Monday Invitations | Casting Light and Passing it On

2 Samuel 23

 

Whether we are mothers, fathers, employers, teachers, leaders….we must rule justly. According to the above scripture that means ruling in the fear of God. To fear God is to revere, respect, and be obedient to God and his teachings. For if we do we will be for others like the morning light, like the sun shining on a cloudless morning, like the rain that makes the grass sprout.

We will be life. We will give life. We will empower, motivate and bring forth in that person a harvest producing fruit. Fruit that serves to feed and give life to others.

My invitation for you to consider today.

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Monday Invitations | I will follow you into the dark

In this world you will have trouble.

Grey’s Anatomy will always be one of my favorite series…ever.

In the 5th season, there is an episode that will forever remain with me. It is titled I Will Follow You into the Dark. One of the main characters learns that he is being sued for the recent death of a patient for whom he had performed brain surgery.

He is devistated as this is the final in a series of patient deaths. Upon learning the devastating news, his girlfriend, soon to be fiancé, professes that she will follow him into the dark.

This statement is prophetic in her commitment to him. And, there is comfort for me in her words.

Her statement implies two things.

  1. Her recognition that he is about to enter a deep dark place.
  2. That she needs to follow him there, in all likelihood, so that she can be there with him, in the dark, and therefore eventually follow him out.

I wonder if she inherently knows that he will be forever be changed by his journey through the darkness. And, that if she doesn’t follow him, she may lose the chance to know the man he will become.

We will all face suffering of some kind in this life. We will all need to learn to navigate in the darkness. We will all be changed for it.

She states she will follow him into the darkness, not lead. She doesn’t take it upon herself to initiate the process of grief, or coping, or the journey of “whatever” he is about to go through. No she doesn’t initiate it or suggest that he follow her, as if she had all of the answers he were looking for. Instead, she commits to following him. This isn’t her path to take, but instead it is her loved one’s path. She accompanies him there following him, allowing him to initiate the process.

Oh, how I wish, this had been my case. After my brother took his life, I wish those around me would have realized that I needed to follow my own path through my grief. That they couldn’t take me down theirs. Or lead me through to “healing” on their time-table or along their prechartered course. There were so many wrong turns for me along the way as I was lead by those whose intentions were good but misguided.

It was my path to follow. My unchartered waters to navigate. In my own time. By my own way.

But, as I write, this is what I hear God saying to me. Jana, I followed you into the darkness. I was there with you. And, once you allowed me to, I led you out.

God is here now. He is in the darkness. He remains steadfast through it all.

Jesus, my Lord and Savior, followed me into my darkness. Held me. Carried me. Rested with me. Enveloped me. Listened to me. Sat with me. Prayed with me. He followed me into the darkness.

No human could do what He did for me. No human could have had the capacity to follow me into my darkness like I needed them to. No human would have had the patience, endurance, or courage to stay with me for that long, with that intensity, or love me so deeply that no amount of anger, rage, sadness, or self-loathing would push Him away.

He followed me into the dark. And, then, he brought me into the Light and Set me free. His power is beyond measure. Beyond comprehension. Beyond understanding.

The mystery of Christ remains yesterday, today and tomorrow. In Him I draw my strength. In Him I will remain.

Are you journeying through the darkness? Are you following a loved one on their journey? Are you scared, afraid, angry, lost? If so, I encourage you to invite Him to join you. He will remain with you and lead you to Freedom.

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Monday (oops! It is Tuesday already!) Invitations | Your 3rd Day is Coming!

Be still and knowThe beauty of a blog is that you only see what I present – typed up pretty and packaged neatly here on the screen.

My life over the past few weeks has been anything but neat and tidy. More like chaotic, crazy and mothering at warp-speed. As I kept up with end of school year activities, baseball season start-up {I feel like we have taken on a second career with both boys actively playing this year!}, and the realities of home-life – Yes! my family does indeed like to eat three times a day!, I found myself further and further from Christ – my Rock, my Savior. I must draw near. There is Peace to be found in the shadow of His wings. So, today, finally, here I am to take a few moments to pause and reflect.

I write this today for that one person for whom loneliness has settled in despite the swirling busyness of life around them. That one person sitting in the middle of the crowd, yet wondering if anyone notices them or even cares. That one person who appears to have it all together, appears to have a litany of connections and friends, and yet finds herself lonely, disconnected, and out of touch with who she is and was created to be.

Isn’t it amazing how we can experience loneliness amidst a sea of people? I sense loneliness in others. I have been there. I know. After my brother passed, I would find myself looking around as droves of people went on with the normalcy of their days – errands, lunch out with friends, kids’ activities, etc. Their worlds seemed to move quickly forward, while mine seemed to slow down. I wanted to shout at them, “How can you go on living like normal? How can you be normal when I am feeling so much pain?”.

So, it is for you that I write today. For the one who can barely sit still and just wants to run up to someone, shake them loose, and shout, “Look at me! Can’t you see me! Can’t you see my pain? Can’t you see how lonely I am? Look at me!”.

Journey with me to the book of Luke, chapter 24, verses 13-36.

Two men are walking the road to Emmaeus on the very day of the Jesus’ resurrection, about 7 miles from Jerusalem where Jesus was buried.

Verse 14, “and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

Two days have passed since Jesus’ crucifixion. In their grief and sadness, they are not able to see what is right before them. Could they be asking themselves, Is anyone else suffering like we are? Does anyone else get it? For two days they suffer with the loneliness and reality that Jesus is in fact gone.

Then Jesus says to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?”.

Read their response: “And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?

Can you hear the exasperation in their voices? Have you ever felt this way? Loneliness is a constant companion when we are certain others do not understand our pain. Others may know of the event that led to our suffering, but our deepest desire is to be understood and loved through our suffering.

Jesus asks a question that caused them to stand still and feel pain. How often in our journeys of suffering do others make comments or ask questions that cause us to stand still and feel deep pain? It is sometimes the good intentions of others that yield in us deep feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Jesus remains with them through the evening of the third day following his crucifixion. “When he was at the table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” (vs. 30,31)

This act, the breaking of bread, serves as a reminder of their last meal with Him prior to his death. This symbolic moment opens their eyes to see Him once again. They now see that they were not alone and never had been. He had been with them the entire time. On the third day, they saw Christ.

For you who is experiencing loneliness right now, who is desperate to see Him in your suffering. Remain where you are. He will find you. He will come alongside you. He will reveal himself to you in a way you will see him.

You are not alone. He sees you. He is here, present with you right now. Forever and always. Your third day is coming. The scales will fall from your eyes and you will see that He was with you the entire time.

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Monday Invitations | Dedicated to those for whom this is NOT a happy Memorial Day

child kissing headstone

Last year, our family lived in Carlisle, PA while my husband attended the Army War College. He is active duty Air Force and had the privilege of being invited to attend this prestigious program with his fellow Army, Navy, and Marine armed service members.

Over the year, we listened to a number of stories of those lost in active duty. We became friends with people whom have served and led on the front lines. I listened as spouses recounted the stress and strain they endured as they waited and wondered if their warrior would return home alive. I listened as they talked of not one, not two, but five year-long deployments that were threatening to tear the families apart. I learned of their friends who had taken their lives in the aftermath of their time in “the desert” – every day reliving the atrocities to which they had born witness. I watched as those who bear the cross on their uniform and the share the Good News of Jesus suffered under the strains of PTSD.

We are an Air Force family. My husband actively serves. He has deployed a number of times, at most for a year. He has flown in enemy air and landed on enemy soil. And, we have sacrificed for our country. But, we have been somewhat shielded from the extreme conditions so many of our fellow Army service members and families have endured. Don’t get me wrong, the Air Force has suffered great loss, too. I can think of friends who have lost loved ones and dear friends both in “the desert” and in the air. We suffer too. We remember those in our ranks who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

But, for whatever reason, our family has served more than one Joint Base assignment. Which means that we have lived and worked among personnel across all branches of the armed forces for 6 of the past 12 years. And, in my opinion, the Army has given and lost the most.

I ache today for them. I ache for my chaplain friend who is soon to report to a base where two mass shootings have taken place within one year of another. He suffers from PTSD for time served. I ache for my sweet friend who lost her husband while he was deployed and now uses her grief and faith to come alongside and comfort others who are suffering. I ache for my sweet Army wife friends who feel others don’t understand their suffering and pain, who are beyond weary facing yet another deployment. I ache for the Army as a whole as we read again and again the reality of suicides, homicides, and mass shootings in their midst.

I am tender to all those who have lost a loved one due to war – whether it is on the battlefield or as a result of the fallout. But, for whatever reason and of which I have a very difficult time explaining, my heart is with my Army friends today.

You have suffered too much. You have suffered more than any one group of people should have to suffer. Gather together and love one another in your grief. Bear one another’s burdens and together you can stand. You are not forgotten. I remember the exhaustion on your faces when we met over a year ago. I remember thinking of all you have carried for our country. I remember thinking of the sacrifices your children have given, of all they have been asked to endure. You Army spouses are some of the strongest and most courageous ones out there.

I invite you to consider this today:

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15)

“Part of what it means to share in Christ’s suffering is to share in the suffering of those whom Christ loves. You participate in Christ’s sufferings by sharing the pain with those who suffer, not only fellow Christians, but people anywhere in the world who are hurting. You participate in Christ’s suffering when you come alongside the hurting and offer them the blessing of presence. You participate in Christ’s suffering when you weep with those who weep. You participate in Christ’s sufferings when you die to yourself so that you can fully enter into the pain and suffering of another person.

You may never be more Christlike that when you participate in the sufferings and sorrows of a hurting world, wrestling with the pain and providing the comfort of community. Christ set the pattern: death, then rebirth; dying, then living again; suffering, then consolation. As you model the life of Christ in ministry to others, you become Christ to hurting people.

Jesus called his followers to pattern their lives after his, and that pattern includes dignifying pain and suffering. Pain is real, it hurts, and it matters. Rather than minimizing or denying the hurt, Christians are most like Christ when they enter into the pain of those who are suffering – not to be weighted down or consumed by it, but to help bear the burden. Jesus says that when you provide care in his name to the least of his brothers or sisters,  you are having compassion on him (Matthew 25:31-40). So when you care for those in need, you are offering a doubly powerful witness to the presence of Christ in the world – Christ alive in  you and in the one to whom you are offering care.” (Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart: How to Relate to Those Who are Suffering, Kenneth C. Haugk, Ph.D., pp. 33-34)

I know there are many for whom this Memorial Day is not a happy one. I am so sorry for your loss. I grieve with you today. You are not forgotten.

with love,

jana

Monday Invitations |Why we MUST pray for our children.

Sit upon the throne of their heartsI have been neglectful in my prayer life, specifically when it comes to my boys. I am ashamed to say that I have not been tapping into the power of prayer. I have felt convicted for some time about this and am committing to regular prayer for my boys.

I want to be intentional in prayer for them. I want more than the quick “good-night” prayer, where under my breath, I am really just asking God to make them fall off to sleep quickly! I want to pray for their hearts, souls and minds. I want to pray protection over them as I see the influence of this world having greater and greater weight on them. I want to invite God into their lives to mold them and shape them into men of God.

I have selected morning time after I get back from the school drop-off. I am praying from Stormie Omartian’s book, The Power of a Praying Parent. I enter their rooms, sit on their beds, place my hand on their pillows, and read a prayer from Stormie’s book. I then say a prayer of my own and remain in silence for a moment imagining them at school with their friends and teachers. I imagine the Spirit of God filling their heart, mind and souls.

I am confident that I play an important role as I stand in the gap for my children and invite God to come into their lives.

Let the little children come to me, he says. Jesus invites them. Matthew 19:14

 My boys have each invited Jesus into their hearts. They believe earnestly and passionately. And, for that I am eternally grateful. But, I am aware that there is something more that I can do on their behalf as their mother by praying for them – in their room, in their space, meditating on their day. I believe there is power beyond what I can possibly comprehend in this daily habit. I am confident that I am doing God’s work and potentially changing the course of their eternal history by inviting God to reside in their rooms, in their lives, and fill them anew every day.

Come, my Light, and illumine their darkness. Come, my Life, and revive them from death. Come, my Physician, and heal their wounds. Come, Flame of Divine Love, and burn up the thorns of their sins, kindling their hearts with the flame of thy love. Come, my King, sit upon the throne of their hearts and reign there. For thou alone art their King and their Lord. Amen – St. Dimitrii of Rostov

I invite you today to re-consider the power you hold – the power given to us by our heavenly Father to pray over our children. To stand in the gap for them. We must take our role seriously. We must take time to diligently and earnestly pray for their hearts, minds and souls.

With Love,

jana

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