Rising Again…I Bless Your Name

Taking my sin, my cross, my shame
Rising again I bless Your name
You are my All in All

These lyrics written by Dennis Jernigan* captured my heart this Sunday morning during worship.

Truly what do I have to offer Christ but my sin and shame? Yet, I can rise again, and again in praise because I know He will receive me, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

He will come near to me when I invite him.
Who would dare to come to me uninvited?” says the Lord.
“So you will be my people, and I will be your God.” ~ Jeremiah 30:21-22 NCV

Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it. ~ Hebrews 4:16 NCV

I need it! God’s Grace.

Rising again with confidence. Not confidence in anything I can do, because I can continue to make the same mistakes. This is my super power. But, I can have confidence in who God is. Because He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) He will receive me, forgive me, strengthen me and uphold me.

…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ ~ Philippians 1:6 NKJV

Lord, I rise again and call you blessed.

#pollinatinggrace

*Dennis Jernigan © 1991 Shepherd’s Heart Music, Inc.

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Winter is Dead

sunflower

Early in the morning on a day in March, I stood at my sliding glass door watching my husband and son head to the garage and above them I saw a sunrise to marvel at. As I reveled in the beauty of this early morning the opening line in my prayer book began to run through my thoughts.

O Lord, let my soul rise up to meet you

as the day rises to meet the sun.

I turned coffee cup in hand and made my way to the living room and “my spot” for devotions. From my seat, I glanced out the window and all I saw was darkness. Odd, I had just witnessed the most breathtaking sunrise. You see from the sliding glass door I was looking east, but from my favorite spot on the couch I was looking west.

It occurred to me in that moment that the sun was still rising I was just looking the wrong way! How often am I looking at the end of the night when the sun is already rising behind me?

This revelation is so symbolic of the last few months of my life. Somewhere near the holidays and the end of last year, I came crashing to a halt. I found that I had been busy, purposeful, accomplishing mighty and many things but all of this was a sort of self-medication to sooth hidden hurt, grief, resentment, and bitterness I had not realized was building inside.

With a sudden halt to activity, I was able to rest and face the darkness. But, as spring approached and my forced sabbatical began to ease up I still felt overwhelmed by these emotions, this winter in my soul. My prayers were full of thanksgiving for the  healing and forgiveness and yet I still seemed stuck there staring at the night while the sun was beginning to rise. Then I experienced the sunrise I spoke of earlier and suddenly I saw the light!

My ability to finish fully recovering seemed hinged on this window facing east.

She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head, and whispered to her neighbor: “Winter is dead.” -A.A. Milne

It is finished seemed to echo softly all around me. I was challenged to choose which direction I want to look. Do I want to see the sun rise and the spring come or do I want to stubbornly look hard into the darkness and at what has died and gone?

I want to choose life, to seek my Lord’s face, to believe that all things are possible, that restoration is always God’s will!

I lift my eyes to you, O God, enthroned in heaven. We keep looking to the Lord our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal. ~Psalm 123:1-2 NLT

Lord, let my eyes be ever on your face, awaiting even the slightest signal.

“Turn your face stubbornly to the light, and keep it there.”

~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Many flowers such as sunflowers, poppies, marigolds, and daisies are heliotropic. This means that the face of these flowers will turn slowly throughout the day so that it constantly faces the sun.

LORD, LET IT BE SO!

I heard the following song lyrics performed the day after I saw that amazing sunrise.

Brighten My Soul with Sunshine by Joyce Eilers 

…Brighten up my soul

You’ve got to brighten up my soul

If I’m to carry the heavy load.

You’ve got to brighten my soul with sunshine

 

…I’m in trouble and I need you Lord

The Devils calling and he’s pulling hard

And I don’t know If I can make it through,

Unless you brighten my soul with sunshine

 

…Oh don’t you hear me calling Lord, Lord

I’m hanging hard on to the good word

And I don’t know If I can make it through,

Unless you brighten my soul with sunshine

The Son’s light is always available to warm and brighten my soul. It is up to me to turn my face toward Him.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will  have the light of life.” ~ John 8:12 ESV

 

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Dwelling Under Twinkle Lights

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Twinkle lights always make me think of home.

They are comforting. They bring warmth and joy. Twinkle lights remind me of Grandma Edwina. This dear sweet woman went to be with Jesus in July of this year and at her service every grandchild shared how we all felt we were her favorite! She loved like that…big, inclusive, welcoming. The oldest grandson said that being with Grandma “was like coming home”. I remember thinking “Yes, Exactly.” I am actually a step-granddaughter-in-law, but I always felt like I was her favorite when I was with her and I did always feel like I was coming home in her presence. Grandma also had a decorative tree in a pot in her living room with twinkle lights on it all year long. Twinkle lights make me think of home!

As I sit this year underneath the lights of my Christmas tree I feel cozy and as at peace as I can be anywhere in my current state of “Oh My Goodness Are We There Yet?”

But this is exactly the point! Christ came to dwell with man. To be at home in our hearts. God has always wanted to be in the midst of His people.

“Then the Tabernacle, carried by the Levites, will set out from the middle of the camp…” ~ Numbers 2:17 NIV

The tabernacle or the tent of meeting, as in meeting place with God was to be set up in the middle of the camp. This great nation of Israelites who had been rescued from slavery and was now wandering the desert was instructed to place the tabernacle at the center of their daily lives.

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). ~ Matthew 1:23 NIV

Then we have the very essence of Christmas…Christ coming to literally, in the flesh, dwell with us.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? ~ I Corinthians 3:16 NIV

He came not just to dwell with us but in us! “Don’t you know that you are God’s temple?” Christ comes to us at Christmas that He might dwell with us for all time!

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” ~ Psalm 91:1-2 NKJV

Lord, let us not forget that you are our dwelling place. May we abide in the shelter of Your Presence and feel at home underneath Your Shadow.

 

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Traditions & Sacrifice

a Turner Christmas

a Turner Christmas

I have struggled this year with the Traditions of Christmas.

That sentence makes me want to laugh and weep and say DUH! As if anyone who knows me or reads my words hasn’t figured that out. I have not wanted to embrace this season for 2 reasons. First, I am diligently accomplishing a set of goals and the prepping and purchasing for Christmas is cutting heavily into my creative energy and time. Second, I have felt very frustrated with the commercialism of an American Christmas when so many of my global neighbors are without homes, food, water, education, freedom…

How do I balance these opposites? Where do I find the peace and hope of Christmas in all the mayhem? I am daily clinging to my Savior the one who loves me beyond explanation even as I pray for strength in my first world problems. He cares about me and my petty little world and He cares about those who have much greater needs than I.

I remember the sacrifice He made to come and live among us.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. ~ John 3:16-17 NKJV

Sacrifice is how I am trading my feeling of obligation for joy!

A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words. ~ Unknown

We decorated our living spaces to reflect the Christmas Season this last weekend (right after I was done grieving my Cherry Tree friend). During our afternoon my son found jazzy Christmas music on youtube because he knows his mama’s favorite Big Band Christmas CD gave up the ghost last year. My daughter gets out the coffee filters and begins to cut them to go on the sliding glass door next to the greeting cards we will receive. Like a well-oiled machine, things begin to appear in their traditional places. And I hear it, the song I have sung to them they now sing to me. Finally, Christmas has come to the Turner house. This is hope, this is family, this is a little piece of peace amongst the stressful demands of tradition.

I want to teach my children to add sacrifice to the traditions of gift giving as well.  Part of my great struggle this season besides my own selfish want of accomplishing my agenda is that I want to do right by my world and not just amass things no one really needs. So I have some suggestions:

Do you know that you can give that person on your list that already has everything a gift of an actual nativity scene through World Vision? It is true. You can donate money to purchase animals and clean water for others around the world and give your Uncle, Grandmother, or friend the honor of having that be in their name.

Maybe you need a gift you can wrap? How about something made by a woman who is now, because of her trade, able to keep her children, keep them fed, give them an education or keep them from being sold into slavery? Shop from my friend Lynsey’s site at Trades of Hope.

Above all remember that every Christmas tradition should be based in Christ’s Sacrifice! A sacrifice He made not so that we could celebrate traditions but so that we might dwell with Him.

What grieves your heart this season?

Who has sung a song to you that you might remember your joy?

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Under the Cherry Tree

Under the Cherry Tree

Under the Cherry Tree

This special Saturday post comes to you in  honor of friend I have lost today.  The beautiful ornamental cherry tree you see to the left of the lilac and above the roses has been my friend these last nine years. Today is her last day! Can you grieve a tree? Apparently! Tears so many tears. I cried the day I heard about her demise. I panicked and ran to the window the day I heard a chainsaw…RELIEF it was the walnut coming down, she was spared a little longer.

But today our time together is over. She never was mine anyway. I have borrowed her beauty and shelter from the neighbors all these nine years. I understand why she had to go and I support the progress across the fence. I just couldn’t let her go without saying goodbye.

Not only I have enjoyed her beauty in all seasons but she has overseen the growing up of my children.

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May Day 2009…3rd Grade Prince

There she is again in the upper left-hand corner overlooking two other precious beings that God is letting me borrow. These children I cannot keep here in my yard for all time either.

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May Day 2014…Drum Major OHS Marching Band

Look how time marches (pun intended) on under this cherry tree. The little boy who now is almost grown.

So many memories under her branches:

  • Easter Sunday pictures year after year.
  • Bocce Ball
  • Backyard Science Club
  • A new puppy.
  • Sitting at the picnic table writing out the original notes to the book I am about to publish. (let it be so)
  • Sitting at this same picnic table under gorgeous blossoms that turn to pink snow in the wind singing silly songs with my extended family.
  • Birthday parties
  • Back to School and Prom Photos
  • A sweet little friend’s baby dedication photos
  • Potlucks and BBQ’s
  • New Year’s Fireworks

This list of memories under her branches could go on and on. I thank you, friend, for your beauty and shelter and I cherish our time together!

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Serving Advent

Sami's Manger

This photo is of a Manger craft my daughter made when she was about 4 years old. I asked her at the time why Baby Jesus had red spots and she informed me “Oh, He is Sick!”

I promptly responded “Poor Baby Jesus! Not only does he have to come and save the entire world from their sins, but He also has the pox.”

I do not remember getting to the bottom of why Jesus was sick. Four-year-olds have vivid imaginations is probably the best answer. I do know that it makes me laugh each year as I unwrap it and put it out to display. It is a sweet memory.

This year advent seems aptly summed up in a Baby Jesus with the pox to me. It feels like the traditions and celebrations are becoming obligations and I am wondering what our faith would be like had Jesus felt that way about you and me? I am so grateful that He did not look at His Christmas to do list and say “I am obligated to go and save the world.”

No obligation just deep, deep love and a wish to reconcile our broken and estranged relationship. Not only did Jesus come to give us abundant, eternal life, He did so with a servant’s heart.

…the Son of Man did not come to be served. He came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many people. ~ Mark 10:45 NCV

This Advent Season I am challenged to serve. Instead of being obligated to do, to buy, to organize, to entertain, etc. How can I serve those I know and love? How can I celebrate our hope together? How can I show deep, deep love without a hint of obligation?

Dear Lord, Help us now to draw close, that we might await your advent with a servant’s heart.

What Advent Traditions bring you joy? What weighs down your celebration? Talk to me…

 

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Peace, Be Still

Charity Rattray

12 Days of Christmas by Charity Rattray

I have had many a stranger ask me after a short conversation “You were a cheerleader in high school weren’t you?” (The answer would be yes by the way).

I have a Sunshine and Buttercups personality. I tend to find the silver lining in all situations. I have found a way to make the very dry reading of the Book of Leviticus seem refreshing! Ha!

But, for some reason, when the Christmas Season starts to loom on the horizon of my calendar I fall victim to melancholy. Can I just be honest? Christmas and the holiday season tend to stress me out!

Me, yes me, the one who is always preaching HOPE wants to hide away from this season that represents the very coming of the greatest hope.

“The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and they will name him Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.” ~ Matthew 1:23 NCV

Instead of running and hiding my head in the sand and pretending there is not a holiday season I will choose to embrace the Advent Season. I will anticipate being with the One who came to live With Me!

So today I recommend to you and me a little piece of Peace and Sanity in this maddening time we fondly call the Holidays:

12 Days of Christmas
by Charity Rattray
You are invited to gather with me at your local coffee shop, morning table, or even in your car between errands. Together we will find the refreshing needed to face your Holiday Season. 
Twelve short devotionals with links for reference and resource crafted with you in mind. The “HOLIDAZE” are fast approaching so be intentional and reclaim the HOLY in your home this holiday.
This would make a great 12 days before Christmas gift for the women in your life!

 

I hope you will choose to take the time to read my dear friend Charity’s book 12 Days of Christmas available at Amazon. Most of all I hope you will find time to dwell with Immanuel all year long!

How can I pray for peace for you this season?

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