I would like to have the Lenten Special, please.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” ~ Psalm 73:25-26
Traditionally people “give up” certain things during the Lent period. Usually a person will “give up” something they really like. It usually is a habit of some sort, and it really depends on the person. I really have a sweet tooth; but, have to have something salty to get the sweet taste out of my mouth…hahahaha!
Lent is not about a deprivation of our selfish habits…the ones we mostly partake for our personal gratification. Lent is a season of self-examination. During this period of self-examination we are called as Christians to examine how we “nourish” our bodies…as members of the body of Christ. It’s about how we nourish our hearts. It’s about how we focus on Jesus, who gives us strength.
My pastor said, “It’s like a spiritual test of where your heart is. Your heart is where your treasure is. Is it focused on “me” [self], or is it focused on Jesus?”
It’s human nature to want to focus on ourselves. I’m extremely guilty of this. In fact, I tend to focus on things that I may have regretted doing wrong or I may focus on good things that I feel have gone unnoticed. Either way, my focus is on “me”, and not Him. I focus on things that don’t give me true life.
There are also some who may focus on the things I’ve done wrong, and are really good at pointing them out to me, and sometimes to others. It’s not like I live in a box. I know I’m a sinner! Most of the time, I actually regret doing a lot of the things I do. But, something that I tend to forget, and need constant reminding of, is that there is no condemnation in Christ! Only others, or my miserable self, may accuse of past, or present things.
Lent can also be a time to be a part of community; to be a part of others–who have a commonality of fixing their eyes on Jesus.
That’s really the goal isn’t it? To fix our eyes on Jesus. To understand that this beautiful gift from God, His only Son, is not just for ourselves but to be shared with others…with no strings attached.
Lent is a time to extend ourselves to others. Extending not to just those who are impoverished, but, those that are older in age, those that may need comforting (for whatever reason), and to the sick and weary. We should extend ourselves to those in our broken world; to be His messengers of love and mercy. Our extension of ourselves should bear the very image of God.
Giving of oneself can be tough; but, there is a high return on the satisfaction odometer. Giving of oneself can be like a ripple effect. Those that take His Light out into the world of others–do so because they take delight in this action, not because it’s “dutiful”. It becomes a celebration that ripples out into the world.
I know that there is a lot more to Lent. I could write pages on Lent. Lent is not only about self-examination, it’s a plethora of practicality of sorts. Some of it’s about focusing on our faults; some of it’s about repenting; some of it’s about extending ourselves to others; but, it’s mainly about keeping our eye on the prize of Christ Jesus. He is the Author & Creator–the Finisher of the story of our lives.
During this season, what will you be serving up for your Lenten Special?
There is no better gift to get for Valentines than receiving, and knowing, God’s Valentine promises to us. God’s Love for us is greater than anything we can imagine. His sacrificial gift to us was His son, Christ. God is love!
I saw the Hallmark Valentine commercial. I have to admit, I’m a sap for romantic gestures, especially this time of year…ok, I’m pretty much a romanticist all year. I love the idea of someone telling me I’m beautiful. I want someone to tell me they want to grow old with me. Who wouldn’t want to have a super hero rescue them? And, I never grow weary of someone saying they need me, or love me.
After watching the commercial, I realized that God is constantly trying to send me His own “Hallmark” greeting. God tells me He delights in me. I ask Him to never let me go, so He promises to hold on to me. He comforts me. God wants to be my “Super Hero“, if I would let Him.
God has also told me that He loved me so much that He sent His only Son to give me hope by dying on the cross…so I could live.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16
His promise doesn’t end there. You see…I was sexually abused as a child. I have harbored lots of pain, shame, and guilt. It took years (almost 30 years to be exact) before I understood that God did not condemn me for what happened. People may condemn me; but, He never does.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” ~ John 3:17
We all have struggles. It’s nice to know that we have hope in the midst of our struggles. There is hope in the very lives we live. Christ’s love is our hope.
There were times I wondered where God was in the midst of my suffering…literally suffering at the hands of others..
My pastor reminded me that God had been beside me every time I have suffered. In fact, He is present in the suffering and struggles of the world today. He controls the suffering, and guides it for His purpose.
God’s promises don’t stop there. Oh no they don’t!
Another of God’s promises totally sweeps me off my feet when I think about it. He tells me that He has plans for me. He says in the midst of my struggles, He has plans for me to prosper. God is molding me to be in the image of Christ. He is not finished with me. He wants me to invite others into His kingdom, so that they may prosper.
I know you are thinking, “What you talking bout?”
I’m talking about what my pastor (Tom Gibbs) said, “We are all walking the road with our elder brother…Christ. The path can and will lead us to glory. Our present sufferings are identified with the struggles of Christ. While we are walking with Him (during our struggles) we are being formed in the image of Christ. We are no longer subjected to the bondage of this world. God comforts us in this world even when we have lost our way. The world offers us meaningless and randomness sufferings; but, God is in control of the suffering. Our sufferings guide us for His purpose in the end.”
So in all of this suffering in our world…there is hope. Hope in the love of Christ.
As Valentine approaches, remember that even during our struggles–God is wining and dining us. He is the true lover of our soul. We should take the time to express that “we love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
This Valentines Day my prayer is that we will remember that God’s valentine promises to us are very real and present in our lives …today and everyday. God is near. God is Love!
Even though I was far from being an orphan as a child, I understood loneliness at times. I was an only child…for real. I was abused by my step father. I alienated myself from others.
As an adult, I have experienced loneliness. I have alienated myself in a very different way. I imagined I was what my pastor describes as being “spiritually orphaned“. But something has changed over the last couple of years. I’ve been adopted…adopted by God.
There was a time that the only father I knew about was one I was trying to forget about. With the help of a few spiritual leaders at my church and counseling, I began to learn otherwise. I learned that God is my true Father. I understand that He is my Father. He chose me. He had plans for me, even before I was born. God adopted me to be a part of His family.
Because of my past, even my present, I have carried a lot of shame and guilt. It has laid heavy in my heart. I tried to keep it suppressed; but, thankfully things are different now.
“I am the thorn in your crown; but, You love me anyway.
I am the sweat from Your brow; but, You love me anyway.
I am the nail in Your wrist; but, You love me anyway.
I am Judas’ kiss; but, You love me anyway.
See now I am the [wo] man who yelled out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then I turned away with a smile on my face
With this sin in my heart, tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night I still call out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life!
It’s like nothing in life
That I’ve ever known
Yes You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me.”
You see, my sins pinned His exposed and naked body on the cross. Despite what I did to Him, He sought me out in the crowd and said, “I love you anyway. I delight in you. I have adopted you for my own. You are mine.”
I’m so glad to know that I am loved. I’m not afraid to follow Jesus, or be with Him. In fact, I look forward to the day I will spend eternity with Him. I’m secure in knowing that Jesus loves me. He has adopted me for His very own. He understands my fears. He forgives me of my sins. He gives me strength.
It’s people who don’t understand. It goes back to the disconnectedness I have mentioned before. It’s people who choose to disconnect. Yes, there are some other circumstances; but, people make time for what they want to do. I know, because I’m a human being who does that very thing…chooses to do what I want to do.
I think that God would like for us to slow down and be a community…to try and reconnect with one another. Last fall I had a friend from middle school who reconnected with me, and it was great seeing her. To share our different journeys with each other. We shared so much, and it meant so much to me to be able to catch up with her. I have to admit that I have also connected with several through Facebook as well. It’s been great reconnecting with so many.
It seems so many have trouble reconnecting. Maybe something happened within the relationship. Sometimes things may have happened intentional, maybe on accident without knowing, or maybe time just slipped away. It’s not easy to reconnect. It takes time and energy. There are some who encourage you to do one thing, and then same people hold it against you for doing the very thing they encouraged you to do. It’s so frustrating, and talk about disconnecting.
There is another type of reconnecting…a reconnecting with God. God desires us to connect with Him. If God had not given me the strength and courage to depend on Him, then I think I would have ceased to exist. It’s because of Him that I’m capable of so much more. I’ve been made new.
God chose me to be a part of His family. God adopted me. I don’t mind being in a single family relationship with God. A community would be nice; but if some can’t accept me for me then there is no reason to be a part of community. Jesus loves me anyway…no matter what secrets I may have from my past, or the person I am now. He chose me. I’m adopted by God. He is the best head of family anyone could ever want. Praise His glorious name!
“…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from…strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace,…For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,…” ~ Ephesians 2:12-14, 18-19
Got questions.org says, “Perhaps the best indication that God does have a sense of humor is that He created man in His image, and certainly people are able to perceive and express humor. Having a sense of humor is the ability to perceive, enjoy, or express what is comical or funny. According to this definition, then, God must show an ability to perceive, enjoy, or express what is comical.”
Humor has its place in the spiritual life. There are many religious people who tend to take themselves way too seriously. Humor is important because it helps us to understand how God views us and the world.
Please bear with me because I would like to write about a story within a story. I feel that it will be quite humorous…well at least to me, and a few others. I also want to make a disclaimer. I’m going to mention an undergarment in this blog; but, I feel that it’s not too offensive.
I was taking my youngest daughter, and a friend, to see Tim Hawkins and John Branyan. These two gentlemen are great Christian comedians. Their acts make for a night of laughter. I love the fact that they incorporate how God has a sense of humor, and give examples of thus. I laughed so hard, that I literally cried tears of joy.
Prior to the show, the girls and I had gotten some frozen yogurt . On the way to the church, where the show was to take place, my youngest turned and told her friend that I write a Christian blog.
With all seriousness, my daughter’s friend turned to my daughter and said, “Your mom does something with Christian bras?”
There was a pause, and then I began to laugh. I had to apologize because I was really not laughing at her; but laughing at what she said. I loved it! Then I had to expand on what she said.
I told the girls that was a great idea! I mentioned that my oldest is a college student, and that she had left one of the particular undergarments mentioned at our house–while she was home for the holidays. I thought for a moment, and then went on to say that maybe I should write a bible verse on the undergarment upon mailing it back to her.
Then we all laughed about it! What a great idea!
I’m not trying to be disrespectful at all. I’m obviously not really going to make a line of undergarments with verses on them; but, I may surprise my oldest.
I love the verse in Numbers 6:25. It says, “…the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;…” I was thought that would be a great verse to put on the under garment! She loves the Lord with all of her heart, and has a great sense of humor to boot. I think she would think it was hilarious!
A week after we went to comedy concert, I was picking my youngest up from play practice, when I saw her friend’s mom. I wasn’t trying to embarrass her friend; but, I had to recount the conversation that had transpired just a week before.
To my surprise, the mom had a great sense of humor as well. She followed up by saying maybe I should write a verse of protection on the undergarment.
Hmmm! I thought maybe I should write, “God protects us from evil.” ~ 2 Tessalonians 3:3
I’m sorry but I laughed so hard just thinking about it. That was really funny! I thought that the mom may be on to something.
Again, I’m not going into making a line of Christian undergarments; but, what a great laugh I have had recounting the story. I have yet to send my oldest her undergarment back; but, I still plan to do within the next couple of weeks.
Tim Hawkins and John Branyan even talk about how people ask them if God has a sense of humor. They have both said that God definitely has a sense of humor. You will have to catch their show to find out what they have to say, or check out their websites or videos. They are definitely funny boys, and use their God given talents to make many laugh.
I’m thankful God made us in His image, and gave us a sense of humor to make our life here on Earth more enjoyable. His word also states that, “A joyful heart is good medicine,…” ~ Proverbs 17:22.
Why not take advantage of the medicine God speaks of…having a joyful heart? LOL
My oldest daughter, Erica Hairston, is expanding her very own spiritual journey with our Heavenly Father. It has been a blessing to watch her mature and grow spiritually, and all aspects of her life as well. I often stand in awe of her. She has a beautiful spirit about her, and tries to be a friend to all…especially to those in need. She is a people magnet! Erica’s gift from God attracts people to her…in which she is better able to share the Good News.
My other children, Jess and John, are just beginning their own journey making a difference in their own way to further His kingdom. I’m so very proud of them all; each with their own unique God-given talents that they share with others on a daily basis…especially with me. What a blessing to be called “Momma“.
Here is a brief synopsis of Erica. From an early age she has thrived on “being in the thick of things”. She has a lot of energy, and knows how to harness it and channel it to work for herself, and others, and in a good way. Erica has been in sports most of her life, and has proven to be a great leader on the softball field and mission field. She earned the title of best athlete at her middle school, and earned first team all district honors in softball for her high school team a couple of years. Erica has made lots of friends, loves life, and truly cares for people.
Yes, she has faults. I know I painted her better than Mary Poppins; but, she does have special God-given talents. Plus, we already know that we are all sinners and fall short.
Erica has a mission, and it’s to further His Kingdom. She puts her on twist on the way she furthers His kingdom with a flair that only Erica can do.
This past year, Erica attended Baylor University. She has made a network of amazing Christian friends, and it has literally pumped her up for Jesus! They are a well oiled “tight knit” group ready to fight in God’s army.
Recently, in one of Erica’s quiet time, God revealed to her some of her strengths and weaknesses. She told me that God had revealed to her–that He was going to teach her how to walk. He was going to teach her His way, and it would be better than she has ever walked before. They would start over and take it from the beginning. Even though her spiritual walk is strong; He was going to make her walk stronger than it has ever been before, and all for His glory.
I work at a summer camp now, and it’s very hard to get a hold of me. My cell doesn’t have service unless I stand on top of the zip-line on one foot. Ok, that is a little exaggeration…but not much.
Erica finally got a hold of me to tell me what God had revealed to her; then, she casually added that something unexpected happened a couple of days later.
I thought, “I wonder what unexpected event?”
I knew she had gone to Minnesota to spend some time with one of her future roommate; and then she said, “By the way, I got to go jet skiing and tubing for the first time.”
I thought, “Awesome!”
Erica also told me that she went water skiing, and that the skis were too loose, and she had trouble getting up; therefore, she tightened the skis. The problem was the next time she was getting pulled out of the water (because she is strong) she was pushing harder with one leg, and the ski was under water slightly. This is not a good thing while trying to ski on top of water.
I’m thinking this is all really cool!
Then, her next words were words that would pain any parent’s heart, and my very soul writhed with pain for her. Erica had an accident. The iliofemoral ligament (the strongest ligament in the body, had detached from her hip, and will be having surgery on Tuesday.
BTW…prayers would be good now. Prayers for the doctor and healing would be great; especially since she is a Packer fan and a Cowboy’s doctor will be performing the surgery. She may have to change her allegiance after the surgery; but, she should see how it turns out first-hahahaha!
My eyes began tearing up as she told me what had happened. I was trying not let her hear the pain in my voice; but, I’m not the best at hiding my emotions.
I immediately asked if she had a life jacket on, and she said, “Yes, she did”. I was somewhat relieved. I was happy that she had thought of safety first, and that it helped her to keep a float while writhing in pain waiting in the cold water.
Erica went on to tell me of the events that followed, and she felt certain that she would have drowned (because of the severity of the pain) if not for the life jacket she was wearing, and the other “Life Jacket” that covered her with strength and comfort.
A boat drove by and said they would call the sheriff to get help. Those blessed people also drove around the lake to help clear it so that the waves would not continue to make her move so much…and cause her pain.
Her future roommate, Elizabeth Papetti, and another girl, Kristen Pool, dove out of the boat into the water, and each of the girls got on Erica’s side to help support her until emergency service arrived. I am thankful to God for all of their support to help their friend…their sister in Christ.
She told me about the air life that came; but, that an ambulance was actually able to get to where they were. Erica said that placing her on the backboard was an excruciating pain that she will never forget.
My heart was hurting so bad! A parent never wants their child to suffer such pain. I wanted to be able to take it away, and there is nothing I can do. Then I realized I can pray, and that’s one of the best things I could do for her.
All of the sudden Erica’s voice, despite being a little pain stricken, became more upbeat. She said, “Momma. I got to talk to the people in the ambulance about Jesus.”
My whole body became engulfed with a beautiful warm, spirit filled feeling.
Then Erica said, “Momma. I’m going to have to learn to walk again.”
The realization of her accident came rushing over me again. I felt sick to my stomach.
Then Erica said, “Don’t worry, Momma. I have faith. Plus remember, I told you what God had revealed to me that He was going to teach me how to walk.”
Ok…now, I really need a tissue. This beautiful, sweet child of mine finds the beauty in her own pain. What a testimony! It’s true! He is going to teach her how to walk in His truth and way. How awesome is that?
Erica has made it back to Texas, and has a great support group of friends with her. As a mom, it’s so hard not to want to know how everything is going. How I wish I could take her pain away, and be with her.
Erica reassured me she was in the great hands with her friends, and of the best hands in the Father of the Heavens and Earth. I have no control in th situation. Not controlling the situation is a big leap of faith for me. Since my mini-stroke in May, I have had to learn to let some things go, and not worry so much. It’s definitely a test of faith for me, and being able to put my trust in Him…despite my weaknesses.
I truly can’t do much for her while I’m at camp, or any place for that matter; but, I can definitely pray.
I listen to K-LOVE Christian radio quite often. Their link is also on this web page. As I got off of the phone with Erica, I was reminded of a Jeremy Camp song that I really like. It’s called, “Walk by Faith”, and a part of the song is below.
“Well I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see
Well because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me
Help me to win my endless fears
You’ve been so faithful for all my years
With one breath You make me new
Your grace covers all I do.”
Those words are so true!
As my pastor, Tom Gibbs, has told me many times…even if I can’t see and I may be in a season of brokenness, God will teach me to do His will.
God will help me with my many fears that follow me from my past to present shame and guilt of abuse. I must not listen to the lies. I am His beloved. He has made me new. And the most important thing…His grace covers all I do…just like Jeremy’s song says.
If one looks closely…one can always find beauty from within their pain, or brokenness.
Tom has also told me, “You have to draw near, be patient, and listen to what God is trying to tell you.”
I suppose if I can continue to do those things then beauty will be able to spring forth from the pain that has built up over the years.
My new prayer for myself is for the Lord to teach me to walk…walk in His way of truth, and not my way of lies. Praise His glorious name!
“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me;…” ~Psalm 86:11-13a
“God can heal a broken heart, but He has to have all the pieces.”
Only when we become passionate about dealing with our painful experiences can a deep healing take place that we desperately desire. There is hope in healing, and hope leads to freedom. Freedom will come when we have faith to trust in Him. Truth is our hope is found in Christ; but, lack of faith can stand in the way of our passion to heal.
Ultimately the truth is that it is not within our power to always run the race, and to go the distance by ourselves. We will fail, every one of us, alone. That is why we need the Author and Finisher of our faith, the One who is able to keep us from falling. With His help we can go the distance gaining the prize of His life—that He died for our sins so that we could live. Christ fulfilled what we could not see.
If the Gospel brings about true freedom, or I like to think “free to be me”, then in essence His message brings us hope. Not just for today, but for the future of His Kingdom. One of my Pastors told me that, “God’s grace gives us freedom from despair and pride.” Truth is, that we can have hope to “carry on”, if we let His grace free us of our idols of our sinful nature.
Finally, I was thinking about a J.R.R. Tolkien poem:
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
I was thinking about how Christ did not much look like a King during His reign on Earth; in fact, he probably had similarities to that of a ranger. The only crown Jesus wore was a crown of thorns. But through the Gospel we find hope. We learn the truth of God’s mercy, grace, and justice. Knowing all of these things, we should be able to seek His Kingdom—where the crownless again shall be King…of all Kings.
Be passionate! Have hope! Truth and freedom came and He will come again. Hallelujah!