Monday, April 28, 2014

The Stuff of Life

This past weekend was one of great celebration in our family. My younger sister, Sarah Beth, got married in a small, family ceremony at a little venue near her home in Memphis. Saturday was the culmination of months of planning and prayer and thankfully everything went smoothly. 
What amazed me most about the whole event was the amount of planning that went into every detail. I performed the service and worked on the ceremony for months in advance. My mom took charge of the decorating and had a boxes of decorations for each room and then further divided boxes for each table in each room. Flowers had to be arranged. Food was ordered weeks in advance. The wedding party's suits and dresses were all custom ordered for each individual person. Invitations had to be sent - not only for the wedding but for all the showers, dinners, and parties that celebrated their engagement. Nothing was left to chance. The only variable was the weather, and thankfully we were blessed with a warm, sun-filled spring day. Everything rehearsed, everything planned. My family and my sister's new husband's family spent months making sure everything would be just right.
What kind of planning are you doing in your life? Are you planning tonight's meal? Are you planning to take a vacation? Are you planning to get married? Are you planning to have a baby? Are you planning to retire? Are you planning for what comes next?
The great thing about the wedding is we knew when it was coming. I knew I had to have the ceremony ready by April 26. The caterers knew what time to arrive at the venue. The family knew what time photographs were going to be taken. We knew it was coming, so we prepared.
We all have an appointment to keep with death, but we don't know when it will come. Many of us will live for many more years and grow old and grey, but some of us will be taken sooner by disease or accident. No matter when death comes, we need to be prepared. We need to make the most of our relationships with family and friends. We need to say the things that need saying, and we need to do those things which need doing. We need to stop being afraid to live so that we can embrace all that life has to offer. Make that call. Send that card. Meet that person for dinner. Ask her out. Tell him, "I love you."
Ultimately, the best way to prepare for death is by committing to a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is only when we are prepared to die that we can fully begin to live. Explore the pages of Scripture. Look for God in nature's beauty, in the laughter of a child, in the embrace of a friend. 
Live. 
Soak up all the glory that is in the world which is made all the more wonderful because it is fleeting. You will never have this moment again. Don't live looking back with regret. Live looking forward with hope. Life is beautiful, but we need to take the time to appreciate its splendor. Resolve to look for the good in every situation and then watch as love and life and light are manifested before your eyes. 
Embrace wonder. 
Dare to hope. 
Dare to dream. 
Dare to fall in love. 
Live.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He is risen; He is risen indeed!

May God bless you with the assurance of His promise in the resurrection.  Through Jesus, we have the promise of new life. I pray that your Easter is filled with joy and that you would come to know the peace that comes from a relationship with Christ.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Joy Upon Joy

I truly believe that one of the signs of maturity in a person's life experience is the development of the ability to take joy in the successes of others.  Too many times in life we see our lives as a competition with those around us. 
If I only had that house, I would be happy. 
If I only had that relationship, I would be satisfied. 
If only I reached that level of spirituality, I would be content. 
The truth is that until we are satisfied with ourselves internally the external blessings and trials will not give us peace or clarity. 
Many years ago, I had a strong bond with a young woman. I hoped for years that the relationship would develop into something more. After several failed attempts at dating, she, at last, confronted me with the fact that she didn't share my feelings. I took the news very hard. In all honesty, I had turned her into an idol in my heart. I based a lot of how I felt about myself on how she treated me. When she was enthusiastic about our relationship, I felt wonderful and alive. When her feelings changed and cooled, I felt devalued and humiliated. I let her have all the power in the relationship, and I believe she felt burdened by that responsibility. My response to this disappointment was to seek affirmation in other relationships. Some of the relationships I found were healthy and some were not, but I was still seeking validation from other people. Eventually, I found myself single, living alone, and without many strong friendships.
In the last few years, I have come to realize that you cannot put the burden of your happiness on other people. Happiness and contentment must overflow from within from a deepening relationship with self and with God. I am, at last, learning to accept myself based on who I am and not based on who other people expect me to be. My joy, as well as my pain, comes from my own experiences and not from another's expectations.
The young woman I mentioned has been happily married for several years and has a beautiful little girl. I believe that she is at very happy place in her life. I take joy in her happiness. Since she is someone that I still care for deeply, I can rejoice that she has found so much joy in her experience. Where once I might have been tempted to bitterness or envy, I now see that an experience that was painful for me has led to joy for many other people.  As Scripture teaches, we should rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. If my past weeping has led to someone else's joy, I take comfort in knowing that God knows the number of my tears and that not one was shed in vain.
Life cannot be scripted; it has to be lived. I, for one, am thankful to be on this journey. I may not be where I planned to be at this stage of my life, but I trust that, by the grace of God, I have not yet gone as far as I will go. I take the joy and the sorrow of the journey, and I pray that my experiences give me new insights into myself and the world around me.  God is not finished with me, and I can promise that He is not finished with you either. Let's continue to grow up in faith and celebrate with those who join us on this kingdom journey.