Palm Sunday

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, a day we remember as the day Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem to signify His coming, not as a conquering war king to overthrow the Roman government, but as the Prince of Peace.

As I continue to think about Palm Sunday, I can’t help but think of how purposeful Christ was. It is astounding to me because He KNEW what lie ahead. He KNEW he was heading to his death. He knew Maundy Thursday, his last supper with his disciples, was coming. He was aware of the certain betrayal by Judas who was one of the twelve. As God, he knew what “Good” Friday held. It was no surprise to Jesus.

Does that not astound you, friends? THAT is why we can face today and all of its sorrows. THAT is why we don’t have to worry about tomorrow. THAT is why we do not need to fear the future. Jesus went forward with purpose. You can go forward with purpose, friend, because Christ is your example. He gives you his strength, his peace, and his purpose to face whatever it is you’re facing.

As we look forward to Easter Sunday and the joy of proclaiming, “He is risen!” don’t miss the opportunity to shout, “Hosanna!” right now. Hosanna, which means save us, is still applicable to today, to whatever it is you need saving from. Hosanna to Jesus, our Prince of Peace, in all of our situations, in all of what we face. Peace to you, my friends. Hosanna.

 

Blessings,

Angie

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The house of the Lord

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Psalm 122:1

When does worship begin? What does worship look like? These are rather thought-provoking questions, right? The first verse of Psalm 122 gives us, I believe, a glimpse of the answers. This psalm of David reveals much in just a few words. Many of us trek faithfully each Sunday morning to our respective churches. But how many of us look forward to it, honestly? How many of us can say that our attitude is one of glad expectancy? How many of us eagerly anticipate Sunday’s arrival when it’s only, let’s say, Thursday, for instance?

I’m not asking so as to incite guilt, by any means. But reading verse 1 of Psalm 122 gave me pause to examine my own heart. Can I say, as David, that I am glad to go to church on Sunday? Am I excited, and do I look forward, to worship? Do I realize the awesomeness of stepping into church, “the house of the Lord”? Or do I view going to church as a routine, a duty, a chore to check off the “How to be a Good Person” checklist?

More than that, how do I approach worship? What does it look like? Am I motivated to attend church solely to get rather than give? Do I come with the right attitude? Am I there to worship God? These are convicting questions, and I want to be honest in reply. I want to wake up the sleepy members of my church body, to rouse them to worship, to collectively participate with them in worshiping God. I urge and encourage all of us, myself included, to open our heavy eyes, stretch our tired arms, and meet gladly in His house together to worship him.

When was the last time you were glad to go to church? How long has it been since you invited someone else to church? Friends, I know there are those who mock the church, who want nothing to do with it. They don’t want to be associated with a bunch of hypocrites. Some of their biggest hurts in life have come from the church, the people in it. But what if we persisted? What if we acted more like Jesus? What if we provided an example of worship to them, showed them what worshiping Christ looked like on a daily basis and not just on Sunday?

My worship isn’t perfect. I’m not always a good example, my impatience and strong personality rub people the wrong way. But I want others to have what I have, what only being part of a church body can give: corporate support, prayer, and godly encouragement from a Christ-centered perspective. Corporate worship allows me to see what God is doing in the lives of others. It beckons me to extend myself and live beyond my own selfish wants, to minister to others. The house of God, the church, my church, is the building God uses to work in and through. What if we allowed him to work in us, fully?

I don’t have this worship thing figured out, by any means. But I do know this: we are invited to worship God together. Additionally, we are called to worship him in spirit and truth; it requires vulnerability and honesty before God and others. It calls us to humility, to let go of our agendas and let him lead, even to places we may not necessarily want to go or serve in areas in which we may not feel comfortable. However, we glean much insight and growth through worship, both corporate and individual. We gain more of God when we worship.

Come, let us go to the house of the Lord.

Blessings,

Angie

 

Failing, failing, all the time

Every day I fail. I fail as a Christian, as a person, as a woman, as a friend, a wife, a mother. I fail to be kind, considerate, and loving. I fail to be humble and hold my tongue. What about you, Friend? Do you feel like a failure, too?

Failure can be demoralizing. It can immobilize. It can feel like a chokehold, a foot on one’s neck, strangling the breath out of us. Failure is condemning.

But condemnation? It’s not from God.

Romans 8:1-2 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

Do you see what the enemy does with our failures, my friend? He throws them down as evidence in front of us, in front of God, in front of others. He yells out accusations and screams our failures from the rooftop. He convinces us that our failures disqualify us, define us.

But God? God doesn’t condemn. He convicts, yes. There’s a huge difference between conviction and condemnation. Don’t get them mixed up, my friend. Too often, satan convinces us, the liar that he is, that our failure is final, that failure is reason to quit. We give up without a fight when the enemy takes us to “court.” But what we fail to remember is this: We have an advocate with the Father. (1 John 2:1) Jesus Christ is our divine defense attorney. He stands before the Father in our defense. Actually, more than that. He takes our place at the table before the Judge. Though we are guilty, he enters a plea of “Not guilty” for us. He takes the punishment for our sins. Our failures and shortcomings are transferred upon him, and he bears the sentence incurred. And we, through repentance and forgiveness, are set free. We are free. Our failures can no longer tie us down like stakes in the ground.

The enemy can point his finger, proclaiming our failures day in and day out, but they are no match for God’s mercy. His mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22) My failures, your failures, are not dead ends. They do not kick us out of the kingdom. Contrary to the lies of the deceiver, we can rest confidently in knowing that the love of God, the sacrifice of Christ’s life on the cross, enables us to go forward in faith.

What do we do when we fail, then?

We don’t live in condemnation. We admit our failures, and, as poet and author Maya Angelou said, “…When you know better, do better.” (In Christianity, it’s called repentance. Repentance means you stop, turn around, and go the opposite direction. In other words, you stop doing wrong and start doing right.)

When you’ve failed, admit it. Then start doing the right thing. When you fail, ask forgiveness from God who gives it generously through Jesus Christ. Then when you have believed his word of forgiveness, start doing the things he’s called you to do through the help of the Holy Spirit. Don’t rely on your own strength to live righteously. Satan would like nothing better than to convince you that you can do things yourself, that you can be all and do all on your own. Pride was his downfall. Don’t let it be yours.

Finally, when you have failed, don’t let it define you. Failure is not who you are. The enemy will tell you that your failures comprise your identity, but your identity is in Christ. The Liar will tell you that because you haven’t had victory in a certain area (or areas) that you will never have victory. That is nothing but, please excuse me, crap. Total bull. Do not swallow that lie, friend. Christ has plenty to say about who you are! Look it up for yourself. Discover what God has to say about you in his word. If you need a bit of help on this, feel free to start here with Priscilla Shirer’s list: https://www.goingbeyond.com/blog/who-you-are-in-christ/ or do an internet image search with the term words “Identity in Christ.”

Look, I am not perfect. You are not perfect. There is only One perfect person: God. Imperfect, failing people are who God works on, in, and through. We will not achieve perfection here on earth, friend. No, but we are being sanctified, every day a new opportunity to become more like him. This shouldn’t discourage us, either, this unachievable goal. No. It should only serve to draw us closer to him, closer to the heart of God, for it is “…in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts. 17:28) Only God is able to transform our failures into faith. Will you let him? Will you trust him?

Blessings,

Angie

Finding myself in a dark place

The promise of spring hangs in the air. The sun glints off the snow, and the black-capped chickadee lands on the feeder outside my window. The sound of my children’s voices rings throughout the house, yet somehow I am alone. Several attempts at getting together with friends over the past several months has failed, each having canceled for one reason or another. I have never felt so alone. I have much to be thankful for, yet I am weary of this day. I am sad. Try as I might to dispel this darkness, I cannot. My usual attempts at staving off discouragement are to no avail. Late nights, interrupted sleep, bodily aches and pains, Seasonal Affect Disorder, and worry over loved ones has overtaken my valiant efforts to swim out of this current of depression. Worship and praise music, devotions, and prayer seem to be ineffective. Dark thoughts persist, prowling, pacing, waiting for opportune moments to devour.

Several days of this, and I keep thinking, “I need to tell someone. I need to be honest about the struggle.” Of course, God already knows. Oh, yes, I’ve told him. I’ve cried out to him as David, the man who hid in caves, surrounded by enemies. I’ve tried praying, but no words come. I’ve kept the praise and worship music going, yet I fail to be uplifted. I keep reading my daily devotions, but the words fall like arrows missing a target. Where do I turn? Who will listen? Again, I go back to God. He hears, though I fail to see Him bending toward me. I think of those whose pain was too great, who chose to end their lives. What’s the difference between them and me, I wonder?

But I continue life “as usual,” keep going through the motions because I don’t know what else to do. I know there has to be an answer. I’m doing what David and Job did, giving voice to the One who holds all things, but I know, deep down, I must do what others did not. I must tell someone. I must be vulnerable, real. I must not stay isolated.

And so, I, quite unexpectedly, tell someone. I confide that I am struggling, that life is hard right now. She understands, as she’s “been there, done that” with loss, as well. She acknowledges the hard. She listens and doesn’t try to fix. She hears and doesn’t offer advice, only validation. This, this is my key to getting out of the dark place. Validation.

It was then that I realized what I had failed to do: Give myself validation. I had failed to acknowledge what I was feeling. How crazy is that? I mean, I live with grief every day, yet failed to name it for what it was. See, because this was different. This wasn’t just a “loss of child” grief. This was a tangled ball of grief all wrapped up in a crazy mess of other things that life throws your way. Things like your children growing up, reaching adulthood and the reality of them actually leaving hitting you like a ton of bricks. Things like the enormity of dealing with a young adult child whose future is uncertain because they’re still dealing with the effects of their brother’s death, yes, six and a half years later. Things like realizing one of your other children may have a learning disorder.

These things, I finally realized, are grief. (Slow learner, that I am!) On top of all this, contemplating Matt’s annual memorial scholarship and upcoming birthday threw me deeper into the pit of despair. What’s more, I have no one to turn to for these things, no one who has gone ahead or “been there, done that.” Where are the mentors? Where are the older women who will come alongside me and share what they learned? Why haven’t I found them? Why are we not being vulnerable with one another?

But for this woman I shared with, I think I would still be in the pit. After sharing, I realized this was grief, but more than that, I realized that giving voice to it was the key to climbing out of it. God gave us people, community. He gave us one another. We are not, as poet John Donne correctly penned, “an island.” Are you struggling? Are you feeling alone? Have you told someone? We weren’t meant to carry our burdens alone. Of course, God gives us Himself, but He also gives us those with skin on, other humans with which to commiserate, share sorrow (and joy).

I felt significantly better after sharing with this woman and continued to play worship and praise music and read my devotions. This morning, I woke with hope again, the bony grasp of despair’s grip blessedly less. I watched one of my grief mom friend‘s Facebook live video and was reminded of important truths when grieving: Keep your eyes on Christ, not looking ahead in apprehension. Trust Him for the future. Make your plans, but hold them lightly, knowing and trusting God’s Sovereignty. More than that, take hold of the peace He gives freely and abundantly. Finally, praise Him. Praise Him in the dark, for the opportunity it gives to draw you close to God. Praise Him for His faithfulness, comfort, and peace.

Blessings,

Angie