Are You Grieving?

Just after Clay’s funeral, many of you who so faithfully read our blog, encouraged me to continue writing…and I said that I would. I told you that I thought it would help me heal. Well………..I didn’t. I only wrote about 4 times. I couldn’t. I would sit down to write and nothing would come.

When Clay was sick, we were spending so much time with doctors, family and with visitors. Many of you asked me, “How do you have time to write?” My answer was that I couldn’t NOT write. God was compelling me. The Holy Spirit was literally urging me and I couldn’t go to sleep at night without writing sometimes.

After Clay died, if I’m being honest, I wondered if you would want to read about this part of the story. It seemed that what drew you to this blog was Clay. His testimony. His life. His affliction. And, rightfully so. He was such an incredible testimony. God did so much through him!

And, grief is a difficult topic to write about. I wasn’t ready to really tell you what was happening in me. Some of you know exactly what I mean by that. God was so faithful and He constantly pulled me out of my pit, but there were pieces of that time of my life that I just wasn’t sure I could share. Besides love, grief is the deepest emotion I’ve ever felt.

A few weeks ago, I was asking the Lord to show me some things about my future. I was asking Him about why He didn’t have me write over the past two years. This thought came to me and I know it was from God. “You will. You will write it. It will be a remembrance of all that I’ve done for you.” He made me see that…written in my moments of despair, my words may have been tainted with grief. Written now, they will be soaked in joy.

So, why now? I’m so glad you asked that!

The first answer is that it is God’s timing. I never wrote because I wanted to. The blog wasn’t even my idea. He used some of my dearest friends to show me the idea. It was all God. And that has to be true now, as well. I’m not doing this for me. I’m doing this for God. He has something to say that can only be said by and through Him.

Our church is live streaming our services right now, like so many others. I was there this morning to help and make sure everything went well. I sat in the back of the sanctuary, and although my heart was so glad to be there, I felt weak and unable to even stand – much less lift my hands in praise. I wanted to literally lay on the floor in the back of the room and bawl like a baby while the worship team sang and Pastor Lee preached.

I was weepy all day. Tonight, in the presence of God, all I could do was cry. I almost couldn’t even pray. I’ve heard some heart wrenching stories of how this virus is affecting peoples’ lives and my heart is so broken.

I got in my car this evening, and just started driving for a while. The Lord gently spoke to me and let me see that what I am feeling is grief…all over again. I literally feel just like I did after Clay died.

I’m grieved for the sick. For the lonely. For the hurting. For the lost. For the church. Y’all, I’m so grieved for the church. Being assembled is vital to our lives. I’m grieved for those of you who are scared. For those of you who are trapped in fear. For those of you who are fighting depression and sadness. For those who feel confused and out of control. I’m grieved for God. For what He must be feeling right now as so many suffer, but won’t turn to Him.

So, I’m going to write to you about how God pulled me out of grief. I’m going to share with you the things He taught me as I walked the valley, for what seemed to be a long time. It was in those days that I found the hiding place. It was in the valley that I found the table. It was in my sadness that I found my praise. It was in the darkness that I came to love the light. It was in death that I found life.

And, that life is available to everyone. There is nothing special about me, y’all. In fact, it is the complete opposite. I am nothing. But, God came to me. He found me. He helped me. And, I want the world to know the joy that is available to them in my very best friend – Jesus. He is real. He is true. Every promise He’s ever spoken has been proven. Put your hope in Him today.

The quarantine got me motivated to clean up some things in the house. I moved my bedroom around and created a desk space in my room, so I would have a better view from which to write.

As I was arranging furniture, the only space Clay’s rocking chair fit was beside my desk. I didn’t think much of it until later that night when I sat down at the desk and looked over. It’s like he’s sitting here with me as I write to you. The Lord constantly gives me sweet reminders of him. I miss him so much.

I’ll leave you tonight with a really wonderful thought. I carry this around in my Bible with me….

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It’s Clay’s handwritten notes from a Bible study we taught together less than 6 months before he got sick.

Here are a few of my favorite words in Lamentations 3,

“…But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. Great is your Faithfulness. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not afflict from His heart or grieve the children of men. I called on Your Name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit, You heard my plea. You came near when I called on You. You said, ‘Do not fear!’ You have redeemed my life.”

Clay wrote these words, “Jeremiah’s remembrance of God’s faithfulness brings him hope in times of distress. This is a made up mind focused on all that God has done through you and for you…seeing how He has moved in times past in your life. This will allow you to declare, no matter your circumstance, ‘Great is your faithfulness!'”

Friends, I know that many of you are hurting tonight. Maybe you are praying for loved ones you can’t be with. Maybe you are praying for lost loved ones. Maybe you are just sad because you are lonely and not handling the quarantine very well. No matter your current circumstance, recall to your mind tonight all the good things God has already done in your life. Remember. Ask Him to help you remember the times He has pulled you out of the miry clay. Recall to your mind the steadfast love of this wonderful God, and stir up the hope you have living inside of you.

And, if you don’t have this hope, all you have to do is invite Him in. Just confess your sin and ask Him to be your Savior. He is waiting for you to come to Him tonight. Right now. Don’t delay. You can see that these times are unprecedented. Don’t live in fear. Walk with God and He will draw near to you. Imagine hearing Almighty God say to you, “Do not fear!” You can hear it. Come to Him tonight. He will free you from fear.

I love you. And, as I go to sleep tonight, I’ll be praying for you. Praying to a God, who I KNOW is able to help you, because He helped me. He will rescue us, friends. He is in control tonight. Trust that. I encourage you to take a moment in the morning to write down just a few things God has done for you. Do it and see how God can use it to encourage you all through your day tomorrow. “This I recall to my mind….”

 

Standing Firm In One Spirit

Yesterday was the first day that me and the kids were all home in quarantine. I worked through the morning, and then Grace, Ben, Ellie (our family dog) and I decided to go out for some fresh air. Grace and I wanted to jog, while Ben wanted to fish.

Now, stay with me. There is a point to this story!

The four of us left the house at the same time. All with the same mission – to get out of the house for a little while.

Grace and I shared a set of air pods so we could be listening to the same music. She has an amazing worship playlist, which got both of us ready to run. We left the driveway in perfect unison. Walking at the same pace to warm up, listening to the same music, breathing practically at the same pace.

As we started jogging, Grace was keeping a faster pace than me. I was having to work to keep up with her, but it was tiring me too fast, so I slowed back to my normal pace and let her get ahead just a little. (Please keep in mind that I am 23 years older than her!)

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See….she’s ahead of me.

Then, when we were both ready to stop jogging and walk for a minute, I quickly passed her with my faster walking pace. A few times I tried to encourage her to walk a little faster so we could remain side by side, but she didn’t want to. The more I urged her, the more frustrated she got, so I just walked ahead of her slightly.

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Then we would jog again and she would pass me. There were times when I slowed my walking pace a little so we could walk side by side and have conversation. I love talking to her!

After a while, we came around a corner and I could see Ben in the distance. Standing at the bank of the lake…Ellie at his side…fishing. Loving every minute of it. Just as we walked up, he hooked a 1.5 lb fish. He was so excited!

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He’s unhooking his catch!

As we sat down to watch him for minute, the Lord gently spoke to me about His church during these momentous days we are living in right now. We all have a common goal – to see God receive His glory. But, it looks different in all of us. We are each called to a different purpose and we have to know what God has asked us to do.

Ben wasn’t standing at that lake thinking to himself, “I wonder if I should be running with Mom and Grace.” He wasn’t afraid that what we were doing was better. He was perfectly content to do what he felt was right in that moment.

And shame on me or Grace if we had judged Ben for not running with us. What if we had approached him at the lake and said, “What are you doing wasting your time here? You should have been exercising with us.” How dare we. In fact, for me, it was quite the opposite. When I turned the corner and saw him there…happy as he could be…I was proud of him. I was happy for him. He was enjoying himself and excited to tell us about what had happened while we were gone.

When Grace and I were jogging, we let one another run and walk at different paces when needed. There were times we were side by side and in perfect unison. There were also times that we were a few steps apart. But, it was fine. We both accomplished our goal and we made it home at the same time.

Church, People of God, Christians, let us do this for one another in this time. Let us love one another and trust each other to live our faith the way God has called us to live it.

If you are quarantined in your home because you believe that is what God has told you to do – do it with faith. Tuck yourself away with Him and let Him teach you and speak to you during this time.

If you feel God has told you to go out into the world under the guidelines set forth by our officials – to help others, to go to your church, to work – do it with faith. Let Him use you in a great way during this time.

Let’s not spend our time judging one another. Let’s stand together in unity and love.

Very early in this pandemic, God pointed me to this verse:

Philippians 1:27-28, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”

This is my prayer for my church, the church in our nation, and the worldwide church. That God would return and find us standing together in one spirit, striving side by side. In UNITY. I long to see us maintain unity. How can we defeat our enemy if we are fighting ourselves?

I love this part….NOT FRIGHTENED IN ANYTHING BY YOUR OPPONENTS! When we stand together, we don’t have to be afraid of our enemy. Our unity is a clear sign to the enemy of his destruction. Satan wants to destroy the church during this time. Let’s pray for the opposite. That we would band together in unity and become a sure sign of his destruction. I love that thought!

My Pastor recently said this, “There is one thing of which we can be certain. There is no possible way that an event of global proportions like this could occur without God and the devil being intimately involved.” Don’t you know that this is true? This is a spiritual event. Yes. It’s a physical sickness. But the proportion to which it has affected the globe signifies that it there are spiritual implications.

If this is true….if you believe that the devil is real and that he is fighting against the church of God…

Then, let’s stand together, without fear, and become a clear sign to him of his destruction! He is already defeated. We have read the end of the story, church. It is already written! God has given us His Word so that we will be able to discern these events and understand the truth of what is happening. This is a call to prepare ourselves to see Him. He is our salvation. He is our answer.

Can we honor Him, and demonstrate our love for Him, but loving one another? By serving one another?

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Let’s encourage each other and cheer each other on. I love you! I am praying for you. Whether you are fishing, running or walking, I am praying for God to fill you with purpose, faith, confidence and hope!

Please pray for the church in the world, y’all. The hope of glory lives in us. Let the world see hope in you!

 

I Need You…

As soon as the news of limited gatherings hit the news cycle, my heart was so grieved. Because I know. I know how much we need each other. I know how much I need you!

I agree with what many are saying….The church is not a building. The church is the people. But, there is power when those people are assembled. And God is the one who created the assembly.

It wasn’t until I was 40 years old, and my husband was dying of cancer, that I really understood the value of the Body of Christ. But, let me just tell you that in the valley of the shadow, God revealed to me why He designed the church. And, I’ve never been the same. I’ve literally given my life to the church, now, because I know that I can’t make it without it.

I sat and looked through photos for a while today. I really miss Clay during times of crisis and I’ve been remembering so many things about his life over these past several days. These are just a few of my favorite pictures that tell a beautiful story of how powerful the assembled church can be. It literally carried us.

Our church has been working so diligently to figure out ways to gather together during this pandemic, while following the governmental recommendations. Someone asked me yesterday, “Are y’all afraid to not have church?” My response in the moment was “No.” Followed by an eloquently worded explanation of why we believe it is important to gather. But, later when I was reflecting, I thought to myself that the answer is actually, “Yes!” I’m fearful of what we will miss if we are unable to gather. Because I know the power of an assembled church.

After a long week of planning and preparing at the church, I was literally exhausted last night. We had called a prayer meeting in our sanctuary, and I knew only 50 people could enter, so I waited to see if there was room for me. I walked in at 6:40 to find 34 people spread out all around the room. They were worshipping, singing, talking to God. Some were crying out. Some were praying for others. Some were quiet and still.

I immediately just began to cry. I was so comforted by the presence of God in that room. And, though I had been in prayer all throughout the day, it was different. It is just different when you gather in a room with other believers who are seeking God. I was able to sit in my exhaustion and just listen to the prayers of the people around me, and I was lifted up.

I was strengthened.

I was encouraged.

I received help from God.

I received boldness in my prayers.

I was broken for the lost and those who are unable to see the reality of God in all of this.

I was broken for the Christians who will lose faith during this trial.

I was sad for those who have never known the presence of God the way I felt it last night.

Y’all, I want so desperately for the world to know Jesus the way I know Him. Please don’t misunderstand this. I’m no better than anyone else. I’ve just come to a place of desperation. A place where I knew I wouldn’t live if I couldn’t find Him.

And, in that desperation, He taught me the power of His presence. He brought me into His Hiding Place. The shelter of His wings. The secret place.

But there have been times when I was so broken, so weak, so burdened, that I needed my friends to carry me. You know the story of the lame man whose friends lowered him through the roof to Jesus? So many of you have been that friend to me over the years. I can remember so many Sundays or Wednesdays when I barely made it to the church and couldn’t wait to get to the altar during worship because I needed the presence of God that lives in the beautiful people who are there worshipping God with me. And, they came. They surrounded me in prayer. They lifted me up so I could get to Jesus.

God made us for this. He made us to love one another and help one another. He put life in us so that life can flow out and minister to others around us who desperately need hope.

So, friends, please see it. Please realize that the lack of ability to gather is a desperate thing. It is not something to be taken lightly. The Bible says, “as the day approaches, gather all the more.” Because God knew we would need each other.

And, I beseech you, pray against the hardening of your heart. Pray against the tendency of our flesh to become stagnant and comfortable. If we are home watching church online for weeks, how easy will it be to just continue that and convince ourselves that we’re fine watching from home? Don’t give in. Let there be a burning in your heart to gather with the people of God. Don’t grow comfortable. Don’t be satisfied.

Let’s call out to God and believe Him for miracles and a cure. He can stop this disease. But, if He doesn’t, He can keep our hearts from growing cold. Pray that He causes you to long for the church more than ever. Let this time away from one another cause you to desire it all the more. You should miss it.

I love this video of one of the many nights our house was filled with people who just wanted to worship God with us while Clay was sick. We did this often. In a time of great need, our love for the world faded and our love for the body of Christ grew. We would have had a worship service in our home every single night. Life stopped. Everything was about Jesus. The things of the world didn’t matter anymore….only the work of God.

I’m praying for you, believers. I’m praying that your faith will be strengthened during this time. I’m praying that fear will not take root in your life, but you will be bold and courageous for God. I’m praying that our love for the things of this world will grow cold. That while sports and entertainment is taken from us, we won’t miss it. But, that we will crave the gathering of the church.

Please don’t become complacent. If we retreat to our homes and binge on Netflix, we are going to be useless to God in this desperate hour. Recognize that this is a spiritual occurrence and God has a plan. He desires to receive glory through this situation. How can He receive glory through you? What does He want to accomplish in and through you? Ask Him. Don’t let this moment pass you by. Engage. Pray. Seek.

The world is reeling in fear and confusion. The lost are so afraid. Bring them hope. It lives in you! The hope of glory – Jesus!!! Let the world see His life in you right now. Lower each other through the roof, if needed. But, whatever you do, get people to Jesus!

I’m so excited about what God will do through this momentous event. We are going to see the glory of God, friends! I love you!