Celebrations on Earth and In Heaven!

Standard

The weekend began with much anticipation after months of planning. The day was surprisingly beautiful for mid-November. Eyes were drawn upwards as the sunshine highlighted the stained-glass depictions of Jesus’ life. There was a smile and hug at every turn in the church. My younger son said, “I do!” to the most important woman in his life. The marriage between my son and new daughter-in-law became official.

The celebrations continued and held the promise of memories that would last a lifetime. Those special moments were captured from every angle and the perspective of old and young alike with tweets, cell-phone video, Facebook postings and pictures galore. I will be able to savor the many details that made this wedding day perfect.

The wedding festivities didn’t disappoint. Joy and unity were themes for the entire weekend. I recognized pure joy in the bride’s and groom’s faces. I felt unity as family and friends came from near and far to be a part of the celebration. Two people became one in marriage and now two families are linked together for what the future holds.

At least for one weekend, all was right with the world! In life, we long to go from milestone to milestone with many reasons to celebrate in-between. In reality, we know that this world is more a mix of rejoicing and sadness, hopes and disappointments, successes and failures, and ultimately, life and death.

Examples of these juxtapositions can be found even at a wedding. We rejoiced with those who were present while intercessions were made for deceased loved ones who couldn’t be there. In-memory-of-pictures and votive candles were placed alongside wedding pictures of the newlyweds’ parents and grandparents.

Although I was unplugged from technology and the world for the weekend, life and death didn’t take a break. I was reminded of this fact as I returned to my normal routine and responsibilities for a cancer ministry. One of our cancer survivor’s family made the difficult decision to place their loved one in hospice. Three other survivors and a leader’s stepmom passed away. I enrolled two new survivors recently diagnosed with cancer. All in the same week.

The wedding weekend was a mountain peak followed by a valley of unexpected sorrow. Revelation 19 connects the themes of weddings, eternal life, and death:

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:6-7)

John’s words in Revelation evoke the same emotions in me that I felt at my son’s wedding. The wedding was even more special because I had a genuine relationship with and closeness to the groom. Joy united the guests invited to the wedding banquet. The bride was beautiful in her dress. I knew I was blessed by God to be an intimate part of the wedding festivities.

The wedding is over. My two sons are married to women that I am pleased and excited to call my daughters-in-law. There are no more weddings to plan or prepare for in our immediate family. The excitement of wedding festivities will gradually fade as the memories take root in my heart.

The Bible reminds me that there is one more wedding in my future that I can look forward to as an honored guest. My faith in Jesus Christ guarantees that I am invited to the wedding of the Lamb and His bride, the church. I will join people from every tribe, language, and nation united with one heart for our Lord.

There will be no last song as the marriage celebration will never end in heaven. Memories will not be necessary as we will have all of eternity to soak in the wedding joy. God’s people will be overwhelmed by the love the Bridegroom has for His bride. We will see that love in His eyes and feel it in His hugs. We will dance with Jesus and never let go.

Hallelujah for celebrations on earth and in heaven!

 

 

 

The Contrast Found in John 20:19-31

Standard

In John 20:19-30, we find the disciples behind locked doors after the crucifixion of Jesus. This passage relates the disciples’ first encounter with the resurrected Jesus. Ultimately, it is a true story about overcoming fear and doubt to discover genuine joy in Jesus’s presence.

What the World Gives Us:

  • Fear (Verse 19: The disciples were behind locked doors for fear of the Jews.)
  • Doubt (Verse 25: Thomas would not believe until he saw Jesus, scars and all, for himself.)

 What Jesus Gives Us:

  • Peace (Verses 19, 21, 26: Three times Jesus says, “Peace be with you!”)
  • Joy (Verse 20: Jesus’s presence in our life results in joy to overflowing.)
  • Calling & Commission (Verse 21: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”)
  • The Holy Spirit (Verse 22: Jesus inside of us.)
  • Power (Verse 23, Implied: An equipping to do God’s work.)
  • Belief (Verse 27: The substance of faith that crushes doubt.)
  • Personal relationship with God (Verse 28: “My Lord and my God!”)
  • Life (Verse 31: Life in Jesus is for the present and carries into eternity.)

 

John 20:26-29

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among then and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Can Sucker Punch Ya

Standard

January 1, 2011. We had just celebrated Christmas and were enjoying the last few days of vacation before getting back to our normal routine. We were optimistic about the New Year. And we were clueless about what was right around the corner: life’s sucker punch.

Three days later, my doctor discovered a lump in my breast. Thirteen days after that, the cancer diagnosis was confirmed. Breast cancer was not on our list of resolutions for the New Year, but it defined the new year. We did our best to fit life into the regiment of doctor appointments and cancer treatments.

I crossed off days on the calendar to mark the time when I could smile again. But God was giving me reasons to smile for the todays. The cancer was caught early. My younger son and I spent his Spring Break in Washington D.C. We celebrated his high school graduation. The good things of life were still happening.

I had anticipated better days in the future, but God reminded me that this day in God’s presence is really good too. And the most important lesson I learned: life’s sucker punch doesn’t have to be a knock-out.

Note: This year, I am celebrating three years of being cancer-free! For the month of October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I will be posting stories about my personal experiences with breast cancer.

Lamentations 3:22-23

 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.

Psalm 90:14

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.  

So, How’s Your Day Going?

Standard

I remember a day when my boys were about five and three years old. I was running errands and we were close to the end. That’s when my youngest had a meltdown in the store. Moms, you know the feeling. You can’t control it. You can’t stop it. All you can do is hurry up and get out of there. As we went through the checkout, my oldest son looked at the clerk and unprompted, he simply stated, “He’s having a bad day.” We all have bad days. But what do we do with that bad day? Do we have a tantrum? Do we take it out on those closest to us? Do we show the world that all is not right with the world? Or do we skip the pity party and seek God? We are called to lift up our heads, cast dismay aside and let God fill our hearts with joy in that bad day. Will we smile through the pain? Will we laugh through the tears? Can we hope despite the circumstances? Yes! It is possible with God.

 

Psalm 65:8

Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy. 

Luke 1:27

For nothing is impossible with God.

The Last Picture

Standard

IMG_0781

This is the last photograph of my mom and me together before she died in March of 2013.  It is not my favorite picture from that visit.  My mom’s spontaneous laugh was captured in a different picture.  I would have picked that one, but I can hear my mom’s disapproval.  Her expression was more laugh and less smile and she would not have liked it as well.

But that wasn’t the last picture.  I spent time with my mom one month before her death.  Much to my chagrin, I realized I had forgotten my camera when I was halfway into the six hour trip to visit her.  I wouldn’t have wanted that time to be my last picture.  She was unsteady on her feet and she had a difficult time speaking.

But that wasn’t the last picture.  As family surrounded my mom in the hospital room, there was another picture etched in my mind.  My mom laid in the bed unresponsive except for the involuntary function of breathing, until even that became voluntary.  I watched my mom take her last breath.

But that isn’t the last picture. The last picture is the one I carry in my heart through my mom’s faith and mine in Jesus Christ. This picture of eternity in heaven is fuzzy with my human eyes, but I imagine my mom praising God and dancing on streets of gold. This last picture is my very favorite for I can clearly see my mom’s best smile ever.

1 Peter 1:3-4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you,

Psalm 116:15

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.