Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Perfect Seat

The stage was set. The orchestra was preparing their instruments and making last minute notations and mental notes. The buzz of the beautifully decorated sanctuary was typical of a Christmas choir concert. Parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers...everyone was smiling and getting their cameras and phone cameras ready; to capture the cute moments, the proud moments, and the funny moments of what would happen on the stage last night. Everyone was trying to find the perfect seat to view their loved ones. The lights were set all around the room in hues of blue and purple, creating a very calm and serene atmosphere. The lights from the tall Christmas trees that flanked both sides of the stage, and the garland that hung from the balcony, beckoned me to share in the "Christmas spirit" that filled the room. And I was trying, I really was.

I was in the front row; not because I was anyone special, or had paid to sit there. Rather, it was to be as close to my daughter as possible, should she need to leave the stage at any given moment during the performance. My husband and oldest daughter were in the balcony above me so they could get some good pictures, but mostly because I didn't know if there would be any open seats next to where my daughter's teacher had asked me to sit. I ended up alone in that front row, except for a couple who wanted to have the best seats to view their son, and were actually slightly obnoxious about it. They must have moved up and down that row three times, trying to get the perfect view of their son. There's always that "one parent." I've been that parent. But, not last night.

The orchestra was on the same level as the front row, the musicians and their instruments not two feet in front of me. The woman whose instruments included a xylophone and a large cymbal was kind enough to warn me that she would be using that cymbal at frequent points throughout the performance. It was very kind of her. Once I saw that there were open seats down the row from that cymbal, where I was actually closer to the end of the stage, I moved down. I honestly don't think I could have handled that clanging cymbal being right in front of me; not with all the noise that was already clamoring around in my head, and in my heart. After I changed seats, I ended up with a clear view of my girl. The perfect seat.

She came onto the stage in her usual way, smiling, and just a little bit nervous. But I knew what was behind that smile. Anxiety. Uncertainty. Dizziness. Pain. You see, up until 25 minutes before we were supposed to get in the car, I wasn't even sure if she was going to be able to go, let alone get on stage and perform with her class. Without going into every detail of what my daughter has been struggling with, I will just tell you that it's been a tremendous burden for a child to carry; a body she can't control, a respiratory tic that causes her arms, torso, neck, and face to seize up several times in a row, shooting pain that comes like arrows into various parts of her body, without warning, and the dizziness that is a constant companion these days. Too much. Just. too. much. And she was smiling.

She stood on that stage and sang her heart out for all four of the songs they were to perform. Her tic was in full force. She glanced at me every so often and I smiled brightly every time. It was the only way to hide the tears that were falling onto my cheeks like relentless water drops from a leaking roof. I couldn't stop them, as much as I tried to brush them away. But I only wanted her to see my smile, reassuring her that she was amazing and brave, because she is. I was caught between the words of the songs the choir was singing, the sheer fact that my daughter was on stage singing in spite of her pain, and the overwhelming sense of a feeling I can't even use words to describe. I can only tell you that it came from the deepest part of this mother's heart; the part that somehow connects to the pit of your stomach, as well as to your spirit. The part that has all five of your senses on high alert, waiting...for what? I didn't know. I wasn't filled with fear, more of a readiness to jump into action if it became necessary. I am forever grateful that it didn't.

The last three months have been filled with doctors, paramedics, ambulances, hospitals, more doctors, and specialists, all trying to give us answers. While we do have a few, we don't have "the one" that we need. That final puzzle piece. OK, back to last night...

When my daughter was done singing and her class exited the stage, it was everything I could do to stay in my seat and not run after her to make sure she was OK. I knew she was dizzy because I could see her stumble as she was about to go down the steps. However, I knew her teacher and her friends would be waiting for her, along with a snack and some water. So, I stayed. I laughed at the videos of the kids telling about their favorite parts of Christmas, trying to name all the reindeer, and some Christmas trivia questions. So cute. I cried when the adult choir sang, "O Holy Night," my very favorite Christmas song. I watched the most cheerful and dynamic choir conductor I'd ever seen in my life. Truth be told, aside from watching my daughter become my hero, he was the best part of the night, for me. On normal occasions, I am sitting in what I think is the perfect seat; center of the room, not too close to the stage but not too far away either. I usually only see the back of the conductor's head, but not his face. Not until the end, when they turn for a bow. Last night, I got to watch his face, just by glancing slightly to my right, in a non-obvious way. The sheer joy of leading this choir in the songs that glorified our reason for celebrating Christmas, Jesus, brought the first bit of joy into my heart since the holiday season began. Praise God.

I needed that. I needed to be reminded of the joy that is the Christmas season. My Savior, Jesus. The One who knows my every need. The one who sees my daughter and knows exactly how to "fix" her. The one who is three persons; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Healer. Comforter. Provider. Love. It wasn't the lights of the Christmas trees or the garland that lit up my heart last night. It was the light of Jesus shining through his people as they sang praises. It was the light in my daughter's eyes as she looked at me one last time before she left the stage, as if to say, "I did it, Mom!" Oh, my heart. It was left right there on that stage. Right there on the front row in my perfect seat. Perfect, because it gave me the full picture of what my daughter went through as she was singing. Perfect, because it gave me a chance to view a typical Christmas concert in a very non-typical way. Perfect, because it opened my eyes to see not just a performance, but the people in it. Up close and personal; joy on some faces, sorrow on others. Broken hearts behind some smiles, like mine. Yet, still on that stage, in spite of whatever was causing the light in their eyes to be a little more dim last night. Bravery. Commitment. Hope.

No matter what you are facing this Christmas season, know this. Jesus came to this earth for you. For you. If you were the only one alive on the earth, he still would have come, for you! The trees and lights are nice. The stockings and cookies and egg nog are festive and comforting. The gifts are surprising and fun, or not so much. But none of it matters when your heart is breaking. None of it matters when you're grieving. None of it matters when you feel like you're living in a dense fog and every day is the same thing, over and over and over again. The only thing that truly matters is that Jesus is with you. Emmanuel, God WITH us! He is the reason why we sing. Jesus is the reason we celebrate. Let's not forget that this year, or any year.

I won't soon forget last night. The night I had the perfect seat.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

It's Only Temporary

My heart is broken for Brussels this morning. All evidence in our world right now shows that evil is winning. What I'm reminded of this Easter week is that the same evidence showed on the night Jesus was crucified. BUT...It was temporary.

Three days later, Evil was defeated when the women went to Jesus' tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty! What they did not understand until later was that evil had not won, but indeed, Jesus was alive! JESUS WON. He is STILL winning. He is still on the throne, seated next to the Father, the very Creator of our world.

All evidence shows that evil is winning. Evil is in control. What I want to remind you of this Easter week is that it's only temporary. There is a day coming very soon when Jesus will return to this earth to claim his bride; those who have chosen to accept Him as their personal Lord and Savior. On that day, Evil will be defeated once and for all. Satan will pay for the havoc he's created as the prince of this world. Jesus will rule and reign on the earth as The King of Kings and The Lord of Lords. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. He is ALIVE!

Evil may have its turn right now, and it's gut wrenching. However, Satan is only able to go so far. He is not in control, though it seems the opposite is true. Even though we see evil all around us, Jesus is still in our midst, cheering us on to be the light in this dark world, to be His hands and feet, to share the Good News that this is not the end! This is not all there is!

As I lay in bed this morning, praying, trying to distract my mind from the nightmares I had last night; thinking about the people in Brussels and all over the world who are being massacred and enslaved, these words from Jesus calmed my heart...

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33 (NIV)

I wanted to share with you what Jesus told the disciples when they asked him, "Tell us when these things will happen. How will we know what to do? What will happen to prepare us for your coming and the end of time?" So, I found the scriptures where Jesus tells us exactly what will happen as we near the time of His return. I say "us" because even though he was speaking to the disciples at the time, His Word is just as much for us today as it was for them. Even more so, as the Day draws near. I chose the Message Bible version. Please hang in there with me and read on...it's important.

3 Later as he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples approached and asked him, “Tell us, when are these things going to happen? What will be the sign of your coming, that the time’s up?”

4-8 Jesus said, “Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities, claiming, ‘I am Christ, the Messiah.’ They will deceive a lot of people. When reports come in of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history; this is no sign of the end. Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Famines and earthquakes will occur in various places. This is nothing compared to what is coming.

21-22 “This is going to be trouble on a scale beyond what the world has ever seen, or will see again. If these days of trouble were left to run their course, nobody would make it. But on account of God’s chosen people, the trouble will be cut short.

23-25 “If anyone tries to flag you down, calling out, ‘Here’s the Messiah!’ or points, ‘There he is!’ don’t fall for it. Fake Messiahs and lying preachers are going to pop up everywhere. Their impressive credentials and dazzling performances will pull the wool over the eyes of even those who ought to know better. But I’ve given you fair warning.

26-28 “So if they say, ‘Run to the country and see him arrive!’ or, ‘Quick, get downtown, see him come!’ don’t give them the time of day. The Arrival of the Son of Man isn’t something you go to see. He comes like swift lightning to you! Whenever you see crowds gathering, think of carrion vultures circling, moving in, hovering over a rotting carcass. You can be quite sure that it’s not the living Son of Man pulling in those crowds.

29 “Following those hard times,

Sun will fade out,
    moon cloud over,
Stars fall out of the sky,
    cosmic powers tremble.

30-31 “Then, the Arrival of the Son of Man! It will fill the skies—no one will miss it. Unready people all over the world, outsiders to the splendor and power, will raise a huge lament as they watch the Son of Man blazing out of heaven. At that same moment, he’ll dispatch his angels with a trumpet-blast summons, pulling in God’s chosen from the four winds, from pole to pole.

32-35 “Take a lesson from the fig tree. From the moment you notice its buds form, the merest hint of green, you know summer’s just around the corner. So it is with you: When you see all these things, you’ll know he’s at the door. Don’t take this lightly. I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for all of you. This age continues until all these things take place. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out.

36 “But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father knows.

37-39 “The Arrival of the Son of Man will take place in times like Noah’s. Before the great flood everyone was carrying on as usual, having a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ark. They knew nothing—until the flood hit and swept everything away.

39-44 “The Son of Man’s Arrival will be like that: Two men will be working in the field—one will be taken, one left behind; two women will be grinding at the mill—one will be taken, one left behind. So stay awake, alert. You have no idea what day your Master will show up. But you do know this: You know that if the homeowner had known what time of night the burglar would arrive, he would have been there with his dogs to prevent the break-in. Be vigilant just like that. You have no idea when the Son of Man is going to show up.
 ~ Matthew 24:3-8, 21-44 (MSG)

I know that was a lot to take in. But, we have a job to do. As Christians, we are the salt of the earth. We are the city on a hill. Our job is to bring as many people to Christ as we possibly can, and love them in the process. Not one of us is perfect. Not one of us deserves eternal life. But, because of what Jesus sacrificed for us; because he hung on the cross and bore the sins: past, present, and future, of every single person who would ever live on this earth, we have access to Heaven. Because He conquered death and rose from the grave, we have confidence in His return. He is coming, and he's coming soon.

What began as a nightmare last night has propelled me into a new call to action, not just for myself but for anyone who will listen. The temporary pain of what we are experiencing on this earth is just that...temporary. However, eternal life is not. Where you spend your eternal life is entirely up to you. We've been given free will to choose who we're going to serve. I don't want to see my family, my friends, the people I love, or any person for that matter, suffer an eternity in Hell. This is serious. This is urgent. Let's shift our focus back to the main thing, Jesus. He is the only One who can bring peace to our hearts as we walk out these days. And don't forget to look for the good in the midst of the chaos. The true gospel IS being preached all over the world, just as Jesus said it would be. But there are so many people who still haven't heard it. Who will answer the call with me? I hope every hand of the persons reading this will go up in agreement saying, "I will. I will answer the call." Jesus is the reason you're living today and he's called you for such a time as this.

Friday, January 22, 2016

"Pruning"

I wrote this four years ago today. I just read it as though someone else wrote it. The reason for that is because someone else did write it. I'm not the same person I was four years ago. A lot of "life" has happened between now and then. This was one of those posts that the Holy Spirit helped me write. And I really needed to read it today. I read it as though he was the one giving the wisdom, because he was. When I write, it's just as much for me as it is for the people I'm writing for. You. I pray you are blessed and encouraged. Please click on the link below. ❤ #trustmuscles

It's Not Weird, It's Just God: "Pruning"