by-word. But we can’t grow as writers or God’s servants if we don’t possess this quality. In all likelihood, we will find that we have to change a lot and work tirelessly. Criticism is hard to accept, but when we allow it to refine our work—our lives, we will be stronger, more effective writers and servants.

It is the secret of the wise and successful. They are constantly seeking instruction from experienced teachers and learned text. Proverbs 2:2-6 teaches us to “turn your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.”

God gives us human teachers and earthly resources to improve our writing and our lives. It is up to us to listen and read. We must take this instruction and apply it. An instructor at a writing conference told me about the number of writers that argued with her about her comments. Now, let’s just be clear, this person is an expert in the field from a number of angles, and she was trying to help budding writers. It boggles my mind, why anyone wouldn’t be writing down everything she said and begging for more. What a blessing from God to have this person willing to help and encourage me as a writer.

I know I need a lot of work. My bookshelves are filled to overflowing with writing craft books, Bible studies, and Christian living texts. Usually, I’m reading one from each category plus a novel and several blogs. When friends or family members have problems, they will often receive a book from me. (whether or not they want it) Obviously, seeking God’s guidance from the Bible is a must. It is the greatest instruction, story, poetry book ever written. Craft books and novels help me hone my writing skills. Sometimes I can read the same concept in book after book, but it takes just the right author to turn the light bulb on for me. What an incredible feeling to grasp a concept, and I apply it to my own writing and life—surely, a gift from God.

To me having a teachable spirit, is not only listening to advice, but actively seeking out the best ways to write, live, and serve; praying for God to provide me with wise and experienced mentors; and being grateful for the opportunity to learn something new each day that will improve my writing and my walk with Him.

King David wrote, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches him his way.” Even the powerful Kind David, a man after God’s own heart, knew the value of developing a teachable spirit. Psalm 25:4, 9.

 

In what areas of your life do you need a teachable spirit?

 

 

Giving Thanks brings Perspective

There is a television commercial that starts about this time every year. The voiceover says, “we are thankful,” or “we give thanks.” Something along those lines, and every year, I think and sometimes say, “to who?” Who provided the bounty on the table in the commercial? Do they really think they provided it, and if so, does that means they are thankful for themselves? Seems a little narcissistic and selfish for Thanksgiving, and as you can tell, it really gets under my skin.

I mean, I am as thankful as most Americans for the convenience of the modern supermarket. Although we (and by we, I mean my husband who thinks he’s a farmer instead of a hospital administrator) keep a small vegetable garden and rarely buy beef because of our supply of venison, I really like being able to find almost any food from around the world at my local store. Not to mention the frozen food section, pizza sustains life around here sometimes.

But the Hebrew author of First Chronicles wasn’t confused about who provides for us, and we should listen to his words.

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what He has done.

“Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all his wonderful acts.

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

“Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.

“Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced.”

1 Chr. 16:8-12

A few years ago, I participated in a gratitude study with a small group of friends. As part of the study, we were supposed to keep a journal, listing at least five things we were thankful for every day. After family members, I’m pretty sure dark chocolate and cabernet were next on my list, just in case you think I’m a super-deep thinker.

Now, as I look back at that season of my life, I remember that it was also a very stressful time. I remember telling a friend about all of the crazy, bad things that were happening to me and my family, and she couldn’t believe I was still functioning. At the time, it seemed like bad was chasing us down from every direction. From problems with our children’s school, to problems at work, to problems with family members. Seriously, our air conditioner and dishwasher even jumped in on the action. But with hindsight, I’m certain God sent that study and those girls at just the right time to help me remember that He has always provided, and He always will. I certainly wasn’t wandering in the desert, praying for manna, but just like the Hebrews, God faithfully provided everything I really needed.

Keeping track of God’s blessings is such an important practice to help me keep my perspective. It also gives me the opportunity to remember how God has been faithful. I love to see the big ways He shows up and gives us more than we asked for, and in ways we never dreamed. I don’t always write it down in a journal, but I try to meditate daily on God’s provision.

Next week is Thanksgiving. What things are you most thankful for this year? I’ll tell you today, I’m very grateful that I stockpiled blog posts and flash fiction pieces because I’m able to spend more time on my books. Every day that the Lord blesses me with a healthy family and words to write, I give Him my thanks. This journey would be impossible without Him. He blesses me so far beyond what I need and in ways, I often don’t even comprehend. Thank you, Jesus, for letting my greatest worry be a leaky sink. (Don’t tell Carlton, I forgot to call the plumber today. I was so caught up in my characters’ lives, and their sinks don’t leak.)

I’d love to hear what you are thanking God for this year. Leave your comments below. Let’s give God our thanksgiving this year.

Faith in Seasons of Waiting by Lauren Luckhart

Lately, it seems, my life moves from one season of waiting to another. I would be willing to bet, too, that most people would share that sentiment. Maybe it’s because there are deep-seeded longings in my heart that are still at arm’s length, or maybe because I’ve reached the age where big milestones are spread farther apart, but I am keenly aware of the waiting seasons in my life right now.

Full confession? Learning to surrender my timeline has been hard. Really hard. I’m a work in progress. We live in a world of instant gratification and self-entitlement and I’m often guilty of impatience. There’s an old saying that says something to the tune of, “While your waiting for an open door, praise God in the hallway.” Waiting is difficult, especially when what we’re waiting for is a desire so deep we can think of little else. But the greater dependence on God that waiting creates is something I’m learning to be grateful for. When I realize there is nothing I can do but pray and trust God in a situation I can’t control, it draws me closer to Him, and renews my spirit to the truth of His provision and goodness.

One of my favorite books of the Bible is James. If you’ve never read through James, I encourage you to take 20 minutes and read it today. James 1:2-4 is a life verse for me. It says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV) In this verse, we are challenged to view our trials with joy. Waiting can so often be a trial. Yet when we rest in the truth that God meets us in those trials, equips us to stand, and supplies our every need, our faith grows.

Can waiting be a testing of your faith?  Absolutely! But let’s refocus our prayers from seeking what we want, to seeking God’s will, no matter what. We must be careful not to let our desires become idols. If God places something in our hearts, and His word teaches that, “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28 NIV), then we must believe that even if His answer is different than our desired outcome, it’s for our good. That takes big faith, friend, and surrender. God moves in His timing and for His glory, and as I look back and trace His hand in my life, I’m grateful for His perfect leading.

What are you currently waiting and praying for while you’re standing in the hallway? Is there a job you’ve been working toward and you’re praying for an interview and offer? Is your raw and aching heart praying for that pregnancy test to finally read positive? Have you put everything within you into the manuscript that’s now in the hands of an agent, editor, or publishing house, and you’re waiting for the email that could change the course of your writing journey? You’re not alone. I’m in the hallway with you, praying for you, and hoping this season reveals to you in new and mighty ways, how good and loving our Father is.

Author Bio:

Lauren Luckhart is an aspiring Christian author of Historical Romance. Having been born in the South but raised in the North, she now calls Chattanooga, TN home and is loving every minute of Southern exposure.

An avid history and movie buff, she can be found regularly geeking out over historical facts and blockbuster films. In addition to spending time with her close-knit family, Lauren is a coffee and travel enthusiast, crochet hobbyist, graduate of Bryan College with a B.S. degree in Business Administration, hair stylist of eight years, and loves to connect with others on social media.

Social Media Handles:

Facebook: @authorlaurenluckhart

Instagram: @authorlaurenluckhart

Website: laurenluckhart.com

 

A Work in Progress

Some days I feel like such a fraud—as a writer, as a mother, as a Christian. How about you? I remember the first time I thought this. I was listening to a speaker at a Christian writers’ conference. A lot of people there thought I must be successful because I’d won a few awards and had an agent, and I played along like I was the confident person they believed I was. Meanwhile, all I could think about was the rejection from an editor and the likelihood of my award-winning novel ever being published slipping away.

Last weekend, I spent two scorching days melting in the oppressive heat and humidity of Orlando, Florida, watching my youngest son play in a soccer tournament. I’m telling you if you ever want to see me lose my religion in a flash, come to a soccer game. If it’s not the referee making a bad call, it’s the rude parents from the other team or the kid that keeps shoving my son. Before I know it, I’m confessing my behavior to our long-suffering Father and begging for forgiveness.  But then, of course, we have to get on the interstate and drive home, and well, you know the drill.

How can I call myself a Christian? What kind of example am I to my children? Sure, I lead two small groups and teach Sunday school to teenagers, and I have started calling bad drivers, “sweetheart and princess.” But what would the church crowd think if they saw me at my worst? More importantly, what will the new Christian think or the unbeliever? I say I’m faithful, and yet, I doubt and worry. I think judgmental thoughts with a self-righteous attitude. Gracious, by the time, I finish this post, y’all will think I’m an awful person, and I might lose my Sunday School teacher position, but I think it is important, to be honest—to be real. (And since most people are afraid of twenty high school students in close-quarters, I don’t have to worry about being fired quite yet.)

It is not enough to ask for forgiveness, so I pray every day to be a blessing to others, and God is working on me. We all have our issues. We all sin. We all make mistakes because like I tell my children, there was only one perfect person, and his name was Jesus. Yes, dear friends, we are all frauds at some point, but hear the good news: with Jesus, there is hope for transformation. The Holy Spirit can change us and our thoughts. We have to give it all to Him and seek His direction. We must earnestly repent, and then pray for those people who cut us off in traffic.

In First Corinthians 1:27-31, Paul writes encouraging words for all of us less than perfect people. “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

God gives us the strength and wisdom, and when we succeed, we give him all the glory. Surely, we understand that it is only through His power and love that great things happen. Friends, if you don’t know about this love, this power, this grace, and this freedom, please know it is a gift from God and all you need say is yes.

How has God used your weaknesses to do his work? How has God taken something small in your life and made it something great? Let’s share. I’d love to hear your stories.

The Right Path

A few weeks ago, I was working on my book proposal and emailing it back and forth with my agent. My agent—every time I say that I feel like I did when I was first engaged and peppered my conversations with my fiancé.

In one of the emails, I wrote, “I just want to make sure I’m on the right path.” This part of the proposal was new to me, and I was worried I was doing it completely wrong.

My agent, (sorry couldn’t help myself) responded, “You ARE on the right path.”

Now, I’m pretty sure he was only referring to the small section of the proposal we were working on, so I didn’t ask if he also meant my writing career as a whole. I decided I would accept the double meaning as encouragement because I’ll take assurance anywhere I can find it these days even if that means reading into a simple phrase. But, I mean, he did emphasize the ARE.

Doubt is my new favorite sin. It used to be worry, but for the most part, I’ve beaten that monster down with prayer and realization of God’s provision in my life. I know doubting means I’m not being faithful, but what if this writing thing isn’t what God wants me to do. I know in my logical brain that He has shown me over and over that I am on the right path.

The ugly doubt monster loves to whisper in my ear. “Maybe, this is all about demonstrating perseverance for your children, or perhaps, it is about connecting people who you meet to further the Kingdom. Like connecting writer friends with the Women’s Ministries Director at my church. It might not be about you publishing books at all, so why are you wasting all this time?”

But my God is bigger and stronger and more faithful than the doubt monster. He orchestrates my successes with disappointments to lessen the blow. He helps me see the side benefits of following his plan. So I can be on the right path and enjoy the people I meet and the sights along the way. This writing journey isn’t just about me being a published author. God’s vision is never that narrow. I love seeing how he is using my writing journey to help other writers and speakers, to prepare me for His work, and to shower blessings on people I barely know.

I praise God for his long-suffering patience and his faithfulness. “His word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) If I seek Him first and His righteousness, all these things will be given to me. (Matthew 6:33) Because I see how he clothes the grass of the fields and takes care of the birds of the sky, I know he is leading me right where he wants me with all I need to succeed. (Matthew 6:26, 28-30) For I am “confident of this, that He who began a good work in me will carry it to completion.” (Philippians 1:6)

So take that Doubt monster!

What are your doubts? How do you deal with them? Comment below. I’d love to continue this conversation with you.

Don’t Push Me

My two-year old niece proclaims, “patience is waiting with a happy heart.” Apparently, I gave her mother the book In This House, We Will Giggle by Courtney DeFeo. (DeFeo, Courtney. “Chapter 5,” In this House, We Will Giggle: Making Virtues, Love, and Laughter a Daily Part of Your Family Life, WaterBrook Press, 2014, p. 97) My family studied one virtue a month from this book, but I’m pretty sure we need a remedial course.

We all need what we want and we need it now, and I’m left thanking God for Amazon Prime and two-day shipping. But it’s not just things—we want answers, results instantaneously. The world is interested in instant results—the faster the better, but as Christians aren’t we supposed to be content with God’s timing?

I recently began studying John’s Gospel to prepare to teach Middle School Sunday School. (My students would probably prefer that I spend my time purchasing more candy to encourage participation.) By the way, if you want to practice patience, work with middle schoolers. I’m reading each chapter in the Message and the New International Version.

In the second chapter of the Message version, Jesus says to his mother, “This is not my time. Don’t push me.” (John 2:4)

Something about Jesus telling his mother to be patient struck me. Isn’t Jesus all the time telling me to wait? “This isn’t your time. When it happens in My time, My way, it will be so much better than you ever imagined, and you will give God the glory.”

But, fellow tiger moms don’t you know Mary wanted to respond: “Are you serious? I know who you are and where you came from. People have been gossiping about me for years. Show them what you can do.” And Jesus did give her a miracle, turning water into wine, but only the servants knew about it. Amazing, I think if I performed a miracle, it’d be all over Facebook and Twitter in about a minute, but not our Lord. He knew that God planned everything with perfect timing for maximum impact.

And in chapter seven, Jesus’ brothers prod him to “show himself to the world.” (NIV John 7:4)

But Jesus responds, “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast because for me the right time has yet to come.” (NIV John 7:6-8) Jesus stood strong, waiting for His time. Having faith in God’s perfect plan.

I don’t know about you, but I can be patient for a while, but then I’m ready to make things happen. Surely, God needs me to move things along—maybe that’s His plan. Probably not, but oh, the waiting. Friends we can’t do it on our own.

When I get to this place, I know the only answer is prayer. I need God’s strength to fight my impatience. And if I’m honest with myself, which I loathe, I know that my impatience is just a manifestation of my lack of faith. But I know “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (NIV Hebrews 11:1). God is refining me and making me into the writer, mother, teacher, wife that can best serve His kingdom, and with Jesus’ help, I can be patient. (Even right this second, when my boys are screaming at each other in the other room over a game of Risk. Ahhhh. Breathe.)

God’s timing brings the best for His kingdom. I find this perspective freeing because it isn’t about me, it’s about Him. Who are you serving God or the world? For whose glory are you living? Friends, go to God, ask for discernment, and then yes, “wait with a happy heart.”

 

© 2017 Leslie DeVooght

Shattered by Kailee Diaz

Shattered

We live where the weeds pop from the field grass at the start of each spring. Much to my southern husband’s chagrin, those aggressive little plants don’t stop their onslaught for the next three months of summer. He claims, he’s never seen anything like it, and I believe him because—well, in the southern heat of Georgia, not much grows past a certain point of the year.

Poor transplanted man of mine…

Ironically, that’s not the only thing growing in these parts, from the corn that’s about “yea high” (I’m motioning to my shoulders just in case you can’t see), to the kids who keep inching taller, our place is a well-spring of life. And with that, comes the busyness of lawn mowing season, the wild yelps of toddlers ready to enter the summer sun, and a little more chaos then the usual season.

Why just the other day, the littles knocked a lamp from its side table while playing in the house. They had been captive for quite some time and probably needed the sun to free their energy-filled bodies from the small indoor space. But whatever the reason, these poor littles knocked that lamp to the ground, and it shattered—in the blink of an eye.

Glass lay strewn across the floor, a wobbly, unfixable lamp resting by its side.

Sometimes life happens in an instant. Doesn’t it?

It’s those inexplicable moments, where we sit back and can hardly catch our breath. The glass is shattered at our feet, and we’re left with the pieces of a life that once was…

Maybe for you, it’s a life-altering diagnosis, a barren womb, an unattainable marriage, a lost child, and you’re sitting back grasping for any wholesome piece left behind.

You, my dear sweet friend, to you I say, you’re not alone.

He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Isaiah 53:3

How is it, in our deepest desperations we sometimes feel the most solitude?

Whatever the quiet aching of your heart, there is a man who is acquainted with your grief, both in a human way of understanding and in the capacity and sovereignty of an all-knowing God. This man, this Jesus, knows what you’re experiencing. Better yet, He’s not indifferent to it, my friend.

As a child, I grew up with a grandfather diagnosed with Parkinson’s. For those of you not aware, Parkinson’s is a crippling disease. It attacks the brain and nervous system, so that its victim can’t control their muscle movements.

My grandfather had to leave his pastorate far too soon. He loved ministry and people in a way that for all my love of words, I can’t express in written form. One of the first Parkinson’s patients to have electrodes placed inside his brain to help control the muscle spasms, he spent years plagued by a disease which had no cure.

And yet, even through suffering, He lived a life of joy. He couldn’t physically participate in our outdoor excursions, but he often pulled the board games from the shelf, challenging us to a chess match or taking the least opportune moment to prepare a bowl of ice cream, just because…

Looking back, I know these moments weren’t for show. His joy welled from inside of him. He spent many quiet hours in a back study, diving into God’s Word, praying, leaning.

I hope to never experience what he went through, but if God so chooses me, I pray my heart would set into Him like my grandfather’s. My God is a man of sorrows and grief. He is acquainted with my world, even in its shattering.

And that, my dear sweet friends, can carry a body through life.

Kailee’s a Christian historical-romance novelist and member of ACFW. She’s the daughter of a preacher, with generations of pastors filling her ancestry. A former middle school writing teacher, Kailee now writes full-time. She’s happily married to a wonderful husband, and together they’re expecting their first child in August. While she lives in America’s heartland, amongst cornfields and open skies, her passion for travel and love of history drive her stories.
Through fiction and in life, Kailee seeks to leave a legacy for future tales to be told. She hopes you’ll join her in the wonderment of God’s faithfulness to you and those who follow in your footsteps.
If you’d like to learn more, please visit www.kaileediaz.com or check her out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authorkaileediaz/

 

 

Resurrection Day Testimony – April 16, 2017

Resurrection Day Message at Southside UMC Sunrise Service

What does the resurrection mean to me this year? It is hope.

Two weeks ago with my family we celebrated the life of my name’s sake—my uncle Guy Leslie Kirby. He was the youngest of my father’s siblings, just turning 60 in February. He was one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I have ever met. He was always interested in what was going on in our lives, and whoever he met he gave the same undivided attention. Saying “see you later” to him was a really sad day for my family, but knowing we will meet again brings me comfort. I have hope because Jesus was resurrected to give us eternal life. I also know that it’s okay to feel sorrow—even Jesus wept. But he didn’t weep for loss, he knew his friend would live again. He wept with Mary and Martha and he weeps with me because he cares that much for us. That is our comfort—that is our hope. My uncle is living in glory—free of pain—no longer weak, but strong and full of life like he always was. My soul finds rest in God alone and my hope comes from Him.

Resurrection Sunday means hope to me. If you know me, you know I love scripture, and I love to research, so I spent some time this week with my concordance looking up and writing out all the verses on hope that I could find. I enjoyed this exercise, it brought me comfort and peace, but I think I was mostly doing it to avoid thinking and writing about the loss I just described. A few weeks before my uncle died, I told my small group that I felt a peace about his illness, and I knew that peace was from God, but it made me sad because I knew that if God was giving me peace the end was near. I prayed for a miracle, and I know that we did receive a miracle because we got 12 months, and most people with pancreatic cancer live less than 6 months. I know God gave us that extra time, so we could have peace—so we could have hope.

Hebrews 10:23 says “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” And Titus 1:2 says “A faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.

God is faithful. I believe in what He promises, and He promises eternal life. This changes everything for me. It gives me an eternal prospective. Jesus is close, holding my hand. As the hymn says “Turn your eyes upon Jesus; Look full in His wonderful face; and the things of Earth will grow strangely dim; In the light of His glory and grace.” I was born a worrier, but as I look more and more to Jesus and less and less to worldly troubles, my anxious mind finds peace. Because of His promises and His faithfulness, I have hope. The writer of Hebrews says we hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. Jesus’ Resurrection gives me the strength to grasp the wheel, pointing the bow straight to heaven, slicing through stormy seas or calm waters.

As I mentioned, I spent much of the week procrastinating on preparing this testimony, but I planned to immerse myself in the hope verses Thursday and have this completed Friday morning. I got the hope verses completed, but Friday, as I was reading and writing in my journal, my son sliced open his finger with his birthday present—a new, very sharp pocket knife. We spent the entire day at the emergency room.

When I got home, I checked my e-mail and found a newsletter from Charley Reeb, a college friend, who is a Methodist preacher in St. Pete.  http://charleyreeb.com/

The newsletter included a link to three of his Easter sermons. As I read them, I saw right away my procrastinating had actually been for God’s purposes. The words of his sermon spoke to me—perhaps, it was that in my family, the family that included my Uncle, we like to be right and we like to have the last word, but also because it reiterated the hope I have because God resurrected Jesus to save me and to save my uncle and to save you.

Here is a little of what Charley said. “God has the last word! The worst thing is never the last thing.”

“If you allow the truth of Easter to penetrate your soul this morning you will experience a hope that will bring healing, a peace that will bring joy, and a life that will be worth living.”

“God has the last word in death.”

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26

So, this Resurrection Sunday, hope embraces my sadness, just as Jesus embraces me, reminding me that because I believe in Him, I have eternal life, my uncle has eternal life. It encourages me to give more love, more grace, and more joy.