“We all die the goal isn’t to live forever. The goal is to create something that will.” (Chuck Palahniuk) We all experience grieving and loss in different ways, but have you stopped to think how people will grieve your loss? What impact are you leaving on the people you surround yourself with? Find your “why” and run with it. Be a game changer in this highly competitive world.
There is so much we can learn from Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She is often in the background but when we see her in scripture, she makes bold impacts! For example, when you think of the first miracle of Jesus do you think of Mary? Probably not…but her role was vital! It was her faith and trust in Jesus that lead to the miracle! She gave Him the opportunity to step in and fix a problem and we can do the same thing in our lives, leading to miraculous results!
Across the big screen in a theater near you (and me), cinematographers have created larger than life avenging personalities for our entertainment and thrill. These characters are empowered with extravagant physical and mental abilities; and can defend the universe with their speed, strength, sharpness, and stamina. They embody capabilities that far exceed what is humanly possible and are virtually invincible.
When we face the most menacing of life’s obstacles, we often imagine ourselves being able to take on characteristics such as theirs; able to scale the tallest buildings, fly high above the rooftops, crush enemies beneath our feet, meld or transform into our surroundings or render ourselves invisible. Thus, conquering whatever life must throw at us in the most flamboyant manner and causing quite a stir in the process. The villains of life will have met their match and onlookers would watch in amazement! If only that were possible!
As a young girl I thought of my father as a bit of a super-hero. He seemed so brave, strong, fearless, and fabulous! He could absolutely do anything! I was totally in awe of him, and often walked around with my little feet slid down inside his combat boots trying to imagine being like him. He was tall, rugged, and a handsome military man with a commanding presence. He seemed so powerful to this little girl of 4 or 5. Whenever I needed anything, he could fix it! I knew that all would be righted again if I could just “tell my Daddy” about it, no matter what it was! I could crawl up in his lap, hear his reassuring words, feel his arms around me, and know that I was secure and loved.
Nothing delighted me more than to spend time with my super-hero. Whether I was watching him fix a car, tinker on a project, play his guitar, work in the yard, fly a helicopter, or stand in a pulpit to preach a sermon, he was SUPER! To this day, I have not known his equal. He was extraordinary, exceptional, and incredible to be around. Nothing could substitute for the feeling of being with this larger-than-life man! No villain, imagined or otherwise, could harm me just as long as I stayed in the shadow of my hero!
Just like that awe-struck child looking up at her Daddy, our heavenly Father longs to have us gaze into His presence with wide-eyed wonder, admiration, and awe. He longs to have us with Him, to dwell in safety and to stay by His side! He encourages us to rest in His shadow, away from all harm and danger! Psalm 91:1-4 says,
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress my God, in whom I trust.” Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
Just as an impressionable child idolizes and admires their earthly father, so our heavenly Father longs to have us feel about Him. He wants us to desire the sweetness of His fellowship and closeness; to listen intently when He speaks and thrill as He demonstrates His awesome power and presence in our lives. He is certainly worthy of our admiration and His power and might should indeed leave us awestruck and in wonder!
Better than Fiction
He is more than a Hollywood super-hero could ever capture and more than all imagination and creativity could ever portray. He is more than amazing, more than incredible, and more than our human frailty will ever comprehend! He is marvelous, miraculous, full of splendor, glory, power, and might! He is our Defender, our Warrior, Protector, God Almighty, our Heavenly Father, the true Super-Hero of all humanity! He has conquered our sin, triumphed over death, defeated hell, and the grave! He has thwarted the evil plans of our enemies, broken chains of despair and darkness; He is light eternal and He reigns victorious forevermore!
There has never been, nor will there ever be a Super-Hero greater! No, not in any theater, not on any stage; no one is more or better! He longs to write His autograph across the life pages of your heart and mine! He is hoping that you and I will realize that we have been given a front row seat for the best performance in history: His redemptive purchase of our very lives through the sacrifice of His own. Come near for an up-close and personal look! Come near and rest there; ever to remain in His shadow, the shadow of prevailing love and grace. Live in the shadow of a Hero, THE HERO, the Super-Hero Christ our Lord! Amen!
Read also: The love of a father
There is an old phrase that became widely used in the 1950’s that had it’s origins as far back as the early 1700’s. The phrase was this, “The proof is in the pudding!” You may even hear this phrase used from time to time today. The meaning behind this phrase is simple; it is stating a basic truth. If you want to know how good something is, (something edible in this case), you must try it or experience it for yourself! Then you will know!
He gave it all
A few weeks ago we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus and we thought about the sacrifice He brought for all of us. Jesus was crucified and took all our sin, shame and guilt on His shoulders. He took the punishment so that we could be set free. He gave it all so that we could be free.
I think we can all admit that we are all a little imperfect sometimes…
We lose our temper at our kids, we blame our spouse, we gossip with a friend, we lie to our boss to avoid the consequence of a mistake we need to own up to.
The list of imperfections can go on and on but the point is we all make mistakes; some days a lot, some days not as much. But that’s why God’s grace is so wonderful! That’s why the conviction of the Holy Spirit is welcomed because it helps us to make things right. If we allow, our mistakes can teach us one of Jesus’ most wonderful characteristics–humility.
This year, my husband and I have been going through the One-Year Bible together, and we were recently reading the story of Samson in Judges. As we were reading, I was amazed by how much anger and revenge was stored in Samson, as well as how many mistakes he had made. Yet God still used him. God made him a Judge that helped deliver the Children of Israel for 20 years.
I was pondering the entire time, “Wow, he was such an imperfect leader.”
Then I got thinking about all the other leaders in the Bible such as Paul and Peter, and I also couldn’t help but think, “wow, they were also imperfect leaders!” Paul accused and killed Christians before he met Jesus. He also had interpersonal issues with Barnabas that caused them to temporarily split paths. Paul openly admits in 1 Timothy 1:13-16:
“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (NIV)
Covered by the perfection of Christ
Paul acknowledges his past faults, his mistakes, his old man; his flesh. Yet Paul doesn’t stay there. He doesn’t identify with the flesh anymore. Paul is the “in Christ” theologian. There are 130 In Whom, In Christ, In Him and In the Lord references in Paul’s writings. He strongly acknowledged that everything he was as a Christian leader was because of Christ. He knew who he was IN Christ BECAUSE of Christ. He lived in the Spirit through the overflow of the Spirit. He displayed humility through the acknowledgment of his own imperfections that are covered by the perfection of Christ.
As I’ve been pondering this more, I was thinking about a time in college I was in a very influential leadership position. Before the position, I was just a fellow college student happily studying and enjoying my peers. But after I accepted the position, I realized people who wouldn’t talk to me before all of a sudden wanted to hang out. People whom I had never met started to come up and talk to me like we were best friends. It really threw me off, and honestly, it bothered me.
Shattering the pedestals
As I began to sit down with some people and share my life, my struggles and my story like I always had in friendships before, people began to say, “Wow, I didn’t realize you struggled with insecurities, too!”
…WHAT?! How could I not? I’m human! But I’m thankful for that experience because God taught me a really powerful lesson during that time. He said, “Hanna, most humans go through the exact same struggles at some point in their lives. Use leadership to show humility and shatter pedestals people may be putting you on without your permission…and shatter the pedestals in your life, too.”
Why? Because I’m imperfect. I will never deserve a pedestal. Only Jesus, the only perfect leader who will NEVER let us down, deserves a pedestal. Paul shattered his pedestal, and God used him mightily. Samson didn’t shatter his pedestal and his strength actually ended up being his death, but God used him anyway.
Acknowledge your imperfections
So, dear heart, first off. Acknowledge your imperfections, and through it realize Christ’s perfection and how you are seen as righteous before God. Then, shatter your pedestals. Whether it’s ones you’ve put your leaders on, or it’s a pedestal someone has put you on. Embrace humble leadership. Embrace Christ-centered, servant-driven leadership. Keep God on the pedestal, and ask others to join you as you worship the only One who deserves praise.
Read also: THE TREASURE WITHIN
It’s a concept that has flooded our culture and even my own thought processes and practices. And when I indulge in the $6 coffee or the new cardigan from Old Navy, I sometimes whisper under my breath, “treat yourself.” Because every now and then we should, in fact, treat ourselves. But today, as I sit and watch my youngest climb the furniture and terrorize the puppy, I’m struck with how the occasional Starbucks or frivolous spending does very little to actually propagate loving myself.
My life doesn’t look like I thought it would five years ago. In fact, I wear titles that I never dreamed I’d don. Titles that I’d always judged so harshly in others… assuming they’d done something to deserve the scarlet letter pinned to their chest. And that’s how it feels. Like a giant, red “D” is pasted to my forehead, announcing to the world that my marriage failed. That I am no longer a wife but an ex-wife and my children will now have to explain their parentage using the verbiage of “step” and “half.”
And the shame of it all! Shame that has tried to strangle and disqualify and bind and gag the voice that calls me worthy and beloved.
In James 2:13, the Word tells us that mercy triumphs over judgement. A sentiment I found so very hard to understand several years ago. The idea of God as King and Ruler and Master was so easy to fathom. He breathed the stars. His might evident in every ocean wave. I had even heard it said that God is as merciful as He is just. An idea I would have trumpeted for all the world if I hadn’t encountered the heart of His grace and mercy. Because while I’ve known Him for over half of my life, I’m just now getting to know Him. Knowing Him in the capacity of father and daughter is so much different than that of master and servant.
Not a license
Please. Hear my heart. God’s mercy and grace is not a license to sin, as discussed in Romans 6:14 and again in Jude 1:4. But if we ever had the ability to earn our way into heaven, I’m certain the cross and all of its violent glory would not have been necessary. And while some might believe that forgiveness simply excuses your sin and releases you from responsibility, I have discovered that love does not simply shore up my iniquity. It invites me into a relationship where to sin against the one I worship not only breaks His heart but mine as well.
And that’s it. This life-altering truth that shifted the way that I saw myself and in turn, others. After all, the greatest commandment was to love each other as we love ourselves.
The crimson robe of grace and forgiveness
Sometimes self-love looks like letting yourself off the hook. When Jesus confronted the woman found in adultery, this was His response,
“…I certainly do not condemn you. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.” -Romans 8:11
As far as we know, that’s exactly what she did. And that’s what I’m trying to do. While there was no great iniquity or adultery to speak of in my own case, just miscommunication and little foxes, this crimson letter is still one that tries to define me. But mercy says that the only label I wear is that of “His.” And when the Father looks at me, He doesn’t see my failures or my mess ups, but the perfect blood of Jesus. And if that’s good enough for Him, it’s enough for me too.
So if you were looking for permission, here it is. Treat yourself. Buy the shoes. Wear the lipstick. But more importantly, love yourself. Give mercy her triumph over judgment. Go and sin no more. Dance. Shout. And instead of your scarlet letter, whatever that letter may be, wear the crimson robe of grace and forgiveness.
Trust me. It looks good on you.
Read also: The Judge who paid the price
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.John 20:1 NIV
While reading this very familiar scripture during my quiet time, the words, “While it was still dark” jumped out at me. I have always seen this as a reference to the time. Well, not today… because you know God, He reveals His word in new ways all the time! From now on, these words have a new meaning for me altogether. These words do not simply represent the time of day but also the time in Mary’s life.
Do you ever feel a bit overwhelmed with your weekly schedule? I know I do and I often find myself feeling anxious with each task I have to do whether it is running the kids to their practices, after-school events, grocery shopping, birthday parties, and then also squeezing in there being a wife. I am going to share with you my Pastor’s advice,
take a deep breath-More of you God…Exhale-less of me.
I think we are all guilty of having too much of “us” and not enough “Him”. I get it, it is hard, we live in an instant gratification society and we are heavily influenced by the world around us. We have conformed our lifestyles to the way of the world…or at least the way the world wants us to be. Again, too much us and not enough Him.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I have read this scripture hundreds of times, but it just never sticks. What will it take to release those chains of conformity and pick up our cross? Look around, all the ads and articles pertaining to the newest fad diet, best clothing line, or even the most popular rock band—but it is hard to find an advertisement that explains the way God wants us to live, right?
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep.”
After reading that scripture, why do we as Christians continue to follow the “hired hand” rather than the good shepherd that gave His life for you and me? I know it is easy to go with the flow and to conform to the society we live in, but do not let it define you, the shepherd, the one who created and owns you is the only one that defines you.
Let’s think for a minute, Jesus left 99 sheep in order to find the 1 lost sheep. We have all felt like that 1 lone sheep, lost and lonely. If it were not for the Father making a way to find the lost sheep, we would all still be that lost and lonely sheep. God promises to never leave our side or call us to a battle that He hasn’t already conquered. During this Easter season, let us remember the battle He fought for us. He loved you so much that He gave up His life so that YOU could have yours. Stop conforming to what the universe expects of you and start transforming into being the hands and feet of Jesus.
Read also: THE TREASURE WITHIN
Have you ever heard the saying, “you are what you eat?”
Although that refers to health and I 100% agree with healthy eating equating healthy outcomes, the Lord recently reframed that saying to me and said, “Hanna, you are what you say–externally and internally.”
I thought about that for a moment and remembered that wasn’t the first time Jesus said that. He told the same thing to some Pharisees in Matthew 15 where He says, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (v. 10-11)