Posted in Faith

Remembrance

Sometimes in life, you have to take the time to slow down, be still and just REMEMBER.

This past week, made me do just that.

Reverend Billy Graham passed away on Wednesday, February 21 at the age of 99. Seeing the post about his passing from my husband on social media, brought to mind so much of my childhood. I was instantly in tears. Growing up Lutheran, this man was well known, and his evangelistic association was renowned. My maternal grandparents talked about, listened to and gave on a regular basis to his ministry. Upon visiting my grandparents in their home, for as long as I can remember, I can hear my grandfather wanting me to sit down with him in the living room and listen to Billy with him. My grandfather loved watching sermons on the television or hearing them on Christian radio.

My mother has shared over the years with our family about her own response to Jesus through the message of Billy Graham. She felt the Lord ask her to respond during a crusade she attended when she was a young girl. My grandfather at the time was in a rush to get out of the parking lot and back home, so she never went forward, but she bargained with God in the backseat, saying that she would one day accept Him. And when she was pregnant with me in 1979, she heard the Lord prodding her again about her decision. She dedicated her life to Him on the couch while I was in utero.

As a teenager, I remember when Graham came to Cleveland for a crusade. For months beforehand, my parents and other church members were praying and preparing for the vast work that is involved in putting on a crusade. I went to prayer services at many local churches with my mom, and learned to pray specifically for the crusade and those who would hear the message. We would pray for peoples’ hearts to be ready and their ears to be opened. We would spread the message about the crusade with flyers and conversations. We didn’t have social media invitations we could send to our 300+ friends at once. It was word of mouth and print media.

6.11.94 bg crusade

On June 11, 1994, I asked my best friend who was Catholic at the time, to come with me. After all, it was Youth Night, and she was beginning to go to youth group at my church. Eighty-five thousand people were there that night. We went with my parents, and heard dcTalk, Michael W Smith and finally a message from Billy Graham. When the time came to make a decision, Laura and I looked at each other, and said we would go forward. We didn’t hesitate (I had remembered my mom’s regret for waiting) and we walked down the concrete steps at Cleveland Municipal Stadium during “Just As I Am” to the grass below, to be met by a man and woman who would pray with us and get us phone numbers of people to follow up with later. I’ll never forget the joy of walking with Laura, feeling a bond between us that was deeper than our already amazing friendship. My friend had heard about Jesus and wanted to know more! And I felt ready to commit my life to Him. It was an incredible evening, and one that I had tucked away in my heart.

Something that stands out to me, is Graham’s humility. Since his passing, everyone is putting their two cents in about who he was. Many who didn’t like him or his message have been trying to paint him as a homophobic political activist. And even knowing that those who hate Jesus will say the same of us, I saw how Graham responded. In each article, you would read how he had apologized for his comments and admitted his humanity. If he offended someone or misspoke, he owned up to it. He didn’t pretend he didn’t say something. He apologized for hurting others, but also wasn’t afraid to say what Scripture says. In one of his crusade messages here in Cleveland, he stated, “I am a sinner who belongs in the gutter with the rest of the sinners”. Just because he was a preacher who reached millions, didn’t mean that he saw himself any higher than any of us, nor was he. I admit I don’t see that in many other people who claim to follow Christ. I admire the man who can admit wrong, ask the Lord for help and take personal responsibility.

He also was truthful when he would say, “The word of God is offensive, because it demands a response. It demands change.” Many in today’s world don’t want that in their lives, and Scripture also predicted the worlds’ response to such accusations. Those who are content in their sin will refuse the gospel and reject it. We become comfortable living the way we do without regard for the Creator who designed THE WAY that works. We follow the flesh and then justify it. But that just doesn’t work. It creates the society we live in now, where everyone wants to have what others work for, where others want everything they want without regard for how it affects others, and selfishness and lack of personal responsibility is prevalent. We see the decay of society, and then bash anyone who draws attention to it.

Graham never beat people over the head with his Bible. He was a Baptist preacher, yes, but his message was never a list of dos and don’ts, but the one message that meant the most: YOU NEED TO BE SAVED, otherwise you will be in Hell. He wasn’t afraid to tell anyone what was in the Bible, because he knew the message meant more than our choice to live against it. The Bible has the power to literally change lives of those we love and share the Earth with! The Bible holds the cure for our sin state. It also is a mirror for our souls, so we can see our desperate need for a Savior. Coincidentally, when Jesus left the Earth, He had commissioned his disciples to continue sharing the truth of the gospel, that eternal LIFE is in belief in Jesus, people must repent from their sin, and be baptized to show their commitment to the family of Christ. Graham shared that message of us being sinners and needing a Savior and he did it well, because so many responded during his crusades because of his truthful messages and his godly character.

I can only imagine what the reception was like in Heaven for a man who was so humble, never stating that he DIDN’T need Jesus, and to actually look into the face of God on the other side. I cried tears of hope and joy this week, because it reignited a joy in my heart for what is to come. Those of us who believe the truth about Jesus’ death and resurrection know that this life is not all there is, there is so much more. Eternity is a long time compared to the blink of an eye we have in these bodies here on Earth. Remembering the work of Billy Graham and his hope of the world turning to Christ made me remember the Lord confirming for me in my heart that I am His beloved daughter, and I am loved beyond measure.

And with the mourning of Billy Graham’s legacy and his impact on my family, I was able to go to see Steven Curtis Chapman in Cleveland on Thursday, February 22. During my teenage years, I listened to Christian radio and heard about this guy who wrote songs. I found them catchy, so I would go to a local store called Lemstone in Parmatown and listen to CDs before buying them. Steven Curtis Chapman’s music would resonate with me while I was trying hard to follow Jesus. I bought “Speechless” in 1999. And hearing “Dive” made me realize that I could hang on the fence and do the church thing while still doing the “world” thing. Or I could DIVE into my relationship with Jesus and try to make a difference for Him, instead of trying to keep my feet in both worlds. Those lyrics are still tucked away in my brain! That song had such impact on my decision for Jesus.

SCC Dive

I bought my first car in 1999, plugged my Walkman into my cassette deck using an adapter in the car and would blast his music while driving. I even bought a specialized license plate: SPCHLES! I was all in, and loved the deep meaning lyrics that he wrote. Some of my other favorites were “His Strength is Perfect”, “I will be here”, “No Better Place”, “For the Sake of the Call”, “The Great Adventure”, “Lord of the Dance”, “Not Home Yet”, “I Am Found in You”, “Live Out Loud”, “Magnificent Obsession”, and “Much of You”. And listening to SCC sing those songs during his concert, it made me reflect on the impact those words had on my life as a young believer.

If you’ve read my blog before, you know some of my story, my heartache of a divorce and finding a reason for living in my later twenties. But through all of my years of life here, I have known that the Lord has something for me. He gave my name to my mother while she was still pregnant with me, not even aware of what sex I would be. I know He has a purpose for my life, but I also now know that my life is meant to glorify Him, not myself.

Two men that God has used to sow seeds of truth into my heart are Billy Graham and Steven Curtis Chapman. I love listening to biblical sermons and I also love songs that stick with me, that I can sing anytime and that give me hope.

I bring up the topic of remembrance, because Steven Curtis Chapman sang a song for us called “Remember to Remember”. He spoke about remembering moments of impact in our lives so that we could mark God’s faithfulness. Building altars was a practice typically done in the Old Testament, where people would take rocks and stack them up, to symbolize an altar of thankfulness, for themselves, for their children and for others to witness.

And I felt like last week God gave me the time to do just that. And to be honest, I think it’s going to become a practice of mine. I think it’s important to step outside of ourselves, and reflect on the people God has used to be a part of our lives, and who have helped us become who we are. I’ve got a list of family members, teachers from my Lutheran schools growing up, musicians, authors, magazine article writers, friends, Christian sisters, etc. And every now and then, I think it’s a great idea to sit back and think about their influence in my life. From someone as well-known as Billy Graham, down to a neighbor who texts for prayer requests…

Remember their message.

Reflect on how they pointed me to Jesus.

And then think about how I can spread that same message outwardly to those who have been placed in my life…

It’s your turn.

Who are the most influential people in your life?

Posted in Faith

Thoughts on the New Year

open door

Well, we’ve officially moved into a new year.  2016 is here!  Maybe it’s my age showing, but I’m amazed at how each year seems to go by faster than the one before.  And as I look around, I see there is always more money to make, less time to spend and many unhappy people.

With the new year comes time for New Year’s resolutions.  Since 2010, I’ve stopped making resolutions because I don’t like the feeling that I’ve failed.  Setting the bar and not meeting it means I didn’t succeed, so why put that unnecessary pressure on myself?  But lately, I am feeling the opposite.  Since I have given my life to Christ, it doesn’t matter if I set the bar and fail, because He gives opportunity after opportunity without deadline.

I’ve written in the past about how I’ve run ahead of God and how He’s been extremely gracious in my hustle and bustle.  In the past, I have loved the frantic, crazy pace of getting things done and having the feeling of accomplishment.  I’m not ashamed of it because it’s part of my make up, however as I get older, I’m realizing God is asking me to sllllllooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwww dooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwnn.

Being a woman, it’s natural to just take over certain tasks, keep everyone in line, make sure things get done, and go to bed depleted.  Checking boxes makes everyone happy, especially when the bottom line is saving money and time.  But in all of the busyness of life, I’ve even recently noticed how Christian biblical women authors are encouraging women to listen to the voice of the Lord and slow down.  And I believe God is speaking through them.

Lysa Terkeurst has released the best yes,

Susie Larson wrote your sacred yes and

Karen Ehman shares how to let it go.

I’m seeing a recurring theme from women who have “been there, done that” and have learned the rhythm of the Lord is in patiently waiting and not rushing.  What a crazy concept in our fast-paced society!  We don’t like to read these books that make us admit that we’re so goal-focused and check box driven, especially when it means something in our behavior pattern will have to change.  Yet realizing EXACTLY THAT will save us much heartache and unnecessary rebuke.

What is it that sends us to the task driven life?  In social circles, what is it that we are afraid of, if we don’t DO something?  Each woman (or man) who reads this can answer the questions themselves.  Honestly, I believe the questions should be mulled over, and prayed over, with time to hear back from God before replying.  When we can recognize WHY we jump to do something, and whether or not it’s something the Lord is truly asking of us, we can answer with confidence and not hesitation.

fasting

Our church is currently in a new sermon series about spending time with Jesus.  As part of that study, we are learning to fast and actually spend quality time with God.  Doing so requires discipline to follow the suggested regimen, not eating physical food, but depending on the Word of God and what He is speaking to us.  It’s a common practice done in the Bible by Jesus, for getting closer to God, and seeking His will.  I’ve done it once, as a teenager, when raising money for the 30 hour famine.  I’ve never done it longer, and I’ve never done it with the intent of getting specific answers from God.  I believe it is not a manipulation tool, because God cannot be manipulated.  But it is a practice worth doing, to have my physical body completely depend on God during my quiet time, and to exchange my hunger for food, to hunger for Him.

I have much to pray about specifically at this time in my life: I have many unsaved friends and neighbors, stepchildren with concerns about their futures, family members who have broken relationships, a job that is inconsistent at times, clarity for a dream/passion of mine to come to fruition.  All of these things need to be placed in the loving hands of the Father and LEFT THERE.  I needn’t pick them up again.  I can trust Him and I believe that my quiet time with Him will be beneficial, as He will provide what is best for me.

fervent

Now my issue is that I’ve listed my specific prayer needs/wants, but I’ve left out the ones that the Lord has for me.  How will I know them if I don’t ask Him what He has planned or what He is asking me to do?  I fall into the trap of thinking that prayer is simply telling God everything that I want Him to accomplish and then waiting for it to happen.  Have you ever had a conversation with someone like that?  They just talk at you and walk away, and you feel as if you didn’t have a chance to share your viewpoint on anything?  It’s one-sided, unfair, and is one thing I’m resolving this year.  I’m going to take the time to wait for His response.  Who am I to make demands?  I know I am His daughter, but if anyone deserves respect and ultimate praise, it’s God.  I need to be reminded of how I walk into His presence.

And something else that is heavy on my heart, is the gift that the Lord has bestowed on my husband and me.  We love spontaneity, whether it be something we do together solely as a couple, or whether it involve other people who need us in a time of need.  We have been obedient in listening to the Lord for those opportunities and then just “going”.  And we’ve seen the fruit of that obedience.  A dear friend of ours recently said Kevin’s and my greatest gift is our presence.  That we stop what we are doing, and just show up.  And I think that will be something I pray about specifically again this year.  Where do you need us to be, in what way, and what should we bring, if anything?  Giving of time has become such a wonderful way for me to see how the Lord can use me, instead of me having an agenda, or a place to rush off to.  Time really is the most precious gift.

Have you ever done the OneWord movement for the New Year?  I’ve come up with mine and it will be something I pray over and specifically focus on for 2016.  My word is #abide.  God has been speaking into my heart for some time now about spending time with Him (which is why I’m so jazzed about our sermon series at church), but also because I have been convicted by James 4:7.  I need to be drawing near to God and resisting the devil.  So much time in my past has been given to him, out of fear or insecurity, and I’m reclaiming my value this year.  I’m going to spend more time with the Lord, actual QUALITY TIME, and immediately relinquish all thoughts that aren’t from Him.

post it         calendar        tast list

Finally, I have a challenge for you, a very simple one.  If you trust your life in the capable hands of God, do you believe He has everything under His control?  Do you know that He hears the prayers of His children and filters them through His ultimate purposes and wisdom?

A girlfriend of mine told me a few years ago that when she is in prayer about the future, or something that she is uncertain that she’s supposed to be doing, she takes the task, calendar, or a sticky note with the option written on it, and puts it on the floor.  Then she prays over it, and waits to hear back from the Lord regarding it.  She doesn’t say YES until she knows it is what He is asking her to do.

I’m going to be doing this challenge.  I’ve said yes so many times in the past, without knowing whether or not something was correct, and I’ve become overwhelmed and burnt out.  So instead of struggling to find my way, I’m going to give everything to Him and wait for Him to interrupt my plans, intercede with a better idea, and speak to my heart in a way that only I know.

Praying a special prayer for each reader, that your year would be one of surrender, hope, trust, love, grace and forgiveness.  God is trustworthy and faithful to His promises.