Renewal

We’ve been suspended between what was and what may be.

A year in and it appears the end is not yet in sight.

Much has been stripped bare; much lost.

We are ready for renewal; a reason to hope.

Nature is singing a song orchestrated by God.

Color is showing up in bold splashes begging for our attention.

Will we look on hesitantly or embrace the promise?

Can we have faith that God never forsakes us; trust his plan?

We can’t survive in limbo; we can’t shelter forever.

We have to begin living. Again.

Quiet ourselves and listen.

Do you hear?

Life is stirring.

Hope resides here.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are NEW EVERY MORNING; great is your faithfulness.

-Lamentations 3:21-23

Hoping in Grace,

Teresa

Into Your Hands

“Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’

When he had said this he breathed his last.” Luke 23:46

cross-sunset-sunrise-hill-70847.jpeg

The verse we read in Luke 23:46 as part of the Easter story is also referenced in Psalm 31:5. Several sources I came across while researching indicated that the phrase “into your hands I commit my spirit” was how the Jewish people ended their evening prayers.

I would imagine that like other Jewish children, Jesus was taught this prayer as a young child. It was a familiar practice that was an act of trust. To commit something of value to another is not a small thing.  By definition commit means to entrust something to someone; it also means to put into a place for safekeeping. (Merriman Webster).

By committing their spirit to God each evening they were submitting their soul for safekeeping.  What a beautiful picture of complete submission to the will of the father. We know that Jesus had prayed on the Mount of Olives asking for this cup to be taken from him but he surrendered by concluding his prayer with “not my will but thine be done” (Luke 22:42). This too would line up with committing his spirit to Father God.

Then, we have the account in Mark 15:34 of Jesus crying out asking God “why have you forsaken me?” According to Mark, this was at 3 O’clock.  Luke’s account begins at noon, followed by three hours of darkness and then right before Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” Luke mentions that it is 3 O’clock.  This would imply that only moments after asking why God had forsaken him, Jesus then acknowledges that he is committing his spirit to the father.

In his darkest hour, burdened by the weight of my sin and the sins of the whole world, sins that had not yet been committed, sins that God in his holiness could not look upon, Jesus felt the crushing despair of complete and utter abandonment.  But yet, he still trusted that his spirit would be safe with the father.

His loud proclamation of “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” tells us all we need to know about God’s faithfulness.  It tells us that a daily practice of committing our spirit (soul) to him is how we develop trust in him, it is how we surrender to his will, not ours, and it is how we can face our own mortality with confidence.  When the time comes, just as Jesus did, we can breathe our last breath knowing that we will be united with our Father eternally.

Maybe you are facing insurmountable trials that are shaking your very foundation.  Maybe you feel that God has turned his back on you and your world has gone dark. Maybe you are crushed under the weight of despair.  I urge you to remember that if you are a born again believer you have hope and even when it seems that all is lost, you can confidently say, “Father, into your hand I commit my spirit.” You can trust him with the safekeeping of your soul.

If you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior I can’t think of a better time than during the Easter season.

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen”

Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Committing with Grace,

Teresa

Peace Wrapping Around Us

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

100_0124.4

I’ve been wearing my mom’s socks; it makes me feel close to her. It is one of the ways I am navigating through grief these days and finding moments of peace during the Advent Season.

I’ve also been seeing her in my dreams. she usually doesn’t say anything; she’s not even necessarily a main part of the dream and I don’t remember all the details. it’s like watching a movie and there are people walking down the street or in the background. you see them but they’re not part of the main movie.

When she does show up in my dreams she looks like she did in her fifties. She’s dressed stylishly with her hair pulled back and she’s walking with confidence and purpose. She looks happy and peaceful.It’s seeing her like she was before the Alzheimer’s. I think these are little gifts that God has been giving me to reassure me that all is well. To remind me that she is whole now and complete in him. I still miss her terribly but I wouldn’t bring her back even if I could.  She’s dancing with Jesus and I would not take that away from her.

A few nights ago the funeral home that handled her arrangements hosted a memorial service for those who had lost loved ones this year. It was a sweet simple service that began with singing Joy to the world, followed by a message that allowed us to acknowledge our grief and accept it while encouraging us to find comfort and peace in laying our grief at the feet of Jesus.

The service ended with the song I can only imagine. When they sang the line about dancing or standing in awe I told my husband and father that I’m sure mom was dancing for Jesus. She was full of life and laughter and even in the most horrible ravages of Alzheimer’s that still Shone through.

Sitting in the sanctuary of the local Baptist Church hearing the scriptures read, listening to the words so aptly spoken, hearing the songs of worship, I began to notice that there was such a sweet spirit of peace wrapping around us. It was a peace brought on by the presence of the Lord among us but also a peace brought on by the collective grief of those present and the knowledge that we are all walking the same journey.

Even though our grief manifests itself in various ways it is still a common thread that binds us together. We know how the others feel and we know that God is our only peace.

I am thankful for that service and the reminder that it gives to me during this season of celebration.

A reminder that even in our grief we can still celebrate happy times, we can embrace our loved ones, live life fully and honor those we have lost by remembering them and making room for the grief. Joy and sorrow are not an either-or choice; they are allowed to reside together in our hearts and bring us peace and comfort.

whatever grief you are feeling during this season of Advent I pray you are leaving your heart open to be filled with God’s peace.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NIV)
Grace for the journey,
Teresa
100_5446.2

 

O Little Town of Bethlehem: The Light in Our Dark Streets

Tomorrow, Sunday, December 2, is the first Sunday of Advent; A time when we usher in the Christmas season with Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.  Each year our church does an advent devotional booklet written by members of our congregation. Our theme this year is Christmas Carols.   For this first week of advent, I thought I’d share with you one that I wrote (a few weeks ago to meet the deadline).  It may seem dark, but I hope you see the hope and light shining through the words. 

clouds cold evening freezing
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 “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

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 ESV

O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting Light; The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee to-night.

As I sit here in what appears to be one of my brain fog days, trying to conjure up Christmas thoughts on the day after Halloween, not to mention I need to gear up for giving thanks, I find myself wishing I could just hibernate for the next several weeks. It might have something to do with the cold trying to gain momentum as I type, or it could be all the muddy swirl going on in the world around us, close to home even. The news is full of shootings, unhinged politicians, drugs, and mystery illnesses just to name a few.  It’s enough to make even the most stoic among us cringe and say wake me up when it’s over.

If only it were that easy to just hibernate through the bad times. But that’s not how it works. We are told in scripture that in this world we will have trouble.  I guess the world has decided to live up to its reputation.  However, trouble does not have to define us.  God always has the antidote to trouble.  He made specific provision for trouble over two thousand years ago with the arrival of Baby Jesus.  He sent him, not to save us from the world or to shield us from trouble, but to save us in spite of the world, to save us from our sin and help us in our trouble.  He wants to help the whole world in its trouble.

If ever there was a time that the whole world needs help I’d say it’s about now.  As I read the words of O Little Town of Bethlehem I am encouraged because I see the light of Christ shining in the dark streets of the world.  “The hopes and fears of all the years are met…”  All the years tells me that we are not the only generation that needs help in our troubles.  If you research history you will find that each generation since the dawning of man has had its share of trouble. There have been dark streets full of secrecy and evil; full of plans orchestrated by the enemy; full of fear.  But if you look closely, even in the darkest night there has been a light shining.  There has been hope residing next to fear.

birdseye photography of city buildings near trees and mountains
Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Pexels.com

That shining light began long before the baby was sent to a lowly manger.  All throughout the Old Testament scriptures the thread of God’s provision, our hope, was told. Early in the book of Genesis we are confronted with the reality of sin and the need for salvation; In Genesis 49:10 (ESV) we hear of a ruler who will come, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples”. And in Isaiah 1:11(ESV) it was prophesied, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”

In the New Testament, we see Jesus himself, the great light shining for all to see. Even in his darkest hour, he rose forth victorious and every generation since then has had Godly men and women rise up to be the light in a dark world and show them the love of Jesus.  So yes, there will be fear and trouble and plenty of it some days, but the gift of hope and light has been given.  Freely given:

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.

                                 O Lord, hear our prayer:

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray! Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us to-day. We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Open our hearts to receive you still. Enter in I pray. Amen.

Grace in the hope of everlasting light,

Teresa L Hardymon

man kneeling in front of cross
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Lord Is

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.      Psalm 18:2

The Lord just is.  I need him to be. He is my source of joy.  In all things.

100_4361

He travels with me down unknown paths.  He restores.  He is the joy bringer. He just is.

Trusting in Grace,

Teresa