There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
-- Romans 8:1-2 ESV
Recently, I returned from eleven days in Lancaster County Amish country. Once again, I was homesick even before I boarded the plane to fly back to Colorado, where my family and I now reside. A myriad of memories flitted across my mind while walking the back roads of Strasburg, Neffsville, and Ronks (near Paradise).
During that time, I also was given permission by the present owner of my childhood home to walk along the perimeter of the grove of tall Norway spruce my father planted when I was a mere fifth grader and just beginning to write my stories (and too shy to show anyone but my mother). A flood of emotions poured over me as I walked that ground, and I lingered longingly near the places where, all those years ago, I sat to write in my secret writing notebook.
And I wondered: Had I fulfilled the things I’d set out to do for God so energetically, so joyously?Even as a child, I was incredibly driven, motivated by an internal to-do list. Oh, the sometimes nearly never-ending lists of deeds I planned to accomplish! Goals centered in the heart of my newfound faith in Christ.
If I could talk to that young schoolgirl now—my preteen self—and tell her what I’ve learned about faith in God, I believe it would go something like this: Salvation is absolutely a gift from God. No amount of works or deeds can alter that fact. Yes, we are known by the fruit that is evidenced in our lives, but it is ultimately God’s work of grace in us that makes all the difference.
What is most important is to trust in the Lord...and not in ourselves. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to “grow up” in the ways of the Lord...and for parents who encouraged me in my jubilant, even zealous childlike faith in Christ. Walking the soil of Lancaster County was an inspiration for me in every way.
A blessed autumn—and Season of Thanks--to you, my dear reader-friend!
The Lord is there to rescue all who are discouraged and have given up hope.
-- Psalm 34:18 CEV
My recent fall 2012 book tour took me to the four beautiful states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana, where I was honored to meet many reader-friends. What struck me especially hard this tour was the vast amount of brokenhearted people I encountered—college grads unable to find work, new widows with tears glistening, older women with frightening new diagnoses, and young wives whose husbands had abandoned them...and, oh, the dear children without fathers.
Never before have I heard from so many sorrowful hearts in the space of a few days. I began to wonder if it is just that my readers feel they know me so well (many say they’ve “read my heart” on the pages of my books) that they’re comfortable sharing openly. Whatever the reason, I promised to pray daily for God’s comfort where needed, and His grace and mercy, too.
Without Christ, wouldn’t all of us be heartbroken? Over the course of our lives, every single one of us needs to be divinely rescued. From sin and shame, from our own guilt, from affliction, joblessness, emotional distress—the list goes on and on. Discouragement is a fragile place to be, yet we experience it repeatedly.
When we hit bottom, where do we turn? To whom can we cling?
Jesus came to give us hope during this life and for the next. His peace and joy are gifts there for the receiving. Without Him, where would any of us be?
“Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.”
-- Psalm 63:7 NLT
My maternal grandmother, Ada, loved to whistle hymns, as well as sing praises to God. She whistled and sang in the barn and nearly everywhere else during her growing-up years. Her mother warned her that a whistling woman was certainly not a righteous one--social mores then were very different from those in our do-as-you-please society.
I like to think of my grandmother and her songs. My own experience has shown me that a dismal day can be turned on its head with a cheerful song. I taught my three children that singing is good therapy for sadness, or when one is simply caught up in the stress of work or life in general. Singing refocuses our mind away from the self and onto God.
For many years I've sat at the piano in the midafternoon, taking a break from writing deadlines to give a "praise offering" to God through music. This daily act of worship rests my mind and heart and can even recharge my muse.
What about you? Have you turned to singing or playing an instrument to shoo away the cobwebs of your life? Have you discovered the joy of whistling as an act of worship while you garden, send out resumes, or prepare school lunches?
My prayer for you today is that God’s presence will open up to you...that you will know beyond any doubt that the Lord who loves you is not only your Helper, but your ever-present Light and Life.
Scripture of the Month (August)
“In my father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”
-- John 14:2 NIV
My dear uncle Bob passed away recently, and I was asked to speak at his memorial service. Here is some of what I said last week to honor and celebrate the life of that godly, loving man.
Uncle Bob was not only my uncle; he was my confidant and spiritual advisor, and a very good friend. He taught me that it’s not as important to be busy doing things for God as it is to simply enjoy His presence. Imagine, if you will, sitting on a park bench with the Creator of the universe—would you really ask a hundred questions? Uncle Bob didn’t think so. He believed he would be wrapped up in total adoration; he’d just want to sit quietly and soak up God’s incredible love. In many ways, Uncle Bob did exactly that each day as he opened his Bible and read, memorizing and letting Scripture seep down into his heart.
“Heaven is our heart’s deepest longing,” Uncle Bob told me more than once. (Yes, he'd read Peter Kreeft's wonderful book Heaven, the Heart’s Deepest Longing.) Uncle Bob believed dying would be as effortless as going from one room to another—from this life to the glorious next. Like stepping onto a new shore and discovering it’s heaven, like touching a hand and finding it’s God’s. Home at last!
My wish for you this month is that you will bask in the presence of our great God. And if you do not know the Lord Jesus, that you will open your heart to receive the One who gave His life for you, and for each of us...that we might live beyond the grave. Blessings, dear friends!