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I love words. I love the Word. I love to read. I love to teach. I love to write. I love to listen to others words. I love the stories we tell in the songs we sing. One thing that sets a singer apart from other instruments is the lyrics, the words of the song bring the message and tell the story.
Yesterday my husband and I drove back from a wonderful, but exhausting week with family in South Carolina and as I made the eleven hour drive home, I began to think about words that I especially like. I simply jotted them down in my phone as they came to my mind. They are in no particular order and the list is not comprehensive of words I love, but it was a fun way to pass the time on the long drive home. I think the words we love are significant. Who knows, maybe I’ll blog some more about some of these words in the future. In fact, I think I’ve already written about a lot of them! Here's my list.
God the Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Bible, family, beauty, hope, dream, create, love, cherish, breathe, blessed, grateful, grace, joy, inspire, passion, Christ, light, limitless, delight, vision, adventure, faithfulness, soul, spirit, goodness, kindness, nesting, extraordinary, pray, extravagant, sleep, gentle, lavish, lovely, imagine, vacation, refine, integrity, treasure, music, resonate, pure, visualize, candles, fountains, life, serenity, simple, pleasure, life, giving, generous, embrace, fabulous, content, glistening, artistic, snuggle, purposeful, peace, awed, wonder, still, rekindle, restore, renew, home, cultivate,
discover, unleash, learn, authentic, worship, emotion, unstoppable, reading, shine, peonies, flowers, feasts, redeem, fire, dancing, holding hands, tea, community, abundance, connecting, welcome, friendship, silence, solitude, gathering, celebrate, journey, lavender, time, thankfulness, worthy, travel, quiet, seasons, oceans, waves, heartfelt, intentional, mountains, beach, letters, spontaneous, sparkle, appreciate, bare feet, soft, nourish, different, moments, hugs, significant, daughters, sisters, mom, dad, husband, sing, reflect, ponder, windows, gardens, chocolate, handwritten, belonging, resurrect, rare, whimsical, wisdom, see, touch, memories, healing, smiles, laughter,
forgiveness, gardens, intimate, strength, glory, courage, abundance, giving, curiosity, picnics, butterflies, hummingbirds, view, books, cozy, embrace, bride, pottery, story, scent, encourage, contemplate, savor, pursue, understanding, naps, sunsets, romance, ideas, fresh, fulfill, tablescapes, serenity, babies, puppies, captivate, bath, children, relationships, orchids, conversations, together, enchanting, illuminate, roses, unique, compelling, engaging, believe, original, landscapes, flourish, miracle, explore, devoted, texture, color, whole, broken, imperfect, deep, reflection, perseverance, meditate, beloved, abide, rest, blessed, bloom, harmony, teach, reach, character, cross, sacrifice...
I love these words not necessarily because of the way they sound when you speak them, but because of the meaning that they have brought to my life, my relationships, and my faith journey. I suppose the words we love give us a window into the life we have lived and choose to pursue.
This past week I experienced Christ presence in unique and amazing ways as we celebrated with family my granddaughter‘s birthdays, and the art show of my oldest daughter Maggie. Many of the words I listed above describe my week.
The morning after we arrived Evelyn had an art party for her fourth birthday with fifteen little girls. Maggie had planned a precious party for her. They painted canvases with their initials, had lots of art themed treats, made crowns and played games. I was so proud of my daughter and the wonderful, creative party she had planned and worked so hard to give her little girl. I saw wonder in their eyes as imaginations took off and they created their masterpieces.
When they had finished all the food, games, art and presents the parents weren’t coming for 45 more minutes! So Auntie M. (my daughter Mary Elizabeth) came to the rescue and entertained them with her gift of contagious joy and love for children. She was like the pied piper as they followed her every move dancing and singing until the parents showed up. Everyone had so much fun! Especially little Evelyn.
The next day, Sunday, we celebrated Audrey turning one with family. It was a rainy day so grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins from both sides of the family, eighteen of us all gathered in their little home. We laughed and sang and feasted again as Spencer, my son-in-law grilled burgers and hot dogs. As I looked around the room I was overwhelmed with joy. My oldest daughter has moved to the area of the country where my husband grew up and now his family can join in the major life events of my grandchildren! Little Audrey even decided to take her first steps at her birthday party! What a blessing!
During our week there we also suffered some trials along with the joys and celebrations of life.
The next day, in the middle of the night on the day Mary Elizabeth was to fly back to New York City she became violently ill. By late afternoon we took her to urgent care and they sent us immediately to the hospital. She had lost all body fluids, her heart rate and fever were dangerously high with intense abdominal pain. They were drawing lots of blood, giving her meds and fluids through an IV and feared she possibly had appendicitis. Scans were ordered and we held on to the promises of the Healer, the Comforter, the Prince of Peace. We held on to Jesus and He held on to us.
And we waited…and we prayed, and we surrendered to His plan.
Hours later, all the tests came back that she had a severe gastric intestinal virus…no appendicitis, not septic as they had suspected, no need for surgery and they were not sure if it was viral or bacterial. We finally arrived back home after midnight with medications to try and calm her body down and keep down fluids. The family went into nursing mode. She was set up, basically under quarantine, in the attic room where Audrey and Evelyn were sleeping and the girls moved downstairs with us. Six of us in two small bedrooms. But family sacrifices and rises to meet the need because that’s what love does. And we prayed, and family and friends prayed. It was so hard to watch her suffer in so much pain, eating almost nothing for days and barely able to move.
It was a long, exhausting week with Maggie's art show coming in the middle of it all on Thursday night. Fortunately, Mary Elizabeth was well enough on the day of the art show so that we were able to attend and see her beautiful work. I remember my little girl painting as a small child, as a teenager, and then going off to college to study art. Such promise, such a beautiful gift. And we were so grateful that we could be there to celebrate with her and share in the beauty she had captured on canvas. Her aunts and uncles came to share in the joy, too! What a blessing to get to experience your children’s dreams coming true.
When I came home from the show my heart was full, but also heavy. I couldn’t sleep for hours. Tears began to flow as I thought of my dear friend Melissa who went to live with Jesus in heaven after a long battle with cancer last July. It was her birthday that day and I miss her so much. I had worn her coat to the show in memory of her. I had written to her children and husband that night and sent them a picture of me in their mom’s coat telling them I felt wrapped up in her love and presence wearing it. It was as if she was there with me somehow. She would have loved seeing my daughter shine in her beautiful work. It’s strange how you can feel such joy and brokenness all at the same time. I let the tears flow and Christ held me in His intimate presence with little Audrey sleeping in her crib beside me.
Finally, after canceling two flights, four days later Mary Elizabeth was able to fly home, weak but able to make the trip. I was so glad when she was safely back in her little apartment, but my mama heart wanted to be there to take care of her.
God in His grace gave us a glorious last day. We treated ourselves to lunch in beautiful downtown Greenville overlooking the river…more feasting! That evening we drove out toward the mountains and went to a strawberry festival with the girls. It was such a sweet ending to our week together.
The next morning, Saturday, we started the long drive home and arrived back into Baton Rouge about 8 pm. On our way in we picked up our favorite Lebanese salad, unloaded the car and ate a bite before I went upstairs to take a long, hot bath. We unlocked the doors to our home, unloaded the car and immediately the routine of our lives took over. My precious Ken went to the piano to prepare to lead worship for Sunday’s service the next morning. Weary after the long drive, his heart is always faithful to serve and bring excellence in music with life giving words of truth. I sang along upstairs praising the Father for his traveling mercies, for his love and faithfulness in our lives and our family stories.
I heard him singing the beautiful old hymn “I Love to Tell the Story.”
I love to tell the story, Because I know 'tis true. It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do. I love to tell the story, ‘twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.”
I remember singing that hymn with my mom and sister at the piano growing up and in church. I thought of my Meemaw playing those old hymns for me as we gathered around her piano. I learned Words of life and faith in the lyrics that we sang together as a family throughout the generations.
Then Ken moved into the beautiful chorus - “Hosanna in the Highest”
The words of the last verse - I see a generation, rising up to take their place, with selfless faith ...
Family gathered together last week and shared love
and the faith passed down through the generations has risen up.
And I thought of my mom - how she would have loved these celebrations if she could have been there.
And my father- in heaven almost 30 years now- a man of few words, but he would have loved seeing his grand daughters and the great grandchildren he never knew. I had a vision from my childhood of him watching his daughters sing around the piano as I listened to Ken sing and play.
The “Hosanna” song continued...
Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom's cause
As I walk from earth into eternity
Ken closed out his preparation for Sunday worship with “Take my Life and Let it be Consecrated Lord to Thee” and then I heard him singing another verse - “Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from thee." And from our upstairs bedroom I joined in with him on those powerful words.
Before we went to sleep we texted the girls that we arrived safely home and they wrote back-
Maggie - Love y’all! Get some good rest tonight!😘
Mary Elizabeth -Yay!!! Have a good night! Love my family!!
Yes…. I too am full of love for my family. That would be my favorite word for this week.
It was a week where we were blessed, broken and given. It was a week of joy and sacrifice… a week of beauty and grace... a week of abundance. And I look at my list and see so many of the words I had listed on our drive home have made their way into my writing today. Words I love because they have shaped my life and the lives of those I love.
Through the experiences with my family this week, through the loving, the celebrating, and the sacrifice, Christ was holding on to me, teaching me, loving me. In the hospital with my baby girl, in the laughter, in the tears, in the feasts, the birthday parties, the artistic offerings and in the memories of loved ones gone to heaven.… in all of those moments He was intimately present in our lives.
Once again Jesus has woven His love and words of truth into the story of our lives and into the heart of our family.
Maybe this week you could try making a list of some of your favorite words and reflect on how their meanings have shaped your story or your family.
"Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Your feet its treasure store."
Grateful and blessed by the love of family,
Resources: Maggie Grace Design @maggiegracedesign, Flora and Form Art Show at Vino and Van Gogh, Greenville, SC; I Love to tell the Story, Katherine Hankey; Hosanna, Shane and Shane; Take My Life and Let it Be, Havergal, Chris Tomlin
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There it was! A giant sign hanging above their heads, staring me right in the face, as they sang anthems of fun, encouragement, and praise to God! It wasn't until during the Baton Rouge Homeschool Choir Concert that I took full notice of it!
That's me conducting!
I had just spent the day before working hard in the sanctuary setting up the staging, sound equipment, instruments, and spent time on my knees making sure that every cable was gaff taped to the floor so no one would trip. I was flying solo with only a couple of young boys to help with the heavy lifting. My husband, Brian had to attend a family funeral and felt really bad to leave me to deal with this huge, demanding task alone.
But, death is a respecter of no one!
It was on his side of the family and I confidently told him I could handle the set up! I do it all the time for school. The boys and I worked together and time was ticking! The dress rehearsal was in a few hours and wouldn't you know it...where was the "Y" that I needed to connect two choir microphones into one input???!!!! I only had 4 channels and needed 5 (that's why I needed the Y) [Perhaps I should call it an adaptor for you non-techie types] it began to seem that everything was beginning to go badly. The countdown was on and I still needed to take the boys home to get dressed for the rehearsal and then pull myself together, shower, fix my hair and make myself presentable....calm....cool....and collected! OH NO! I forgot the plants to put in front of the stage to cover up the messy tape and cords! After spending over an hour problem solving, running back to the storage building, and deciding to use the bigger soundboard (which I do not know how to run), and finally making a phone call and locating my "Y"... which had to be driven to me because it was borrowed and not returned, we finally finished the set up! After much trial and error, I actually DID figure out the soundboard and got some pretty good sound. Whew! "Don't touch a thing," I demanded to the boys!
As it turns out, I didn't have time to take them home so I took them home with me. Their mom would bring what they needed to get changed at the church. I had 10 minutes to swing into Albertson's and pick up a few ferns! We raced to the church. You know, as the director, you've got to be there ahead of everyone else for MANY reasons! Unlocking. Double-checking to make sure you're prepared. Greet and instruct. Air conditioner set to reasonable temperature. Yada, yada, yada...
Sound like a whirlwind? Sound stressful to you? Imagine if it WERE you! Yes, it was a whirlwind and yes, it was stressful! But then again, that's pretty much the way every production goes for me. As a matter of fact, life in general is typically one rat race after another. You know it's true for you too! We are all racing around, running the roads and if you live in BR, the traffic is enough to raise your blood pressure! The demands of life call our name using a giant megaphone...through our job, care for our parents or children, group text messages, a disgruntled employee or boss, urgent emails, and wrong numbers in the middle of the night! It's a raging river of continuous pressure and volume that will surely cause you to sink beneath the quick rush and knock the breath out of you!
Interestingly, we need to be reminded to breathe! Take that deep, reach to the toes inhale, and release it with all the tension that now resides in your shoulders, neck and lower back! Enough of reliving that moment! Let's move on.
I've had to be reminded time and time again to breathe! It's one simple task which is actually an involuntary bodily function. Yet, I find myself holding my breath. Even the last two weeks as I've struggled with many things, I catch myself reminding myself to breathe! Take everything that comes my way, one moment at a time. And I take that enormous inhale. It's a lesson that I keep having to re-learn! I'm sure you can relate. You know, the same ole, same ole...Slow down! Don't overcommit. Rest. Try to focus on the one thing and do it well. Live in the moment, not multitasking your way through life and running yourself down. I know! I'm the queen of it! Silly that we have to be reminded to do such basic life skills! Quite honestly, It's embarrassing.
Back to the sign above their heads...
So this week, (ok, lately) I've been craving for new. A new purpose. A new passion. A new way of living. A new way of fashioning my days. New people in my life. New depths of relating with special friends and relationships in my life. New plans. New goals. New challenges. New adventures. New habits. I've even cooked new recipes! The mundane is not for me! I've felt like I've needed a RENEWAL on everything. So I take it up with the Lord. Then I'm reminded of Ann Voskamp's book and stories of The Broken Way. Yep! I've been dried up and broken just like the crushed wheat. But out of broken comes new! It's hard to conclude that you are broken. But when you realize that miracles happen in the breaking, you can carry on in hope.
So I take full notice of that giant sign! And then my kids sing, Stayed on Jesus. It's a choir anthem that my college friend wrote and I love the simple reminder to wake up each morning with your mind stayed on Jesus. You know, morning brings a NEW day! When we keep our focus on Jesus, doesn't it make life more simplistic? Organized? Happy?!
Here's another quote from The Broken Way and the scripture it quotes is one of my favorites:
He looked out the window and pointed. "Every morning that the sun rises and you get to rise? That's God saying He believes in you, that He believes in the story He's writing through you. He believes in you as a gift the world needs." God's mercies are new every morning - not as an obligation to you, but as an affirmation of you.
I want to share with you the glorious music that once again helped to renew my soul. I'm so proud of my kids. And God used them and that crazy big sign to draw me unto Himself!
It was one of those unusual days last week. I had prayed that morning that the Lord would use me as His vessel and help me to see with His eyes. And then I went about my routine. The day was full of appointments. I started out getting my allergy shot. After your shot, you have to wait twenty minutes before you can leave the office and I usually bring a book to read, but I had forgotten it. The office was full of people and there was only one seat by a woman who was obviously very sick and congested. I asked her if she had just started taking her shots. She said yes. I have been there. She also was allergic to everything on the testing sheet except dogs. I have been there too. We began talking about grand children and suddenly she was pouring out her heart about her son who was incarcerated for three months. She couldn’t afford to pay for his bail and traffic tickets and said she hoped it would be good for him. He needed to learn to respect authority. But you could tell her heart was aching. I just listened and confirmed to her that sometimes we need to experience consequences to change. His consequences had caused her to have to care for his three children. She was tired, but I could see her aching heart full of so much love for her son and those babies. I looked into her eyes deeply and saw beauty. Beauty in her willingness to be vulnerable with a complete stranger. She longed to be valued. My twenty minute timer went off and I had to leave, but the image of that dear lady hasn’t left me. I hope to see her again. God had answered my prayer.
From there I went to the nursery to look for a pretty spring blooming plant for my front door. I had asked for some help from a woman and she recognized me. I still don’t know from where, but she started pouring out her story about the death of her parents, her struggles with her family, her daughter she had raised alone. So much pain. Right there in the middle of the flowers, this women pouring out her heart to someone she didn’t really know. She was interrupted several times by other customers, but she went right back to her story. I just listened and told her how sorry I was for her struggles and thanked her for sharing. There was so much anger. She too needed to be seen, to be valued, to be confirmed. I wondered if she had a community of people with whom to flesh out life. I sensed she was very alone. I can’t get her out of my mind. And since I frequent the nursery with my love for flowers, I purposed in my heart to seek her out again. I saw beauty there among the flowers in her heart, in her willingness to be vulnerable. She was longing for something more in her life. God had answered my prayer.
I left there to pick up a young woman for lunch. I listened to her story of her struggles trying to find her way in school and tried to encourage her. She asked about my life and my health. She had been faithfully praying about my illnesses over the last year. She has been through many challenges since coming to the United States to study at LSU, but her faith is so strong. She has a community of believers to love and encourage her, even though she is far from family. I even received an unexpected blessing. She treated me to lunch! As she shared her journey I looked deep into her eyes and saw hope and beauty. She is a seeker and a pursuer. God had answered my prayer.
Later that day I had an appointment with another young woman, a new friend. We meet regularly to study the Word together and share our stories. In our conversation we talked about how difficult it can be for us to truly grasp the deep love of the Father for us. Until we are absolutely convinced of the love of Jesus for us no matter what choices we have made, we will never go to the deep places with Jesus. We will always hold Him at a distance until we are willing to be vulnerable with the Savior about the pain and brokenness in our hearts.
We talked about the need to find a small community of believers to connect with in her new married life. I remember how significant that was for Ken and I as a young married couple. It is so important for us to engage in a community of believers who can encourage us, challenge us and motivate us in our faith journey. As we looked at the Word together, I looked deep in her eyes and saw hope and beauty in her willingness to be vulnerable with the struggles in her life. We only met a few months ago, yet there is such a deep connection in friendship. God had answered my prayer.
At at the end of my day, I was a little weary, but at the same time I felt enriched. It had been the day I had prayed for, a day of listening, trying to see strangers and friends with the eyes of the Savior. I wondered how many days I had missed opportunities to listen or speak life-giving words because I was too preoccupied with my own needs or wants, too busy, or simply not willing to step out of my comfort zone. It had been a day full of encounters with women who like all of us need to be seen, need to be valued, need to share their stories and need to know that they are loved.
That evening I went to choir practice. The choir has been our close community of believers for so many years. We have shared the deepest parts of our lives with them….our struggles, our brokenness and our joy. We have prayed together, loved together, laughed and cried together, worshipped together and shared our faith journeys. I don’t know how we would have made it through some of our darkest seasons without their love and prayers. And I knew when I walked through the doors that night I would experience beauty. Beauty beyond the soaring melodies of our songs, but beauty in the hearts of those who love me and whom I love. Beauty in our willingness to be vulnerable with one another in our stories. Of course, it’s not perfect, because we’re not perfect. But we try to love one another well.
We can only love as deeply as we choose to let others see past the protective walls we sometimes put up between us. And yes, there is risk in being known. There are many things that keep us from letting others into our lives. Fear, pain, insecurity, disappointment, feeling disregarded or devalued. And there are wounds sometimes, wounds in the church, in community. I have been in all of those places too. God blessed me with a very outgoing, vulnerable, loving husband. His eyes see with the gift of mercy. Those eyes have faithfully pushed me and our community of believers into those places of vulnerability and the risk of being fully known. I have come to believe it is worth the risk. I was reminded of that truth in the encounters the Savior designed for my life on that day last week.
Jesus sees the most broken parts of our hearts that we are most terrified of being seen --
and He keeps His covenant to see us fully— and never leave us, ever.
Because the Vulnerable God was forsaken on the cross — we get to be fully seen with our crosses --
and never left, never abandoned, never forsaken.
This is the covenant we can know and we can give — so we are known as His.
That is really how we love one another isn’t it. This vulnerable love that we flesh out together in community gives the world a glimpse into the heart of Jesus. Jesus came to love us and gave us love through His life surrendered... vulnerable, compassionate, beautiful love. A love that really sees us and doesn’t turn away as we expose the most broken places in our hearts.
Why…. because His heart longs to bring healing into those broken places.
“And Jesus, when he came out, saw many people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34)
Every day we have the opportunity to see others with the eyes of Jesus, eyes of compassion. We need God-sight. When we learn to see with God’s eyes, we see glimpses of hope at what is possible with Christ and the beauty that lies within each of us. Every day we encounter strangers, friends and family - some lonely, some lost, some hurting, some desperately needing someone to listen, even a stranger. Sometimes people just need to share their story. We can ask the Father to awaken our perception so that our eyes will see where the mercy, compassion, grace and love of Jesus is needed.
Is there someone in your life who needs the compassionate eyes of Jesus from you?
Ask the Father to give you His eyes to see and His heart of love for the broken today.
Then ask Him to give you the wisdom, discernment and courage to respond faithfully so that others see the reflection of Jesus in your eyes. Sometimes He leads us to speak, sometimes we simply need to listen and see.
Learning to see with His eyes,
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We are happy once again to have Margaret Kemp share with us her inspirational insights. During these great temperatures and beautiful colors, the beauty that spring plants exhibit seems to make everyone want to do a little gardening! The nurseries are full of beautiful plants and long lines of people waiting to share in the beautifying of their yards. I just hope that if you are one of these "master gardeners," you don't forget one of your most precious tools in maintaining the garden of your heart! You will enjoy Margaret's story - read it outside if you can! Enjoy the beauty, grab a cup of coffee, and rest yourself of all worries. Please welcome Margaret to Monday Musings!
I remember another glorious season of new beginnings when I first learned to delight in the Lord. I was a freshman in college, a new Christian exploring the riches of Scripture for the first time. Verses seemed to burst off the page as if they were written just for me. My newfound faith grew as I witnessed God answering even my most trivial prayers.
But it didn’t take long for the weeds of worry to choke out my joy. My roommates were moving into their sorority houses. (How could they leave me?) My history professor didn’t think I deserved an A in his course. (Imagine that!) I received an unexpected summons to the office of the Dean of Women. (Never a good omen!) My heart became like the thorny soil in Jesus’ parable.
“The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word,
but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”
I forgot that the God of the Universe-- whospokeand splattered a gazillion stars across the universe—who put on a human body to save me—who keeps track of tiny details like the number of hairs on my head— is for me.
As a new Christian, I had to learn that when we worry, we’re not trusting God.
“Be anxious for nothing,” the Bible says, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
First, I’ve got to recognize worry when it first appears. I’ve got to capture every unsettling thought and examine it. If I’m dealing with a problem, I may wonderwhat the future holds. I may give that problem a great deal of thought as I workon a solution. But when nervousness, anxiety, and pessimism begin to creep in, it’s an indication that, instead of wonderingand working ona solution, I’m worrying.
Then, I’ve got to go back to Philippians 4:6-7: praying about my problems, thanking God in advance for what He will do, then trusting Him for the solutions.
But the battle with worry doesn’t end with Philippians 4:6-7. Philippians 4:8 tells us that after we pray about our problems, we’ve got to stop thinking about what’s wrong,and dwell on what’s right.
God has brought me through some scary situations.
You’d think I’d have learned to rest in Him, but worry still creeps in, threatening to take root and preventing me from delighting in the Lord. Recently, I found myself fretting over travel arrangements for an upcoming conference. I had to remind myself that God had been a “very present help” in major crises in the past, and He can certainly handle todays little difficulties.
Maybe you’re like me, discouraged because you still fight the same old battle with worry. Remember that, like weeds, worries will continue to sprout up. There’s no permanent fix. The trick is to remove them as soon as we notice them.
Here are some “garden tools” I use when worries creep in:
S – Supplication (asking God for what I need)
P – Prayer (talking to Him about my troubles)
A – Appreciation (for what He’s done and what He’s going to do)
D -Dependence on Him (to take care of me today as He has done in the past)
E – Exchanging worry for worship (thinking about what’s right instead of what’s wrong)
What worries do you need to bring to the Lord?
How has God delivered you in the past?
What are the true and right and pure and lovely things you need to meditate on today?
If we want to delight in the garden with the Lord, we’ve got to keep up with the yard work.
These two little words carry a lot of meaning! I’ve been thinking about this sentence for well over two weeks. I just didn’t realize the impact they would play in my life after the Restore retreat the weekend of March 10.
It was exactly 7 days almost down to the hour when it hit me. A throbbing headache and aching body began to take me down. That night I slept under 4 blankets, shaking with all muscles tensed, and wondering what was going on with my body. I contributed the headache and tense muscles to exhaustion, as I had been going nonstop for quite some time with job demands and responsibilities. I’m notorious for pushing my limits. I thought I just needed rest. The next morning I awakened with a high fever of 102. There was no way I could go to work and teach my kindergarteners music. I couldn’t lift my head so I made the call that I wasn’t going to school. I know the importance of keeping hydrated, so I drank. It seemed like I was sipping every 10 minutes! I was so thirsty. I remember thinking of the two words that Jesus spoke while on the cross. I thirst. Then I recalled how it intrigued me to think about it after the retreat and that I wanted to write a blog about it. I was beginning to experience thirst in a way that meant more to me than just being physically thirsty. God began to get my attention.
As I lie there on the sofa, trying hard to rest, I began to think about the things that extract all the juice or energy from me. What is it that drains me and causes me to thirst? I began to make a mental list of the ways I felt thirsty.
I thirst for peace in my job.
I thirst for direction in my life.
I thirst for living life abundantly.
I thirst for rest and energy.
I thirst for impacting the world for the cause of Christ.
I thirst for fulfillment.
I thirst for laughter and fun.
I thirst for being the person I used to be, full of life, healthy, strong, and tenderhearted.
I thirst for a passionate heart…spiritual passion. I just spoke about this on the retreat. Now is seems my soul is weary and drained and a passion for my first love has moved down the list.
I thirst for wisdom.
I thirst for creativity.
I thirst for heaven.
As I look over my list, I am shocked at what has been revealed. How can it be that I am a follower of Christ, drank of the living water, and still have such thirst?
The high fever absorbed my capacity to think clearly. My sleep was often interrupted with dreams of the words “I THIRST” floating around in my brain as a caption or the title of a movie on a marquee. I thirsted for a break from my over imaginative mind. My body needed hydration. I thirsted for drink to sustain me. The illness had me isolated. I thirsted for fellowship. I was limp and didn’t want to do or think anything. Yet I craved contact with others.
My very high fever broke on day 6. I had been to the doctor and had lab work and a chest X-ray mid week. I thirsted for wellness! I thirsted for normality. I thirsted for a breath without coughing! I thirsted for control over my body. I thirsted for relief. The infection was strong. In my weakened state, my soul cried out, “Oh God, why must I thirst?”
The battle between knowing my weaknesses, limits, and failures fought strong against my heart that truly knows God’s love, concern, and affections for me.
“I am teaching you,” He seemed to speak.
Quite honestly, I’m never too happy when He chooses to teach me in such a way that breaks my strong will or doesn’t fit into my schedule. But I am once again reminded of His words in John, “Apart from me you can do nothing!
I just read a letter from Anne Graham Lotz (March 12, 2018) online. After the death of her father, Billy Graham, she spent the next two weeks in a whirlwind surrounding his funeral and the events in the White House Rotunda as his body was laid in honor. She spent countless hours standing and pouring out of herself into the lives of others.
“To say I was beyond exhaustion physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, would not come close to describing my state of being. But the Lord knew I was poised to plunge into frantic activity in order to catch up on two weeks of work that had been paused. He knew that while I needed rest…quiet…isolation…I wouldn’t take it unless I was forced to take it. So Sunday afternoon I became ill. I assumed it was just total exhaustion, or the effects of the icy wind under the funeral tent, but later in the week I was diagnosed with the worst strain of the flu. For the past eight days I have been forced to lie down. To do nothing but rest. By myself. I know the Lord who is my Shepherd is the One who has made me lie down.”
“I also know, after I have rested a while and recuperated from this illness, that there is one thing I will do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:14)” ~Anne Graham Lotz
I found her words comforting, for I too am poised to plunge into frantic activity to catch up on what has been lost. What was it that was so important for me to learn that God had to put me down? What did He want to teach me? And why now?
“And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly:
and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground.”
Then came the confrontation with the soldiers. The betrayal of a friend. A weary body now being tossed, pushed, and pulled as they traveled back to town. There was long periods of standing… then came the scourging, mockery, trial, betrayal of the crowd, the nakedness, the walk with the heavy cross, the nails…the gaze into the eyes of a hating crowd, soldiers, and heartbroken mother and brother. And if that wasn’t enough, He was placed between two thieves…misjudged by all, and He still gave of Himself when He spoke the words of comfort to the one thief.
As Jesus hung there and cried out because of thirst, He was fulfilling scripture. The weight of sin was placed upon Him and the Father turned His face away. Jesus thirsted! Fellowship was broken. All that Jesus had known was now changed forever. His love for all of humanity flowed deep. The thirst that He experienced was two fold, physical and spiritual. He cried aloud, I thirst! Letting us know what was taking place. Then He cried, It is finished.
I love this teaching from John Piper on the fifth saying of Jesus on the cross and had to share!
But in spite of the reality and intensity and significance of Jesus' physical thirst, I am convinced that something deeper is being expressed by this fifth word. Underlying his physical thirst is another kind of thirst that Jesus experienced in a deeper, more profound way on the cross—spiritual thirst. The evidence that leads me to this conviction comes from the use of the verb "thirst." The verb "thirst" or "be thirsty" is found five times in the gospel of John in addition to our text here in John 19. All five are in contexts referring to spiritual thirst.
Three of these usages occur in John 4:13–15 in the course of Jesus' discussion with the woman at the well. Jesus offers himself to her as the one who can give her living water to drink. And he says that "who ever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (v. 14). In John 6:35 Jesus says, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." And in John 7:37–38 Jesus declared, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from him." And John helps us understand what Jesus meant by adding in the next verse, "By this he (Jesus) meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive."
Putting all this evidence together, we can see that this thirst that Jesus was speaking about is a spiritual craving for God, a longing that operates deep within the heart of every human being created in the image of God, a thirst that Jesus and Jesus alone can satisfy for all eternity. According to John's gospel this universal spiritual thirst can be quenched and satisfied only by the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised to give to all who will believe in him, and who will give to the believer eternal life. And it is this kind of thirst, this spiritual thirst, that Jesus experienced on the cross.
There, as he took upon himself the sins of all his people, Jesus Christ experienced, for the first time in all eternity, the horror of separation from God. The Father turned his back on the Son while he hung there on the cross, in our place, inflicting upon him the full fury of his wrath for our sins. We hear of the horrifying reality of this separation from Jesus' own lips, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34). Jesus had known the joy of intimate fellowship with his Father, and now during this time of separation, Jesus wanted it back; he longed for it; he thirsted after God. On the cross Jesus was the supreme fulfillment of Psalm 63:1, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water."
This, then, at the deepest level, is the thirst Jesus experienced on the cross. He was physically thirsty to be sure. His physical thirst consummated his physical suffering. But his physical thirst was only the tip of the iceberg. Jesus' deepest, most profound thirst was spiritual, thirsting after his Father, from who he was separated as he hung on the cross paying the penalty for our sins.
I have heard it said that Jesus experienced everything we go through in life. As I have pondered these two words the last couple of weeks, I am once againin awestruck wonder of His love for me. HE thirsted for ME.
I look back over my list of ways that I have thirsted and I’m still astonished that I would have such thoughts! But don’t we all? Can we honestly say that we don’t thirst or long for more of Jesus? Jesus gave His all! It is more of US that He desires. We have been given all we need when we trusted Christ as Savior. Maybe we haven’t tapped into the spring that flows. I love what John Piper says about thirst as He also found himself in a place thirsty for God. He and I shared the same question. How is it that we drink of living water and still thirst? These are the words that God revealed to him during his cry for a quenching of spiritual thirst. I found it quite helpful as I sought answers to my own questions on the matter.
“When you drink my water it doesn’t destroy thirst. For then what need would you have of my water after that? When you drink my water it makes a spring in you. A spring satisfies thirst not by removing the need you have for water, but by being there to drink from when you get thirsty. Again and again and again. Like this morning. Drink, John. Drink.”
Now as I sit here writing, I see this precious truth in Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” But we cry out, “O Lord, today I have wants! I know a hundred people who count you their shepherd who have wants. What do you mean? We shall not want.
But now I have learned a lesson. Cry out and read on. “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters, he restores my soul.” Re-stores. That means the wants rise, and then Jesus satisfies. They rise again and he re-satisfies. Life is a rhythm of need and nourishment. Even a rhythm of danger and deliverance. “Though I go through the valley of the shadow of death …” It will (again) break forth onto green pastures. And the still waters will flow (again). The spring is even now welling up within. And will for ever.”
“This water becomes a spring — a well of water (verse 14: “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water”). That’s why you never get thirsty again — not because one drink is enough, but because one true drink produces a well for an eternity of drinks.” ~John Piper
This morning I am finding my thirst quenched for I have tapped into the well. The thirst I experience is only temporal and a part of the rhythm of life. Long ago my soul thirsted for eternal water. I drank of that living water and now have an eternal spring from which to be refreshed and restored. It is my belief that God chose to put me down to fully understand and experience His words on the cross and that Re-storing comes from a period of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion.
"He restores my soul!" Ps. 23:2
Restored by Jesus' Thirst,
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